Masks in the Past

Wandering around the Island, it is noticeable that a large number of people are wearing masks as they go about their business. Although many people at the beginning at the pandemic had considerable reservations about wearing masks, it is now accepted by most people that they do offer some protection. But what about in the past ? I decided to do some research into past outbreaks especially the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918/1919 and found some familiar themes that we are facing today.



Newspapers received by the last mail from London contain reports of a conference called by the Institute of Hygiene to consider “influenzas and its Prevention.”

Sir Malcolm Morris presided.

Sir Malcolm Morris directed attention to a number of points on which light was needed. He expressed the opinion that alcohol was not essential either for the prevention or the treatment of influenza.

Speaking of the precautions recommended by the Local Government board, he said the solution of common salt and permanganate of potash for washing the nostrils and throat was a most horrible mixture. He had found a solution of colloidal silver beneficial.

Sir St. Clair Thomson said the disease was splashed on us by people talking, laughing, coughing, and sneezing at any body within ten feet of them. People known to have the disease should be isolated, Persons who in a omnibus or tube who coughed without putting up their hands, or sneezed without putting up their handkerchief should be prosecuted for indecency.

Sir Kingsley Wood said If we were to grapple with the disease we have to spend a great deal more than £50,000 a year on medical

In Poplar a gargle or douche was being distributed to all who liked to apply for it, this example might well be followed by other municipalities.

Dr. Carnegie Dixon said He was afraid experience did not yet sufficiently show whether masks were useful or not. His own opinion was that they were useful.

Dr. Hector Mackenzie said The wearing of masks for the general public he considered unpractical. 

Dr. Kirkhope, of Tottenham, was inclined to think alcohol stimulated the activities of the body in resisting disease.


London Times

“One of the simplest precautions,” writes the medical correspondent of the London “Times,” “is to wear a small mask made of gauze and tied
across the mouth. Those who have dared to do this have largely escaped infection because the danger germs are caught in the mask, and so do not penetrate to the throat. The mask must cover the nose.” American experience confirms this advice. One, N F. Ostberg, writing to the
newspapers, states: “I have been in the thick of the epidemic since March last year in different countries in Europe, and also in America. I have had the opportunity to judge of the efficiency of various preventives and remedies, such as antiseptics, inoculations, and drugs, and can truly say that in Europe and America these have had no effects whatever in the stamping out of the disease. A few days before my arrival in San Francisco the epidemic broke out, and it was allowed to spread without hindrance until the ravages were so bad that compulsory wearing of gauze masks was decided on. Almost immediately the progress of the influenza was stopped, the number of cases decreased daily, and after about a month the disease was stamped out and the masks abandoned.



The influenza epidemic is Britain is not abating. There were 138 deaths in Edinburgh last week, of which 90 were from pneumonic influenza.
The “Daily Mail’s” medical correspondent estimates that the deaths from influenza last quarter of 1918, totalled 175,000, largely young adults, involving an economical loss of £130,000,000.
Doctors are increasing their belief that the, wearing of masks affords protection against the disease:,



The Fresh Wave in February was Expected : Masks Recommended when in contact with Infection

The following observations by the medical correspondent of the London Times printed on January 31,

Indications point to a fresh wave of the influenza epidemic. There is nothing surprising in this; indeed, the thing has been foretold on many occasions. What is interesting is that this new wave corresponds in time, as did the last one, with a notable break in the weather.
The new wave seems to be of considerable virulence, though whether or not it will last any length of time remains to be seen. The fact that it follows so closely upon the earlier waves may serve to limit it to quite small proportions, since presumably many persons have acquired a degree of resistance to the infection. On the other hand, optimism is dangerous and precautions should not be neglected.

The disease, as has been indicated again and again, is contact-borne. Consequently contact with persons who are affected should be avoided if possible; a mask gauze (a handkerchief serves very well) should be worn. It is better to avoid crowded places and hot places. Chills should also be avoided very carefully, but fresh air is most valuable.

