Fred. Olsen & Co. and the Millwall Docks

My thanks to John Bryant for bringing to my attention some photos he had received from Fred. Olsen & Co.; and also my thanks to Fred. Olsen & Co., especially their UK employee Annette Cassar who kindly went to the effort of asking the Oslo office if I might also use the photos.

Anyone living on the Isle of Dogs in and around the 1970s will not fail to recognise these long sheds in Millwall Docks, visible as they were from East Ferry Road and blocks of flats in the area…

Millwall Docks from Kelson House, 1980s

Photo: Jim Howe

J and K Sheds – as they were formally named by the PLA – were built in 1969 in collaboration with the Fred. Olsen & Co. shipping company.

1980s

The company was founded in Oslo in 1849 by three brothers, Fredrik Christian, Petter and Andreas Olsen. After losing 23 of their 44 ships during the First World War, the company rapidly rebuilt their fleet in the 1920s and expanded their activities into the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.

In 1937 they built new warehouses on the south quay of West India Import Dock for the unloading of their ships bringing fruit from the Canary Islands. At their request, the PLA renamed this section of south quay, Canary Wharf (click here for an article on its history).

A few years later, World War II started and the company again suffered great losses:

When Norway was attacked 9 April 1940 the ships of the Fred. Olsen Lines were spread over half the globe. Every vessel that was not actually in a Norwegian or enemy occupied port immediately went into allied war service. The war losses were large. By the end of the war in 1945, 28 ships had been lost, i.e. the half of  the shipping company’s fleet. The foreign activities during the war years were managed by Thomas Olsen.

– Fred. Olsen & Co. history (http://www.fredolsen.com)

Post-War reconstruction of their fleet included the building of fast ships with large refrigerated holds for meat, fish, fruit and dairy produce. Also an innovation at the time was that they were constructed for fully mechanized handling of palletised cargo.

We take pallets for granted these days, but these simple transporting aids – developed by the US military during World War II – had a revolutionary impact on dock operations as they allowed cargo to be (un)loaded far more quickly. Apart from the obvious cost savings, the speedier handling was particularly important for a company that was shipping fresh food products that needed to be kept cool. They also meant that far fewer men were needed to handle a ship’s cargo, which led to the redundancy of many dockworkers.

Canary Wharf, 1930s. Before the introduction of pallets – loading bananas into a train in the transit shed.

In the early 1960s, Fred. Olsen & Co. began discussions with the PLA about building new berths and warehouses which were better suited to the handling and storage of palletised cargo. One area being considered was the east quay of Millwall Inner Dock, close to East Ferry Road.

Circa 1960

At the time, this area consisted of a loose collection of sheds of various sizes which were becoming increasingly less suited to the handling of the cargo of large, modern ships.

1963. East Quay on the right. Click on photo for full size. (Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

Also shown in the previous picture is the temporary barge bridge which provided pedestrians with a connection between the western and eastern halves of Glengall Grove. An iron swing bridge formerly crossed the Inner Dock at this point, making it possible to drive the full length of Glengall Grove.

In 1937, the PLA stated their intention to replace the bridge, but World War II interfered with these plans. After the War, the PLA – who had never been happy about the public crossing their land – began hinting that they wanted to end this possibility. Inevitably, this led to discussions between the PLA and Poplar Borough Council (who were strongly in favour of retaining the crossing), discussions which contributed to the delaying of redevelopment of the east quay. Survey of London:

A scheme for the redevelopment of the east-quay berths was approved in 1963, but deferred until the north- and west-quay works were complete and the question of the Glengall Grove right of way had been resolved.

The resolution, after considering different ideas (including even a tunnel under Millwall Docks), was a high-level footbridge. The proposed bridge appeared in early sketches of Fred. Olsen & Co.’s ideas for the new sheds.

Early ideas for the proposed new sheds on the east quay of Millwall Inner Dock. (Image from document provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

A later artist’s impression was based on actual plans, and thus shows more or less the bridge, berths and sheds that were eventually constructed.

(Image from document provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

The Glass Bridge – as the footbridge would quickly be named by Islanders – opened in 1964.

1964. Construction of Glass Bridge

P Berth – to the right of the Glass Bridge in the artist’s impression above – was the first berth to be constructed, in 1965-6, with the PLA meeting the cost of the berth and Fred. Olsen & Co. meeting part of the cost of the shed (and thereafter also paying rent and wharfage costs).

1967. P Berth and Shed are left of the Glass Bridge. (Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

Survey of London:

There were 11 manually operated 20ft-square sliding doors to each main elevation. Goods were transferred from ship to shed entirely by fork-lift truck, without quay cranes or tracks, one of the first such facilities anywhere. Fred Olsen Limited used the berth primarily for the Canary Islands fruit and tomato trade, previously centred at Canary Wharf.

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

The absence of quay cranes is very obvious in the following photograph of P Berth – compare it with the crane-filled M Berth on the other side of the Glass Bridge.

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

Every year since 1947, the city of Oslo has presented the people of London with a Christmas tree ‘as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45′. Naturally, with a Norwegian company operating out of the Millwall Docks, the tree was transported by Fred. Olsen & Co (for more details click here). On more than one occasion the tree was unloaded by Bill Howe, whose son Jim kindly let me use this photo…

Bill Howe (Photo courtesy of Jim Howe)

Business sign of Fred. Olsen & Co. (registered in the UK as Fred Olsen Ltd.) at Millwall Docks

In 1968, Fred. Olsen & Co, turned their attention to J, K and M Berths, where they planned to build not only new sheds but also a passenger terminal (until that time, passengers’ facilities were to be found in P Shed).

The passenger trades in the North Sea have long traditions in Fred. Olsen Lines and was strengthened by the new sister ships “Braemar” and “Blenheim” in the beginning of the 1950ies. The two combined cargo, car and passenger vessels “Black Watch” and “Black Prince” for UK / Canary and ferry services in the North Sea came in 1966.  The latter was later developed into Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

– Fred. Olsen & Co. history (http://www.fredolsen.com)

Construction of K Shed – with demolition of former M Shed taking place in the background. (Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

Construction of J and K Sheds (top and bottom, respectively). Photo: Port of London Authority

The passenger terminal was one of the earliest designs of now well-known architect, Norman Foster, architect of (amongst many other buildings) 30 St. Mary Axe, aka ‘The Gherkin’.

1968 visualisation of passenger terminal.

One of the challenges for the design was that the passenger terminal was not to interfere with quay operations. To achieve this, the passenger and Customs halls were accommodated in a semi-circular aluminium tube which was raised on concrete columns above the quay.

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

(Photograph provided by Fred. Olsen & Co, Oslo)

Another innovative feature of the development, and probably indicative of Fred. Olsen & Co.’s company culture (as it would be called these days) is the office and dock workers’ amenity block. Survey of London:

The building was designed after consultation with the workforce to provide the best facilities for dock workers in the Port. Olsen also aimed to provide good architecture, and appointed Norman Foster Associates.

Office and amenity block.

The building was placed in the gap of 90ft between J and K Sheds. This caused no operational inconvenience as vehicles could drive through the sheds …. On the ground floor there were lockers, showers, a restaurant and a recreation room for 250 dockworkers; the first floor had offices for up to 80 staff.

The following photo shows the completed sheds and passenger terminal (just right of the Glass Bridge). It also shows that the demolition of Millwall Central Granary is taking place, which indicates that the photo was taken in 1970.

Completed Fred. Olsen & Co. sheds and passenger terminal

The Blenheim

The Blenheim (Photo: Pat Jarvis)

Dockers with not enough work to do were occasionally asked to don a wig and join the Olsen Line’s theatre dance group which provided entertainment to cruise passengers. (I might have made that bit up).

Less than 10 years after the opening of the new berths and sheds:

In 1976, financial difficulties, disappointing trade and labour problems caused Olsen to move to Southampton. The sheds were operated by the PLA as the Canary Islands Terminal until 1980.
– Survey of London

It was hardly surprising; more or less everybody knew that Millwall Docks would not be open for commercial shipping for much longer, and that larger ships would prefer to load and unload further down river. Fred. Olsen & Co. had no way of knowing what would happen to the area after the West India & Millwall Docks closed, but – seeing how the area has developed into a major financial centre with high land prices and every square foot being built upon – it is unimaginable that a shipping company could have continued doing business there. Southampton was also a better choice for a company wanting to develop its cruise business.

And, what happened to Fred. Olsen & Co.’s buildings?

The Passenger Terminal

The passenger terminal is derelict in the following photo. The lights of the Glass Bridge are burning, but much of the glass has been broken, and it would not be long before the bridge is closed and demolished. The much-praised passenger terminal, designed by Norman Foster just a few years earlier, was also demolished around the same time.

