History of the Thames River Postman in the Pool of London 1800 to 1952 by Clifford. L. Evans – Part Four

In the final part of the fascinating history of the Thames River Postman, there is some evidence of the interest in the Thames postman by the media and the recognition that in the 1950s that it was the ‘end of an era’ and the end of the Evans postman dynasty.

Over the years there have been many articles written in newspapers and magazines. H. L. Evans was also interviewed on 13th October 1934 on the BBC Radio program “In Town Tonight”. He was paid the sum of 2 guineas, for the telling of this unique story.

Invitation from the B.B.C. for the “In Town Tonight show”.

Photo of H.L.Evans during transmission on the B.B.C. “in Town Tonight Show

(H.L.Evans is second from the left)

Possibly the final letter delivered.

Above is a selection of pictures taken of H.L.Evans on duty in 1924

Above is a selection of pictures taken of H L Evans on duty in 1952

Tower Bridge raises it bridge as if to say goodbye dear friend.

After H. L. Evans retired, and he sold the “Alice Maud”. The boat was used later in the film “The Sword and the Rose”. During filming the boat was dropped and broke its back and was completely destroyed

Order of Service         Served

William Simpson Snr.             1800 – 1806*

William Simpson Jnr. 1806 – 1810*

Samuel Evans Snr.     1810 – 1832*

Samuel Lowden Evans Jnr.   1832 – 1845*

Samuel Evans Jnr. (son)        1845 – 1856*

George Thomas Evans (brother)       1856 – 1885*

George Henry Evans (son)    1885 – 1914*

Herbert Lionel Evans (son)     1914 – 1952*

(* These dates are as serving River Postman and do not include apprenticeships)

“During war and peace whatever the weather or state of tide the Postman and his skiff went out delivering”.

And so ends the historic Evans family dynasty of the Thames River Postmen of the Pool of London.

Written and researched by Clifford.L.Evans.

The youngest grandson of Herbert Lionel Evans.

Herbert Lionel Evans on his way home for the final time.

H.L. Evans died on 28th December  1979

The Thames Postmen played an important role connecting people who lived on the river with the rest of the world. They also became something of a local celebrity being a constant in the fast changing landscape of the river. Considering that the job was not without its dangers, it was remarkable that the Evans dynasty managed to continue for over a century.

Many thanks to Clifford Evans for sharing his family history.



The Arrival of Craft Central and the Opening of The Forge

Recently I was contacted by Debbie Levett of the Friends of Island History Trust with news that one of the
the last buildings from the great shipbuilding era of the Island has been renovated and was going to be open to the public.

The building on Westferry Road is known as the Forge, however it was used from the mid 19th century by some of the largest shipbuilding and manufacturing firms.

Following the building of the Great Eastern in the 1850s, the shipbuilder Scott Russell went bankrupt and  the famous  Millwall Iron Works were taken over by C. J. Mare & Company. The Millwall Iron Works of the 1860s was one of the largest industrial complexes ever established in Millwall, employing between 4,000 and 5,000 men. The works not only built ships but also manufactured the iron from which they were built, it was said at the time that the works were one of the most important in Europe.

The works were situated on either side of Westferry Road, linked by a horse-tramway. On the riverside were shipbuilding, wharves, sawmills, joiners’ shops, an engine factory, foundries, sail-lofts and a mast factory. On the other side of the road was located the heavy plant for iron forging including armour-plate and rolling mills for turning out bar-iron,angle-iron and armour-plate.

Like many shipbuilders, Millwall Iron Works suffered economically in the depression of the 1860s. When they went bankrupt, the buildings north of Westferry Road known as Millwall Yard and Klondyke Yard were occupied for many years by Westwoods and Maconochies. Westwoods made some alterations to the premises included building a machine shop, 155ft long, in 1939.

Former machine shop, erected in 1939 by Joseph Westwood & Company Ltd, in 1994

It is the Millwall Yard building that is now known as the Forge, the building remained in use into the 1990s and although partly rebuilt over time still retains the  C. J. Mare’s 1860 plaque and some of its original structural ironwork.

Considering it historical importance, it has gained Grade II-listing and remains one of the last buildings from the golden age of shipbuilding on the Island.

