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West India Dock Visitors Review 2014

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It is that time of the year when people begin to review the past 12 months, carrying on the tradition from last year I am listing the ships that have visited West India Docks.


In a very eventful year, the highlight must be the Tall Ships Festival, the largest gathering of Tall Ships in London for 25 years was a spectacle few are likely to forget.

Some old Tall Ships favourites returned, the Stad Amsterdam, Stavros S Niarchos  and STS Tenacious  but sad to see the final appearance of the TS Royalist.

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The Royal Navy and other nations ships visited quite regularly and there was plenty of excitement when a small German flotilla appeared and then later a NATO Flotilla came into the dock.


A number of Super Yachts docked, giving a glimpse of the world of the super rich. Often beautifully designed, they do seem well at home amongst the Canary Wharf  skyscrapers.


At the other end of the scale, the Lord Amory and the restoration of the Massey Shaw and Portwey continues which  add interest to the dock all year round.


Royal Navy

HMS Westminster
HMS Montrose (F236)

Other Navies

Nato warships  included  Lithuanian Minelayer LNS Jotvingis, Belgian Navy’s BNS Crocus,
the German Navy’s FGS Datteln, the Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming, the Estonian Navy’s ENS Sakala,
the Latvian Navy’s LVNS Talialdis and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Zierlkzee.

French Navy Ship Pluvier

French Navy Ship Andromede

Italian Navy Luigi Durand de la Penne

The German Navy (M1093) Auerbach/Oberpfalz,(M1098) Siegburg and Seehund Drones

German Navy   (A512) Mosel, (A1425) Ammersee and (M1092)Hameln

Super Yachts

Super Yacht Kismet
Super Yacht Christopher
Super Yacht Z
Super Yacht Kalinga
WindQuest Catamaran
Super Yacht Sovereign
Super Yacht Kamalaya
Superyacht Emelina

Tall Ships

The Tall Ships Festival

Dutch Tall Ship, Stad Amsterdam

Stavros S Niarchos Tall Ship

TS Royalist

STS Tenacious Tall Ship

Tall Ship Kaskelot


Massey Shaw


A Selection of Christmas Paintings

(c) Christopher Corr; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christmas by Christopher Corr – The Nightingale Project

Collection:  The Nightingale Project

It is a little tradition on the website that in the week before Christmas Day I publish a post that shows how artists have captured the Christmas spirit.

A couple of the pictures show the effects of the First World War which is perhaps fitting considering it is the centenary of the beginning of the conflict. The criteria I use in selection is that the subject matter involves London or the painting is available to see in London.

(c) Margaret Thomas; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christmas Table by Margaret Thomas
City of London Corporation

Collection:  City of London Corporation

(c) Rosenstiel's; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
The First Wounded at The London Hospital, 1914 by John Lavery
Date painted: 1914
Collection:  The Royal London Hospital Museum & Archives

(c) The Foundling Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Foundling Girl at Christmas Dinner by Emma Brownlow

The Foundling Museum
Date painted: 1877

Collection:  The Foundling Museum

(c) IWM (Imperial War Museums); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Ruhleben Prison Camp: Christmas Dinner by Nico Jungman

IWM (Imperial War Museums)
Date painted: 1917
Collection:  IWM (Imperial War Museums

(c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Sir Lawrence Bragg Giving the 1961 Christmas Lectures in the Royal Institution Theatre by Terence Tenison Cuneo

The Royal Institution
Date painted: 1962

Collection:  The Royal Institution

May I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

The Mystery of the Sinking of the HMS Black Prince 1916

Black Princr

Eric Pemberton has always provided the site with a  number of fascinating postcards, a few weeks ago he sent a postcard of the locally built HMS Black Prince and some of the ship’s history.


The Launch at Blackwall

The HMS Black Prince was a Duke of Edinburgh-class armoured cruiser built by the famous Thames Ironworks in Blackwall  and launched on 8 November 1904.  The ship was one of the last Royal Navy ships built-in the shipyard which was at the time facing considerable financial problems.

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An unusual  photograph entitled ‘Launch of the ‘Black Prince’, Thames Ironworks’, taken by Edgar Tarry Adams in 1904.

