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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Gorch Fock in West India Dock – Part Two


Gorch Foch amongst the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf

A little bit like steam trains, a tall ship with sails and a network of rigging conjures up images of nostagia.

If you are British and of a certain age it is very difficult to see a sailing ship without the soundtrack of the Onedin Line playing around somewhere in your mind.


The Gorch Fock next to the old dock cranes with the O2 in the background.


Entering the Dock.


Hard astern


Two German ships Gorch Fock and MS Stubnitz

Aboard the HMCS Iroquois in West India Dock


The Flags are out for the Canadian Warship


HMCS Iroquois is fitted with state of the art command and controls systems.


One of the Sea King Helicopters

DSC02481 One of the crew ?


On the Bridge


Compass and Bridge


The Big Seat


Official Badge


Among the Canary Wharf skyscrapers.


The Maple Leaf and the O2.


Old and New, the HMCS Iroquois and Groch Fock in West India Dock.

HMCS Iroquois in the West India Dock


After welcoming the Gorch Fock to the West India Dock yesterday,  today we welcome a Canadian Warship the HMCS Iroquois.


Built at Marine Industries Limited, Sorel Quebec, HMCS Iroquois, the first Warship of the new Tribal Class was launched on 28 Nov 1970 and commissioned 29 Jul 1972


There is around  282 men and women in the  Iroquois crew.


Her primary weapons were anti-submarine which included mortars, homing Torpedoes and two CH-124 Sea King helicopters, also armed with torpedoes.

The Iroquois will be moored at London’s West India dock from Saturday, April 27 until April 30 to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest campaign of World War II and keeping the supply lines open were crucial to Allied victory.

However the cost was very high amongst the Allies shipping with thousands losing their lives.

In May 2013 the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BOA) will be commemorated with a series of events throughout the United Kingdom. The commemorations will be centred on three cities, London during 8-13 May, Londonderry between 10-12 May, and the culminating event in Liverpool from 24-27 May.

According to the Canadian Embassy :

“You can visit a real Canadian Navy Destroyer tomorrow in London at West India Dock from 10 – 2.”

The German Tall Ship The Gorch Fock in West India Dock


Today we have an impressive visitor in West India Dock in the shape of The Gorch Fock which is a tall ship belonging to the German Navy . She is the  second ship of that title named after a German writer who died at the battle of Jutland.


She was built as a training ship in 1958 after the original was taken by the Russians after the Second World War.


The Gorch Fock is known as a three-masted barque which measures 266 ft long and 40ft wide.


For the technical minded she is a Type 441 class with a number A60.


To see what she looks like with sails unfurled, here is an amazing picture from one of her voyages.


Her other claim to fame was that the ship appeared on a 10 Deutsche Mark banknote from 1960 to 1990.

German 10-Mark-banknote,

Up to 14,000 cadets have been trained  on the  ship  over the 50 years since her launch, however in recent years the ship has been at the centre of a scandal regarding the treatment of the cadets after an alleged mutiny when one of the cadets died after falling from the rigging in 2010.


According the German Embassy website:

The ship will be open for the public for a visit on Saturday, 27 April 2013 from 2pm to 5pm at her berthing place at South Quay in the West India Docks. Due to Health and Safety regulations visitors should be at least 12 years old and wear proper footwear.

It also may be open Monday 2pm – 5pm.

Temple to Summer Storms – The Storm Water Pumping Station


One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is the “hidden treasures” that are waiting to be discovered. The Storm Water Pumping Station is one of those treasures, When people first come across the Pumping station there is the belief that it is an Eastern Temple, however  under closer inspection there are high walls which has slits which gives only glimpses of the “Temple” and locked gates. It is only then you realise it has in fact a rather  mundane function, however this did not stop the designer from giving it a mythical design.


The Pumping station was built in 1987-88 designed by John Outram, inside is a quite plain brick pumping chamber with a tank and a control room. The outside however is full of symbolism which is described by the architect.


