Super Yacht Ilona in West India Dock

On my allocated daily exercise, I was surprised by the appearance of the Super Yacht Ilona in West India Dock, the Ilona last visited the dock in 2016 and also visited when the 2012 London Olympics was taking place.

In these strange times, it seems odd that the yacht would visit the dock but we do not know the reason for the visit.

The 73.81 metres (or 242 ft) long custom built yacht was launched by Amels in the Netherlands in 2004 and she has also refitted in 2006, and 2012. She is classed as one of the world’s top 100 largest private yachts and has the unusual feature of a helipad, when she was built the helicopter could be stowed in a hangar below deck. In the latest refit, the helicopter garage was replaced by a large 10m by 3m swimming pool.

Estimated to have cost 100 million dollars, Ilona was and maybe still owned by one of Australia’s richest men, businessman Frank Lowy who made much of his fortune developing shopping centres with the Westfield Group.


Starting a new life in New Zealand by Coral Rutterford – Part One

Coral’s Garden in Auckland

Regular readers will know that Isle of Dogs Life has contributors from all over the world reminding us that you do not have to live in a place to have a connection to it. One of our regular contributors over the years has been Coral Rutterford who lives in New Zealand. Coral lived with her family in 2 rooms in her grandparents’ rented house in Bright St, Poplar and about 1949 they moved to a block of flats in Watney St, Shadwell. About 2 years later they moved to St. Paul’s Cray, Kent. In 1964 Coral and her husband and baby son sailed on the P & O liner Oriana to Auckland.

Coral and her husband took part in the assisted passage scheme which was a scheme to provide labour to Australia and New Zealand. From 1945 to 1972, over a million and a half United Kingdom migrants travelled to Australia and New Zealand on board ships. The migrants became known as the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ because although you could aboard a liner for a fare of just ten pounds, the catch was you were required to stay in Australia for a minimum of two years or pay the full amount of the trip there and back.

Why did people leave in such large numbers? Britain was suffering from the effects of the war with shortages and rationing even in the 1960s. Other factors were that the war had allowed people to travel and experience other parts of the world, wages in Australia were typically 50% higher than those in Britain (especially for tradesmen) and many of the brochures advertising the scheme made a big deal about the outdoor free and easy lifestyle Australia and New Zealand had to offer. With limited opportunities in Britain, young men and women in particular were tempted by the scheme. For all the attractions of Australia and New Zealand, it was estimated that 25% of those who went on the scheme returned back to Britain very shortly after they arrived.

In a time (until recently) of mass travel, it is worth reminding people of a time that the majority of people had not even travelled outside of Britain. A trip to the other side of the world was a major undertaking and Coral’s adventures remind us of a world that has in many ways disappeared forever.

Starting a new life in New Zealand

Smithfield Poultry Market was constructed in 1961–1963 to replace the old Victorian market building in Smithfield, which was destroyed by fire in 1958.

The bitterly cold winter of 1962 set my husband John and I thinking we needed to live in a warmer climate. He was a glazier and employed to re-glaze the dome area of the then newly rebuilt Smithfield Meat Market that had suffered a fire previously. He and an apprentice were working on this area and each morning they could see the layers of dirt upon the recent snow falls and it was a real effort to soften the frozen glazing putty to complete their work as well as trying to combat the severe cold weather conditions.

The markets roof was claimed to be the largest concrete shell structure ever built, and the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe.

John used to travel by motorcycle most days and would dress over his pyjamas to keep warm during his time spent working on that dome. The young apprentice would pull down his woollen jumper sleeves and force finger holes in them in an effort to try to soften the putty ready for glazing. John at one time was so cold on his motorbike one morning that he got off and cuddled up to the exhaust pipe, a policeman noticed him and asked what was he doing, “I’m trying to get warm mate so I can drive my bike”.

Soon after he made inquiries at New Zealand House to ask if there were was a request for tradesmen in the glass trade in New Zealand. There was, and he obtained an address of a glazing company and luckily they offered him a job through the assisted passage immigration scheme. It took at least a year to complete all formalities and then await a sailing to Auckland, New Zealand on February 8th 1964. We were 25 and 26 years old at that time. We have recently celebrated our 56 years here on March 8th, that was our arrival date here.