Circa 1980

1980s

J Shed

Survey of London:

J Shed (Olsen Shed 1) was refurbished and extended in 1984 by Maskell Warehousing. The value of the site increased to such an extent that the building was demolished and the site redeveloped as Harbour Exchange in 1987–8.

Photo montage of the interior of a former  Fred. Olsen & Co. shed (I am not sure which one, but it is possibly J Shed)

P Shed

The Glass Bridge had been closed by the time of the following photo, and the signboards state that ‘Olsen Sheds 2 and 3’ are part of the ‘Enterprise Zone’ and available for redevelopment.

1982. P Shed (L) and K Shed (R) Photo: Chris Hirst

Redevelopment, as is usual on the Isle of Dogs, meant demolition.

1980s. From left to right: J Shed, K Shed and the site of the demolished P Shed.

K Shed

In 1984–6 K Shed (Fred. Olsen & Co.’s Shed 2) was converted as the London Arena, aka London Docklands Arena.

London Arena

Even though it was paying a peppercorn rent to the LDDC, the London Arena struggled to make a profit and closed in 2005, to be demolished the following year – the disappearance of the last (albeit by now unrecognizable) remains of Fred. Olsen & Co.’s sheds.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where the Other Half Lived: the Isle of Dogs – Blackheath Connection

I went to school over the water: Roan School in Blackheath. The best way to get to school was to walk past Island Gardens, through the foot tunnel, past Cutty Sark and the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital, through Greenwich Park – with on the left the Maritime Museum and Royal Naval College, and on the right the Royal Observatory – and up the hill to Maze Hill.

My school route. The route is imposed on a map made in about 1950, just before a dry dock for the Cutty Sark was built next to the Foot Tunnel entrance in Greenwich. I first went to the school a couple of decades later. [Click for full-sized version of map]

I never appreciated at the time what a wonderful route it was, surrounded by history and architectural beauty. Mostly, I’d have my head down, in a rush to make sure I got to school before assembly started; it wasn’t uncommon for me to run the whole way, which didn’t seem to be any effort at all at that age. Other times, I might be pre-occupied with arguing with Mark Fairweather about something :). Mark lived in Galleon House and also went to Roan School, so we’d sometimes walk together.

Sights along the school route.

I exited the park at the gate opposite the corner of Maze Hill and Westcombe Park Road, a corner notable as the location of Vanbrugh Castle, a house designed and built in 1719 by architect and dramatist, John Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh is best known as the designer of the baroque houses Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, but the house he built on Maze Hill, intended for his own use, was a gothic-style castle.

Vanbrugh Castle

In the centuries after Vanbrugh’s death in 1727, the castle had various owners. By the time of my twice-daily walks past it, it was a boarding school for children of RAF personnel. I don’t recall ever seeing any of the pupils, but was thankful that I didn’t have to go to a boarding school, especially one that looked so grim. It must have (had) fantastic views of the Isle of Dogs, though; views as wonderful as this one…..

Circa 1900. The Newcastle Arms (later renamed The Waterman’s Arms) is the white building on the left on the other side of the river.

In 1907, Vanbrugh Castle was purchased by wealthy oil merchant, Alexander Duckham for use as his family home. In 1920 he donated it to the RAF Benevolent Fund to be used as a school for the children of RAF personnel killed in service. As large as the building was, it was not designed to be used as a school, and only had one school room at first. This proved impractical and, eventually, lessons were held in the nearby Roan School, until a dedicated school wing was added to the castle in 1938 (just before all the pupils were evacuated due to the outbreak of WWII).

The school moved to Duke of Kent School in Ewhurst, Surrey in 1976. The house was then acquired by a group of four people for £100,000 and converted to four private flats. Yes,  you read that correctly, £100,000, or £25,000 per flat! I saw one of the flats for sale on the Internet recently, with an asking price of £2,500,000.

Judging from the state of the wall and garden, and the guard dog sign. Vanbrugh Castle was not occupied when this photo was taken.

Alexander Duckham was a local boy, born in Blackheath in 1877, to Millwall Dock Head Engineer, Frederic Eliot Duckham and Maud Mary McDougall of the well-known flour-making family. Already not short of a bob or two due to the wealth of his parents, Alexander Duckham, made a fortune in his own right after founding an oil company in circa 1899. Wikipedia:

Upon leaving university in 1899, Alexander Duckham, who had worked briefly for Fleming’s Oil Company, was encouraged by engineer Sir Alfred Yarrow, who lived nearby (Yarrow occupied Woodlands House in Mycenae Road, Westcombe Park for some years from 1896, close to the Duckham family home in Dartmouth Grove, Blackheath) to specialise in the study of lubrication, and was introduced to engineering firms with lubrication problems. Duckham established Alexander Duckham & Co in Millwall in 1899 … Early customers included car dealer and racing driver Selwyn Edge who called weekly at Duckham’s Millwall works for an oil change.

The company’s Millwall works were at Phoenix Wharf, just south of the Millwall Dock Entrance Lock and just north of Fleming’s Oil Company where Duckham had worked.

Millwall Dock Entrance Lock, c1900

This site would later be occupied by Montcalm House and Montrose House, built by the LCC in 1937/8.

Construction work at the former site of Duckham’s works at Phoenix Wharf, with the Millwall Dock Entrance Lock in the background. On the right, a footbridge, intended for use by pedestrians if the swing bridge was open.

North of the dock entrance, and shown on the map above, is Fenner’s Wharf, named for oil merchant and wharfinger, Nathaniel John Fenner. Fenner and civil engineer, Robert Fairlie, were the first to propose the construction of what would later be named the Millwall Docks. Survey of London:

The difficulties which Fenner had encountered in landing goods at his wharf at low water had made him aware of the advantage of enclosed non-tidal docks for wharfingers. Recognizing the potential of the empty land behind his wharf, in 1859 he asked Fairlie to draw up plans for its development. These evidently differed little from those later submitted to Parliament. They proposed a ‘canal’ across the Isle of Dogs, with an entrance basin at each end, and a central arm extending north towards the South Dock of the West India Docks … The intention was not to build on the wharves, but simply to let plots on building leases.

The intention to not build on the wharves, but instead to lease plots, remained the business model for the duration of Millwall Dock’s history, with various flour, timber and other shipping companies occupying sections of the docks at various times. Unfortunately for Fenner and Fairlie, they had little to do with the eventual realisation of the docks; other, more powerful and wealthier interests more or less ambushed their ideas and developed them further for their own benefit.

Fenner did alright for himself, though, his Island business interests continued to expand (paint manufacturing firm, Fenner & Alder was still operating on the Island as late as the 1950s.). Electoral registers of the 1880s reveal that Fenner was not only a business neighbour of Duckham in Millwall, the Fenners lived close-by too, at ‘The Cedars’ in Westcombe Park Road.

In fact, wherever you look in late 19th century electoral registers for the Isle of Dogs, you come across the names of factory or wharf owners whose home addresses are given as somewhere in Blackheath.

If you are wondering what Blackheath residents were doing in an Island electoral register, property owners formerly enjoyed ‘plural voting’, being eligible to vote not only at their place of residence, but also at the locations where they had business property. It was 1948 before this possibility – one that clearly benefited the wealthier – was abolished!

Extract from 1895 electoral register for the Millwall Polling District

The following two maps give an idea of just how many Island business owners lived in Blackheath around the end of the 19th century. The precise locations of the houses are not given (apart from Vanbrugh Castle); the reason for this is that the house name instead of number was sometimes provided, and many streets have since been renumbered. In too many cases it’s hard to figure out the location in today’s money, so I decided to indicate only the street involved.

Residences of Isle of Dogs business owners in Blackheath [click for full-sized version]

Residences of Isle of Dogs business owners in Blackheath [click for full-sized version]

Some of the names of the residents are immediately recognisable; many of the firms they founded were still doing business on the Isle of Dogs late into the 20th century, or were famous enough to be remembered in the names of buildings – names such as Lenanton, McDougall, Burrell and Yarrow….

John Lenanton & Son, Westferry Road from the river in the 1930s

McDougall’s, Millwall Docks in 1934

Burrell’s, Westferry Road in the 1920s

Samuel Cutler & Sons, Westferry Road in the 1930s

Yarrow’s Yard, Folly Wall in 1893

Other names are perhaps less well known:

  • David Tyson, owner of Tyson’s Cooperage at the end of British Street (renamed Harbinger Road), later the site of Mancell’s.
  • George Kelson, who worked at Samuda’s Wharf. It is doubtful that Kelson House is named after him. A kelson or keelson is the member which, particularly in a wooden boat, lies parallel with its keel but above the transverse members such as timbers, in order to provide the keel more stiffness. More likely this name was chosen to reflect the ‘scissor’ design of flats in Kelson House.
  • Charles Chittick, partner in, and later chairman of, Matthew T. Shaw & Co. of Westferry Road.
  • James Livingstone, owner of Livingstone Wharf in Ferry Street (in a section that was named Wharf Road at the time). The modern-day Livingstone Place is a reminder of the name.
  • George Davis, owner of the coconut works in Elizabeth Place off Westferry Road, now the site of Arethusa House.

