The first battery company in the world was opposite the Tooke Arms!

I keep being surprised by the richness of the Island’s industrial history, but an article in an old edition of The Times (dated 30th May 1932) which described the Electrical Power Storage Co. of 84 Westferry Road  as “the first battery company in the country, and possibly the world” was a more surprising discovery than most.

84 Westferry Road – opposite the old Tooke Arms – is shown on this 1890s map, but clearly the works were far greater than suggested by the postal address, occupying land between Westferry Road and the river, a site which is now occupied by Sir John McDougall Gardens.

Batteries were nothing new in Victorian times; Benjamin Franklin and others had experimented with them in the middle of the 18th century, and they were in fact the main source of electricity for most applications, before the arrival of central generating stations and mains electricity. However, these batteries were not rechargeable, and were far too large and bulky to be produced on an industrial scale.

In 1859, French physicist Gaston Planté invented the lead-acid cell, the first rechargeable battery. His early model consisted of a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead, separated by a linen cloth and immersed in a glass jar of sulpuric acid solution.

Planté’s bank (or ‘battery’) of lead-acid cells.

By 1881, significant improvements to the design by Camille Alphonse Faure and others meant that the batteries were smaller and lighter, and more portable. Many entrepreneurs quickly realized there was money to be made in the manufacture of these new rechargeable batteries – for use in powering lights or electric vehicles – and different companies scrambled and fought each other over patents and manufacturing rights.

One of those companies was the Electrical Power Storage Company, founded in 1882 with offices at 4 Great Winchester Street in the City, and a factory with about 300 employees in the former Sun Engine Works on the Isle of Dogs. Its 1883 acquisition of Faure’s battery  patent, in conjunction with other patents already in its possession, meant that it was the first company to be able to commercially exploit the new technology. Survey of London:

One of the first installations was at the Grand Hotel, Charing Cross, and soon E.P.S. batteries were powering lights in large buildings throughout London, including the Law Courts, the Bank of England, Lloyd’s and many theatres. London houses with E.P.S. plants included those of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert in Harrington Gardens, while Colonel Crompton of No. 23 Porchester Gardens, who claimed to have been the first householder with electric light, was soon using E.P.S. batteries.

An early customer of the company was Rudyard Kipling, who had E.P.S. installations at his homes in Rottingdean and Burwash. Electrical power in the form of a battery — a fizzing and fuming ‘big box of tanks’ with a dynamo — features in his ‘Below the Mill Dam’ of 1902 as a symbol of the modern world with which the Tory old guard has failed to come to terms.

1900. Goad insurance map (click for full-sized version).

Until the establishment of mains electricity throughout London, the Millwall works supplied temporary lighting for functions, especially during the London Season. In July 1885 the Prince of Wales gave a garden party at Marlborough House in a marquee lit using an E.P.S. battery, following which there were a number of royal clients, including Queen Victoria.

In 1883 an experimental tramway was laid down at the works to test a battery-powered tramcar, which was later given a public trial on the West Metropolitan Tramway Company’s track from Gunnersbury to Kew. This led to further trials and ultimately to the use of E.P.S. tramcars in Berlin, Vienna and Philadelphia.

1888 Advertisement

A list of some of the board members, managers and engineers at the works reads like a ‘Who’s Who?’ of the fledgling days of the electrical industry in Britain:

  • Bernard Mervyn Drake, Managing Engineer, went on to set up Drake & Gorham – a major firm of electrical contractors – along with..
  • John Marshall Gorham, Works Manager, engineer and motorboat racer who competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics
  • Hugo Hirst, Engineer, co-founder and chairman of the General Electric Company (GEC)
  • William Henry Patchell, Works Manager from 1888, specialist in electrical supply and later president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  • Edward Clark, Engineer, founder of the Hart Accumulator Company

A few notable moments in the use of their batteries (information from Grace’s Guide) :

  • 1884 Demonstration of 2 electric boats on the Thames
  • 1885 Successful demonstration of a battery-driven tramcar by South London Tramway Co.
  • 1888 New Pullman vestibule car introduced on London-Brighton line in conjunction with a dynamo to supply electric lighting
  • 1889 Demonstration of electric disc brakes powered from accumulators
  • 1897 Demonstration of electric taxicabs in London

1897 “Bushbury Electric Dog Cart”. A two-person vehicle powerd by EPS batteries; it could travel at up to 12 mph on a level tarmac surface. The batteries would carry it no more than twenty miles without re-charging.

In 1915, Electrical Power Storage Co Ltd amalgamated with Pritchetts & Gold Ltd of Dagenham Dock and Feltham (a firm which was later absorbed into the Chloride Group), and the Millwall plant was moved to Dagenham, after approximately three decades of manufacturing on the Island. A logical move, as the company needed more space, and there was no room off the Westferry Road to expand. Dagenham Dock was also more convenient for ship-based supply and delivery.

1920s. Site of former works of the Electrical Power Storage Company. Probably, because the company had moved to Dagenham less than a decade before the aerial photo was taken, many of the buildings were built by the company.

Later, Sun Wharf was renamed Lollar Wharf. Most of its buildings were burnt out during World War II, but a couple of sheds which were once part of the old EPS works survived, one of which was used for storing building materials until as late as the mid-1960s when the area was cleared to make room for Sir John McDougall Gardens.

Circa 1950. Site of former works of the Electric Power Storage Company. The two leftmost buildings with sloping roofs are original EPS buildings.

1963

Plan of original 1880s works superimposed on satellite photo.

Batteries have become more important than ever in the 21st Century, powering everything from small mobile devices to large vehicles and boats. If you’re ever basking in the sun in Sir John McDougall’s Park, listening to Bucks Fizz’s Ibiza mix on your phone, dreaming of that new Tesla (smirk), remember….. you’re lying where it all started!

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Millwall FC in Millwall Park

In the 2014 article, Millwall, the Millwall Year(s), I said a little about the history of Millwall FC in the place where the club started, on the Isle of Dogs. The club had grounds at a few places on the Island, never staying too long, but I’ve always been fascinated that one of those grounds was in what would later become Millwall Park, where the team played from 1901 to 1910.

I think that my fascination is largely because the site of the ground was just a couple of hundred yards from my childhood home – I’ve walked over and close to its site a thousand times without even knowing its history (like most kids, I was not that conscious of – or particularly interested in – the history of the area around me). And, despite having become an Island history nerd a few years ago, its only recently that I’ve realized that there were reminders of the ground even as late as 2010.