Coral’s home in Kent 1960s

That gave us time to sell our small terraced house with a 12ft lounge and a 3ft staircase to two bedrooms. Our first home and a starting point for our future whatever was in store for us. We were given 6 weeks notice of sailing and we already had a young couple who bought our house and chattels as we did not take furniture to NZ. But we did have 6 tea chests of our household items and a large wooden crate to store our 2 yr old son’s toys that included a go-cart and tricycle to ensure he did not go without his comfort toys and we were pleased that we did that and kept him happy when we were all his family in a new country and no other relatives. He used to see his grandparents daily and probably couldn’t understand why we were going to a new country and not seeing them again.

After being accepted for emigration we all had to undergo a strict health check up by having X rays, and a smallpox vaccination. This gave us a very sore underarm and didn’t feel the best. I developed big blemishes all over my back and I wondered if I had smallpox. The doctor advised me to stay home and he would visit me. It was just a reaction, but scary. Eye examinations were done and I was requested to see an eye specialist to ensure I did not have impending blindness. The specialist said why do they want this examination as the prescription for your eye is for reading glasses only. We can appreciate these examinations have to be made but did make me think I had a big problem with my eyes. We paid our 50 pounds to the Immigration Dept and this was our cost of the passage to NZ. and incidentally Australia charged 10 pounds each adult at that time.

We decided to take our Ford Anglia car to NZ and we contacted P & O shipping company to inquire if there was a place for us to ship our car on the ship we were sailing on and John drove it to Southampton and it cost 90 pounds which we thought was reasonable and he cashed up an insurance policy to pay for it.

Oriana in Southampton in the 1960s

John hired a car to drive back to Sidcup, Kent where we were then living. We were to sail in the P & O Liner “Oriana”. Then another trip was needed to take our tea chests and crate to be loaded onto the ship.

We drove to Southampton the day before sailing and boarded the ship. John had to take his tools as hand luggage as he had to start work in NZ as soon as possible. As we arrived our luggage was taken and the tool bag and was told it would be loaded later as some 2000 plus passengers were boarding. Meanwhile we were shown our cabins and looked around the ship to get our bearings. Much later our luggage came aboard and John’s tool bag that had contained a pair of new working boots and they were missing, some lowlife decided he needed the boots more. Fortunately the tools were all there.

The next post will follow Coral on her journey as she travels to the other side of the world with some fascinating stops on the way.

Memories of Prefabs on the Isle of Dogs

The recent post by George Donovan mentioned for a while he lived in a Prefab, I was made aware that not everyone knows about Prefabs, so I thought I would provide a short guide.

Prefabs (prefabricated houses) were a major part of a plan to address the United Kingdom’s post–Second World War housing shortage. The idea was to build 500,000 prefabricated houses, with a planned life of up to 10 years, within five years of the end of the Second World War. The plans changed because around one million new houses were built between 1945 and 1951 but only about 150,000 were prefab houses.

Stewart Street prefabs Stewart Street, Photo George Warren (Prefab Museum)

On the Isle of Dogs, a number of Prefabs were built to deal with the desperate shortage of housing on the Island. The main areas of prefabs on the Island were in North Millwall, around Stebondale St, and the Glengall and Samuda area.

George gives some insights into the joys and drawbacks of living in a Prefab.

Living in the pre-fab was quiet nice really, they were well designed and very functional. The kitchen’s had fitted units with a gas powered refrigerator made by The Press Steel Company of Oxford. They did have a couple of problems though that came to light on residence. One was that they housed rodents [Mice]. You could hear them scampering in between the walls. They may even have been there from the day of installation having nested whilst in storage. The remedy was two cats.