The HMS Black Prince served with the 2nd Squadron until 1907, the 1st Cruiser Squadron from 1907–1908, the 5th Cruiser Squadron (as part of the Atlantic Fleet) from 1908–1912 and the Third from 1912–1913.


The ship was stationed in the Mediterranean when the First World War began and became involved  in the pursuit of the German battle cruisers,  Goeben and Breslau.  The German ships reached safe waters, so the ship was sent to the Red Sea to protect troop convoys arriving from India and to search for German merchant ships. After capturing two German ocean liners Südmark and Istria, Black Prince was transferred to the Grand Fleet.


However it is the ship’s involvement at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 that would concern historians for many years afterwards.

In the process of the battle, the ship lost contact with the rest of the fleet and was sunk with all hands lost.

The only clue to the ship’s demise was a wireless signal received at 20:45, reporting a submarine sighting, this led to rumours that the ship had been sank by a submarine .

Eyewitness reports seemed to offer contradictory evidence.

‘The Black Prince and the Shark went down, but it was grand to see them fight for it against such odds, when they both could have got away.’

‘All at once a huge fountain of water came 20 yards ahead of us, and we then knew that we had to deal with something bigger than a light cruiser, two shells of at least 12-inch calibre  fell ahead of the Defence, and three seconds later a salvo cut her amid ships, and she crumpled up and sank. The Black Prince was next to go, a great salvo carried away her funnels and her fore turret, and a second salvo hit her in the magazine, and she blew up. ‘

An officers report of the battle offers some reasons for the confusion.

‘In both fleets ships were bursting into flame and sinking, says another officer. We could not tell what was going on. We saw clouds of steam and smoke coming from the surface of the sea. We saw destroyers buckling up, we saw ships sinking. We saw helpless ships that were half sunk. The water was strewn with dead bodies and fish killed by the concussion. Great column of’ water spurted up, for many of the shells which missed the ships were fitted with percussion caps, which caused them to explode on striking the water. The Germans used smoke bombs, which burst in the same way as they threw them overboard, obscuring our vision.’

The fact there was no survivors from Black Prince’s crew, all 857 being killed might indicate that the ship blew up almost instantaneously which did not give a chance for anyone to survive. However it still remains one of the great naval mysteries of World War One.


Memories of an East End Child by Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part Three


 Photograph Margaret Monck 1931-1940 Museum of London

In Lorraine’s latest memories, she remembers how people helped each other out, the deliveries of beer by horse and cart ,the Irish community and how visiting the local cinema left her starstruck and dreaming of stardom.

 The Isle Of Dogs was made up of many nationalities and religions. People helped each other and if the man of the house was sick and could not work, or when the mother was ill and the children needed care, everyone mucked in and no family was left in trouble. If a man was very drunk and violent there would be men from other families who would go and ‘sort him out’. It was a close-knit community and looking back I feel privileged to have been a part of that life and have had the opportunity to experience the spirit that existed in the East End at that time. It made me grow up understanding what poverty and social inequality does to people and how unfair life can be for some.

catholic procession poplar 1931

Around Easter time, Irish Catholics would make a display of Jesus and Mary with candles and flowers in the windows of an upstairs room. The displays would be draped with lace and the windows looked like beautiful framed pictures. The Priest walked around the streets and blessed the houses, swinging a container of sweet-smelling incense. Some of the children would follow the priest from street to street, stopping to look at the wonderful window displays, which were lit up like fairy grottos. Well, as I imagined a fairy grotto would look. It was all very exiting.

When Good Friday came around a couple of the older girls would take a big thick barge rope, extend it from one side of the road to the other and use it as a skipping rope. The grown-up married women would take it in turns to hold the rope, as it was very heavy. Everyone would be expected to jump in as the rope was turning. This would go on along all the streets, not just ours, and it was a sight to behold with all the mothers and aunts jumping in and having their turn.

I was about eight when we came to live in Stebondale Street on the Island. Recently, I read in one of the Island Trust magazines that Stebondale was one of the island’s worst hit streets during the war. Every day brought a new scene for us. Beautiful draught horses hauled heavy barrels of beer from Whitbread’s Brewery. You could not help but stare in wonder at these beautiful animals, which were always so well-groomed and handsome. Tall horses with enormous hooves and drays reaching high up into the air, so high we had to lift our heads to see the drivers. The drays were always driven by big, strong men who wore leather aprons and sat proudly holding the reins, guiding their charges.