Coconut Works, Elizabeth Place, Westferry Road, 1885

So…what was the attraction of Blackheath? In the 1800s, it was almost a new town, a bit like Milton Keynes, except with huge houses for rich people.  A beautiful place, actually…..

Woodlands House, Mycenae Road, former home of Sir Alfred Yarrow. The building was for many years a library, and is now a school.

Vanbrugh Park

St. German’s Place

St. John’s Park

I never noticed any of this when I went to the school in the area. I had no sense of the beauty of the place, no sense of the privilege to be able to live there, and no sense of the inequality between those who lived on the Island and those just a mile away over the water. They had no Sinfield’s, no Tremains, no Muddy and no Waterman’s – who’d want to live there anyway in such circumstances?

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

A Short History of Glengall Road (which turned out to be longer than I anticipated)

Bet you never expected to see a blog article about the Isle of Dogs that started with a photo of a castle. It’s Cahir Castle, in Co. Tipperary in Ireland.

Cahir Castle

Earl of Glengall was a title in the Peerage of Ireland that was created in 1816 for Richard Butler, 10th Baron Cahir. Richard Butler’s son, another Richard, married Margaret Lauretta Mellish in 1834. In the same year, Margaret, along with her sister, inherited the considerable estate of their father, victualler William Mellish. The estate included a substantial amount of land on the Isle of Dogs.

Margaret Lauretta Butler (née Mellish), Countess of Glengall by Richard James Lane. Lithograph, 1855 (National Portrait Gallery)

Mellish Estate on a map (1860s) which includes an early design of Millwall Docks

Many places and buildings on the Island made use of the Glengall name, including:

  • The Glengall Arms. A pub formerly located at 367 Westferry Road.
  • Glengall Causeway. Lying off Westferry Road, formerly an extension of Glengall Road toward the Thames.
  • Glengall Iron Works located at the corner of Glengall Road and the present-day Millwall Dock Road from the 1870s.
  • Glengall Place between Mellish Street and Glengall Road.
  • Glengall School. Its buildings are now occupied by Cubitt Town School.
  • Glengall Wharf located north of Glengall Causeway from 1911 to the 1950s. Sir John McDougall Gardens are on the site.

The best known, of course, is Glengall Road. The planned route of this road, from Manchester Road to East Ferry Road, is first shown on an 1850 map. In that year, most of Manchester Road was also only at the planning stage; in fact, much of the east of the Island was still marshland, or was in the process of being prepared for the construction of what would become Cubitt Town.

1850

Twenty years later, and houses had been built along most of the street – and the area to the north was also more developed. In the west, the road terminated at a bridge over Millwall Inner Dock.

1870

Amongst the new buildings was The George Hotel, at No. 114, built in 1864-5 by George Read, who also built most of the other houses present in the street at that time. The original George was a much larger place than the present-day pub, with a coach-house and stables, meeting rooms and a large billiards room – hoping to attract the custom of businessmen visiting the area.

Glengall Road, 1900s

Another grand building was No. 45:

…occupied by two young men who had trained as doctors before establishing the Priory, where they lived according to Benedictine rules as ‘the Monks of Cubitt Town’. The house was then fitted up with a chapel, library and club-room. Experiencing something of a change of fortune, and the building of an extension, the house was converted in 1912 as the Millwall and Cubitt Town Unionist Club, which was generously described at its opening as ‘almost like a West End club’ which was ‘really charming’.
– Survey of London

The fittingly named apartment block, Benedict Court is now located on the site.

Unionist Club, 45 Glengall Road, 1934. Photo: London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)

By 1882, Glengall Road extended across the docks as far as West Ferry Road:

1882

The east side could boast a thriving community, with shops, a school and another pub (London Tavern, at the Manchester Road end). The Island History Trust Collection includes many photos of the street, some of which are reproduced here. The Friends of Island History Trust website is at http://www.islandhistory.co.uk/

1910s. No. 50s – Boddie’s Fish Shop

Glengall Grove, c1930

London Tavern, across the road from Glengall School, on the corner with Manchester Road.

Violent crime on the Island was relatively low compared to the rest of the East End (thieving appeared to be the local specialism), but  was not entirely absent.

1874

In January 1892, a murder trial took place at the Old Bailey after the murder of Frederick Charles Swain in Glengall Road. One of the witnesses, Christopher Taylor, stated:

I am a fireman on board the steamship John Bright—I am now staying at 412, Penny Fields—on 8th December last our vessel was lying in the Inner Mill wall Dock—on that night I was in company with three firemen, named Frederick Charles Swain, John Cooper, and John Bahrs, who is also called Johnson—we were all employed on the John Bright—that same night there was lying in the dock a German vessel, called the Liebenstein—that night I and Swain, Cooper, and Bahrs went to the George public-house, and off and on we remained there till closing-time—we were in the public-bar—I heard some German singing going on in another part of the house.

At closing time we left, and walked in the direction of the docks, down the Glengal Road; we walked on the right-hand side, two and two, I and Cooper first, Bahrs and Swain following two or three yards behind—as we were walking down, the prisoner struck Cooper; two other men were with the prisoner; I now know they were Krause and Striblow—they came together off the road to us—they were saying something in German which I could not understand—Cooper was knocked down

The Germans went away towards the dock, hardly at a walk—Cooper got up and we walked on together—when we got near the policeman’s box and the dock gates we saw the Germans standing up there, waiting about; the three came up together, and they struck Cooper again; I don’t know who struck him the second time; he got knocked down again, and when on the ground Krause kicked him—I went into the prisoner like to stop him, to push him away—I made a rush at him to charge him for knocking Cooper about—I got a few blows at a doorway, and he got the same from me—I saw something bright in his hand, and I felt a cut in my left hand; it was bleeding—I saw that after it was finished—Swain and Bahrs were coming up to us when they saw the men getting on to us, and the prisoner then left me and went off for them—he was the only person there then—he was the only man I was striking—I don’t remember where Krause and Striblow were; they had not gone away, they were all close by, but in what position I can’t tell.

The prisoner went up to Swain, and I heard Swain call out, “I am stabbed”—the prisoner then made a rush to pick up his cap; he stooped down to pick something up, and then ran away—at the time the prisoner went towards Swain, Bahrs was near him—I did not hear him call out; I did not see anything happen to him; he was still standing up, and Swain also—I did not see either of them fall—the prisoner ran over the bridge right past the policeman’s box; they all ran together—the policeman at the dock gates pursued them, and within a short time he brought the prisoner back, and he was taken to the station—Swain was then lying on the ground; I could not say when he fell—he was not speaking or making any sign of being alive—Bahrs was in the police-box lying down; I did not see him fall—I remained on the same spot all the time—Bahrs was calling out as if he had been hurt—then I and Cooper, the prisoners, and some policemen all went to the station together—I think there were three policemen there then—the prisoners were charged at the station—I don’t remember whether they made any answer—I afterwards saw the dead body of Swain in the mortuary.

After other statements, the accused, William Gempestein, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment.

Contemporary illustration of the fight (which, in the imagination of the artist, had taken place in the docks themselves).

The western end of Glengall Road at the time was largely industrial, with few residential premises. For decades, its north side was dominated by the long rope shed of the Universe Rope Works, while most of the south side of the street remained vacant until the late nineteenth century, reflecting the low demand for industrial premises without river frontage.

Incidentally, according to reports at the time of the inauguration of Millwall Rovers, the team played their first matches (during the 1885/86 season) on waste land off Glengall Road. This was almost certainly the vacant area between Glengall Iron Works and Capewell Horse Nail Works. (Click here for more about the history of the team.)

1895 (click for larger version)

1900

The rope works were set up in 1859 by John & Edwin Wright, a Birmingham firm – well before there was any sign of Glengall Road on that side of the Island. Their main business was the manufacture of ropes and cables for shipping, but they also made tarpaulins, clothes, brushes and other products.

The company wound up the Millwall arm of its business in 1914, and the rope works were taken over by a sailmaker’s until they also left – leaving the rope works empty – in 1921.

c1921 (click for larger version)

In 1925, the rope works were acquired by Poplar Borough Council, whose intention was to build housing on the site (however, initially, the eastern third was leased to the Millwall Engineering Company).

The first houses were built in 1926 at the western end of the street, in a similar style to those built around the same time in the Chapel House Estate.