Before 1901, the team played on ground at the north end of the Mudchute  belonging to the Millwall Dock Company (ASDA is on the site these days). They’d only been playing there for a year or so when the company decided that it wanted to use the land for timber sheds. And so, the club had to move to a new location. Groundsman and trainer, Elijah Moor, of 557 Manchester Road was instrumental in finding a location and preparing the ground.

Source: http://ceegee-viewfromahill.blogspot.com/2011/10/elijah-moor-1867-1961-over-60-years.html

The area proposed by Elijah was close by, wedged between the Globe Rope Works and the railway arches.

1895

This land, along with land to the east, reaching as far as Stebondale Street, also belonged to the dock company. It was mostly wasteland and in 1905, George R. Sims described it in “Off the track in London” as follows:

In the centre of the island lies Desolation-Land, a vast expanse of dismal waste ground and grey rubbish heaps. All round the open space is a black fringe of grim wharves and of towering chimneys, belching volumes of smoke into a lowering sky that seems to have absorbed a good deal of the industrial atmosphere.

This waste land is spanned by the soot-dripping arches of the railway, which is the one note of hope in the depressing picture, for occasionally a train dashes shrieking by towards a brighter bourne.

Across the waste, as we gaze wearily around it, borne down by our environment, comes a lonely little lad, who wheels his baby sister in a perambulator roughly constructed out of a sugar box. They are the only human beings in sight.

Years ago this desolate spot was farm land. It might yet be secured and made into a green play ground for the children, who at present have only the roads and the miniature mountains of rubbish that have gradually risen at the end of side streets closed in by factory walls. If this central desert could be secured and ‘humanised’ and turned into a healthy playground, it would be a grand thing for the Millwall that is – a grander still for the Millwall that is to be.

This was written a few years after Millwall FC had moved to the area, but Sims makes no mention of the ground. (Actually, the club was known as Millwall Athletic at the time of moving, but kept changing name around this time – I’ll stick to Millwall FC for the purposes of this article). Sims’ article was accompanied by a drawing by Thomas Heath Robinson:

The ground had embankments on the east and west sides, a (probably wooden) terrace on the north side with its back to the rope shed and the Mudchute, and a club house and changing rooms on the south side. It was quite an achievement for Elijah Moor and ‘the volunteer labour’ to be able to build something so substantial in the few months between the notice to quit the previous ground and the opening of the new one in September 1901.

Also very clearly shown on the map is the ground’s entrance in East Ferry Road, opposite Chapel House Street and next to the Welcome Institute. This organization, established by philanthropist Miss Jean Price, provided hot meals at affordable prices to factory girls (serving anything between 70 and 170 girls a day), evening classes in dressmaking and needlework, Bible classes for boys, and club-rooms for local football teams. Previously located at 333 Westferry Road, it moved to purpose-built premises at 197 East Ferry Road in 1905.

Many Islanders will immediately recognize their building in the following photograph, as it was later occupied by the Dockland Settlement. The wooden gate to the left of the building is the entrance to Millwall FC’s ground – spectators reached the pitch by passing under the railway arch in the background.

Welcome Institute, 1905

This lovely old photo, taken outside the Lord Nelson pub, also shows the arches in the background. Millwall’s first ‘proper’ ground (the one before that being not much than a bit of wasteground off Glengall Road) was just behind the pub, from 1886 to 1890. There is more information about this and other Millwall grounds via the link at the top of this article.

Circa 1900

In 1903, newspapers reported a match between Millwall and Everton in the later park (Millwall won 1-0, making it to the semi finals of the FA Cup), complete with photos.

Almost certainly, the stand has its back to the rope works and the Mudchute

In the following photograph, Elijah Moor is second from right in the back row (in flat cap):

1905-06 team

The 1909-1910 team, a photo taken in the season before Millwall moved ‘over the water’:

1909-1910

The East Ferry Road entrance to the ground remained visible for many decades after the club had moved to New Cross.

1930s

2010

Aerial View

Around 2010, most of the former Welcome Institute and Dockland Settlement buildings were demolished (the chapel at the back was spared) to make room for a new Canary Wharf College. The new building covers the former entrance to Millwall’s ground.

Canary Wharf College

Back to the early 20th Century, in 1919, the London County Council bought the land owned by the dock company (by this time part of the Port of London Authority) and created a playground and public open space. They named it Millwall Recreation Ground, but many Islanders called it the New Park, a name which stuck, and which I still hear used on occasion by older Islanders.

The section of land occupied by Millwall’s recently-vacated ground became the sports ground of George Green’s School.

c1950

The 1950 map shows that one of the ground’s former viewing embankments was still present. It can also be seen in this aerial photo.

c1946. Click on photo for full-sized version

I remember the embankment very well, for it was still in place in the 1970s, when I was a kid living close by. It was thickly covered in thorny blackberry bushes, and every autumn kids would descend on the place with plastic buckets and basins to collect blackberries. I think we had a vague notion that we’d take the blackberries home so that our mums could make jam with them, or something like that. But after eating most of the hoard on the way back, and throwing the rest at each other in a blackberry war – ruining our clothes in the process – there wasn’t much left over. Besides that, I couldn’t imagine my mum or my mates’ mums making jam in a million years – certainly not while you could just buy a pot at the Wavy Line greengrocers.

‘Boo Boo’ Subohon in the park in the 1977. The embankment is beyond the fence in the background (said fence separated George Green’s sports ground from the rest of the park).

The embankment was also interesting for another reason: the raised ground at its southern end made it not too difficult to climb up on to the arches. But, that wasn’t such an interesting place; you could walk the hundred yards or so from one end to the other, but then you’d just have to walk back again. The only light entertainment was picking up pieces of clinker that used to provide the bed for the railway lines, and fling them at other kids in the park.

In the 1980s, the Docklands Light Railway was created, and it ran across the old railway arches, over Manchester Rd, terminating at Island Gardens DLR station next to Saunder’s Ness Rd.

The construction process led to the loss of the use of the arches by the Council and George Green’s School. The former park café and the changing rooms were relocated into temporary buildings, which in the end lasted some 15 years. The fencing that enclosed the school’s land was removed and their land managed as one open space by Tower Hamlets.  George Green’s Secondary School still owns part of the land but the whole site is managed as one open space and the school is given preferential pitch bookings in exchange for public use of their land.
– London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Despite the relandscaping, the embankment remained in place. This photo was taken from the DLR, looking over the embankment towards the park.