Photo William Whiffen 1935

The horses had big leather halters round their necks and their manes were plaited and knotted with coloured ribbon. The leather straps around their necks were covered with ornamental brass emblems. These horse brasses are now bought by people to display in their homes. The originals are very collectible and it must be something to hold an authentic brass knowing that at one time a beautiful draught horse wore it proudly, and its owner polished it with pride.

Our street was paved with cobblestones when we first came to live there, and I loved to listen to the sound of horses hooves on them and see such large animals trotting so gracefully while carrying such heavy loads. Sometimes they would leave droppings on the road and it was commonplace to see someone rushing with a bucket and shovel to collect them. This was not to make the road clean but for the manure to use on their allotment. Sadly these horses are no longer seen on the streets of the East End, and are only seen on special occasions like the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court. These wonderful scenes that were free for me to enjoy as a child now live only in my memory. How I would love my children and grandchildren to share these pictures. I hope that through my writing I will be able to conjure up the scenes of my childhood for them.

Sometimes buskers, hoping to earn a bob or two, would walk in the road dressed up and playing an instrument to entertain us. I remember my Mum’s reaction when two men dressed as women came along one day. “They are Aunt Sallies,” she said, “Don’t look at them. Come indoors!” I never knew why she said this and still don’t know to this day. I asked my Aunt Con about it one day and she said my Grandma used to say the same thing to her, but she never knew what she meant by it either.


Pavilion Cinema in Poplar 1930s

I used to love to entertain the local children. They would sit on the pavement and I would dress up, dance and sing for them. I loved the films and grew up with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and all the wonderful Ziegfeld showgirls who could be seen at the cinema in those days. You would see the main picture, then a B-Movie and during the interval an enormous Wurlitzer electric organ would rise up slowly from below the stage. The organ was white and glowed with multi-coloured lights and the organist wore a white suit. With a microphone beside him he would announce the songs he would play. The organist would end with his signature tune and wave. As the organ slowly descended back down below the stage you could hear the music slowly fading. Outings to the cinema with Mum and Dad in those days were wonderful.


During this entertainment the audience would have the opportunity to buy ice cream and sweets from girls with their goods hung on a tray by a strap round their neck. They wore white overalls with little caps and always looked clean and smart. Getting into the cinema wasn’t always easy; sometimes people would have to queue for a long time, especially if it was a good film and a Saturday night. The evening could end with disappointment if a sign suddenly appeared in front of the queue informing the public that all the sixpenny-and-one-shilling seats were now sold out. The cinema attendant would call out, “Sorry, no more seats, but there are some left in the one and sixpence.”
Some people would move over to the shorter queue and would stand in front of the sign that read ‘one shilling and sixpence’, but often for our family of six the difference was too much and we would all go home feeling disappointed.


After watching a show I would be full of thoughts of how much I would love to be an entertainer like the organist or a film star and dream of all the wonderful things I could do. At ten years of age everything seemed possible and that is the way I used to think. The world was my oyster, I told myself; all I had to do was to grow up. But I was not grown-up yet and the next best thing I could do was pretend to be and entertain my friends. So, I’d sing When the Poppies Bloom Again at the top of my voice, wearing my red tap shoes with some old lace curtains draped around me. I would dance and sing thinking I was Ginger Rogers or Judy Garland and the children would sit on the cold pavement to watch me.

Star struck is what I was, but I was not alone, as a lot of little girls felt the same way. This was a time when film stars dressed beautifully and wouldn’t be seen unless they were made-up and wearing the very latest fashions. Photos would show them smiling, looking glamorous, with beautiful furs draped around them and jewellery worn to excess. This was the way it was, fashion from head-to-toe: hats, matching gloves, handbags, shoes, and hair never out of place.


This was also the time of the Eugene permanent wave machine, fabulous furs, powder puffs, compacts, cigarette holders and silk stockings. Nylon had not been invented then and it was pure silk stockings for those who could afford them or lisle stockings for those who had to make them last.
People tried to present themselves with a good image and I loved to see my good-looking, tall mother dressed-up smart, and looking like a film star. Of course, how you dressed made an impression in those days, and it is a sad reflection to know that the poor were already being stigmatised by what they wore.