The other problem was flies. Now that was due mainly because of the derelict surroundings that were prevailing at the time. I found the solution to that too. Next door to the Police station on East India Dock Road at the top end of Chrisp Street-was this sort of ‘junk’ shop run by a man and his son named Wells. They got into selling ex WD army surplus stuff. I still have a Trenching Tool that I bought from them. You just walked into the shop and browsed around and I discovered these small canisters. They were shaped like a present day oxygen bottle about two and a half inches long. At its end there was this spur like nipple. I got to learn that they were issued to the army for use as personal hygiene. The contents were under pressure and you snapped the nipple off and sprayed [I suppose the contents were some form of DDT] under your arm pits etc:

So in the prefab, I would be the last to go to bed and I would use one of these in the kitchen to kill the flies. First one up in the morning would do the sweeping up.

I read some time back that there was a community living in South London still living in Prefabs and are fighting the council who want to demolish them. There is one as a museum piece at the BWM at Duxford, the same type that we lived in.

Debbie Levett, the Secretary for Friends of Island History Trust let me know recently that a number of members of the Trust have assisted Jane Hearn to record some of the history of the Islands prefabs. Jane is collating the history of the countries prefabs for the prefab museum website which is a fascinating look back to this post war phenomenon.

You can visit the Friends of Island History Trust website here and prefab museum website here

Memories of Millwall Poultry Club by George Donovan

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the Millwall Poultry Club which was based on an article that was published by the Picture Post in 1939.
It was a fascinating article about the club that used to meet at the L.C.C. Mens’s Evening Institute, in Glengall Grove. Leading lights of the club were President, Mr W. Powell-Owen, Charlie Sieloff, Dave Hedley, Mr Dave Love, Mr W White and Mr S Hayward.

Team of Pullets and trophies. left to right Mr Budd, Borough councillor, Mr W White steeplejack, Mr S Hayward railway shunter,
Mr Dave Love Jnr plater, Mr C Sieloff labourer,Mr Dave Hedley lorry driver.

It was a pleasant surprise to be recently contacted by George Donovan who remembers some of the people involved and was interested in raising poultry himself. George very kindly wrote down some of his memories for us to enjoy

Mr George Hedley washing with soap

My wife and I once lived in Stebondale Street Millwall when we married [Christ Church] in 1948, then on to here in Essex via Prestons Road in Poplar and Dagenham. When we lived in the prefab in Stebondale Street, the rent book was held by my Mother-in Law, and it was with her permission that I built the Chicken run from the floor-boards of the bombed out pub a few doors down. I remember lifting the cork lino up in the upstairs club room, and they were as new as when first laid. My wife’s brother, George Mahoney who lived across the road in Parsonage Street, encouraged my interest in poultry keeping, for it was his father-in-law Charlie Sieloff who lived with them that was the principle. One of the pictures I saw on the web was Charlie in his backyard. He was keen on Bantam’s and a breed known as Wyandotte’s.

In 1948, My wife’s mother, a widow, agreed that we could live with her in her council rented Pre-Fab until we were able to get accommodation of our own, and we were happy to do this. Having an interest in poultry it wasn’t too long before I was able to build a chicken run in the back garden and housed it with 4 ‘point of lay’ birds. Within weeks the birds began to earn their keep and fresh eggs were often on the menu. All was going well for many months until it became noticeable clear that egg production was beginning to become a little erratic and there didn’t appear to be any obvious reason for this. Being a member of the local Poultry club I approached the ‘instructor’ who after some deliberation concluded that the birds were being troubled at night by ‘Red Mite’. The cure was that I should go to the local chemist and purchase some ‘Tincture of Nicotine’ and just before the birds went to roost paint their perch with the liquid so that when the birds perched the heat of their bodies would vaporise the solution which in turn would impregnate their feathers killing off the mite. Armed with this remedy I went to the chemists (Timothy Whites who had a shop in Crisp Street) only to be told that I needed a ‘Certificate to Purchase’ to be obtained from the local Police Station as Nicotine was a registered poison. That didn’t seem to be any problem, so along to the local ‘nick’ I went and presented myself to this ruddy faced walrus moustached desk sergeant, who having got hold of the poison book, began the formalities of asking the necessary whys and therefore’s.