Nos. 318-332 Glengall Road (now 1-15 Tiller Road)

East of the houses, the council built a number of blocks of flats:

  • Hibbert House (after George Hibbert, first Chairman of the West India Dock Company)
  • Alexander House (named after recently-deceased Medical Officer of Health for Poplar, Frederick William Alexander)
  • Yarrow House (named after shipbuilder Sir Alfred Yarrow), destroyed during World War II
  • Maudslay House (named after engineers Maudslay, Sons & Field), destroyed during World War II

In 1937, the eastern end of the former rope works was vacated by the Millwall Engineering Company, and the council cleared it in preparation for the construction of Hammond House. Well-known Poplar photographer William Whiffin took a number of photos of the empty works, probably on behalf of Poplar Borough Council.

1937. Former rope works, shortly before demolition to make room for Hammond House. (Photos: William Whiffin)

Hammond House shortly after opening. Photo: London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)

A few months later, Glengall Road was renamed Glengall Grove.

Meanwhile back at the turn of the century, the south side of Glengall Road was occupied by (from west to east):

  • Carlton Works
  • An entrance road to Millwall Docks, now known as Millwall Dock Road.
  • (Former) Glengall Iron Works.
  • Millwall School
  • Public Baths
  • Stuart’s Granolithic Works
  • Capewell Horse Nail Works (later cooperage)

1916

Survey of London:

The Carlton Works (so named by the short-lived Carlton Engineering Company Ltd, incorporated in 1888) became the chemical works of Walter Voss & Company (incorporated in 1904), manufacturers of acids, disinfectants, weed-killer, soldering fluid and lacquer. Part of the works was also used by another firm for tentmaking during the First World War. After Voss’s departure, in the 1950s and 1960s the partially cleared site was used as a haulage depot.

c1906 Island Omnibus in Glengall Road, with Glengall Iron Works in the background.

The school east of Glengall Iron Works was variously named depending on the year: Millwall Glengall Road School, Isle of Dogs School, Millwall School and also Millwall Central School. The first school, built in 1895, was a temporary affair, consisting of a couple of corrugated-iron sheds. The permanent building was constructed between 1896 and 1897. Survey of London:

The Higher Elementary school became a ‘central’ school in 1911, closing in 1928 on the opening of a new central school in Janet Street. Millwall Glengall Road Council School was renamed Millwall Isle of Dogs Council School in 1929. By then the premises were obsolete and in need of replacement, while the roar of traffic made the site unsuitable. Extensively damaged by bombing in the Second World War, the school was not rebuilt.

The introduction of bath houses into British culture was a response to the public’s desire for increased sanitary conditions, and the first London public baths were opened in Whitechapel in 1847. 50 years later there were still no baths on the Island, and so a site was sought which would be as conveniently accessible as possible to all Islanders – not an easy task, with the need for most people to travel around the docks and/or cross over at least one bridge. The eventually-chosen spot, close to the Glengall Bridge over Millwall Docks, was the most affordable compromise solution. The original baths opened in 1900, with a swimming pool, slipper baths and a laundry.

Island Baths in the 1930s

1930s (Photo Arthur Ayres)

From 1930–1, the swimming pool was closed during the winter (the cost of keeping it heated was prohibitively high), when it was covered with a temporary dance floor.

1930s

Stuart’s Granolithic Company was a firm with a long history in Glengall Road; in 1900 they acquired a 60-year lease on the waste land between the public baths and the horse nail factory, and remained there until 1958, the last-surviving manufacturing firm in Glengall Road. Originating in Peterhead in Scotland, they specialised in making artificial stone from a mixture of cement and crushed granite. Their first London works were close to Regent’s Canal Dock in Limehouse, but business success forced them to move to larger premises on the Island.

The caption of this old photo of Stuart’s states that it is their works in Millwall, which would make this the Glengall Road entrance. The style of the building and pillar are very ‘un-Millwall’ in appearance. Probably, though, they were built by the firm specifically to show off its granolithic stone.

Survey of London:

The company’s Scottish origins were not forgotten. Bagpipes accompanied the house-warming at the works in 1902, and in 1903 the managing director, Peter Stuart— who had planned the layout— was preceded by a tartanclad piper as he led members of the Sanitary Inspectors’ Association on a tour. The buildings … included a 45ft-high chimney shaft, built by the company’s own workmen. Constructed entirely of granolithic blocks and rising without any taper, it required a special licence from the LCC, waiving the normal requirement for chimneys to be of brickwork throughout with a taper of 2½in. in every 10ft. A four-square Classical tower with heavy rusticated detail, the shaft was an attempt to show that granolithic ‘could be rapidly and economically used for stonework of a decorative character’.

1904 postcard

1950s (courtesy of Arthur Ayres)

1950s (courtesy of Arthur Ayres)

East of Stuart’s, bordering on the Millwall Docks was an area of land occupied from 1890 (also on a 60-year lease) by the Capewell Horse Nail Works, a firm with its head office in Connecticut in the US.

Twenty years later and the manufacture of horse nails was a shrinking business; the company changed its business to metal-spinning and moved away from the Island (to become Metalline Products Ltd in Trench, Shropshire). The works were taken over by Dunbar’s Cooperage Ltd – a timber cask and barrel manufacturing firm started by Alexander Dunbar, a barrister, from Guelph, Ontario.

In 1929, this firm was wound up, and Dunbar House was built on the site.

1930s (courtesy of Arthur Ayres)

1930s (courtesy of Arthur Ayres)

The photos of Dunbar House clearly show the proximity of Millwall Docks behind the fences and walls in the background. This is also visible in the following post-WWII photo.

1940s

Well before Millwall Docks opened in 1862, the Mellish Estate had plans for a longer Glengall Road, extending from Manchester Road in the east to Westferry Road in the west. The Millwall Dock company was not happy about having a public thoroughfare across the docks, but – because they were critically dependent on buying land from the Mellish Estate in order to build the docks in the first place – they reluctantly provided for a bridge across the Inner Dock. That didn’t stop them trying to stop the public access later, though.

The first bridge, constructed in 1868, was an iron swing bridge, similar to those found at Kingsbridge and Preston’s Road. The following 1930s photo shows this bridge, I believe looking west.

1930s. Glengall Bridge

An even earlier photo, taken in 1901 and looking east, shows people waiting for the bridge. Apart from the apparent lack of a barrier to prevent people falling in the dock, it is notable also for the impressive construction which was the timber transporter. This transported timber from ships in Millwall Docks across East Ferry Road to the Transporter Yard in the Mudchute (Millwall FC had recently had to vacate the site because of the dock company’s intention to build the yard). Click here for an article about the timber transporter.

1901. A Glengall Bridger

Early 1900s. The Timber Transporter crossing East Ferry Road into the Mudhcute. ASDA is on this site today.

Late 1940s (estimate). Dockers walking towards The George, a gathering place for the ‘the call-on’. Crossharbour DLR station is on this spot today.

Like other swing bridges on the Island, the Glengall Bridge was slow and unreliable. In 1937, the PLA (who by this time were running the West India and Millwall Docks), stated their intention to replace the bridge.

1937/38. Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes

The temporary foot bridge was provided by constructing a wooden walkway over a barge, which would be moved aside whenever a ship needed to pass. The PLA planned to open a new bridge in 1940, but World War II got in the way, and the barge bridge ended up being used until the 1960s.

Barge Bridge

Barge Bridge in the 1950s. Photo: Sarah Brentnall

In 1935, Glengall School closed, to be replaced by the present building.

 

 

 

In anticipation of War, Island Baths were converted into a First Aid Post, and the building received some blast protection through the use of sandbags.

1937/38 Poplar Borough Council Meeting Minutes

Island Baths

Island Baths

Glengall School, near the corner with Manchester Road, became a depot for emergency workers – as was the case with other schools on the Island after most children had been evacuated.

Auxiliary Fire Service workers horsing around in the playground of Glengall School. Did you see what I did there?

At the gate of Glengall School – in at least a couple of cases there’s some play acting going on, and the injuries are not serious (not this time, at least…..)

Glengall Grove – for that was its name by now – suffered much bomb damage during WWII, thanks to its proximity to the docks (well, after all, part of it was in the docks), most seriously during the evening of 7th September 1940, the first night of The Blitz. Much of the following is taken from my book The Isle of Dogs During World War II (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isle-Dogs-During-World-War/dp/1507746113).

This Luftwaffe Reconnaisance map shows a direct hit on Glengall Grove (at the bottom of the photo), as well as hits on other parts of Millwall.

1940

The London Fire Brigade reported the incidents in Glengall Grove that evening thus:

18:00 Explosive Bomb, Glengall Grove

  • Nos. 81-8 Yarrow House, Glengall Grove, Three 4-floor buildings and contents damaged
  • Maudslay House, Glengall Grove, Rest of street of 48 houses damaged by breakage
  • Hibbert House, Glengall Grove, Rest of street of 48 houses damaged by breakage.

[The high explosive bomb which fell at 18:00 damaged all three blocks of flats, with serious enough damage to Yarrow House and Maudslay House to require their demolition.]