View from DLR. The wall on the left (since demolished) is part of the former rope walk. Photo: Pat Jarvis

In the late 1990s, however, the DLR was redirected underground (and under the river), from Mudchute Station. This meant a further extensive relandscaping of the park – after the digging and other DLR works were complete – which included the removal of the embankment, almost one century after it was created by Elijan Moor and his volunteer labour.

If you stand on the site of the former ground these days, and look west, you can see all the way to East Ferry Road. All trace of the old ground has gone (come to that, nearly all trace of the old Island has gone). However, a photo editor lets me show on a satellite photo where it was :

Site of Millwall’s ground on a satellite photo.

Postscript: In 1992, a new ‘One O’Clock Club’ for kids was built in Millwall Park. It was opened in 1992 by former Millwall player, Trevor Brooking.
Just kidding!
Nobody likes my jokes, but I don’t care 🙂

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Preston’s Road

The boundaries of the Isle of Dogs were not terribly well defined in the past. In fact, the ‘Isle of Dogs’ had no official standing as a place name at all until the London Borough of Tower Hamlets defined a variety of administrative areas known as ‘Neighbourhoods’ in the 1970s.

As a consequence, many Islanders have different definitions of where it starts and ends, especially in the east of the Island. My own definition is that the Island’s north eastern boundary was at the Preston’s Road swing bridge (which no longer exists).

However, this definition was possibly just a matter of convenience: what better than a piece of water – the West India Docks Blackwall Entrance – to mark the edge of the Island? Mind you, the same logic says that the Blue Bridge could also have marked the boundary. But, that just didn’t feel right: the other side of the Blue Bridge feels like the Island – it doesn’t feel like Poplar starts there.

My idea of the northeast boundary on a 1960s map.

Wherever you draw the line, it’s going to be somewhere along Preston’s Road, the subject of this article. And for the sake of this article, I say a little about the history of its whole length.

Until the arrival of the West India Docks, there was no Commercial Road or East India Dock Road. One of the main roads to and from the east was Poplar High Street (here given as Poplar Street), quite literally a road on higher ground, unlike the marshland to the south. Travelling east, just after Robin Hood Lane, there was a lane heading south to the hamlet of Blackwall, a place of thriving shipbuilding and ship repairing firms at the time. The lane ended at The Gun – there was not much of note further south.

1799

Three years after this map was produced, the West India Docks opened, and the lane to Blackwall was split in two.  The section south of the entrance lock was renamed Cold Harbour, and the northern section Brunswick Street (later Blackwall Way).

1819

Visible on this map are ‘Lands belonging to the West India Dock Co.’ This land had, until the early 1800s, belonged to Sir Robert Preston (1740-1834) of Woodford, who had made his fortune as a captain in the East India Company.

Sir Robert Preston, or ‘Floating Bob’ as he was known, was born in 1740 and became a merchant and philanthropist. He was quite a character. Well connected socially both in London and Edinburgh, his circle included William Pitt the Younger, Sir Walter Scott and James Boswell. He also knew the famous painters of the day such as Alexander Nasmyth and JMW Turner. He was known for his big appetite with Walter Scott commenting, ‘he is as big as two men and eats like three’. Yet he also donated food to the poor and provided financial help to those in need locally.
http://www.avocadosweet.com/floating-bob-and-the-forgotten-mansion-the-story-of-valleyfield-woods/

‘Floating Bob’, 1782. Artist: Johann Zoffany

The map also shows a road heading north-south over Preston’s former land. Survey of London:

This former road was built for the West India Dock Company in 1808 and was an extension of an old trackway leading south out of Poplar High Street called Clifton Lane. In 1809–10 the dock company widened and improved the road, but a plan to replace it with a new, straighter, one, first mentioned in 1811, remained in abeyance until 1827, when the company decided to construct the reservoirs that later became Poplar Dock, to the north-east of the dock basin, obliging it to find a new route for Preston’s Road further to the east.

1830 map showing the reservoirs which would be extended to become Poplar Dock

The following map shows two bridges over the Blackwall entrance lock (the northernmost). This used to be the main entrance to West India Docks, and it was so busy that the swing bridge was frequently open. To alleviate the problems this caused – and mostly, it was the dock company that suffered from this, due to dockers not being able to get to and from work – the dock company constructed a footbridge a little to the east, so that pedestrians could still cross the lock even if it was occupied by a ship. (A similar footbridge existed at Kingsbridge.). Later, as ships grew larger, and the entrance lock had to be extended to the east, the footbridge could no longer be used and was dismantled.

1885. Sections of the new road are variously named in different maps: New Road, Preston’s New Road, and Preston’s Road.

The map also shows, north of Blackwall entrance lock, Bridge House – a grand old building which is rare by Island standards (well, almost the Island) in that it still exists. It was occupied by the Fire Service during World War II, and became a PLA Police training centre after the War. In the 1980s it was converted into six luxury flats.

Bridge House

Bridge House (1949)

At the end of the 19th century, heading north towards the Preston’s Road swing bridge from the site of the later Blue Bridge, the left side of the road was marked by a high fence separating the docks from the road, which was replaced by industry as you got closer to the swing bridge. Along the right side of the road was a variety of industry.

After the swing bridge, still heading north, and past Bridge House, there was a high dock wall on the left, while the industry on the right gave way to housing. This, more or less, was the pattern of Preston’s Road for the next 100 years.

Poplar Docks in 1898, with Preston’s Road in the foreground.

It was around the time of this photo that the LCC (London County Council), built some housing blocks off the north east end of Preston’s Road. Survey of London:

The six blocks were named Ottawa, Baffin, Ontario, Hudson, Quebec and Winnipeg Buildings (often referred to as the ‘Canadian Estate’) and were built by F. & T. Thorne of Manchester Road between 1902 and 1904. In plan they were very similar to the Raleana Road and Cotton Street housing, with a combination of two- and three-room tenements, each with its own w.c., scullery and ventilated lobby, but in this instance access to the buildings was via a staircase entered from the yard on the ground floor, with balconies running along the top four storeys facing the yard.

Just north of the Canadian Estate was the Marshall Keate pub.

The Marshall Keate

Corner of Preston’s Road (left) and Poplar High Street (right), 1920s

In the 1920s, Poplar photographer William Whiffin (at least, I think it was him) took some photos of the street on each side of the swing bridge. Many of the people (nearly all men) are walking, while those with a few more bob are travelling in buses, or even in a car.