I was delighted to accept an invitation from the new tenants, the Craft Central charity to look around the building and find out about their plans for the building. Although the building is fairly unremarkable from the outside, once inside its industrial past is apparent with old gantries and ironwork dotted around the enormous space.

Craft Central promotes traditional craft industries and have paid respect to the buildings historical past by leaving much of the structure alone, yet creating exhibition space, new studios and workshops in an unusual and imaginative way.

The Craft Central charity, recently moved to the building after nearly 40 years in Clerkenwell and would like to revive the traditional crafts tradition on the Island and provide a creative working space for designers in a whole range of media. Craft Central also offer professional development support to its network of 700 designer-makers.

Another aim of Craft Central is to welcome local people into the Forge with a series of exhibitions, open studio events, workshops and markets. Studios, working spaces, rooms and exhibition space will be available to hire for meetings, talks and workshops.

The Forge will be a welcome addition to the Island and the building provides a tangible link from the craftsmanship of the past to the many designer skills of the present.

From the 19th century, the Island was famous around the world for the remarkable shipbuilding and manufacturing by a number of large firms, perhaps less well-known is that smaller concerns operated on the Island like Frederick Gerrard and his Millwall pottery who worked more in the arts and crafts tradition.

Many thanks to Debbie and Craft Central Staff.

History of the Thames River Postman in the Pool of London 1800 to 1952 by Clifford. L. Evans – Part Three

In the fascinating history 0f the Thames River Postman we learn a little more about the job and the perhaps surprising fact that the River Postman had to provide his own boat.

The Postman supplied their own boats (skiffs) and their oars (skulls) with the Post Office paying for repairs. In 1825, the Postmaster General approved a payment of £8 for providing a boat for the service.

Here is a picture of a typical Skiff at St. Katherine’s Dock, London

L. Evans had his boat built from a single Oak tree felled at Bromley, Kent. The boat was 21ft 6 ins in length, and 5ft 8 ins beam, it weighed 2 tons, and the skulls were 11ft 10 ins long and it cost £38. The skulls, skiff staff and shoe were made by G. Randall Coe and cost £1. It was sign written by W. J. Watts a Boat and Barge builder since 1828.

Copy of receipt for H.L.Evans’ Skulls    

Copy of receipt for H.L.Evans’ Skiff.  

H L Evans named his Skiff “Alice Maud”. (pictured below)

In 1916, during World War I. H. L. Evans served in the I. W. T. (Inland Water Transport) Royal Engineers, in France and Belgium. During this time his father G. H. Evans came out of retirement, to take over his duties as River Postman.

H.L.Evans in 1918, in his I.W.T. uniform.

H.L.Evans and the I.W.T. at Zebrugge 1918.

At Christmas he would send home postcards to his family.

In 1919 H.L. Evans returned from WW1, and resumed his duties as River Postman, allowing his father to go back into retirement.

His boat was moored on the Custom House jetty known as the “Harpy”. The River Postman had an official tunic, scarlet red in colour, with black velvet collar and cuffs. The sleeves were braided in black. Down the front of the tunic there were 12 brass buttons with 5 down the cuffs all embossed with the letters G.R.

He also had a Royal Arms badge made of solid silver bearing the “Arms of Hanover”. This was worn in the days of sail to protect them from the press gangs, and also acted as a warrant whilst on duty as a servant of the Crown.

        Silver Badge (6in x 4in)

(Both of these items are kept in the Post Office Archives museum London)

When H. L. Evans retired in 1952 aged 60, he was awarded the “Imperial Service Medal” on the 23rd May 1952 for 38 years of service as a River Postman. (pictured below).

H.L.Evans’ Imperial Service Medal letter

When G.H.Evans and H.L.Evans retired they received a letter of thanks from the Postmaster General of that day on behalf of the General Post Office.

G.H.Evans retirement letter 1914          

H.L.Evans retirement letter 1952

H.L.Evans was also a Freeman of “ The Company Of Watermen And Lightermen Of The River Thames. (The Certificate is Pictured Below).

Many thanks to Clifford Evans for sharing his family history.

Friends of The Island History Trust Open Day – 7th October 2017

Many people who have lived or live on the Island have taken great pride in its history, this site is one of many that delves into the Island’s fascinating past.