18:04 – Incendiary & Explosive Bombs, Glengall Grove

  • Lancashire Freight Services Ltd, 1, 2 and 3 floor buildings covering 500×500 used as warehouses. Severely damaged.

18:11 Incendiary Bombs, South of Glengall Grove

  • A-Yard, Millwall Dock, A warehouse of 1 floor about 150 x 150 feet and contents severely damaged. Basement used as mess rooms, dormitories, offices and store, and contents damaged
  • Carlton Works, Glengall Grove, Walter Voss and Co Manufacturing
  • Chemists. 200×200 used as laboratories, store and contents severely damaged
  • Carlton Works, Glengall Grove, Speedy Metal Castings Ltd. 200×60 Machine Room, workshop and contents damaged.

And on the other side of Glengall Bridge….

18:52 – Explosive Bomb, Glengall Grove

  • 60×60 of roadway damaged
  • Off license. Building of 3 floors 60×20, used as dwelling and store, contents severely damaged
  • Tobacconist, Shop and house of 6 rooms, damaged.

18:52 – Explosive Bomb, Glengall Grove

  • 6 houses, 6 rooms each damage

[Although the precise location was not specified in this fire brigade report, it is probably a reference to the houses that were directly opposite The George, and this bomb is marked as such on the following map.]

The off-license that was damaged at 18:52 was the Happy-Go-Lucky, on the corner of Glengall Grove and Strattondale Street.

The Happy-Go-Lucky before and after the War. Right photo: London Metropolitan Archives (City of London)

Later in the War, other premises in Glengall Grove were damaged and/or destroyed, including during the major bombing which took place on 19th March 1941 (known later as ‘The Wednesday’), the night of the tragedy at the shelter at Bullivant’s Wharf. This was a very bad night for those living and working in the East End. In clear weather, more than 500 aircraft dropped thousands of incendiary and high explosive bombs along the banks of the Thames from London Bridge to Becton. It was later recollected by Bill Mather:

Millwall and Poplar had a few hundred high explosives and also incendiaries. Bullivant’s Shelter was hit. St. Andrew’s Wharf had a direct hit by high explosive bomb which went into an oil tank, which exploded and burning oil was blown hundreds of yards up into the sky…the wharves along Westferry Road were alight, Morton’s riverside received a high explosive and a great amount of damage was done to that part of the factory that was not burnt out a few months ago. Glengall Grove received a great number of high explosives, one dropped outside the Isle of Dogs School, which blew all the cottages opposite and damaged them, the school burst into flame and was soon a blazing mass.

In 1941, bombing seriously damaged Island Baths. The pool was beyond repair, but with some patching up, the slipper baths and laundry could continue to be used.

Bomb damage to Island Baths

M Warehouse in the Millwall Docks, bordering on Glengall Grove just east of the bridge, was also destroyed.

M Warehouse

London Tavern after WWII. Left: Glengall Grove, right: Manchester Road

The shaded areas on the following maps show buildings which were destroyed during WWII, or which were so seriously damaged that they needed to be demolished when the war ended.

War Damage, Glengall Grove west

War Damage, Glengall Grove east

Post-War aerial photos such as the following (by which time some reconstruction had already begun) also give a good idea of the scale of the destruction.

c1948 (click for full-sized version)

c1948 (click for full-sized version)

The construction of prefabs in the area was a consequence of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act of 1944, which authorised the Government to spend up to £150 million on temporary houses.  Poplar Borough Council applied for 2000 of these prefabs and, in September 1944, constructed three different types in Glengall Grove for demonstration purposes. The selected prefab was of the Uni-Seco type, produced by the London-based Selection Engineering Company Ltd, and based on a military wartime office design.

The Green family moved into one of the demonstration Uni-Seco prefabs in Glengall Grove a month later, and the council started laying concrete bases for others before the end of the year.

The Green family. The girl with the dog in her lap, Margaret Green, would later grow up, get married and become the mother of a mate of mine (she also served me the first ‘real coffee’ I’d ever had 🙂 ). I knew her by her married name, Margaret Stephens, and she passed away not so long ago.

c1945. Photo taken from Glengall School, looking north over Glengall Grove and the St. John’s area.

VE Day, Glengall Road (Present address: 9 Tiller Road)

VE Day, Dunbar House

After the War and the celebrations of its ending, the necessary reconstruction:

  • Cressall House, built in 1951 at the corner with Mellish Street (and named after a former mayor and member of the Borough Council, George J. Cressall)
  • Orlit homes built in Cord Way on the other corner of Mellish Street,
  • Kedge House and Winch House, contructed in the 1960s on the site of Stuart’s Granolithic works.
  • Skeggs House, built in the 1960s next to The George, and named after a former Poplar Town Clerk.
  • Finwhale House, built in the 1960s and named after the submarine, HMS Finwhale.

Cressal House tender information

1950s. Cressall House

1953 Coronation Day party, Hammond House

1956. Christine Coleman and brothers outside the entrance to Cressall House (Photo: Christine Coleman)

A new Island Baths was built during the 1960s, and opened in 1966. According to Survey of London:

Although use of the slipper baths and, to a lesser extent, the laundry, had been declining steadily for years, both facilities were included so that payment from the War Damage Commission was maximized.

After the War, the PLA had again expressed its desire to close the public right of way across Millwall Inner Dock, but this led to strong local opposition. The Council, the LCC and Charles Key, the local MP, forced the PLA to reconsider and prepare schemes for creating a pedestrian crossing. After considering options including a tunnel and an aerial cable car, it was decided to construct a high-level footbridge, one which was high enough to allow barges to pass, only needing to open for ships.

Construction started in 1964 and the bridge was fully-operational in 1966. The opening of the bridge marked the renaming of the western end of Glengall Grove to Tiller Road.

1964

1964

1966

The Glengall high-level bridge gave the public the dubious privilege of a walk high over the Millwall Docks in an enclosed glazed tube. It was immediately renamed by Islanders, ‘The Glass Bridge’. It also quickly became a prime target for vandals, and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. The PLA had to spend about £20,000 on repairs. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed.

1982

In 1983, the Glass Bridge was demolished. It existed only for a very short period – just over 15 years – but it certainly left an impression on everyone who knew it.

1983

Glengall Grove was also the focal point of Island action of a more positive nature in 1970: UDI, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Ted Johns of Skeggs House and John Westfallen of Hedley House devised, and – with hundreds of others – carried out a protest action to attract attention to the poor amenities on the Isle of Dogs. They declared independence and for two hours on 1st March 1970, they blocked West Ferry Rd on the west side of the Island, and the Blue Bridge  on the east side.

John Westfallen was a fan of the Ealing comedy Passport to Pimlico (he also had in-laws who had acted in the film), as became apparent when he created and distributed ‘entry permits’ and joked about having proper passports one day. A second “Prime Minister”, stevedore Ray Paget of West Ferry Rd, manned the barriers on the west side of the Island.

The whole incident made the national and international news, and even resulted in the main protagonists attending a meeting at 10 Downing Street. Many press photos and interviews were recorded in Glengall Grove. It’s a fabulous story, and too much to report here – instead, you can have a read of this article.

UDI discussions outside Skeggs House, 1970

UDI discussions outside Skeggs House, 1970

One of the reasons for the protest was the impending closure of Glengall School, the only secondary school on the Island. The success of the action meant that the council decided to locate George Green’s School in Manchester Road.

In 1976, Dunbar House was demolished – images of a derelict Dunbar House and its subsequent demolition were captured by Gary Wood.

Dunbar House (Photo: Gary Wood)

Dunbar House demolition (Photo: Gary Wood)

In 2011, it was Hammond House’s turn for demolition…..

Hammond House demolition (Photo: Peter Wright)

Hammond House demolition (Photo: Peter Wright)

As for Glengall Bridge, after the demolition of the Glass Bridge, a temporary bridge was constructed across Millwall Inner Dock and for the first time since 1938 it was possible to drive over the dock.

1984 The temporary Glengall Bridge, with Hammond House in the background. A screenshot from an episode of the Prospects television series.

Later, a new Glengall Bridge was built – and the street between Tiller Road and Glengall Grove was renamed Pepper Street. Apparently that’s a reference to the ship-borne spice trade, which makes no sense as all the spice ships went through West India Docks. No matter, it’s approaching 200 years since the inception of Glengall Road, and much has changed in the mean time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Walk Round the Isle of Dogs in 1968 (Then & Now) – Part II, Manchester Road (Mostly)

Part I of this article described how Hugo Wilhare took a series of wonderful and uique photos of the Isle of Dogs in 1968/69, and ended up sharing them on the Facebook group, ‘The Isle of Dogs – Then & Now‘ a few decades later. The article gathered together the photos taken along Westferry Road, and supplemented them with maps,  ‘Now’ photos and a little history of the buildings and area shown. In part II, the walk continues, along Manchester Road, starting at the Lord Nelson.