Fierce controversies have raged about the use of alcohol. The facts would seem to be against those who declare that it is a useless. Indeed, the opinion of many of those who have been prescribing it recently it that it forms a most valuable aid to treatment.


LONDON, Thursday.

In a, memorandum issued by the Local Government Board, the use of masks during the influenza epidemic is not advised. An exception Is made in the case of nurses who, it is stated, should wear goggles, as infection is receivable through the eyes.
The practice of spraying halls is said to be of doubtful value, und creates a false sense of security. The golden rule is the avoidance of fatigue, alcoholism, cold and crowds, and the gargling of the throat and nostrils with a teaspoonful of salt In a pint of warm water, adding a few potassium pormanganate crystals.


Gauze Masks to Check Epidemics in London Shelters

The serious view taken by medical authorities regarding the risk of epidemics in the , coming winter is indicated in a letter to
“The Times” by T. H. Sanderson- Wells, M.D., F.R.C.S., suggesting the use of gauze masks, covering the mouth and nose in three or four layers of gauze to prevent the dissemination of germs by the infectious, and the inspiration of floating organisms by the healthy.

He is echoing the fear expressed in the “British Medical Journal” which says: “Unless effective measures are promptly taken we can foresee with the approach of winter a’ state of affairs in respect of contagious and infectious disease which may prove more devastating than the blitzkrieg.”


May Order Masks As Flu Check

To prevent the spread of the influenza epidemic in Britain, everybody may be ordered to wear gas masks. The Ministries of Health,
Labour, and Aircraft Production are reported to be making special arrangements to stop the spread of infection in British war factories.
Effective preventive measures are being sought by health and medical officers in factories where production has been affected.
Some experts who consider gas masks too uncomfortable and too great a hindrance at work, suggest that gauze masks should be worn.

The Government has instructed the British Medical Research Council to proceed with tests to prove the value of the new “cold cure” — the drug patulin.

The present deathrate is 7000 a week. At the height of the 1918 epidemic the deathrate in Britain was 80,000 a week.

Controversies over wearing masks, contradictory medical advice, strange and sometimes dangerous home remedies. All this seems very familiar and an illustration that nothing is really ‘new’.   

Support for The Space on the Isle of Dogs

The Isle of Dogs has never been a place that is considered a centre of the Arts or Culture. However since 1996, The Space at the bottom of the Island has provided inclusive and ambitious theatre in a converted church.

The Space was opened by Robert Richardson and the St Paul’s Arts Trust, a group of local residents and quickly became known for staging exciting, unique productions. The also run workshops, courses and artist development opportunities. Space Productions has produced over 30 plays and received 6 Off-West End award nominations. Last year, they broke their box office records, hosting 9,407 audience members across 244 performances.

During lockdown, the Space run a Locked Down, Looking Up online programme which supported their practitioners, participants and audiences. Over the course of 16 weeks, they produced and staged 10 play readings, 30 theatre workshops, 16 theatre club sessions and 2.0 Fest, a special festival of 8 duologues 3 of which have won OnComm awards.

Like many other theatres, due to the pandemic they face a very uncertain future and have launched a crowdfunding promotion to raise funds. The theatre has had to deal with decreased income from traditional ticket sales, venue hires and rent from their cafe/bar. As a result, the Space now faces risks that could result in permanent closure.

The Space is due to celebrate 25 years as a theatre in September 2021 and any donations will provide a lifeline till performances get back to reasonable levels.

If you would like to donate follow this link


Colour on the Thames (1935)

After last week’s post about how quiet the river is at the moment, long time contributor Trevor Wayman bought to my attention a BFI film “Colour on the Thames (1935)” on YouTube.

What is remarkable about the film is that it is in colour, colour film was still a novelty for audiences in 1935, and the filming was done using a new Gasparcolor system.

The film begins in the west near Richmond with a family on the riverside before showing a few local boats.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the film is that it shows cranes moving along the newly constructed Waterloo Bridge which was not completed till the 1940s.

The Pool of London shows how busy the river was on the city side of London Bridge, boats and ships of all size jostle for position on the river.