The steel-tube gate into the fortified compound of the Station is given a form of a giant eye, whose vacant ball can be got to line-up with the ‘solar cave’-between-two-mountains. The two wings of the gate-eye then lie over the two (aetos) ‘eagles-wings’ of the split pediment….


Having ‘tumbled’ down its ‘valley’ the ‘river of space’ passes under the
‘gateway’ to the Valley – embodied by the exaggerated white masonry surrounding
the dark green entrance door. From there it flows outwards, towards the gate to
Stewart Street, or the river Thames on the side of the ‘levee’. It was not
practical to inscribe the figure of the ‘delta’ which lies outside the
‘gateway-door into the building’. Nor could either the street, or the River, be
inscribed with the figure of infinity with which one may recall their ‘bounding’
identity as the ‘death of the valley of community’ by dispersion into the Ocean.


Although considered “Postmodern” in many ways it is also looks back to the Victorian age when seemly unimportant buildings were given ornate and decorative finishes.

The Isle of Dogs and the London Marathon – Race Day

After days of preparation, the day has finally arrived for the 2013 London Marathon.


From 8 o’clock groups of supporters , race organisers and media begin to gatherDSC02234

The first arrivals on the Island were the Elite wheelchair athletes, amongst these were David Weir Paralympic hero from last year.


Next were the elite women which included Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana who will be the one to watch after her win at the London 2012 Olympic Marathon.World champion Edna Kiplagat, Priscah Jeptoo will be hoping to go one better than her silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Marathon. Florence Kiplagat  latest win was at the 2011 BMW Berlin Marathon.


These were followed by the Elite men which was considered one of the strongest field in recent years. Runners included Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, the surprise winner of the London 2012 Olympic Marathon,  Olympic silver medalist and world champion Abel Kirui (Kenya) and Olympic bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang.

After the club runners was the large mass of the field which included a wide range of abilities, many have their own personal reason for competing often raising a large amount of money for charity.


The crowds grow year on year and many consider this year the largest yet, with many people coming onto the Island to support their family members.




The mens race was won by Tsegeye Kebede, second was Emmanuel Mutai and Ayele Abshero third.

The womens race was won by Priscah Jeptoo, second was Edna Kiplagat and Yukiko Akaba third.

However everyone who completes the race and the various charities are the real winners .

The Isle of Dogs and the London Marathon – Part 1 – History


The Marathon route around the Isle of Dogs

Regular readers of the blog will know that I often comment the Isle of Dogs is relatively unknown to fellow Londoners and a wider audience . However for one day in April it receives national and international interest due to its role in the London Marathon.

Many thousands of people will be pounding the streets of the Isle of Dogs and many thousands more will be lining the streets. However this is a bit of a contrast to the early days of the Marathon in the 1980s when the Isle of Dogs  suffered from transport problems and spectators generally watched the race in Greenwich and Central London. Local people supported the race but the population of the Isle of Dogs was a great deal smaller than today.

In the 1980s and 1990s race organisers had to contend with the massive building projects in Canary Wharf and often had to make small adjustments to the course.

A bigger change was made in 2005 , when the organisers decided to go anti – clockwise around the ” Island”.

For most runners the narrow streets and the winding part of the course in the Isle of Dogs at the 14 – 21 miles point has always been a challenge. For a number of runners they  hit the “wall ” at this stage and struggle to complete the course.

The Marathon itself has grown in size and popularity year by year balancing the elite races  which has been won by some of the greatest marathon runners and the mass of runners who include some who often dress up in outlandish outfits.This year there will be added interest with the appearance of Mo Farah long distance  hero from last years Olympic in nearby Stratford.

The first London Marathon was held in 1981, more than 20.000 applied to run, 6747 were accepted and 6,225 crossed the finishing line.

In 2012 a record 36,705 crossed the line out of the 37,227 who started.

The London Marathon is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, in 2012 runners raised £52.8 million for charities taking the total raised in all the London marathons to a staggering £610 million.