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

Photo: William Whiffin, 1920s

In 1929, the West India South Dock entrance lock was extended east, which meant the rerouting of the southern end of Preston’s Road. In this 1930s photo, looking south, the new bend in the road is obscured behind the small lorry on the left. The fence on the right follows the original, straight path of the road – leading to an open dock gate and the sight of a large ship in the lock. One of the buildings on the left of the lorry would later become Leslie’s Café

1930s

The following photo, taken in the opposite direction of the previous one in the 1950s, shows the bow of a large ship in the West India Dry (or Graving) Dock.

1950s

This redevelopment of the entrance lock meant that the Blackwall entrance began to lose its usefulness. Eventually, the bridge was only opened to allow tug and barge traffic through. The following image is a screenshot from the 1960s documentary about Queenie Watts, ‘Portrait of Queenie’

Portrait of Queenie

The Blackwall entrance lock also featured in The Walking Stick, a peculiar 1970 film  featuring David Hemmings. In this scene, Preston’s Road and Bridge House are in the background.

The Walking Stick, 1970

1970s (estimate)

Preston’s Road from Robin Hood Gardens, c1972

1970s

In the 1980s, things began to change, for Preston’s Road, for the Island, for the whole of Dockland. The docks had closed, the Canadian Estate demolished, and eventually Preston’s Road was widened and straightened, along with the removal of the swing bridge and the demolition of the Marshall Keate Pub.

1980s

Close to the corner with Poplar High Street, as shown in the old photo earlier in this article.

A video concerned with the end of Leslie’s Cafe….

The Marshall Keate in the 1980s…..

Photo: Mike Seaborne

1980s. Somebody riding a horse over Preston’s Road, as you do.

A hint of the road being widened (photo: Jan Hill)

There’s no doubt about the road widening in this one (photo: Pat Jarvis)

I moved from the Island a long time ago, and the changes to Preston’s Road were a bit of a shock when I drove on to the Island from Poplar in the 80s. I couldn’t even recognize where I was, how dare they rip everything up? A disconcerting feeling, not recognizing where you grew up

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Los 7 Puentes de Avellaneda – Made on the Isle of Dogs

Having too much time on my hand this Christmas, I’ve been sorting out the many thousands of images of the Island that I’ve collected over the years, one of which is this high resolution photo taken at Westwood’s works opposite Harbinger School.

Westwood’s, Napier Yard, Westferry Road, 1928 (click for full-sized version)

In the 2014 article, Westwoods – From the Thames to the Indus, I described just a couple of the objects that were built by Westwood’s of Westferry Road, and installed around the world. As Con Maloney recently commented to me, “Most of the Island’s industrial heritage is to be found off the Island”.

I wondered where this bridge was destined to be installed. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out, as it is stated on the board at bottom centre:

It says:

BUENOS AYRES
GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAY COMPANY LTD
CALLE AGUERO ROAD BRIDGE
50.0 METRE CLEAR SPAN
REQ. NO. B2738/4253
OCT. 8/1928

The spelling isn’t quite right, but this was a reference to Agüero Bridge in Buenos Aires, better known as the Seven Bridges of Avellaneda (“Los 7 Puentes de Avellaneda”). The bridge was inaugurated in 1931 and consists of seven cast-iron spans, each 50 metres long.

1937

The bridge is part of a kilometre-long series of embankments and bridges designed to connect the avenues Crisólogo Larralde (formerly called Agüero) and Alsina, at the same time crossing a large area of railway sidings.

The bridge is still in use, just over 90 years and 11,000 kilometres distant from its manufacture across the road from what would become my primary school. If I ever go on holiday to Buenos Aires I am going to drive my family nuts by insisting we go visit the bridge.

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“In Constant Use” – The Unnoticed End of 200 Years of Millwall Industry

Before the end of the 18th Century, the Island was a sparsely-populated place – a mixture of marshland and pastureland, with windmills down the east side, catching the prevailing winds from the west. Then, the docks, shipbuilding and ironworks arrived – by 1880 virtually all land along the river was occupied by industry, while the centre of the Island was dominated by the West India and Millwall Docks. Island firms and their products were known around the world.

A century later and the docks were closed, and its land handed over to the London Docklands Development Corporation. The LDDC were also given extraordinary powers for the compulsory purchase of land occupied by riverside firms, which they used to buy up almost all land, and demolish everything on it. In less than a decade there was virtually no trace of the Island’s industrial past.

To demonstrate the extent of this, on the following satellite photo of the Island, I have shaded white all areas demolished and/or built-upon since 1980. That is, only that which is still visible in the photo preceeds 1980 (and much of that is occupied by 1960s housing developments).

White-shaded areas represent post-1980 building developments on the Isle of Dogs.

Survivors of note along the riverside are:

A) Sir John McDougall’s Gardens
B) E. Klein & Co.
C) Kingsbridge Estate
D) Burrell’s Wharf
E) Poplar, Blackwall & District Rowing Club
F) Island Gardens
G) Millwall Wharf
H) Cubitt Town Wharf
I) Samuda Estate

I excluded Vanguard from this list because – although the firm preceeds 1980 – their premises do not. However, Vanguard and E.Klein do represent the only original companies still doing business along the river on the Isle of Dogs.

One small area which escaped the attentions of the LDDC, sandwiched as it is between the riverside and dock developments, was Tobago Street. Survey of London:

By the 1890s Tobago Street north of Manilla Street had lost most of its residential character of 30 years earlier. The west side of the street was occupied by nondescript industrial and commercial buildings…

In the twentieth century industry continued to make inroads into the housing throughout the former estate, but only in the most half-hearted manner. By the 1900s, and probably long before, most of the houses, which were let entire to weekly tenants, were in poor condition.

Tobago Street and area, 1900

Some of the ‘nondescript and commercial buildings’ described by the Survey of London are visible in the background of this 1930s photo, which shows the view looking north up Tobago Street from its southwest corner with Manilla Street.

Tobago Street, 1930s (Photo: Island History Trust, E. Ogles)

The warehouse closest to the kid in the background in the previous photo was seriously damaged during WWII, and the site was later occupied by a John Lenanton shed, leaving only the northernmost warehouse standing. It featured briefly in an episode of the 1980s Prospects TV series.

Prospects TV Series

Ten years later, the old Morton’s building in Cuba Street as well as the former Millwall Dock Working Men’s Club were also still standing, but they would be demolished around the end of the 20th Century.

Tobago St. with Cuba St. in the background.