Mum was very conscious of cleanliness and I can recall the day when she called me to the window, then, with an air of secrecy, opened the curtain and told me to look out. “See that man selling the candy floss. Well you watch him. See how he has just licked his fingers and is now touching the floss which he is selling to that child. Can you understand why I do not want you to buy that stuff from him?” That picture was worth more than a thousand words to me. Mum was clever; I knew that. I dare not think what she would have said if she had found out about the locust we ate off the ground.

Lorraine at nineteen was a Lucy Clayton Trained Model and modelled in many of London’s top fashion houses.  In 1949, she married a Doctor of Medicine who later became a Consultant  Psychiatrist. and had a daughter and two sons, and is now a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
In 1979 she left England and with her second husband and moved to New Zealand and opened a number of beauty salons and her own Beauty Therapy Training College.
 Lorraine also began to write her own regular page on beauty in The NZ Headway Magazine. In 1987 she and her husband retired and moved to Australia where she developed her creative skills becoming an artist, ceramicist, sculptor, poet and a published author.

Other related posts

Memories of an East End Child by  Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part One

Memories of an East End Child by Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part Two

The Great Freeze of 1895


Frozen Limehouse 1895

 Now the cold weather has arrived, the Island is exposed to the cold gusts of wind off the river. However for all the discomfort of the present, it is nothing compared with some of the major problems of the past. The Great Freeze of 1895 is a prime example .

Recently I came across the above picture of a frozen Limehouse in 1895, it seems quite picturesque to the modern viewer but the arctic conditions had tragic consequences to many people especially in the East End.
Newspapers of the time were quick to point out that the cold spell  was causing serious problems.

London, February 12. There is no abatement of the abnormally cold weather which has prevailed in northern Europe for the last week. The Upper Thames is frozen over, and huge blocks of ice breaking away from the mass are floating down, the river, causing much damage to the smaller shipping craft. Water traffic is consequently at a complete standstill. Many cases of death from cold and exposure are reported, the privation and distress in the east end of the city being particularly severe. The cold is so intense that birds are found frozen to death on the branches of the trees, and thousands are perishing. The severe weather has also directly caused considerable mortality, a number of deaths from exposure having been reported among postmen, omnibus drivers, cabmen, and labourers.


Dr Joseph Murie 1895 (National Maritime Museum)

The cold weather stopped workers from working in the docks where ships were frozen in. If the worker did not work they did not get paid and the arctic conditions lasted so long, people were so desperate they turned to charities for help. Another newspaper visited a Salvation army in Whitechapel.

The Salvation Army food depot in Whitechapel Road, for instance, is crowded, mostly by women and children, in the afternoon. Practically all these women are working women, charwomen and so on said Commissioner Cadman, and the frost has deprived them of their work. They come here to get a half-penny or a penny meaL and we let them. That single picture in the Salvation hostel brought home most vividly the struggle for sheer existence which is going on but some figures which Mr Wynne Baxter, the coroner for East London, put at the disposal of a member of the Chronicle staff, indicate that many are falling in the struggle. His district covers that bleak portion of the metropolis running from Poplar up through Stepney, Wapping, Bow, and St George in the-East to WhitechapeL Last week he attended about sixty inquests, while in the same week last year the number was only thirty-two. The only meaning to be put on this tremendous contrast is that the frost is responsible for the doubling of the death-rate. In the coroners’ districts for North-east London and North London the number of inquests has also gone up almost as alarmingly. Have people died directly and simply from cold ? it may be asked. Many cases might be given as a melancholy answer to it, but two that have come under Mr Wynne Baxter’s attention daring the past few days may suffice. An old woman living in St. George’s- in-the- East went out in the morning to fetch some perquisites, bundles of waste paper or something else was in the habit of getting. She was found, not having got very far, seated in the street, where the cold had killed her. Perhaps that is putting the tragedy in fewer words than a medical man would, but they really represent what happened. Another old woman was found dead in bed — such a bed ! — in a two roomed house in Poplar, where she and her husband lived. She had been suffering from bronchitis, and he was lying ill in the other room. Neither room had a fireplace, and the door of one opened directly into the street. She was killed by the cold without question, and how could it be otherwise ? Such reading is not pleasant, but it is good for us all to know what is happening.


