Dalston Opens at the Chrom-Art Gallery from the 12th to 20th June 2021

This week, I was delighted to receive news of a new exhibition that offers many different perspectives of London life. Over the years, Isle of Dogs Life has featured many works by Frank Creber and he often works with other artists to provide a visual chronicle of London life.

Frank Creber

Frank’s is best known for his topographical cityscape drawings of East London, he has worked for 35 years at the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, as a Creative Director and Community Artist to develop programmes and activities that integrate art, health, training and the environment.

Rory Brooke

Frank and six other artists present a collective body of work mostly made during lockdown, in a exhibition at CHROM.GALLERY in the centre of Dalston, London.

Ben Kilburn

The work on display includes: Ben Kilburn’s abstract, colourful shapes drawing on the natural and built world; Frank Creber’s mysterious exploration of East London communities; Graham Stone’s evocative drawings of local scenes;

Hedy Parry-Davies

Hedy Parry-Davies’s exploration of beautiful decay of historic architecture; Jane Smith’s tranquil and harmonious city views; Rory Brooke ’s vibrant landscapes with a darker note with Covid and climate change icons; and Steve Edwards’ dramatic but peaceful compositions.

Steve Edwards

The group of artists are linked by a fascination with London and its landscapes and connections with society and contemporary issues, exploring underlying themes and new ways of seeing.

Dr No in West India Dock

There was a welcome sign that life was returning to West India Dock with the arrival of Dr No which is a 37 m / 121′5″ luxury motor yacht built by Narasaki Zosen in 1995.

The ship is very unusual because it was first launched in 1995 as the Japanese Fisheries training ship Wakachiba at the Muroran shipyard.

The yacht underwent major changes under her first yacht owner, Tom Perkins, who acquired the vessel in 2011 and developed it as an explorer yacht. The deck is littered with equipment to enable dinghies or submersibles to be launched.

The motor yacht can accommodate 12 guests in 5 cabins.

You often see larger ships converted for explorations but very unusual to see something of this size being used in this way.

The Rise of Wood Wharf

Over the last few years, the top of the Island and Canary Wharf has seen unprecedented development with a number of large scale projects. One of the largest developments has been the Wood Wharf site which will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.

Wood Wharf is part of the historic West India Docks and is the largest addition to the Canary Wharf estate since it came into being.

With part of the development near to completion, it is now possible to have a wander around some parts of Wood Wharf.

Wood Wharf is connected to the main estate by a bridge with two large Floating Pavilions nearby, one of which will be a restaurant.

Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf makes full use of the docks themselves with dockside walks and views from the Blue Bridge to the new buildings in the west.

The neighbourhood will have everything a thriving community needs, from a new local primary school to its own doctor’s surgery.

Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf already has plenty of outside public art and sitting areas.

Wood Wharf is multi-billion pound development and is expected to generate £2bn gross value from new jobs, add £199m into the local small business economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.

Under normal circumstances, the opening of Wood Wharf would a cause for celebration, however recent events have cast a cloud over the whole Canary Wharf site.

With many large firms allowing workers to work for home, many people are now looking at Wood Wharf and now asking whether it is surplus to requirements. Due to its mixed usage, it might escape the slowdown in Canary Wharf itself.

What the site does for visitors is provide plenty of attractive walks around the docks and places to sit and watch the boats and ships when they return to the dock.

A Walk around Mudchute Park and Farm

With our increased freedom after the latest lockdown, I thought it was time to take a walk around Mudchute Park and Farm.

Mudchute have used the lockdown to start a few improvements including many of the pathways, refurbishment of the main courtyard including brand new toilets and a new water system around the whole farm.

Therefore there are parts of the farm which are closed off, however that will not spoil your visit too much because the wider park is open with many of the familiar animals in their fields and wide open spaces and woodland to enjoy.

A new part for me to look at was the memorial garden which is located near the large Ack Ack gun.

This time is usually noticable for the lambs jumping around but obviously this year that has changed.

One part of Mudchute that often get overlooked is the woodland walks which are very relaxing with plenty of birds flitting in and out of the trees.

The good news is the very good cafe is still open on Tuesday – Friday 10am-4pm and Saturday – Sunday 10am-5pm.