Then, only this last, ‘ nondescript’ warehouse remained. It became a much photographed warehouse, possibly because there were no other old industrial buildings left in the area. I can imagine photographers and historians venturing south from Limehouse, looking for evidence of a rich industrial past, and discovering that there wasn’t anything; just an old shed behind a former pub (the Blacksmith’s Arms, which is now a restaurant) in Westferry Road.

Photo: Peter Wright

Photo: Steve White

The recommended website, http://www.derelictlondon.com, also managed to get a couple of photos of the interior….

As well as the exterior…..

And then, in 2013, it was gone, to make room for another apartment block. Peter Wright managed to get a couple of photos of its demolition….

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

Photo: Peter Wright, 2013

It was an unremarkable building, architecturally. It had no significance for the industrial development of the Island. Not many people noticed it, and virtually nobody mourns its departure. However, its passing is of monumental significance, as it marked the end of the old Island.

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Images of the Isle of Dogs During WWII

A few years ago I wrote a book about the Isle of Dogs during WWII. It didn’t contain all the photos I had collected of the Island during that period – for copyright reasons they couldn’t be included (many could be reproduced, but not for commercial purposes). And also, since the book was published, I’ve come across other photos.

I thought it was worth sharing them, so here is a selection. Not much text in this article, thus, just lots of images – and also a video of the anti-aircraft gun over the Mudchute doing its thing.

In fact, I think I will start with the video. It’s an extract from 1940 film produced by Shell Film Unit, “Transfer of Skill”. This extract describes the creation of fuses for anti-aircraft shells, whose use is demonstrated at the end, in an AA gun installation that was in the mudchute on the Isle of Dogs. McDougalls flour silo is visible in the background (west).

Reconnaisance photo taken by the Luftwaffe just before the war. It, and other photos of industry and docks along the Thames were bundled into a book which Luftwaffe pilots could study and take with them. It was pretty hard to miss the U-shaped bend in the river which was the Island, a handy navigation aid.

Poplar Borough Council announced public shelters in warehouse basements, church crypts, railway arches and similar. Purpose-built public air-raid shelters would not be constructed on any scale until the Blitz revealed the inefficacy of the shelter arrangements until then.

Tag which was attached to the clothing of a young June Inns when she was evacuated at the start of the war. Nearly all children were evacuated right away, but began to come back during the so-called ‘Phoney War”. When The Blitz started they mostly all moved away again from London. [Island History Trust]

Cubitt Town School (then in Saunder’s Ness Road) evacuation letter [Island History Trust]

[Island History Trust]

Constructing a shelter in Judkin Street in 1939 [Island History Trust]

Construction of one of a number of shelters in the docks. This one is in West India Docks (Wood Wharf is in the background). [Port of London Authority]

Poplar Borough Council meeting minutes

Auxiliary Emergency Workers, Island Baths, c1940. [Island History Trust / Mrs Winnard]

The Island Baths were closed, and converted into an emergency medical centre, protected by sandbags outside. [Island History Trust / Mrs Winnard]

Island Baths. [Island History Trust]

Island Baths converted into an emergency medical centre. The pool was often covered in wooden floorboards in peace time, so that dances could be held.

Ambulance crew [Source unknown, but I bet it’s the Island History Trust]

London Auxiliary Ambulance Service building at 413 Westferry Road (opposite The Ship).

Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) workers at their base at Millwall Central School, Janet Street. Stanley Hook with on his right Jean Skinner and Lily Patterson. On the left, Florrie Bernard. [Island History Trust]

AFS workers at Glengall School (Glengall Grove is on the right). [Island History Trust]

Auxiliary Fireman Barrett at Millwall Central School. I have the original of this photo, and cannot for the life of me remember where I got it from.

Filling sandbags, 1940, location unknown. [Island History Trust / Mr. Silk]

Photo taken at the Fire Station (East Ferry Road in the background). [Island History Trust]

Members of the AFS at Glengall School. [Island History Trust]

Members of the AFS at Glengall School. [Island History Trust]

Members of the AFS at Glengall School. [Island History Trust]

Filling sandbags in the playground of Harbinger School.

Millwall Central School, Olive Hook and ‘Crusher’ Heywood. [Island History Collection]

‘L’ Sub-station crew, West India Docks (filled in Limehouse entrance), 1940 [Island History Trust / J. Devlin]

No. 2 Squad, B Shift, Heavy Rescue Team. Back row, left to right: George Huscroft, Bob Thomas, Alfie Clarke, Fred Harrison (Leader), Charlie Crawley (Driver). Front row: Bert Freeman, George Jillings, Bill Regan. [Ann Regan-Atherton]

Anti-aircraft gun installation in the Mudchute, with a glimpse of the huts between them and ‘the rec’ (or wreck), the gritty football pitch in Millwall Recreation Ground, as it was known.

Mudchute Anti-Aircraft Battalion. [Island History Trust]

Mudchute Anti-Aircraft Battalion. [Island History Trust]

Mudchute Anti-Aircraft Battalion. [Island History Trust]

The Muchute anti-aircraft installation was hit on the first night of The Blitz (7th September 1940). Bombing seriously damaged the command post and destroyed the canteen and stores. The guns could no longer be aimed with radar or fired by remote control; the access road to the gun sites from Pier Street was also badly damaged making it difficult to get in fresh supplies, and gunners were bringing in replacement ammunition by hand. [Photo: Island History Trust]

Mudchute anti-aircraft installation, 7th September 1940. [Island History Trust]

Luftwaffe photo showing the plumes of bomb explosions in the Thames and in Millwall streets.

St, Cuthbert’s Church, destroyed during the first night of The Blitz, 7th September 1940. In the background, Harbinger School, with shattered windows and missing a few roof tiles. An emergency water tank was later built on the site, the area is now part of the school playground. [Rev. Holmes]

St. Cuthbert’s. [Rev. Holmes]

St. Cuthbert’s. [Rev. Holmes]

The ‘Happy Go Lucky’ off license on the corner of Glengall Grove and Strattondale Street – seriously damaged during the first night of The Blitz.

Barrage balloons over the Island. The view from the bridge which would later be replaced by the Blue Bridge, looking towards The Queen public house. [Screenshot from film, The Bells Go Down]

Damage to the Millwall Docks entrance lock at Kingsbridge by high explosive bombs on 10th September 1940. The entrance lock would never go into service again.