Rotherhithe 1895 ( Southwark Library Collection)

Even fighting a fire in the London Docks was made almost impossible by the conditions.

During the late frost, after attending a fire at the London Docks, involving the-loss of some £60,000 or £80,000, those of the firemen who proceeded homeward, at 9 o’clock in the morning, along Commercial Road, presented a most remarkable appearance. In a large number of cases their helmets were frozen to their heads, and icicles nearly six inches in length hung from them and also from the men’s coats; This, however, was not surprising, considering the circumstances in which they had carried on their arduous labours. So intense was the cold, indeed, that when an engine stopped working for a few moments the water froze in the hose. As the water was thrown out of the nozzles the ice formed round the end of the metal until there were complete rings of ice several inches long on the end of the nozzles, through which the water passed. When two men held the same ‘ branch ‘ they froze together as they stood, and yet close to the fire the heat was so intense, that it was impossible to face it for any length of time. The water as it ran out on to the ground froze instantly, and the firemen soon became completely encased in sheets of ice, which froze on their uniforms, hair, and beards. The ladders  became perfect pictures, being covered with long lines of ice. The ruins of the fire presented a most picturesque appearance. Enormous icicles were hanging from the roofs, while the walls were entirely covered with a pure white frost. The hanging cranes and lamp-posts had been converted into pillars of ice, which, however, were a constant source of danger to the men employed near the scene, owing to the liability of the ice to break away and fall in large quantities. The telegraph and telephone wires which led into the ruined warehouses, but which were broken down, were also covered with thick ice and frost.

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The Frozen Thames at Greenwich: 1895. British School ( Museum of London)

It was not just Britain that suffered, the United States and Eastern Europe were badly affected. Eventually things got back to normal but the full cost both in human lives and deprivation will never be known. Extremely cold winters have caused havoc since 1895, but the scenes of massive ice floes on the Thames have never really been repeated.


Greenwich Reach – W Hudson (National Maritime Museum)

Memories of an East End Child by Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part Two


Greenwich Park 1940s (National Maritime Museum)

In the second part of Lorraine’s memories of the 1930s on the Island, she writes about the joys of visiting Greenwich and Blackheath Fair. Closer to home she describes how children made their own entertainment and remembers visits from a couple of street sellers.

Greenwich is of course famous all over the world Greenwich Meridian, Greenwich Mean Time and the fact that Queen Elizabeth I resided there. I remember Greenwich Park and the worn brass handles that gave a measure of some sort, but I can’t remember what it represented. I only know we always tried to stretch our arms to cover the space. I bet the brass handles are still there. Not far from Greenwich is Blackheath, which was a very special place on account of the big fair that took place once a year.

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Blackheath Fair 1930s

In those days you could win really big prizes. We would leave home when it was dark and the fair would be lit up like fairyland. Mum and Dad would give us sixpence to spend, which was a lot of money. This was a special treat and we were able to afford lots of rides and goes on the glass cabinets with little electric cranes inside them. We would try to manoeuvre the cranes and pick up one of the gleaming prizes that lay amongst the jellybeans. It was all a matter of skill, but we were never lucky.

Mum and Dad would join us on the rides. They had married in their teens and were still very young and enjoyed the fair as much as we did. It was good to see them happy, as I knew it was hard sometimes for Dad to provide for us all. Women stayed home and looked after the house and family in those days, so there was only one breadwinner and there were times when life could be hard. Fairs such as those I knew as a child do not seem to be around any more and those today do not offer the big prizes that were there years ago. A plastic toy of little worth will not make a child’s eyes light up as ours did. It is very sad that children today have no knowledge of the wonderful fairs of bygone days which gave such pleasure to many children who lived dull and drab lives.

Many children lived with fathers who came home drunk, spending more on drink than they gave their wives to live on. They would cause havoc and violence in the home and produce baby after baby which they could not afford to keep. Older children were often forced to live out their childhoods as drudges, cleaning and helping the poor mothers look after the little ones, sometimes having to miss school if their mother became sick. For many children a lively imagination was the only way they could add colour to their lives. I believe that it is due to the use of the imagination that the East End of London produced so many well-known writers and theatre personalities.