Mudchute Park and Farm is one of the largest inner City Farms in Europe with a wonderful collection of British rare breeds and currently home to over 100 animals and fowl. Set in 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London, Mudchute is a community charity which runs a number of events throughout the year.

This is the first time since its inception that Mudchute has been able to undergo such refurbishment and improvements and it is hoped these works will have major positive effects for visitors to Mudchute.

New Artworks in Canary Wharf

After the latest lockdown, I decided to enter the brave new world by taking a walk around Canary Wharf and taking a look of some of their new artworks and to enjoy some spring sunshine.

During the lockdown a series of new works have appeared and other works have been relocated, here is quick tour around some of these pieces.

One of the most noticable new pieces is Gillie & Marc: Tandem Lovers 2020 in Reuters Plaza, ‘Tandem Lovers’ takes you on an adventure with Gillie and Marc’s characters, Rabbitwoman and Dogman.

Near the Canary Wharf station is Richard Hudson: Tear which offers a different perspective of the large buildings.

Although Cabot Square is dominated by Henry Moore’s Old Flo, and new piece tucked away is Bob Allen’s: It Takes Two which is a bronze cast of a carving from the fallen bough of an ancient English Yew listed in the Domesday Book.

Jubilee Park is full of new pieces including Helaine Blumenfeld’s Fortuna

For a pychedelic expereience go to Adams Plaza Bridge for Camille Walala’s Captivated By Colour

For something completely different, have a look at Julian Wild: Scribbleform

In the Crossrail Place Roof Garden is Michael Lyons: Shepherd of the Sun and Julian Wild’s Origin (Vertical)

Until the 19th of June, the roof garden is transformed into Crossorelle Roof Garden, a magical installation inspired by the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.

Created by artists Baker & Borowski, the design is inspired by the history of the West India Docks and the plants that were brought there from faraway lands, such as North Africa.

Although it may be too early to visit museums and art galleries, there is plenty to enjoy artistically wandering around Canary Wharf.

Remembering Bullivants Wharf

Anyone walking along the riverside walk on the west side of the Island will come across the above plaque which marks one of the darkest days of the Island when more than 40 people were killed and 60 were injured after a bomb hit a public shelter on the 19th March 1941.

On the 5th July 2014, Friends of Island History Trust volunteers joined Keith Woods and others involved in the placing of a plaque, to recognise those killed and injured in the WWII bombing of a public shelter at Bullivants Wharf. Each year, there is a remembrance event at the plaque to mark the tragedy. Unfortunately this year, due to the restrictions of covid-19 a scaled down event will take place, with six representatives attending the memorial along the Thames Path on the 80th Anniversary of the atrocity on 19th March. Keith and Anne Woods will be joined by Con Maloney and Brian Smith and Reginald Beer and Councillor Peter Golds, to pay their respects and lay flowers, with Fr Tom Pyke (Christ Church) leading the proceedings at 12noon. At the corresponding time you are invited to join them in two minutes silence from the safety of your own home or workplace. 
Prayers were said at St Edmunds last Sunday and at St Luke’s and those affected will be remembered this coming Sunday at Christ Church.

Mick Lemmerman on his wonderful Island History site has a comprehensive and insightful article that gives the full story of the tragedy at Bullivants Wharf

For further information on the WWII bombing see: https://islandhistory.wordpress.com/2021/03/12/the-80th-anniversary-of-the-tragedy-at-bullivants-wharf/

Memories of the Island from Richard Jones and Ada Kay

Last year I was contacted by David Jones who had written a book about his early life and gives some real insights into a child growing up in the 1930s and 1940s.

The book entitled “Smith of Lambeth,” tells the story of how his family, paternal grandfather, Richard Jones, and his parents, brothers and sisters, left their home in Wales in the 1880s and settled on the Island. His grandfather Richard Jones, and two of his brothers, William and Edward soon showed their sporting prowess playing for Millwall Football Club who were then based on the Island. Richard later gained international honors for Wales.