Bomb damage to Associated Lead, Westferry Road. [Pat & John Jarvis]

Heavy Rescue worker, Bill Regan (whose moving wartime diaries are available here) took a number of photos of bomb damage to the Island, risking a prison sentence of up to 3 years by doing so. Ironically, his photos were being developed by a policeman friend. Amongst his photos are the serious bomb damage inflicted on Billson Street and Parsonage Street (and area) on 19th April 1941, during which many residents were killed.

Billson Street. [Ann Regan-Atherton]

Parsonage and Billson Street. [Ann Regan-Atherton]

The rear of houses in Manchester Road from Parsonage Street. [Ann Regan-Atherton]

Bomb-damaged West India Docks warehouses [London Fire Brigade]

Bomb damage to West India Docks warehouse

Cubitt Town School was the scene of one of the worst incidents of the war on the Island.  The school had recently been completely rebuilt, the new building dated from 1938, and it had been commandeered for use by the emergency services: Auxiliary Fire Service, Air Raid Wardens, Stretcher Bearers, Ambulance Service, a Mobile First Aid Unit – they were all quartered in the school. On 18th September a parachute mine fell on the school, killing close to 30 people, mostly emergency workers.

Cubitt Town School

Island Baths

Matthew T. Shaw [Island History Trust]

Matthew T. Shaw [Island History Trust]

Roffey House. [William Whiffin]

Roffey House. [William Whiffin]

A bombed house in freezing weather. [Island History / Mr. Devlin]

Damage to M-Warehouse in Millwall Docks

Damage to M-Warehouse in Millwall Docks

Damage to M-Warehouse in Millwall Docks

Shrapnel damage at the lead works. [Lucy Reading]

Shrapnel damage at the lead works. [Lucy Reading] 

The site of Galleon House looking from the Police Station towards Glengarnock Avenue in the background.

Prefabs and the The Builder’s Arms in Stebondale Street, photo taken from the corner of Glengarnock Avenue, with the park in the background. The street was all but destroyed during The Blitz.

UXB dragged from foreshore below the Lead Works. [Lucy Reading]

Wartime notice to move due to bomb damage, at 24 Claude Street. [Lester Stone]

Winkley’s Wharf, 22nd March 1944.

Winkley’s Wharf, 22nd March 1944.

Winkley’s Wharf, 22nd March 1944.

Canadian troops marching in to the West India Docks, 1944, possibly shipping out for D-Day. The beginning of the end…..

 

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Everything you wanted to know about Alpha Grove but were afraid to ask

Dedicated to Peter Wright, tireless Island photographer and amateur historian. And, yet again, I am in debt to the (Friends of) Island History Trust (http://www.islandhistory.co.uk), without whom this and other blog articles would be bereft of interesting photographs.

Construction of houses on Alpha Grove (Alpha Road until 1939) started in the middle of the 19th century on a short stretch of road on the path of the medieval Dolphin Lane (described here).

1870

Survey of London:

Alpha Grove before the Second World War was that rare thing in dockland: a tree-lined street of mainly well-built, respectable houses. The longest stretch of road in Millwall in the hands of a single landowner, it possessed a high degree of uniformity. Even so, its development was rather sporadic, in the familiar Isle of Dogs pattern. Most of the houses in the Grove (Alpha Road until 1939) were built in two phases: the mid- to late-1870s, and the early to mid-1880s. At the north end, however, were some much older and less desirable dwellings, while at the south end the last block on the west side was not built up until the 1890s; south of that the street gave way to industrial premises.

2 Alpha Road, early 1900s. Sarah Lowry (nee Cargill) with children Sarah, and Jack. Photo: Island History Collection

16-36 (approx) Alpha Road (left), circa 1911. The side street on the left is Tooke Street.

67-83 (approx) Alpha Road, circa 1910

Off Alpha Road, at the eastern end of Janet Street was an area of land belonging to the Millwall Dock Company, who let it to companies for industrial usage. Known as Broadway Works, the first tenant was the sugar manufacturing company, George Clark & Son. Later, the site would be occupied by Tate & Lyle.

Sugar manufacturer George Clark’s Broadway Works, 1900. Photo: Island History Trust / Tate & Lyle

Island History Trust: “Loading up a horse-dray in the yard of George Clark & Son Ltd.”

The first St. Luke’s Church was a so-called ‘Iron Church’ (a usually temporary structure built from corrugated iron) located on the other side of Westferry Road, where St. Luke’s School would later be constructed. The first permanent church was built on the corner of Strafford Street and Alpha Road between 1868 and 1870.

Architectural drawing of St. Luke’s Church

St. Luke’s Church, early 1900s

St. Luke’s from the river (Lenanton’s on the left). Photo: PLA Archive / Museum of London

In 1887, a Methodist (Wesleyan) Mission was built south of St. Luke’s Church, later known as Alpha Hall.

38-54 (approx) Alpha Road, circa 1920. Methodist Mission centre, left. Photo: Island History Trust

A procession from St. Edmund’s Church in Alpha Road in the 1920s. Methodist Mission on the left. Photo: Mrs S. Stone / Island History Trust

c1909. Photo and text, Island History Trust / Mrs L. Allen: “This is 77 Alpha Road, I think about 1909 with my sister, Eliza Lilley and my mother Mrs Pearson. In front is myself, Sister Mabel (who married Arthur Seatcliiffe), Jack Lilley and my brother George, next to Sabel Lilley. We lived opposite the Wesleyan Chapel and witnessed lots of events from our front room window. I remember the Rev. W. Lax paying a visit. We attended St. Luke’s Church and I faintly remember the Rev. Jesse Hewlett and then Mr Schofield; who left hurriedly when war was declared in 1914. I was the youngest of 10. Ethel & Grace Calver lived in the next terrace to ours.”

Originally, Alpha Grove extended from Cuba Street in the north (on the corner with Cuba Street was an off-license/beer-house known as The Dock House)…..

c1890. I’ve added the original house numbering

…and did not quite reach Glengall Road (later Tiller Road) in the south, its path being obstructed by the (wire) ropeworks.

c1890

Outside 67 Alpha Road, c1929. Car belonging to Eliza Lilley. Photo: Island History Trust

36 Alpha Road. Photo: Peter Wright

Millwall in the 1920s. Alpha Road runs diagonally from bottom right to top left-of-centre. Photo: britainfromabove.org.uk

The previous photo shows, to the right of Alpha Hall, an empty area of land that would later be occupied by Millwall Central School (opened in 1928), with its entrance in Janet Street.

c1929, Millwall Central School. Alpha Road on the right

To the right of the school is a triangular area of land – this was a metal scrapyard known to locals as ‘The Ironie’. I am not sure if the name is a reference to iron or irony (or perhaps both, which would be ironic).