Lordship in the Docks – The Manual Labours of Viscount Ockham


Thames Ironworks foundry

Byron Noel Viscount Ockham later known as Baron Wentworth was the grandson of famous poet Lord Byron and son of Ada Lovelace who was well known as a mathematician and is considered one of the first computer programmers for her work on Charles Babbages analytical engine.

From such a background it was perhaps unsurprising that for Viscount Ockham making a name for himself was going to be difficult but in many ways he rejected his background and sought work first as a sailor and then as manual labourer on the Isle of Dogs.

Harriet Beecher Stowe writer of Uncle Toms Cabin visited London in 1850s and met the Viscount at a social event, her impressions and those of Lady Byron gives some  insight into  his character.

There were a few persons present whom she thought I should be interested to know,– a Miss Goldsmith, daughter of Baron Goldsmith, and Lord Ockham, her grandson, eldest son and heir of the Earl of Lovelace, to whom she introduced my son.

I had heard much of the eccentricities of this young nobleman, and was exceedingly struck with his personal appearance. His bodily frame was of the order of the Farnese Hercules,– a wonderful development of physical and muscular strength. His hands were those of a blacksmith. He was broadly and squarely made, with a finely-shaped head, and dark eyes of surpassing brilliancy. I have seldom seen a more interesting combination than his whole appearance presented.

When all were engaged in talking, Lady Byron came and sat down by me, and glancing across to Lord Ockham and my son, who were talking together, she looked at me, and smiled. I immediately expressed my admiration of his fine eyes and the intellectual expression of his countenance, and my wonder at the uncommon muscular development of his frame.

She said that that of itself would account for many of Ockham’s eccentricities. He had a body that required a more vigorous animal life than his station gave scope for, and this had often led him to seek it in what the world calls low society; that he had been to sea as a sailor, and was now working as a mechanic on the iron work of “The Great Eastern.” He had laid aside his title, and went in daily with the other workmen, requesting them to call him simply Ockham.

I said that there was something to my mind very fine about this, even though it might show some want of proper balance.

She said he had noble traits, and that she felt assured he would yet accomplish something worthy of himself. “The great difficulty with our nobility is apt to be, that they do not understand the working-classes, so as to feel for them properly; and Ockham is now going through an experience which may yet fit him to do great good when he comes to the peerage. I am trying to influence him to do good among the workmen, and to interest himself in schools for their children. I think,” she added, “I have great influence over Ockham,– the greater, perhaps, that I never make any claim to authority.”

This rather romantic image is however contradicted by a New York Times newspaper report of 1860.

LORD BYRON’s GRANDSON AS A MACHINIST. — We lately published, as an item of foreign gossip, the somewhat curious fact that Lord Wentworth, a grandson of Lord Byron, was employed at Mr. John Scott Russell’s works. The Philadelphia Inquirer, assuming to speak with authority, publishes in reference thereto the following statement. It says: “When we saw Lord Ockham, now Baron Wentworth, a few weeks since, he was at work at the Thames Iron Shipbuilding Company’s establishment, at Blackwall, cutting bolts at 24s., or less than $6 a week. The Baron Wentworth is 22 or 23 years of age, and appears to inherit his grandfather’s taste for gin; but, as for his “taste and talent for mechanics,” those who know him best pronounce him a “poor tool.” It is true that he was employed for a while at Mr. John Scott Russell’s works, where his example to the rest of the hands was by no means worthy of imitation. He lodged with the head pattern-maker, to whom he had often expressed the strongest desire to become the skipper of a coal barge on the Thames, Lord Ockham ran, or walked, away from Scott Russell’s, to Aberdeen, 550 miles north of London, where for one month, he indulged his ‘taste and talent for mechanics’ in a menial employment in a machine shop. He then came to New-York, and worked there for two months in a machine shop, with the usual results — drunkenness and discharge. He contrived to get back to London, and may, very likely, have left the Thames Iron Shipbuilding Company’s Works, for better wages in Woolwich Arsenal. At Blackwall, he was often dead drunk, although he would then manage, to hoist the American colors over his lodging, to be hauled down, on the return of soberness, for the Union Jack. How much love there may be at the bottom of all this, we cannot say.”