David’s father’s family kept a green grocery shop on Glengall Road in which his paternal grandmother, née Skeels, worked. His mother’s family, née Draper, lived on Glengall Road. There were 11 children and their father was an itinerant dock worker. David’s parents, aunts and uncles, on both sides of my family, were born on the Island as was David in 1934. Not long afterwards, David’s immediate family moved to New Cross in South London but the Jones family maintained a large presence on the Island.

If you would like to find out more about the Jones family and life on the Island in the early 20th century, I am delighted to report that David and his family have made three videos available on YouTube which feature David’s father Richard and Auntie Ada Kay reminiscing about their life on the Island.

The videos were made in 1992 when the interviewees were in their 80s, in David’s house in Leonia, New Jersey. Richard, and Ada were on a rare holiday for both of them. The interviewer was Louise, a member of David’s family.

David’s father was born in 1904 and even remembered a  Zeppelin being shot down over the Island in the first World War. The interviews cover a wide range of subjects from Ada being run over by an horse and cart as a child to facing the blitz in the Second World War.

Listening to the memories of Richard and Ada was a reminder of how things have changed to a remarkable degree over the last century. Many of their memories of their childhood related to playing outside in the street, it is difficult for people to understand today that the streets of the Island and almost everywhere were a massive playground and entertainment area. The reason why the kids played in the streets was of course there were very few cars and the only dangers were the horse and carts but they were easily seen and avoided (although Ada did have run in with one).

The street was also the source of entertainment with various traders and tradespeople coming down the street selling their wares. Richard and Ada remember the Muffin Man, organ grinders and Aunt Sallies who were men who dressed as women to sell stuff off their barrows.

Richard in particular remembered his family involvement with Millwall Football club and the First World War and the appearance of the first motor cars on the road.

It must be remembered that the early 20th century was a world that generally happened out of doors and in the streets, there was no inside entertainment like television until later in the century. People felt more part of the community because there was constant interaction with your neighbours and people would sit on their doorsteps to keep an eye on their kids and watch the world go.

A very topical subject in the interviews were telephones, Richard and Ada did not know anyone who had a telephone in their house during their childhood and finding a phone and knowing how to use it was a major undertaking if there was an emergency. Generally if you needed a doctor or a policeman quickly, you had to send someone to fetch them.

The videos are a fascinating and entertaining insight into a world long gone and illustrates how listening to memories of the older generation you can learn about what really mattered to people which often gets overlooked in history books.

Many thanks to David and Louise for sending the links, which are listed

Video one here

Video Two here

Video Three here

If you would like a copy of David’s  book, visit Amazon here

Secrets of Millwall Slipway

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Following local photographer Loren Brand’s visual tour of the Island, we come across a piece of land by the side of Westferry Road which most people would just walk past. However, the old bollards and industrial equipment that pepper Millwall Slipway gives some indication of its importance in relation to Millwall Dock.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The site of Millwall slipway was originally the entrance to the Millwall docks and when it opened, the Millwall Dock entrance lock was the largest lock in London, being 80ft wide with chambers 247ft and 198ft long. It was 28ft deep at high water at the centre and 23ft deep at the sides.

Millwall Docks Entrance gates in 1867, before the flooding of the docks (British History Online)

Excavation began in the summer of 1865 and work on the coffer-dam outside the entrance in early 1866. The lock was without doubt the most difficult part of the works and progress was slow. The contract for iron lock gates, sluices, capstans and related hydraulic machinery went to W. G. Armstrong & Company and the lock was completed by August 1867.

Sluices and culverts allowed water to pass between the lock and the dock or the river, or directly from the dock to the river. The massive wrought-iron gates were each 42ft 3in. wide by 34ft high and weighed approximately 60 tons. The outer gates were perforated on the river side to allow water to flow through compartments, thereby reducing the effect of impact damage.

Ordnance Survey of 1893–4 (British History Online)

Near to the Dock entrance was a series of cottages called Pierhead Cottages which were built in 1875, to provide a security presence at the Millwall Dock entrance and to accommodate dock company employees.