The riverside is notable for the many cranes and warehouses, lots of produce found its way to the warehouse dotted along the river.

On the other side of Tower Bridge, we see a distinctive Thames barge plying its trade on the river.

The Dockland section is little bit more confusing because it is difficult to pinpoint the locations.

What you can see is that large ships were unloading and loading cargoes and the many lighters and tugs in the water.

Some of the final scenes show the boats and ships making their way along the stretch of Thames down to estuary.

What is noticeable is the amount of people working along the river, many people who worked on the river remark how dangerous it could be and fatal accidents were not that rare.

One thing we probably do not miss is the pollution associated with coal and oil burning, in the 1950s, this became a major problem with smog causing health problems.

When watching the film it is worth remembering that many of the ships featured were to come to a sad end in the Second World War, one of the ships in the film, the Dartford, was torpedoed off Cape Race with loss of 30 out 47 crew.

If you would like watch the film follow the link here

Many thanks to Trevor for the information.

Tales from the Riverbank

One of the joys of living on the Isle Of Dogs is the access to large stretches of water with the docks and the Thames winding around the Island. Over the years, I have reported on the large number of boats and ships that have visited West India Docks that have included warships and tall ships. Over the last few years, these marine visitors have got less and less due to the large developments near the dock.

Since the Covid crisis, the visitors have stopped almost altogether and I decided to go down to the riverbank and look for any interesting boats or ships on the river.

I often think when I am looking at the river about what it would have looked like a hundred years ago when the Thames was a truly working river full of lighters, barges and boats bringing their produce and materials to the centre of London.

Until the crisis, the river was not busy in the old sense but did have quite a large range of ships and boats going up and down the river from cruise ships, large yachts, tall ships, river cruises and many more.

Standing on riverbank near the O2, it was some time before a Thames Clipper appeared and a little later a Port of London boat Barnes drifted by. Barnes is a Port of London Harbour Service vessel which is a catamaran designed for the lower tidal waters and for use as Pilot cutters.

Walking down to Westferry Circus, I had more hope that the river stretch around Limehouse may be busier.

A London Port Health Authority Londinium boat appeared, and in the distance a Cory Riverside Energy barge was taking some containers into the city.

Thames Marine Services boat Gosso, Port of London’s Driftwood II and a Police speed boat all went by as I sat and enjoyed the warm weather.

The Cory Riverside Energy barges are a familiar sight on the river all through the year. The barges are used to transport non-recyclable waste from waste transfer stations along the River Thames to Cory’s energy waste facility in Belvedere.

Driftwood II as the name suggests is a Port of London boat whose main function is the collection of driftwood and other debris from the River but they are also equipped with hydraulic cranes, burning gear and salvage pumps.

Whilst the traffic on the river was well down on normal times, it did remind me that working boats were still going up and down the river. Although we tend to ignore these smaller boats when there are larger ships in the river, it is these boats that are the workhorses that keep things ticking along.

The last boat I watched was Cory Riverside Energy barge Recovery bringing its containers backdown river, this seemed appropriate in the present climate when we are all looking for signs of recovery in our everyday life.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to reopen on 7th September 2020

Good news for many Islanders is that the Royal Museums Greenwich have announced the reopening of the National Maritime Museum on 7 September. Visitors will once again be able to explore the story of Britain and the sea through science, trade, conflict, work and leisure in the world’s largest maritime collection.

Entry to the National Maritime Museum will remain free. Time slots will have to be pre-booked online and a one-way visitor route will be in place.

In line with the government’s announcement on 31 July, face coverings must be worn inside the museum. Protective screens in the ticket hall and gift shop will be installed and sanitiser stations will also be available throughout to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff.

Initially, the interactive All Hands Children Gallery and Ahoy! Children’s Gallery will remain closed.

The announcement follows the phased approach to reopening Royal Museums Greenwich announced earlier this summer. Cutty Sark reopened on 20 July, the Royal Observatory Greenwich opened in part on 3 August and the Queen’s House reopened on 10 August.