Whatever his motivation for working and living on the Isle of Dogs it was not to last long for in 1862 at the age of 26 at Wimbledon Hill the Viscount died of a rupture of  a blood vessel.

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – The London Hospital


Once again I would like to thank Eric Pemberton for sending the following postcards of the London Hospital from early in the 20th Century.

The London Hospital was originally called the London Infirmary. In 1741 the need to expand was pressing and a plot of land was purchased in Whitechapel. By 1757 the new hospital was built and named the London Hospital.

During the 19th Century “The London” as it was known was increasingly important being at the centre of  some of the most over populated areas of the East End.


It was also at this time as a response to the many epidemics in the area that many medical breakthroughs were made and many lives saved.

One of its most famous residents was in 1886, when Joseph Merrick, the so called “Elephant Man”, who was being displayed in a peep show in Whitechapel. His case was taken up by Sir Frederick Treves a surgeon at the hospital, who later found him a home in the Hospital and where he later died.

lh 3

Until the creation of the National Health Service, the London Hospital was the largest voluntary hospital in the country which relied on local and national donations to continue its existence.

Performances by well known singers and celebrities were common as part of the fundraising campaign. The above postcard shows one such performance by Edna May who was a famous Music Hall singer at the time.

lh 4

During the First and Second World War, the hospital treated many militiary personnel as well as local people. It was also at the hospital that First World War heroine Edith Cavell undertook her nurse training.


The hospital always had close ties with the Royal Family and in 1990 the Queen allowed the hospital to use the title of The Royal London Hospital which it is now known.

Other Posts you may find interesting

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards Poplar and East India Dock Road

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Isle of Dogs 2

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Isle of Dogs

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Limehouse

Remembering London’s “Lost” Village – The Story of Orchard Place


Orchard Place 1895

In many posts I have mentioned the fact that the Isle of Dogs is relatively unknown to many Londoners. Even more surprising considering the small size of the “Island” is there are parts of the Island that are unknown to Islanders.

Orchard Place occupies a small spit of land surrounded by Bow Creek and since the 1930s has been the home to Industrial concerns except at the tip where it is the home of Trinity Buoy Wharf.

However from the 19th century up to the 1930s this was the home for a small settlement of people who in someways 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 “and a local vicar Father Lawless who described them in very unchristian way  as ‘hardly human’and ‘incarnate mushrooms’, before finally stating   ‘God must have made a mistake in creating them’.

These stories were obviously exaggerated because a police inspector told the Booth researcher  that they were no trouble and Inspectors of the local board school who often praised its educational performance and behaviour.


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 ramshackle 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.


“The name of the place is derived from the fact that there stood an old Inn named the Orchard House, which was demolished about eighty years ago. The site is now occupied by the Union Castle Line. In the early days the entrance to the Orchard House was started by the old East India Dock on the right – (the basin had not then been made); the dock contained nothing else but the old wooden sailing ships (steamers were not then known), and on the left of the entrance was what was known as the Pepper warehouse. This was the store and warehouse for the sailing vessels in the dock. Ammunitions were brought from Woolwich by Military wagons to the Pepper warehouse, and carried across Leamouth Road, through a gateway in the dock wall, to arm ships in the Dock, as the seas at that period were infested with Pirates. When the basin and warehouses were built and steamers began to come into being, the sailing ships gradually disappeared, the pepper warehouses were taken over by the Great Eastern Railway (now the L.N.E. Railway), and it still stands, and is still known to us as the pepper warehouse.

“The work carried on in the Orchard House during the first half of its existence was, at one end, mast, blocks, sailmaking, ships lifeboats and sailing ships. At the other end was carried on glass-making, oil milling and Boilermaking (Engineering in its early stages).

“The glass-making firm stood on the ground, which is now occupied by Messrs. Baldwins (who still have some of the Glass House walls standing), also the Bow Creek Union Oil Mills, Fowler Sugar Refinery, The Thames Sack & Bag Factory, the L.C.C. School, and also the roadway which leads to the above premises.