One of the main resources for local history on the Island in the 20th century was The Island History Trust which was created by local people in the 1980s. This was a time of great change on the Island with the closing of the docks and many of the local factories. Many on the Island thought a way of life was under threat and began to record and preserve the local history of the Island.

The Island History Trust began by collecting photographs and then started to undertake recorded interviews with elderly Islanders, other people were encouraged to write about their lives which were then added to the collection.

When the original The Island History Trust ceased in 2013, a new group formed in 2014 to take on the task of recording and sharing the History of the Isle of Dogs from the late 19th century to present day. The new group called the Friends of The Island History Trust have undertaken to collate and categorise photographic and historical data to make it more freely available to researchers and interested parties. It also aims to expand projects around the Isle of Dogs which have historical importance to the groups members or anybody that may have an interest in the islands past.

The Friends of The Island History Trust in its short life has built up a strong network with other local groups and organisations relying on its dedicated volunteers and funding provided by a growing number of friends and members to undertake projects. One of the traditions that the new group has carried on from the original Island History Trust is the popular Open Days where people can see some of the historical and photographic data and can talk with many of the volunteers who have comprehensive knowledge of the Island.

The next Open Day is on the 7th October 2017 at St John’s Community Centre at 37-43 Glengall Grove between 11.30am and 5pm.

If you would to find out more about the history of the Island, the Friends of The Island History Trust in one of the main resources and it is well worth a visit to one of the Open Days.

The Mystery of the Missing Diana the Huntress Statue from Island Gardens

Photo – Metropolitan Archives

Many regular readers will know that Eric Pemberton often send interesting historical mysteries to the website and last week he sent a couple of photographs which feature a statue that used to adorn Island Gardens.

The photographs show the classical style statue which was called Diana the Huntress, this was a familiar subject matter for parks across the UK.

The page from a book  “Greater London by Christopher Trent was published in 1965, so the statue was there in the 1960s. It is in the 1970s that the park was transferred to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and it was around this time that people think the statue disappeared from the gardens.

Over the last 20 years, people have asked what happened to the statue but more recently official requests have been made to the council for more information. These requests have been unsuccessful with the council unable to find any records relating to the statue.

Unfortunately it is not unusual for councils to ‘lose’ works of art in reorganisations or when the responsibility falls on another council.

Many people who visited Island Gardens remember the statue but have no idea when or why it was removed. It is hoped that someone reading this article will have further information that will help to solve the mystery.

I suspect that it is possible that the statue was transferred to another park or is in some gardens somewhere. However it would be nice to know where ‘Diana’ is now residing.

If you have any information, please send to isleofdogslife@gmail.com

Chinese Navy Ships Huanggang and Yangzhou in West India Dock

After travelling for a few weeks, it is nice to be back and reporting on local events. A major surprise, this morning was the arrival of two Chinese Navy ships in West India Dock.

The frigates Huanggang (577) and Yangzhou (578) are part of the Chinese Fleet which are rare visitors to UK shores and especially London.

Both of the new frigates are part of the East China Sea Fleet and belong to the Type 054A missile frigate family developed and built by China.

The frigates are 135 meters long and 16 meters wide and were built-in the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.

The Type 054 A frigate can be used to attack surface ships and submarines with long-range surveillance and air defense capabilities.

Both the Huanggang and Yangzhou were recently at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium on a friendly visit, therefore it can be assumed that the trip to London is part of a tour of European ports.

It is not known how long the ships are in port or if they will be open to the public for visits.

A Snapshot of Notting Hill Carnival by L Katiyo

Photo by L. Katiyo

Bank Holiday Monday was the main day of the Notting Hill Carnival and regular contributor, L Katiyo made the journey west to report on the festivities.

Photo by L. Katiyo

However, even before she left Canary Wharf station, there was evidence that it was carnival time.

Photo by L. Katiyo

The Notting Hill Carnival regularly attracts over one million people over the two days and this year was the 51st carnival.

Photo by L. Katiyo

Thousands of performers with wonderful colourful costumes entertaining the large crowds lining the  streets in west London.

Photo by L. Katiyo

The warm and sunny day contributed to a relaxed and happy atmosphere although the carnival did pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the recent Grenfell Tower fire.

Photo by L. Katiyo

Many thanks to L Katiyo for the photographs.

Photo by L. Katiyo

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