1-9 Manchester Road

The Lord Nelson was built in 1855, originally with a statue of Lord Nelson on the roof corner and other ornate features (all of which vanished long ago). In 1964, a few years before the old photo was taken, a number of people were residents of the pub according to the electoral register:

  • Fred and Mary Barnes
  • Southgate family
  • A.E. Bonney
  • Robert Waller

The collection of small buildings in the yard to the right of the Lord Nelson served as the business premises of the “Millwall & Cubitt Town Omnibus Co.” in 1884. In 1886, Millwall Rovers left their Millwall headquarters at The Islanders pub in Tooke St, and moved to the Nelson. For the next 4 years the team played at a ground behind the pub (where Manchester Grove is now located). At that time, there were few buildings on the north side of Manchester Road, as this late 1880s map shows:

1880s

1949

Right of the pub were the addresses 3-9 Manchester Road. Nos. 7-9 were demolished in the 1980s and replaced with modern houses (the post-war photo does not give an indication of significant bomb damage). Occupants in the 1960s were:

  • No. 3. Unknown
  • No. 5. J.N. Downey (1968)
  • No. 7. James & Joan Hoskins (1964), Alice & James Sparks (1964)
  • No. 9. Grace & Percival Hall (1964)

Hugo used up a significant part of his precious black & white film in the section of Manchester Road between Ferry Street and Christ Church. The whole area south of Manchester Road was demolished in the early 1970s to make room for the new George Green’s School and community centre.

There is still much sadness at the demolition of so many old and familiar shops and houses. Also, even some streets disappeared: Brig Street, Schooner Street (formerly Ship Street) and Barque Street. The demolition, happening less than a decade after the demolition on the other side of Manchester Road and the construction of the Schooner Estate, changed this area of the Island completely.

Architectural model of the Schooner Estate

Architectural model of George Green’s School

Photos and memories of the area before the 1960s show and tell of a leafy and self-contained community: it had Millwall Park on one side, and Island Gardens and the river on the other. By Island standards there was not that much industry – it being confined to the riverfront – and the area was a long way from the docks, relatively. The population of the Island was 9,000 in 1960, but this grew to about 12,500 in 1971, which gives an idea of the extent of the influx of people from other areas of East London (mind you, the population is around 45,000 and growing fast in 2019).

On the other hand, the decision to build the school in the first place was thanks to the efforts of Islanders who wanted to make sure that there was a secondary school and better community services on the Island. The only other secondary school, in Glengall Grove, was on the point of closing – its buildings to be taken over by Cubitt Town Primary School. After 1970 and the Island’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (see article here), one of the concessions from the council was to move George Green’s School to the Island.

The school officially opened in 1977, but the community centre opened the year before. I was the third kid to join the youth club, and I signed up for badminton, table tennis, 5-a-side football and photography. It cost me 35p.

The arches were part of the Millwall Extension of the London and Blackwall Railway Company, opened in 1872, and terminating at North Greenwich Railway Station (the rowing club is on the site of the railway station). The line closed in the 1920s, and the bridge was demolished. A new bridge was built in the 1980s to accommodate the DLR, but this bridge has also since been demolished.

To the right of the arches, 71A, 71 and 73 Manchester Road, just before the corner with Douglas Place.

  • No. 71A has always belonged to whichever firm was operating under the arches. In the 1960s, that was Whittock’s Garage.
  • No. 71. No records.
  • No, 73. Newsagent’s run by the Smith family around 1960.

A look back up Manchester Road,

The houses left of the former bridge, and the public loo, are part of the Manchester Grove Estate, built in 1925.

On the other side of the road from the garage and loo, there used to be a ladder up to the arches. It was not accessible to the public, it was in the yard of a firm which operated under the arches on this side of the road.

91 Manchester Road

The newsagents at 91 Manchester Road, on the corner with Stebondale Street, was yet another Jarvis Brothers shop.

88-92 Manchester Road (R to L)

No. 86, at the corner with Barque Street, was seriously damaged by bombing at the end of a sunny Saturday afternoon on 7th September 1940, the first night of the Blitz. The London Fire Brigade made notes of all incidents during WWII, and described this incident as such:

18:07. Explosive Bomb, 86 Manchester Road
A building of 3 floors about 40x 20 ft used as refreshment bar, dwelling and store, upper part and contents damaged.

This corner has always drawn my attention when I look at old maps and photos; not due to the bombing, but because it is the location of one of the first old photos of the Island that I’d ever seen – and one that helped to pique my interest in the history of the place.

Corner of Manchester Road and Barque Street (R), 1900s

In the 1960s, Nos. 88-92 were occupied by:

  • No. 88. Saunders’ butchers
  • No. 90. D. & L. Brown, post office and greengrocer’s
  • No. 92. Brian & Barbara Wallace, café

78-84 Manchester Road (right to left)

Looking back up Manchester Road a bit, the scene is dominated by the Princess of Wales pub. It was better known as ‘Mac’s’; a rather odd sign of Islanders’ tendency to stick to old names (like ‘Farm Road’), as it was so named after the former landlord, William Patrick McMahon, who was landlord from 1863 to 1884!

An old Island History Trust newsletter includes a photo of the last night of the pub:

Occupants to the right of the pub were (right to left):

  • No. 78. Brian & Iris Hill, Mary Thomas
  • No. 80. Newmak’s betting shop, and possibly Ronald & Maureen Mallett living above the shop.
  • No. 82. Barbara & David Scott are listed as residents, probably living above the minicab firm that operated at the address.

88 Manchester Road and higher

Residents of Nos. 94 to 112:

  • No. 94. Griffiths family
  • No. 96. Bannister and Payne families
  • No. 98. Edith & Florence Earwaker
  • No. 100. Albert & Joan Seabrook
  • No. 102. Knight family
  • No. 104. Downs & Williams families
  • No. 106. Frederick & Lilian Cain, Eliza Watts
  • No. 108. Agg family
  • No. 110. Michael & Marion Harrigan, Maud Goodman
  • No. 112. Hazell & Townshend families

116 Manchester Road and higher

114 Manchester Road

114 Manchester Road

Hart’s grocery shop, complete with milk machine outside, was at No. 114 Manchester Road, at the corner with Schooner Street (formerly Ship Street). The shop and its owner, make a brief appearance in the 1962 American documentary, “Postscript to Empire”, which compared the lot of those who remained living in a former industrial area of London (the Island, thus) with those who moved to a new town (Stevenage).

The scene in the shop includes a slightly strained debate (it was obviously set up, and neither participant could claim to be a natural actor) between former suffragette, councillor and Mayor of Poplar, Nellie Cressall and the shop’s owner, Mr. Hart.

Nellie Cressal entering Mr. Hart’s shop.

Nellie Cressal and Mr. Hart. Mr. Hart is saying something like “Well, in my opinion, it stands to reason that they should not have stopped conscription.” Nellie Cressal is thinking, “Bow Locks”, and is waiting to pounce. 

116 Manchester Road

Powell’s was another shop which had premises at different places on the Island over the years.

Looking from Powell’s towards Christ Church, it is possible to view the development during the years after the photo was taken….

Early 1970s. I am not sure who took this photo, but if anybody knows….

I took the following photo myself in 1977 – the photography lessons in the youth club were beginning to pay off.

Ricky Newark, Mark Fairweather, Ray Stephens and the late Stephen Bezzina

124 Manchester Road and higher

Hugo took no photos of the other side of Manchester Road along this section. That’s not suprising, he was after all taking photos of the old shops and buildings, and the other side of the road was the recently-opened Schooner Estate.

If he had been there a few years earlier, though, and had pointed his camera across the road, he would have seen the following – the area being cleared for the construction of the Schooner Estate. Mind you, there wasn’t much to clear as the area had been badly damaged during the War; pretty much only the premises along Manchester Road were still standing after 1945.

Manchester Road, with Glengarnock Avenue in the background, early 1960s. Area clearance in preparation for construction of the Schooner Estate. Galleon House was built on this spot.

124 Manchester Road

No. 123 was Margaret Gleeson’s draper’s, another shop which features in the Island History Trust collection….

114 Manchester Road, c1960. I’m not sure if Margaret Gleeson already owned the shop at the time.

124-130 Manchester Road (right to left)

The police station at No. 126 was opened in 1865. I was only in there once, with a group of other kids, to hand in an unexploded anti-aircraft shell that we had found on the Thames foreshore. The desk sergeant was not amused.

There are all sorts of wonderful images and documents to be found on the Internet, including some so-called ‘Occurrence Books’ of the Metropolitan Police (the police had to note every incident in which they were involved). Conveniently, they cover the period of 1968-71 at the Isle of Dogs police station. Here is an extract. The documents are a bit of a giggle, actually; click here you want to view them all yourself.