“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 descendents of the glass workers living in the Orchard House, the most numerous are the Lammins, the Scanlons and the Jeffries, who also have greatly intermarried. By being isolated as we always have been, the children have always had to make their own amusements and being surrounded by water, naturally we have made the river our playground; therefore, both boys and girls have learned to swim and handle rowing boats equal to anybody. Up till a few years ago, the weekly practices of the young men was to hold rowing and swimming matches among themselves, and excellent form was always shown, but with the advent of the L.C.C. schools the common sports have died down as the men and women have other amusements in the Evening Schools such as woodwork, sewing, singing, dancing, gymnasium, etc.

“As riverside dwellers, it is a common occurrence to hear of children falling into the river, but they generally manage to scramble out themselves, but if they cannot, there is always elder ones near (both boys and girls) who take it as a matter of course, that they must jump in and save the drowning one. This is such a frequent occurrence that the inhabitants make no fuss about it, but only say it is our duty.

“The boys of the neighbourhood, also some of the men, mostly own rowing boats, and can therefore, pick up plenty of flotsam and jetsom, such as firewood, coal, old iron, rope, etc., which they sell at a very cheap rate to the neighbours. If asked, most of the people would outwardly show regret at leaving their old homes and surroundings, but inwardly we are almost invariably longing for the time to evacuate our old vermin and rat infested houses and get into clean and modern dwellings.

“In any time of personal trouble, in spite of any family quarrels, we always rally to each others assistance. We also address each other by our Christian and Maiden names, for years after we have been married. We are also very familiar and friendly with our School masters, teachers, or police who happen to be on their beats, and often have a friendly chat with them. It sometimes happens that strangers out of curiosity visit the old place; when they do, they have always been treated with civility and respect, and shown anything of interest to them.

“There are hundreds of people living in Poplar who have never heard of the Orchard House, or know where it is. I believe that some sections of the populace of London think that we are a low, rough and ignorant lot of scamps, but as the eldest member of one of the most numerous and oldest families still living here, I class myself as a true type of the general class of person in the Orchard House.

“I was born in 1873, right opposite my Grandfather’s old cottage, and at the age of twelve years I started work for Trinity House Corporation Workshops (also on the Orchard House). I was employed by them for 47 years, but was forced to resign through a prolonged illness. Now I am on the dole, and am still able and willing to take any light job. My Maternal Grandfather and Grandmother came from Lancashire to the Glass Works at the Orchard House where they and my mother worked until it closed. My Grandparents then emigrated to the U.S.A. leaving my Mother who was married with three children, (I being the eldest, behind at the Orchard House). My father was employed at Blewitts Oil Mills. Eventually I married my wife at the age of 22, who also came from an old and respected family of Blackwall; we have known each other since childhood, and have borne nine sons and two daughters, who still cling to the old home.

“We are respectful to everybody, but neither owe nor care for anybody, and although we live in such a lonely place I have never heard of anybody being molested by the people of Orchard House.

“Up to a few years ago it was a frequent occurrence to have the tide into our houses as high as eight or nine stairs up, especially in the Winter, which caused a lot of suffering, but the Authorities have by law, forced the owners of riverside premises to raise the banks, which has greatly prevented this happening, unless we get an abnormal high tide, like the recent great Thames Flood 1928, which ruined the bulk of our furniture and bedding, etc., but thanks to the generosity of the public, we were partly compensated for our losses, which helped us to get over it.

“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.

“We also have our weekly socials at the Bow Creek Evening Institute, which bring people of other districts amongst us, and we pass many happy nights together. I, myself at the age of 63 am still a member of the Evening Woodwork Class and have just built a rowing boat to hold four persons on the Old Bow Creek.

“I regret having to leave the site of my family’s trials and struggles, but am comforted by the thought that we will still be able to see our old home and birthplace in the distance, across the Old Creek, which surrounds the Orchard House.”