At the Queen’s House, Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will run until 31 August 2020. This is the first time the three surviving portraits have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

Additionally, Woburn Treasures has been extended until Easter 2021. This exhibition is a major collaboration, which will see significant works from the private art collection of The Duke and Duchess of Bedford on show in the Queen’s House. The collaboration marks the first time significant collection pieces have been on public display in a national museum since the 1950s.

For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery at the Museum of London Docklands from 11 Sep 2020 to 18 Apr 2021

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

One exhibition, I was looking forward to seeing at the Museum of London Docklands is related to the Havering Hoard, although it was originally scheduled for April it is now opening in September. This major exhibition called Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery will take visitors on a journey through life in the Late Bronze Age. Artefacts from the hoard, including tools and weapons, will feature alongside objects from the museum’s collection to tell the story of the people who lived and worked during this period.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Among the objects are a pair of terret rings, a rare discovery and it is believed these are the first Bronze Age examples of their kind ever to be found in the UK. These objects are believed to have been used on horse-drawn carts. The discovery of these terret rings, bracelets and copper ingots possibly originating from the Alps suggests there was a well established trade route across Europe.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Buried in four separate parts, the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in London provides fascinating clues about the beliefs, values and nature of a complex and little known society.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

The Havering Hoard is a total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800 which were uncovered by archaeologists from Archaeological Solutions as part of a planned archaeological excavation.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

This internationally significant find will be on display from September 2020 to Aptil 2021 and offers the opportunity to go back in history and find out what Late Bronze Age Havering folk got up to and how they lived.

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery
Museum of London Docklands
11 Sep 2020 to 18 Apr 2021
Free with timed entry ticket to the museum

Brightening up the High Street – Aberfeldy Street in Poplar

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

Over the last few weeks, the nice weather has enabled people to come out of their homes and enjoy being outdoors. Long time regular contributor, Laureen Katiyo made her way into Poplar and came across a fun and innovative way of brightening up the ‘high street’.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

The programme called Start Here has provided a visual transformation of Aberfeldy street in Poplar. Building frontages have been painted in a patchwork of colours and decorated in patterns inspired by fabrics donated by members of the largely Bangladeshi community in a nod to the Kantha tradition of recycling old textiles to make something new. The intention is to bring colour and artwork onto Aberfeldy Street, highlight the high street and celebrate the cultural identity of local people.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

As part of the programme, Aberfeldy Street gives businesses or individuals the opportunity to start and trial their ideas on the high street. The aim is to develop an active high street that provides opportunities for local people whilst serving the local community.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

One community initiative is ‘The People Speak’, which a project that encourages people to speak to each other. The formats look familiar at first: a chat show , a game show or even a soccer kick-about, but once people are involved, there’s no limit to where they can take each other. No instruction manual is required, and they like to have as much fun and get just as involved as everyone else.” They are hosting another socially-distanced roundtable community discussion on the street next Thursday (27 August) evening from 7:30pm – 9pm, which is open to everyone.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

Laureen also visited The Tommy Flowers micropub named after Tommy Flowers who not only played a major part in codebreaking but also developed what many consider to be one of the first electronic computers.

Tommy Flowers was born in Abbott Road, Poplar where he developed his interest in engineering. In 1941 Tommy was asked to work at Bletchley Park with Alan Turing on a project to decode German messages. However it was in 1943 when Turing introduced Tommy to Max Newman that work began on the project that would make their name.

Photograph by Laureen Katiyo

It is easy to become downhearted with the present crisis but it is not all doom and gloom, many organisations and individuals are looking for new and innovative ways to create a pleasant community environment and offer opportunities for people to develop their community and business ideas.

Many thanks to Laureen Katiyo for the photographs.

Book Review: Love on the Isle of Dogs by Jude Cowan Montague

Recently I was contacted by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague who has just published her latest book entitled Love on the Isle of Dogs.

The book is a graphic memoir of her early life against the background of a changing Isle of Dogs in the 1990s. Jude Cowan Montague lived on the Isle of Dogs with her husband in the early 1990s, it was a whirlwind romance and a very difficult time for her as she became quickly pregnant and her husband’s mental health began speedily to degenerate. The stress increased and the knock on effect for both after the separation dominated their lives for years to come.