At the bottom of the previous photo is an area of houses and firms which would be demolished a few years later to make room for St. Hubert’s House (all this demolition and building in recent decades is nothing new for the Island).

c1933. Construction of St. Hubert’s House. Alpha Grove on the left, Janet Street on the right. Photo: Isle of Dogs Housing Society

Improvements were made to the South West India Dock in the 1930s, including the construction of a wider dock road (the present-day Marsh Wall follows much of its path). This necessitated the appropriation of the eastern end of Cuba Street, and the demolition of houses there, including The Dock House. Manilla Street became the northern limit of Alpha Road.

Before and after the appropriation of the eastern end of Cuba Street, 1938.

The Dock House. Alpha Road left and Cuba Street right. Demolished during dock expansion. Photo: Island History Trust

4 Alpha Road, two houses left of the Dock House. Demolished during dock expansion. Mrs. Hillier (nee Brown) and daughter Betty. 1933. Photo: Island History Trust.

It was shortly after this that one of the best-known photos of Alpha Road was taken – showing kids playing cricket in the street at the northern end of Alpha Road, close to its corner with Manilla Street. In the background, behind the dock fence, the West India Docks.

The photo was probably taken in 1939 because any later and the kids would have been evacuated, but perhaps more telling (there was an evacuation immediately at the start of the war, but kids started to come back during the so-called ‘phoney war’ – it was only during the Blitz that most children left the Island), there are no barrage balloons or any other signs of defensive measures in the docks.  As almost the entire terrace on the right was destroyed during the Blitz, with only one house left standing, the photo was certainly taken no later than 1941.

c1950. North end of Alpha Road with its one remaining house. North Pole pub in foreground.

In his moving wartime diaries (highly recommended, with profits going to the Friends of Island History Trust – available here), Bill Regan describes the events in and around Alpha Road:

Christmas 1940
We sat and talked among ourselves, until Sid Masefield came over from Major Brown’s office, which is now set up in the metalwork-cum-woodwork centre. “Would we like to go back to Alpha Rd, to check an Anderson shelter?” Would we like? We went off in pairs. Eddie Sullivan came with me. We roamed through the back gardens between Cheval St and Alpha Rd, from Janet St on­wards. It is still lively, but not concentrated on our little area; we found a few Andersons still occupied, and all the residents uninjured, and seemingly happy. Of course, all the garden walls were now low enough for us to walk over. We get to Malabar St, and the end house, has a higher wall than the others, and there is a chunk of it left, with a door still standing. Eddie says, “Oy, don’t tread on the flowers, use the gate.” Before he can open the door, we hear a high pitched whis­tling, rushing noise, and we know it’s close. There’s an explosion and one hell of a draught, as if someone has left all the doors open. We are both still standing, and Eddie has the door handle in his fist, but the door has gone away. “It blew out of me hand.” He sounded of­fended.
– Bill Regan

AFS dispatch rider Alexander George Jacobs, who was stationed at Millwall Central School. Damage to houses is visible in the background of this photo, as well as dock cranes in the far distance. Photo almost certainly is looking north on Alpha Grove. Photo: Steve Jacobs

Alf had stopped the lorry at Maria St, the men got in the back. I got in the cab with Alf, and as he let in the clutch, there was an almighty explosion from behind, and a rain of bricks, tiles, and any­thing else that had been elevated, was now coming back to earth. Everyone in back of us got out smartly, but definitely, not with ele­gance, and tried to scramble under the lorry for protection. The rain only lasted for half a minute, or less, and except for Eddie Sullivan and Bert Forbes, who both had slightly dented hel­mets no harm had been done, so they mounted up again. Alf looked across at me, and raised his left hand and pulled an imaginary fore­lock, and said, “Where to, sir?” And of course, I did the proper thing and said, “Home James, and don’t spare the horses,” and at that, there was another explosion right in front of us, at the junction with Janet St. It was as bad as I expected, we felt no blast, but a big column of earth and clay, back on us, doing no harm at all.
– Bill Regan

The raid in the night of 19th/20th March 1941 was the largest on London since the raids after Christmas 1940 described by Bill Regan. Many residents of north Millwall sought safety in the shelter at Bullivant’s Wharf, located at 38 Westferry Road, close to Havannah Street (next to the zebra crossing where Topmast Point is now). William Bullivant opened his wire-rope company there in 1883. In 1926, Bullivant’s firm was taken over by British Ropes Ltd who in 1934 built a new building on the riverfront with reinforced-concrete floors designed to be take the weight of heavy machinery. It was appropriately named the ‘Stronghold Works’. The later shelter in the works had room for 400 people seated and 200 in bunks.

Unfortunately, it was the strength and weight of the floors which would prove fatal to many of the people in the shelter that night. A direct hit on one corner of the building in the night of March 19th/20th 1941 caused the roof and floors to collapse on to the people below. There were approximately 120 people in the shelter, and at least 40 were killed, and a further 60 injured. This was to be the worst bombing incident on the Isle of Dogs during WWII. A number of Alpha Grove residents were among the victims:

  • Barbara Edna Brown, aged 14, of 27 Alpha Grove
  • May Annie Morgan, aged 19, of 101 Alpha Grove
  • Annie Florence Sturgess, aged 56, of 129 Alpha Grove
  • Doris Wood, aged 19, of 23 Alpha Grove
  • Minnie Ethel Wood, aged 48, of 23 Alpha Grove
  • Alfred Thomas Wright, aged 56, of 5 Alpha Grove
  • Mary Sarah Wright, aged 24, of 12 Alpha Grove

Fred Harrison, my squad leader, was on depot duty answering calls and had sent the rest of my squad to Bullivant’s to assist Ringshaw’s squad. I went outside again, and met Warden Ernie Lowther limping along from Alpha Road. He looked as if he had been close to a bomb. He had an injured leg, and had been searching for survivors in Alpha Rd when one landed close and knocked him over.
– Bill Regan

The raids in the night of 10th/11th May 1941 are generally accepted to mark the end of the Blitz in London. However, they were also some of the most devastating that the capital had seen. Arthur Sharpe’s diary describes the great raid:

“The raid started about 11.30pm. I was on fire watch at the time; fires were raging all along Westferry Road and in the back streets. Suddenly one of the fellows in our squad said, Look, a land mine! It was in fact drifting our way, we rushed in, shut the door and waited. Three minutes went by, we were just going to get up when under the door a red flash was seen and then a terrific suction of air that seemed to pull your ears off, followed by a high explosion…

It was not until 2am that the raid grew into one of the worst raids of the war for Millwall. Bombs, gunfire and the drone of planes was all that could be heard. We stood at the door shivering with excitement and awe at the sight, we saw a huge orange column of smoke, dust, bricks, glass and pieces of burning sparks going hundreds of feet into the air.