Pierhead Cottages in the 1920s.  (British History Online)

The easternmost cottage had a top room overlooking the docks and was probably occupied by the dockmaster, while the others went to the lock foreman and dock policemen. Number 3–10 were demolished in 1954–5; the remaining four became derelict and were pulled down by the LDDC in 1986.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The gates were originally operated by hydraulically powered windlasses but were replaced by hydraulic jiggers in 1875. In 1906 two 3-ton capstans on the inner side of the lock were replaced with direct-acting, double-headed capstans from C.  A. Musker Limited, of Liverpool. In 1910 that firm supplied three more hydraulic capstans, one of which survives on the slipway.

Millwall Dock; Traffic queuing in the Westferry Road as a ship enters the Millwall entrance lock in September, 1926. Photo Albert Gravely Linney (Museum of London)

Anyone who has seen ships entering the West India docks via the Blue bridge would have some idea of the sights and sounds of ships moving through the Millwall dock entrance into the dock. ‘Bridgers’ were common and there was often a build up of traffic on Westferry Road.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The entrance lock was badly damaged in September 1940, when bombing destroyed the middle gates, hydraulic machinery, sluices, culverts and part of the south wing wall. Reconstruction to a revised version of the pre-war plans was proposed for 1949, but the work was postponed due the cost of reconstruction and led to damming of the lock inside the Outer Dock. The dam was built in 1956 by John Mowlem & Company using precast-concrete blocks and timber taken from a temporary dam at the Royal Albert Dock. A rebuilding of the lock was considered before it was permanently closed in 1967, its east end filled in.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The lock was left to silt up until 1988–90 when the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), filled it as far as the outer gate recesses, leaving a slipway. The pierhead was landscaped and the hydraulic jigger from the middle-gate machinery was mounted on display.

Although the days of ships crossing into Millwall Dock are long gone, the slipway is still the scene of some excitement, one day a year when the Great River Race comes to the Island.

The organisers uses the slipway as its starting point and up to 300 small boats go into the water at this point to start their voyage down the Thames.

Millwall Slipway is a reminder that the history of the Island is there for anyone to see if you are willing to do a little bit of investigation.

If you would like to see more of Loren’s work, go to her website here  and Instagram account here

Cubitt Town Library under threat of closure

One of my favourite old buildings on the ‘Island’ is the Cubitt Town Carnegie Library on Strattondale Street. Therefore it is with some concern that I have read that library is under threat from closure. As many people may know the ‘Island’ suffered greatly from bombing in the Second World War, one of the consequences of this was that many fine old buildings were damaged or destroyed.

One of the buildings that escaped that fate was the Cubitt Town Library on Strattondale Street. It is a pleasant surprise to come across the fine classical styled building amongst the post war houses  and modern developments.

cubitt 1212

The library is of national and international significance being part of a the chain of Carnegie Libraries. Carnegie Libraries were built with money donated by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, it is estimated that 2509 libraries were built between 1883 and 1929. The majority (1,689) were built-in the United States, but 660 were built-in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji. Andrew Carnegie had humble beginnings in Dunfermline before emigrating to the United States in 1848. Carnegie over the next two decades through hard work and clever investments became a very wealthy man. Carnegie never forgot his background and looked at ways to use his wealth to help people from a poor background. With his love of books and reading, Carnegie believed that establishing public libraries was a way to encourage people to aspire to move beyond their poor backgrounds. To get local support he provided the funding to build and equip the Library and the local authority provided the land and money to maintain its operation.

Painting by Rebecca Mitchell

Cubitt Town Library was built after the Mayor of Poplar heard Carnegie speak in 1902 and soon afterwards made the application and set about raising funds. It was officially opened by well known local politician Will Crooks in 1905.

dsc03195

Cubitt Town library, one of the 660 in Britain and Ireland was part of a movement that developed what we consider the modern library. One of the innovations of the libraries was the idea of open stacks that encouraged people to browse and choose books for themselves.

A Poplar Guide of 1927 relates with pride “The Cubitt Town Free Library, opened in January, 1905, in Strattondale Street, is on the ‘Open Access’ system, by which means borrowers can select their own volumes from the shelves with full satisfaction to themselves and a saving of time to all concerned: the library is open from 9 a.m. to 9.30 p.m.”

Before Carnegie libraries, in most libraries you went to the librarian at the counter and ask for books which were then retrieved from closed stacks.

It cannot be overestimated the role that libraries played in the late 19th and 20th centuries especially in poorer areas, they provided escapism and a refuge from the often harsh world outside.