The instructor Mr W Powell – Owen

All seemed to be going well until we got to the address part.
“And where do you live sir?
And is this your own property—No, Its council owned and rented.
And are you the tenant sir—No, I live with my Mother-in Law”.
I can see that man’s face now as he put down the pen and stood back off his stool, “Your living with your Mother-in Law and you want to buy poison——!!!!!!!!.

Some years ago I met up with this gentleman who had a small museum over in Kent. He used to write for the Poultry World magazine and was a lecturer on poultry at some college. He’s a renowned Poultry judge too. His name is Fred Hams. He knew Charlie Sieloff and Powell-Owen.

Many thanks to George for his memories and some insight into a now lost world of poultry keeping, although if you want to see some rare breeds of poultry, you can find them at Mudchute Farm and Park.

#Identity festival at the Museum of London Docklands 7th and 8th March 2020

Identity festival (c) Museum of London

There is a lot of talk about identity nowadays but it is very difficult to define because we all play many different parts in our life.
To explore the idea of identity, the Museum of London Docklands is holding a free two day family festival on 7 & 8 March.

Identity festival (c) Museum of London

The #Identity festival will be full of lively, thought-provoking and creative activities exploring who we are and what makes us different from others around us. The event has been created by young British-Bangladeshi women from east London, in collaboration with the Osmani Trust, The festival is part of the Museum of London’s four-year collecting programme Curating London, focusing on four collecting projects around the city each year to change the way the museum collects objects and stories.

Identity festival (c) Museum of London

Over the weekend, families can learn all about Bangladeshi culture by taking part in a Bengali street food workshop, making their own traditional hand fans or opting for some decorative henna. There will also be the chance for visitors to immerse themselves in other cultures.

Identity festival (c) Museum of London

From sharing recipes in a community recipe book to printing your own unique t-shirt or bag and taking part in a community catwalk show, the festival will have a variety of activities designed to bring different communities together in celebration of each other’s identity.

Identity festival (c) Museum of London

In addition, there will be a host of other family-friendly activities taking place across the weekend including:

Silent Disco Zone exploring music from around the world
Conversation Booth allowing visitors to record their own story
A zine making workshop encouraging people to share their own identity
Performances by east London community and arts groups

One of the remarkable aspects of living in London is that many different communities come together to create a wonderfully diverse environment but we often know very little about all the different communities. This is an event is open to everyone to enjoy our similarities and differences with all the family.

#Identity festival
Museum of London Docklands
Saturday 7 & Sunday 8 March 2020

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I Exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich

Last week I took the short ride over to Greenwich to come face to face with the three surviving versions of the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I which are on public display together in a free exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The exhibition, entitled Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, is the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London

The Armada Portraits  are considered one of the most iconic images in British history and commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign when the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich showcases its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. From the Woburn Abbey Collection

For all the fame of the Armada Portraits, very little is known about them, they were believed to have been painted shortly after the Armada, in 1588. The origins of the paintings and artists are shrouded in mystery with some experts suggesting that three different artists or studios could be responsible for the three principal Armada Portraits working from a single template.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Queen’s House is a wonderful setting for the exhibition which presents an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to explore closely the  three iconic depictions of Elizabeth I. In all three versions, the Queen is shown in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress with seascapes showing different episodes of the Spanish Armada story.

The Queen’s House is part of Royal Museums Greenwich. It is 17th century Palladian villa, designed by Inigo Jones, which is situated on the site of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a major political centre of the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

So in many respects, Greenwich with its Tudor and Maritime history is the ideal place to full understand how the paintings relate to an important part of British history, England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was considered one of the greatest military victories in English history and Elizabeth was celebrated in portraits, pageants, and the literature of the day.  Evidence of the  Elizabethan era has largely disappeared from Greenwich, these portraits are a reminder that for hundreds of years that this part of London was the centre of British power and prestige.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I is open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich alongside the Woburn Treasures exhibition that runs from 13 February to 17 January 2021, both are free to visit.

Rare objects discovered in the Havering Hoard reveal life in Bronze Age London

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

One exhibition, I am looking forward to seeing at the Museum of London Docklands this April  is related to the Havering Hoard. 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 April to November 2020 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
Fri 3 Apr – Sun 1 Nov 2020

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