Land mines landed in Alpha Road and Glengall Road…We thought our last moment had come…Morton and Bullivant’s, Watsons, and the side streets were well alight when through the roof came what we had hoped – and hoped would not come. Incendiary bombs, the works was alight from end to end. We did not know where to start. I picked up a stirrup pump and nozzle and the gutter, water shot out and I played on the incendiary bomb which spat and sent burning pieces in all directions. I was then joined by another of the crew and put out one on the drawing office roof but had no success with the Incendex fluid and so threw a sandbag on to it. It broke the windows but the incendiary bomb was out.

On the Island, many lost their lives in the course of the night, including Florence Johnson, aged 64, of 61 Masterman Road, East Ham, injured at 28 Alpha Grove and died 27th May in St. Andrews Hospital.

St Luke’s was seriously damaged during the Second World War. The damage is not visible in this 1950 photograph (contrast that to the damage to the dock buildings in the background), but structural damage had made the church unsafe to use, and so a ‘temporary’ church was built in its grounds, demolished only a few years ago.

St. Luke’s from the air, c1950

Possibly there were plans to repair the church, but this proved too costly in post-war Britain. The church was demolished in 1960.

Demolition of St. Luke’s Church in 1960. Photo: John Salmon

Demolition of St. Luke’s Church in 1960. Photo: John Salmon

Demolition of St. Luke’s Church in 1960. Photo: John Salmon

Most seriously damaged during World War II was the southern end of Alpha Grove, which was almost completely destroyed. The most serious bombing during the first night of the Blitz (7th September 1940) was described thus by the London Fire Brigade:

18:24
Explosive Bombs, on or close to Maria Street
– 24 Maria Street, 8 Houses, 6 rooms each, severely damaged
– 52 Malabar Street, Remaining houses are also damaged.

These bombs caused great destruction in the area loosely marked by Maria Street, Alpha Grove, Janet Street and Cheval Street, most of which was taken up by Millwall Central School and a smaller, special school with the name Janet Street (Mentally Defective) Council School.

Emergency housing in the form of Nissen huts was provided, and – more durable, but still intended as temporary homes – Orlit houses were built at the end of the street (which now extended to Glengall Grove aka Tiller Road). Millwall Central School, not more than 15 years after its opening, was gone. St. Hubert’s House seemed to have had a charmed life – almost everything around it destroyed, and yet it was remarkably unscathed.

1947. Photo: britainfromabove.org.uk

After the war, the LCC embarked on a ‘permanent housing programme’ which meant the sweeping away of whole neighbourhoods. Even if the war damage was not too bad, the strategy was one of modernisation and renewal, not of repair.  The aim was to redevelop districts and not just houses. Consequently, from the 1950s and well into the 1970s, large housing estates were built throughout the Isle of Dogs, and one of the largest was the Barkantine Estate, which would take in the whole of Alpha Grove.

Extent of planned Barkantine Estate (grey-shaded) on bomb damage map of Millwall. Blue-shaded areas show premises which where destroyed/damaged-beyond-repair.

The days of the last-remaining old houses in Alpha Grove were numbered.

St. Luke’s Churchyard looking south along Alpha Grove. Photo: Roy Roberts

The north end of Alpha Grove,c1964, with Queenie Watts

36 Alpha Grove, 1956. Photo: Peter Wright

55 Alpha Grove. Photo: Peter Wright.

North end of Alpha Grove, 1962, screenshot from the documentary film, ‘Postscript to Empire’.

The few remaining old houses were thus demolished, and new flats built. The first were built in the 1950s, at the southern end of Alpha Grove:

1951. Photo: Island History Collection / Joe Wright (in photo)

85-109 Alpha Grove [c1958]

Island History Trust: “‘Henry ‘Harry’ Marshall, who lived in Alpha Grove, arriving home after a day’s work repairing ships. Picture taken circa 1950. Harry’s wife was Beatrice nee Andrews, they had three children. One son, called William. Two daughters, Doreen and Jean. Doreen married Brian Wells, whose father Jim ran the fish shop in West Ferry Road at the top of Tooke Street. Jean married Bob Strudwick, who lived in Tooke St before marrying’. It was Bob who contributed the photo.”

Filming of The Sandwich Man in 1966. Val Foster & Michael Bentine. Photo: Verlander/Lloyd Family

The Sandwich Man, 1966, with a young Con Maloney messing around, up to something (left),

Stan Salmon outside his shop (side entrance). Photo: Sandra Brentnall

The rest of the Barkantine Estate planned for construction at the end of the 1960s showed just the slightest nod to the street patterns that had existed in the decades before:

Architectural model of the Barkantine Estate, with Alpha Grove going diagonally centre-left to bottom-centre (-ish)

1970

Development of the estate meant that Alpha Grove became even shorter, terminating at Strafford Street.

Screen Shot 11-10-18 at 09.49 PM

In the 1980s, the southern end of Alpha Grove featured in the TV series, Prospects…..

Prospects

Prospects

Prospects

Prospects

On 9th February 1996, the IRA detonated a huge truck bomb beside South Quay DLR station. In addition to the loss of life and destruction directly next to the bomb, flats along the north east side of Alpha Grove were also seriously damaged.

The flats were eventually demolished, and lower density homes built in their place.

Photo: Peter Wright

In 1997, Tate & Lyle were still going strong…

Tate & Lyle, looking over Alpha Grove from Malabar Street. Photo: Peter Wright

Tate & Lyle. Photo: Peter Wright

Well, the firm was still going strong, but for the Millwall works it was a different story. Not long after 1997 the works closed and were demolished.

Demolition of Tate & Lyle

The so-called ‘temporary’ St. Luke’s Church was eventually demolished in 2014.

Demolition of St. Luke’s Church, 2014. Photo: Peter Wright

Demolition of St. Luke’s Church, 2014. Photo: Peter Wright

The good news is – a new St. Luke’s Church has just been opened on the spot. It is unusual – and comforting – for a new building to be built on the Island which has cultural and social connections with the past. We’re still in touch, just, with those who walked over Alpha Grove before us.

 

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