Kay Everson who grew up on the Island in the 1930s remembers her visits to the library:

I loved the library and spent a lot of time there as I have always been a voracious reader and books  were a form of escapism whilst growing up. I lived in Strattondale Street so the journey to the library was easy. My one ambition at that time was to get in to the adult section to find more exciting books. My mother and my Aunt who lived upstairs in our house used to send me to get them any romance, particularly anything by Ethel M. Dell or Ruby M. Ayres.

However in the 21st century a number of Carnegie Libraries have been demolished or used for other purposes, this has led to many libraries widening their access to provide more community services. In recent times, Cubitt Town has developed a number of special and community events but this has not stopped its decline as a library.

With information available at your fingertips, one of the functions of a library has disappeared but its role as a community space is perhaps more important than ever. The isolation that many people have suffered in the pandemic reminds of the importance of community spaces that provide an opportunity to meet your old friends and get to know new friends. Libraries has always provided an important resources for local communities and Cubitt Town Library has for over a century been an oasis for many Islanders.

Tower Hamlets Council is asking for opinions about some of the proposed changes, this is an opportunity for people on the island to have their say on the library and whether they want to save this important part of Island history.

Find out more about the plans here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around Millwall Dock with Loren Brand

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Before the Christmas lockdown, local photographer Loren Brand began to provide a visual update around the Island and Canary Wharf. Because of the large developments over the last few years, the skyline has changed considerably and it is a great time to get up to date with the ever changing landscape.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is it is a great place to walk. Unlike much of London, cars are not found in great numbers and much of the Island has areas to walk well away from the road. Although the promenades next to the Thames are lovely with wonderful views, the walk around Millwall Dock brings you to the heart of the Island and uncovers a number of surprising links to the past.

The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and is L-shaped, with a ‘Outer Dock’ running east-west, and a ‘Inner Dock’ running north from the eastern end. Millwall Docks originally contained around 36 acres of water and the site covered 200-acres. The western end of the Outer Dock was originally connected to the Thames at Millwall.

It is now possible to walk around the whole of Millwall Dock, which of course was not the case when the docks were working docks.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Around the Inner Dock is new developments that have grown considerably in the last few years. Across the dock is the new Baltimore Tower and the Lotus Chinese Restaurant that has been on a large pontoon since 1994. Up from the restaurant is Harbour Exchange which has two 1960s cranes standing in front of the glass covered buildings.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Glengall Bridge is where the inner and outer dock connect but also marks where many of the large developments cease and the older developments from the 1980s are in view. These older developments were part of more low level housing that used the space around the dock when it closed down.

The Outer Dock is much more relaxing with plenty of swans and ducks swimming amongst the sailing boats from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is located at the far West end of the dock near where the dock previously connected to the Thames. The centre was set up in 1989 by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council and provides plenty of water experiences to a wide range of people especially young people.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Near to the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was the large West Ferry Printing Works, which was the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built-in 1984–6. It has now been flattened for yet more residential development. Walking on the other side of the dock gives wonderful views of Canary Wharf and allows you to look at many of the new developments at the top of the Island.

If you carry on, you end up the picturesque Clippers Quay housing estate built in 1984–8. Although now filled with water, this was the site of Millwall Dock Graving Dock which was a dry dock for ship-repair which opened in 1868. Many famous ships have been repaired in this dry dock including the Cutty Sark. It was said this dry docks was the best on the Thames, it was one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide with a depth of 25ft. It was closed and flooded in 1968 and is a haven for birdlife with swans and ducks enjoying its quite secluded location.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Walking on round the corner, you come across of a number of houseboats, mostly Dutch in origin , they offer some final interest before we come back to Glengall Bridge.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Unlike West India Docks, the original buildings around Millwall Docks were more modest with sheds rather than grand warehouses. Therefore little remains from the estate from the working docks period other than 1960s cranes and a large number of bollards dotted about. But the docks themselves are still full of water and are an important resource for the Island. In the frantic redevelopment of the Island , the docks provides an attractive space and peaceful oasis to sit and watch the world go by.

If you would like to see more of Loren’s work, go to her website here  and Instagram account here  

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