Occurrence Report, Isle of Dogs Police Station, February 1968

The house left of the police station, No. 128, was also destroyed during the War. To its left, a glimpse of Coleman’s sweet shop at No. 130.

140-144 Manchester Road (right to left)

This is a very rare image of Brig Street, whose path is now followed by George Green’s School’s ‘service road’ (if I can call it that). I remember the street as having no houses, and frequently being used by lorries that used to park up in the area behind (another great place to play). It is the only photo of the corner shop that I ever seen.

Occupants of the premises to the right of Brig Street:

  • No. 140. Annie & Samuel Hooper
  • No. 142. George & Rosella Priaulx, James Shelton
  • No. 144. Pendry and Shillaveer families, hardware shop

Nos. 154 & 156 Manchester Road (right to left)

  • No. 154.  Bob Olding’s barber shop (he took the shop over in 1950).
  • No. 156. Tremain’s fried fish shop.

The Tremains moved here after being bombed out of their original shop (not far from the Cubitt Arms) during WWII. The shop used to be packed of a Friday evening, with queues extending into the street. When the area was demolished, the Tremain’s moved into a shop in the recently-built flats across the road (my own flats). It was named ‘The Skate Inn’.

Both shops were of course another great place to play once they were derelict. Bob Olding’s was particularly memorable because of a quantity of large bottles filled with hair chemicals which had been left behind, asking to be broken. The stink!

1982, site of 154 & 156 Manchester Road. Although the school had opened in 1977, it took a long while before this corner was built upon.

Christ Church from approximately 207 Manchester Road

207 Manchester Road was my home, and this view hasn’t changed much over the years.

My first car, given to me by my Mum when my Dad passed away. Some little sod broke that aerial off, and – while trying to remove the remains – I managed to stab myself in the nose (I still have the scar, but also the nose).

Hugo’s next photos were a long way up Manchester Road. In fact, the very next one was not in Manchester Road at all, as Hugo took a detour to the riverside at Folly Wall.

Looking south at Folly Wall

In the foreground is the Rye Arc engineering company (which closed in 1973). Beyond that, the very recently opened Samuda Estate.

571 Manchester Road and higher

The Queen, 571 Manchester Road

Among the many pub closures on the Island, the closure and demolition of The Queen is one of the hardest to fathom. A grand building, in a perfect location for attracting custom from the new Dockland developments; yet, it was closed in about 2010.

The pub was opened in 1855, and in the last decade or two before closure, the owners experimented with new names: Queen’s, Queen’s Hotel and, finally, Queen of the Isle. One of my favourite photos of the pub was taken during the first London Marathon in 1981. The newspapers reported that one contestant stopped at every pub along the route for a swift half. Could this be him?

The Queen, 1980s

The row of houses starting at No. 575 is still known as Glen Terrace. It was built during the 1880s, and named after the Glen Shipping Line which had occupied the site at the start of the decade. It follows the original path of Manchester Road, which went in a straight line over the dock entrance lock to join Preston’s Road on the other side. A lengthening of the lock to accommodate larger ships around 1920 meant moving the bridge further east. Manchester Road of course had to be slightly rerouted too. (Click here for an article about Glen Terrace).

Glen Terrace, 575 Manchester Road and higher

Occupants of Glen Terrace during the 1960s were as follows:

  • No. 575. Jean & Ronald Henning, Frederick Isley, Gwendoline Somers
  • No. 577. Hall family
  • No. 579. Booth family
  • No. 581. Pringle family
  • No. 583. Gwyther family
  • No. 585. Mary Manning
  • No. 587. Standen family
  • No. 589. Hewer family, Marsh family, Alfred Melhuish
  • No. 591. Martin family, Mary Timkey
  • No. 593. Babister family, Edit Crawford
  • No. 595. Harriet Ausulin, Edward Jones, Eleanor Pluck
  • No. 597. Beddo family

There was no No. 599 in 1968. It was destroyed during WWII. My article on Glen Terrace (link above previous photo) tells some of the story, including a first-hand account of the incident.

Glen Terrace

  • No, 601. Hart and Smith families
  • No. 603. Jaggs family
  • No. 605. Mills family
  • No. 607. Steeds family
  • No. 609. Dickens and Eversen families
  • No. 611. Hatton family
  • No. 613. Weller family, Emily Witham
  • No. 615. Harding family

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

Bridge over West India South Dock entrance lock

This bridge was very noisy, with metallic screeching and groaning as it opened and closed, a sound which could be heard from far away. The bridge was also slow and unreliable, and was replaced by the Blue Bridge in 1969, the year after Hugo took his photos. (Click here for a history of the bridges on this site.)

The photos conclude with more photos of the bridge, including one that shows damage caused by a ship, and another showing The Gun pub on the other side of the entrance lock. I made an animation from the sequence of photos showing the bridge closing as a Sun tug exited the lock. Well…..I thought it was leaving the lock – turns out it was reversing into the lock in order to tow a ship out, and my animation was going backwards. Whoops. I can’t add too much more to the photos of the bridge (not in this article, at least), but they are all included below, for the sake of completeness.

A footnote from me. I mentioned my mixed feelings about the demolition in Manchester Road to make room for George Green’s School. However, by a long way, the arrival of the school was good for my family and myself: my sister went to the school, I enrolled in all sorts of activities and learned photography (which I still love), my parents played badminton, and all of us went to all sorts of socials and discos. (However, I cannot listen to Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, by Rose Royce, without cringing – it was one of those end-of-disco songs for which you were obliged to find a partner for a slow dance, even if you didn’t want to. Thank heavens for the arrival of Punk.)

Another opportunity was presented to me when one of the youth club leaders walked in and shouted to those assembled one evening in 1976, “Who is not going on holiday this year?” I raised my hand, and before you knew it, I was signed up for a sailing adventure from West India Docks to the Netherlands and back, on an old converted sailing lifeboat (the ‘Larvik’). The Blue Bridge had to raise for us as we left – I caused a bridger, whoopee!

Departing for the Netherlands on the Larvik

40 years later, and I live in the Netherlands.

Sláinte Hugo.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Walk Round the Isle of Dogs in 1968 (Then & Now) – Part I, Westferry Road

Recently, out of nowhere, a certain Hugo Wilhare started to post some photos in a Facebook group – The Isle of Dogs – Then & Now – of which I am co-admin. The photos, taken around 1968 or 1969 (I am guessing the former), are a record of a walk that Hugo took around the Island: starting at the corner of Westferry Road and Cuba Street, and covering the length of Westferry Road and Manchester Road.

The photos immediately grabbed everybody’s attention: many images showed buildings which Islanders had not seen in 60 years (virtually everything in the photos has since been demolished, largely in the few years after the photos were taken).

The late 60’s marked a massive construction of housing estates on the Island. This construction is visible in Hugo’s photos, as the tall towers of the Barkantine Estate rise up behind the Victorian shops and houses in Westferry Road which had survived WWII. A year or two later, and every old building between Byng Street in the north and Tiller Road in the south would also be gone, the rest following a few years later.

The Island in Hugo’s photos is the Island our family moved to from Stepney in 1969, when we went to live in Manchester Road, just opposite Christ Church. The chip shop, the baker’s, the pub, the sweet shop, the police station – I can see and smell them as if it was just yesterday – although their presence was short-lived from my perspective, as they were all demolished within five years of the photos being taken, in order to make room for George Green’s School.

Hugo and his family also moved to the Island from elsewhere. He was born in Donegal, Ireland just after WWII – and, while he was still a baby, the family moved to Dublin. When he was around 10 years old, his mother died, and not long afterwards, Hugo and his two sisters, Grace and Mary, moved with their father to London.

Living initially in Brixton, then East Dulwich, the Wilhares moved to Cahir Street in October 1961 (first in Brassey House). This was around the time that Hugo started his first job, at Badcock’s barge repairs. He had an assortment of jobs after that, before finding more employment stability working on the buses, from 1966 to 1971.

Hugo Wilhare, Robin Hood Lane, late 1960s

It was during this period that Hugo took his photos of the Island. I got the impression that he took the photos because he wanted a memory of the place, as he was moving away. Yet, it was 1973 before Hugo returned with his dad to Donegal, just over 15 years after arriving in London in the first place.

Fast forward 45 years, Hugo joined our Facebook group, and started sharing his photos, close to seventy of them in total. Nearly all the photos are reproduced here (I skipped a couple of ship photos which didn’t show the Island, but the other side of the water). Even old Islanders on Facebook were not always sure where the photos were taken, or what it looks like now, so I have included maps and ‘Now’ views.

Many thanks to Hugo for sharing his photos, and also to Peter Wright who followed much of Hugo’s route in the last couple of days, and took most of the ‘Now’ photos shown below (I also ‘borrowed’ a photo from Gary O’Keefe – cheers, Gary).