Our house was a rented, double-fronted shop. The living area was behind the shop and the bedrooms were upstairs. There was no bathroom; you washed in the kitchen and bathed in a galvanised bathtub on a Friday night. There was an outside toilet and yard and at the bottom of the yard was a fence. When older, many went to the local public baths where you paid and would be given a towel. You were allowed a certain amount of time and if you overstate, the attendant would knock on the door and shout “Get out!” and you would rush and dry quickly.


Millwall open air swimming pool

The bottom of our garden looked onto a park , and what a park it was. There was a recreation ground for football, a big open-air swimming pool, a playground with swings, slides, roundabouts and a sandpit. In another area were tennis courts and a big grass area where girls would dress up and play May Queen on May Day and have picnics after school. In the summer holidays we would play out all day long. We never thought about being in danger as children do today, and so we kept our childish innocence a little longer. Of course, we were told not to speak to strangers; this was drummed into us regularly.

On cold winter nights, friends would play ‘I Spy’, looking in the shop windows near us. We lived in the middle of a row of six shops. At the corner, near the entrance to the park was Mrs Kirk’s shop. This was our shop for sweets and groceries, although she never sold the unsalted butter Mum liked and I used to go to a shop further along our street to get that.

Every season had its games. Whipping top, hopscotch, marbles, roller skates, cigarette card swapping, hula-hoop, yoyos and too many more to mention. I cannot remember any child ever saying they were bored.

There was a pub on the corner of the other side of the park entrance and I used to love to lie in my bed and listen to people singing on a Saturday night on their way home after the pub had closed. They would sing the songs Mum and Dad sung with us on a Sunday evening. Some would be drunk, and they all sounded happy. My parents never went to the pub, but would have a drink at home with friends or family when it was a special occasion. They used to think it was shocking to see children outside the pub while their Mums and Dads were inside drinking. This was a part of East End life, and one that many children grew up with and accepted. So long as they had a packet of crisps and lemonade while they waited, they didn’t seem to care.

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 No 57 Bus from the 1930s – Photo (Island History Trust)

With my bedroom facing the street, I felt comforted by the light of the buses as they passed our house. Their headlights would move across the room as the bus went by. Because I was afraid of the dark I would imagine all sorts of horrible creatures lurking in my bedroom. The bus passing would comfort me and make me feel less frightened. I would lie awake and when the last bus had gone all would be still and quiet. My brothers would have been asleep for ages and I would hear Mum and Dad come upstairs. They always kissed each other goodnight, which I could hear, after which I knew I was all alone. Some nights a mist would cover the area and the boats would sound their foghorns, which made the atmosphere even more eerie. I would lie awake and sometimes morning would arrive and I had not slept, or so it seemed at the time. I never told Mum about this, but it was a very bad time for me.

Some nights the toffee apple man would come round the streets, always walking in the middle of the road with his barrow. We would hear him call “Two a penny toffee apples”, just after we children were tucked up in bed. Mum would get cross when we would call out, “Can we have a toffee apple please Mum?” “No! You can’t. It’s not good for your teeth,” was her usual reply, although she did surprise us a few times and brought one up to us.
His call was so loud we couldn’t miss him, but why did he have to come so late we wondered? At times during the holidays a man would come round the streets with a horse and cart. It was only a little horse and on top of the cart he had a roundabout which was also small. It could fit eight children squashed together on the little seats. We had to climb up a little wooden ladder to sit on the seats while he turned the roundabout with his hand and we would go. The ride did not last very long but we all loved it. An empty jam jar was the price for a ride and we would rush to get as many jars as we could from relatives and neighbours before he moved further down the street. I often wondered why he wanted the empty jars but I never asked and so I never found out.

Lorraine at nineteen was a Lucy Clayton Trained Model and modelled in many of London’s top fashion houses.  In 1949, she married a Doctor of Medicine who later became a Consultant  Psychiatrist. and had a daughter and two sons, and is now a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
In 1979 she left England and with her second husband and moved to New Zealand and opened a number of beauty salons and her own Beauty Therapy Training College.
 Lorraine also began to write her own regular page on beauty in The NZ Headway Magazine. In 1987 she and her husband retired and moved to Australia where she developed her creative skills becoming an artist, ceramicist, sculptor, poet and a published author.