What is unusual about the book is that the story is first told visually using drawings and then by using text.

Jude’s drawings illustrate how the Island provided the background for her life and romance. In the beginning, the drawings have a children’s picture book quality but gradually they become darker and more menacing.

Jude’s husband was one of the participants in a self-build scheme on Westferry Road and their house was close to Mudchute Farm, which became for Jude, a welcome escape from the pressures of modern living.

The text part of the book is more about how Jude tried to make sense of her life as it enfolded from working at an Arts Centre and moving forward to marriage and motherhood. It is an honest portrayal, full of unrealistic dreams, denial, love, concern, anger, fear and loss.

The book is very much a modern love story about romance, marriage and having a child. However, not every story has an happy ending and a series of incidents turns the relationship into a nightmare. The Isle of Dogs like any place is not just a location but a home to thousands of people. Those people all have a story to tell but not everyone can tell that story in such a graphic or creative way like Jude. It is her talent that she can see her own story in a wider perspective and understands that sometimes the environment reflects the personal. The confusion and changing times of early 1990s Docklands reflected the strangeness of a relationship that moved quickly from light to darkness.

These are lessons, all of us have had to deal with in recent times, when the familiar has become strange and unsettling. We can take some solace from Jude’s end of the book which reflects her hope and determination to create better times in the future.

You can order or buy a copy of the book here

Strange Times in Canary Wharf

Like many people during lockdown, I kept very much to my local area and did not do my usual wanderings around the Island. However with Canary Wharf in easy walking distance, I decided to have a wander around the large estate.

On the surface, little seems to have changed with gardeners tending the green areas and contractors working on the many building projects but what you begin to realise is that there are very few office workers and most of the people wandering about are wearing masks. The once bustling financial district which used to welcome over 120,000 workers each day is much emptier with estimates of less than 10,000 workers returning to their offices.

One noticeable change has been the often packed tube station is much quieter with the crowds now slowed to a trickle.

Many of the large banks and businesses seem in no hurry to get the thousands of workers back into Canary Wharf to their offices. To encourage workers to return, The Canary Wharf group has installed signs and created a one-way system for pedestrians, it is also regularly cleaning public areas and will manage the towers’ lifts to ensure social distancing. However, despite these measures, employers and employees show little urgency to return to their offices after several months of working from home.

One of the major problems is that the vast majority of people commute to the area using public transport, and many workers remain uneasy about being stuck in a crowded tube.

Walking around Canary Wharf, another realisation is that the many small businesses which rely on office workers are struggling with few or no customers. In pre-pandemic times there would be hundreds of people per day queuing for coffee or fast food, now it is just one or two.

Is this the end of Canary Wharf as we used to know it ?

One worry for the small businesses is that the thousands of office workers will never return in large numbers because of changing working patterns. Just a few months ago, Canary Wharf was looking forward to extending the estate with many new buildings and Crossrail poised to deal with the proposed increase in workers. Those plans now seem more than optimistic and the next few months will show if there is a market for office space or not.

The initial signs are not good, Morgan Stanley is said to be reviewing their London requirements, Credit Suisse is giving up some office space and Barclays is considering its headquarters altogether.

However, there is some people that suggest that even if the huge landmark office buildings are slowly being emptied, Canary Wharf could become the world’s biggest technology hub.

Over the years writing for Isle of Dogs Life, it has always surprised me how often history repeats itself. The docks were seen as an integral part of London but their time came and went. No area is safe from world events and Canary Wharf is probably facing its biggest challenge since it was raised from the ashes of the West India Docks.

Remembering Orchard Place

Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by Trinity Buoy Wharf and Orchard Place, although some way distant from the “Island”, the area was considered for centuries, part of the Isle of Dogs. Orchard Place is now the site of the City Island development but for many years the small spit of land surrounded by Bow Creek was the home to a few Industrial concerns.