Blacksmith’s Arms, 25 Westferry Road

The pub opened as a beer house around 1895, and was converted to a restaurant in 2001 (first named ‘Rogue Trader’, but later renamed ‘Aniseed’).

27-35 Westferry Road.

  • No. 27. Originally an eating establishment (first, ‘Dining Rooms’ and finally, ‘Café’) before becoming a betting shop around 1960.
  • No. 29. A barber’s occupied in the 60s by Stelios Kalogirou and George Pieri.
  • No. 31. Wooding’s newsagents.

75-79 Westferry Road

A large sign on the side of No. 75 points the way to Bink Brothers Limited, wire rope manufacturers who operated for more than a century from their Strafford Street works (which backed onto Byng Street).

  • No. 75. Post office and stationers, occupied by Edward Taylor and family.
  • No. 77. Dorothy and Thomas Summerton (shoe and boot repairs?).
  • No. 79. Butchers, occupied by Brian and Yvonne Phillips.

Express Wharf, St. Luke’s School and Lenantons, Westferry Road

St. Luke’s School was built in 1873 and closed in 1971 when it transferred to the former Cubitt Town School in Saunders Ness Road. The building was demolished in 1973 and its land occupied by an expanding Lenanton’s timber firm.

Express Wharf stood on the site of Bullivant’s Wharf, scene of the Island’s worst wartime disaster when more than 40 were killed in a public air raid shelter (see The Tragedy at Bullivant’s Wharf for details).

125 Westferry Road (rightmost house, centre) and area

The advertising hoardings are on the site of the former Millwall Independent Chapel at 127A Westferry Road. Constructed in 1817, it is notable as being the first place of worship and burial on the Island since the medieval chapel of St Mary (the later Chapel House Farm). It closed early in the 20th century, and the building used for a variety of purposes before its demolition around 1950, by which time it was in a dilapidated state.

To the left of the hoardings is a row of shops and houses – Nos. 115 to 125 (from left to right).

  • No. 115. Formerly Betts’ butcher’s shop, occupied in the 1960s by Albert and Ivy Clark.
  • No. 117. Former United Dairies, I have no records of the occupants in 1968.
  • No. 119. Thomas Sinfield.
  • No. 121. No records for the 1960s, but Thomas Sinfield occupied the premises in the 1950s.
  • No. 123. No records.
  • No 125. A fried fish shop in the 1950s, and occupied by Florence Crathern in the 1960s.

Tooke Arms, 165 Westferry Road

Although the address of the Tooke Arms is still 165 Westferry Road, the original building was approximately 50 metres to the south, on the corner of Janet Street. It was first mentioned in records dating from 1853, and was demolished in 1970.

Modern photo: Gary O’Keefe

The Barkantine Estate under construction in a photo taken from Sir John McDougall Gardens, which were not yet connected to the estate by a footbridge over Westferry Road. Only one old building can (just) be seen – probably Les Crane’s newsagents, nearby the not-yet-completed Tooke Arms.

205 & 207 Westferry Road

No. 205 was the second betting shop in this short stretch of Westferry Road (see also photo number 2). In the 1950s it was a greengrocer’s run by Albert and Winifred Wethey, formerly of 183 Westferry Road.

At No. 207, one of the many Jarvis Brother shops which populated the Island over the years. Electoral registers tell of a Hitchcock family living at the same address – perhaps they lived over the shop.

Today, this corner hosts a pretty and well-maintained little garden “dedicated to the memory of all those who have lived or worked on the Isle of Dogs”. It was opened in 2001, after long campaigning by local residents who at the same time wanted to prevent the corner being built upon by property developers.

A little side step here. Between 1920 and 1963. 221-223 Westferry Road, at the bottom of the previous map was used by G. Robinson & Sons, manufacturers of nuts, bolts, rivets and other metal objects. The very industrial-looking building, with its brick walls and corrugated-iron roof, was built in 1870, but between 1913 and 1915 it housed a cinema (and quite a large one at that, with more than 1000 seats and an orchestra platform). Known as the Millwall Picture Theatre, it was run by a Harry Rothstein, whose family operated several other local cinemas

233 Westferry Road

One of the Island’s largest pubs, and its only hotel, stood here: The Millwall Docks Tavern & Hotel (frequently named simply, The Dock House – not to be confused with the off-license at the top of Alpha Road which was also so named). A trace of the pub’s wall can be seen to the left of the first “Bob’s Bar” sign in the 1968 photo, and on the right side of this old photo of the pub….

Millwall Docks Tavern and Hotel, 1910s.

The pub was destroyed during WWII. and the site was occupied by a series of taxi firms and cafés.

Kingsbridge

When the Millwall Docks were connected to the West India Docks well before WWII, this entrance lock began to lose its usefulness (anyway, it was too small to handle larger ships, and the bridge and lock mechanisms were unreliable). During the war, in September 1940, bombing destroyed the middle gates and much of the surrounding machnery and lock structure.

Directly after the war, financial restrictions prevented any reconstruction and the lock remained unused. By 1955, the cost of reconstruction could no longer be justified and the dock was dammed at its inner gate (on the dock side).

The building of a dam at the inner gate meant that the road bridge (aka “Kingsbridge”) had to remain in place, never opening, and crossing a lock that would never be used. The structural solution would have been to completely fill in the locks, but this would have been much costlier, something unthinkable in the austere 1950s. Instead, the lock was allowed to silt up on the river side – and by the time of the 1968 photo above, the bridge wasn’t even crossing water. The bridge was removed in 1990.

View from Kingsbridge looking north

On the left in the old photo, E. Klein’s offices are visible – a firm and building which, remarkably enough, are still present in 2019. Beyond that are Arnhem Timber and Pfizer’s chemical works (the main product being Citric acid). Across the road, Nob Davison’s garage.

237-241 Westferry Road

  • No. 237 was a tobacconist’s, run by John Lewis in 1968.
  • The Howerd and Lowery families were registered as living at No. 239 in the 1960s
  • No. 241 was occupied by the Sheehys.

255-263 Westferry Road

The old terrace was demolished, and these new houses built (the centre of the new block is approximately where the bus stop is in the old photo). Occupants in the 1960s:

  • No. 255. Vaughan’s greengrocer’s
  • No, 257. Nixon’s tobocconist’s (possibly one of the Vaughans took the shop over at the end of the 60s)
  • No. 259. Newlands family, George Bowater
  • No. 261. Lilian Longley
  • No. 263, McIntosh and James families

St. Paul’s Church

St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church was opened in 1859, and became known as ‘the Scottish church’ due to its popularity with Scottish workers in the local shipbuilding industry (its foundation stone was laid by the Scot, John Scott Russell, whose firm built SS Great Eastern, and who was himself the son of a Presbyterian minister.

Around the time of the old photo, St. Paul’s was replaced by a new church at Island House in Castalia Square. The old building was then used for a variety of industrial purposes, before becoming ‘The Space’ arts centre in 1989.

St. Paul’s Church Hall

A substantial building was built at the rear of St. Paul’s by the Millwall Dock Company in 1873 (it was on dock land), a club for its permanent workers. Not a success, it closed in 1892 and the buildings were taken over by St. Mildred’s House, an institute for poor girls (see article, here). Later, St. Mildred’s House hall became the church hall.

St. Edmund’s Church

In 1870, the population of the Isle of Dogs was around 10,000, of whom 10% were Catholic (of largely Irish and Scottish descent). St. Edmund’s Church opened in 1874; school lessons were held on a small scale in the rectory, but most Catholic children were educated in St. Edward’s Chapel in Moeity Road and a day school at 68 Stebondale Street – before the construction of a large school behind the church in 1908.

St. Edmund’s School

The Vulcan

Until 1967, The Vulcan was run by a Reginald L. Rees (I suspect that everyone called him Reggie), In 1969, the occupant is listed as L. G. Wheeler. To the left of the pub is Deptford Ferry Road, which went up to the river and was lined on the north side by houses before WWII.  Beyond that, the gate house of Napier Yard, at that time occupied by Westwood’s.

Left to right: Manchester Road, Ferry Street, Westferry Road.

The shop on the corner of Manchester Road and Ferry Street (its address was 1 Ferry Street) was a greengrocers, I think, run by the Skeels family,

The shop on the other corner (2 Ferry Street) was another Jarvis newsagents in the early 60s, but by 1968 the occupants were the Easts.

The Fire Station

Externally, at the front and side at least, The fire station has hardly changed. It’s only missing the little door with emergency phone which started the bells ringing when you opened it – always fun when you were walking home from Harbinger school (to all the firemen who got pee’d off and whose time was wasted, I’m sorry).

In the following article – part II – a walk up Manchester Road with Hugo Wilhare’s photos.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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 🙂

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments