The demolition of Dockland Settlement No 2
Building work and demolition are ever constants on the Isle of Dogs, however the demolition of a building on East Ferry Road will be viewed with great sadness by many Island people.
Built in 1905, the building was initially called the Welcome Institute and was created to provide a clubroom and canteen for factory girls and women. However after the First World War many employers provided facilities on the premises and therefore other uses for the building were considered.
In 1923 the building was taken by the Docklands Settlement Mission, a charity created by the Malvern College.
The Dockland settlement building No 2 to give it it’s full title was a testament to the tradition of Charity and Service undertaken by Public Schools in many deprived areas which began at the end of the 19th Century.
The missions were built on Christian values and the wealthy young man and women of the College were encouraged to help those in need.
From small beginnings with the Dockland Settlement No 1 in Canning Town the mission grew into Eight Missions and two holiday homes. This was often achieved by the patronage of wealthy friends and family (sometimes even Royalty) of many of the students who worked in the missions.
An important aspect of the missions was the promotion of sports and pastimes and physical education. It was in this sphere especially that the Settlement became well known producing many talented sportsmen and women.
Over time it provided services for all age groups and became a fully fledged community centre.
However by the 1960s and 1970s the building was beginning to show the wear and tear of decades of use and by the 1980s like the docks themselves it was in decline.
However in the 1990s the building got a new lease of life when the chapel became a church and living quarters were turned into offices . One of the offices was the base of the Island History Trust whose collection of photographs and history of the Island are a vital record of the rapidly changing way of life.
In more recent times it was still used extensively by the Local Community but it became increasingly clear the building would need considerable refurbishment to continue. The decision was then made to vacate the building to enable extension to the new college that had been created on the site.
Even when the building finally disappears over the next few weeks , it will leave many Islanders with fond memories of Dockland Settlement No 2.