However from the 19th century up to the 1930s this was the home for a small settlement of people who in some ways were effectively cut off from the Isle of Dogs. Their remoteness led to number of stories about their lawlessness and rough lifestyle, their reputation were not helped by visitors such as William Booth researchers who considered them some of the poorest and roughest in London.

These stories were obviously exaggerated because a police inspector told the Booth researcher that the residents were no trouble and Inspectors of the local board school often praised its educational performance and children’s behavior.

The small population suffered greatly with the 1928 flooding of the area. In the early 1930s a newspaper report labelled them London’s Lost village. In the slum clearances of the 1930s, most of the small population was rehoused in a new block of flats at Oban House in nearby Poplar and the houses pulled down.

One of the people rehoused was Charles Lammin who wrote down his recollections in 1935 about life in the “lost” village.

“The Orchard House, is in the shape of twin peninsulas, it was populated about 120 years ago. On the site was built about 100 two-storied cottages, also several factories. Thirty or forty cottages have since been demolished at various dates to make room for improvements. (The rest are now in 1935 condemned as unfit for human habitation).

“The Orchard House is part of old Blackwall in the Parish of All Saints, Poplar, but about 1876 it was separated from the main part by the cutting of the basin of the East India Dock which left us isolated from the main roads, excepting a narrow road, named Leamouth Road, (this was formerly named Orchard Street).

“The Orchard House is bounded on the south side by the river Thames, on the north and east by Bow Creek, on the west by the East India Dock. The narrow Leamouth Road between Bow Creek and the East India Dock is all that joins us to the mainland of Poplar; therefore, the natives have always felt to be nothing to do with other districts.

“From its start to the present, we have never had either a butcher, baker, barber, post office, Police Station, Fire Station or Pawn Shop, or seen a tramway or bus in our neighbourhood, so we have to do all our domestic business in Poplar, via Leamouth Road, which is a long and lonely walk, especially by night.

People originally moved to Orchard Place to work in the various industrial concerns especially the Glass Works, Charles Lammin provides more information.

“Up to about 1875 the Glass House prospered, employing about 75% of all the inhabitants of the Orchard House, who were nearly all related. Plate glass was made there and sent all over the Country, including all the glass used in making the Crystal Palace, but about 1875 the competition of the United States glass industry ruined the Old Orchard House glass factory and caused them to close down. Therefore, the largest proportion of the workers, both men and women emigrated to New Albany, Indiana, U.S.A. to follow up the same class of work. They have invariably stayed there and have gradually died. (My Grandfather and Grandmother amongst them).

“There are still a large number of descendants of the glass workers living in the Orchard House, the most numerous are the Lammins, the Scanlans and the Jeffries, who also have greatly intermarried.”

Over the last few years, I have been contacted by a number of people whose relatives lived on Orchard Place and have sent more information about the close but relatively unknown community. Recently I was contacted by Lynn Gordon whose grandfather lived in Orchard Place and had been recently had a number of documents and photos passed onto her by a relative who has sadly recently passed away.

Lynn with grandad Fred Scanlan

Lynn has kindly permitted Isle of Dogs Life to publish a few of the photos for the benefit of other relatives and interested readers. Lynn has fond memories of her grandad and was 11 when my grandad passed away. She has a letter from Tom Scanlan, her grandads cousin, they used to live next door to each other in Orchard place, two brothers married two sisters. In the letter, he was asking her grandad to go to Canvey island on a boat.

The people in Orchard Place were known for their boating prowess and innovation, Charles Lammin mentions that “At the present time 20% of the men of the Orchard House own motor boats of various sizes; they are mostly converted from old ships, lifeboats, whalers, fishing boats, etc., These are converted by the men themselves, and a great source of pleasure for them and their families and friends in fine weather or holiday times, is a trip down the Thames as far as Canvey Island.”

Lynn recognises her grandfather Fredrick James Scanlan and Rose Cooke in the photographs. They were to get married but sadly Rose died. One early photograph bears the name Jeremiah Scanlon.

If anyone has further information about the photographs or Orchard Place, please get in touch.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 282 other followers