Other related posts

Memories of an East End Child by  Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part One

Tragedy at the Anchor and Hope, Westferry Road – 3rd December 2014


Regular readers will know that in the  Isle of Dogs, many of the old pubs on the Island are facing demolition.


Having noticed that the Anchor and Hope on Westferry Road was being prepared to be demolished, I wandered down to get a few photographs this morning to  be faced with a greater tragedy than the pub being demolished.


According to Police reports there was an accident involving a collapsing wall, shortly before 9am. Paramedics were called to the scene but a man, in his 30s, was pronounced dead , 20 minutes later.


The Isle of Dogs is full of building sites and this accident and other recent accidents in London are  a grim reminder they can be very dangerous places.


Memories of an East End Child by Lorraine Roxon Harrington – Part One

violet smith

Photo taken 1933. Left to right. Donald, Violet and Harry.

Recently I was contacted by Lorraine Roxon Harrington who kindly sent some of memories of her childhood on the Isle of Dogs. Lorraine paints a vivid picture of the Island in the 1930s and 1940s, in those days she was known as Violet Smith and lived in Stebondale Street.  Her recollections begin at the start of the World War II, where she describes her family, surroundings and  the strange appeal of  ‘locust’.

When World War II was declared I was twelve-and-a-half years of age. I had previously attended Cubit Town Infants School but had passed my exams and was now at Millwall Central Grammar School. My name was Violet Smith and we were a family of six. There was Mum, Dad and my three younger brothers. I remember us as a close, loving family.
I believe the war did a lot of harm, but as the saying goes, “Out of evil cometh good”, and the one good that came out of the bombing was the demolition of houses ridden with bugs, mice and fleas. Most of these slum houses were owned by the church, and I can understand why my parents were non-believers and could see no good in religion when church authorities allowed such houses to exist, whilst collecting rent from poor people. But our house was not one of them, and Dad, being a builder and decorator, kept it in good order. The area is now very different and part of it is called the Docklands. New, expensive town houses have been built where the wharves once were, and by their sides are moorings for their owners’ boats.


Island Gardens 1945

As a child, I would sit in Island Gardens, a park at the end of our street. The gardens had a playground with a cafeteria and the river Thames flowed past. This is where the underground tunnel to Greenwich is situated. It stands as it was, unchanged by the war. Before the war it was usual for me to sit on one of the park benches on my own and watch the boats go up and down the river laden with cargo. The Thames was always dark brown and murky with bits of old wood and rubbish floating along in the current. Hours would go by and I would write down the names and draw the flags of the boats as they sailed along the river.


Millwall Central Grammar School

Because I was a child with a lively imagination quite a lot of my time was spent daydreaming. My thoughts would carry me away to the countries the boats had come from. Here there was a particular smell, which can still easily evoke memories of the past. When a mist surrounded the area, the smell became more prominent. Of the many things that made up the smell was something called locust. There would be lots of it lying on the ground in the street near the wharves and we children would pick it up and eat it. It was sweet to taste and many years later while on holiday in Spain I saw this curved fruit hanging from the tree. In Spain, the fruit was a nice, fresh, green colour, but it was black and dried when we used to eat it. We had no idea whether it was suitable for human consumption, but we all ate it and no harm came to us. I think it was ground down and used as cattle feed. In those days, children never thought of hygiene and maybe a few of the germs we picked up gave us some protection from disease.


Lots of children would go to the wharves and play on the barges moored by the river, but my brothers and I were never allowed to go near them because Mum and Dad told us it was dangerous and that children had been known to drown or be crushed between two barges. We never heard of any child getting hurt, but that was the story Mum and Dad told us and it was good enough to keep us away. I did go with a friend a couple of times and was amazed at the pieces of broken white clay pipe that were washed up on the muddy beach. I would take a few pieces and use them to draw hopscotch lines on the pavements. How they came to be there, I still do not know. The only reason I can think of is that sailors threw them in the sea when they were broken. They must have been discarded years ago and so they were of great interest to me.
We were lucky children as a park backed onto the end of our garden and although a great deal of poverty existed in the East End, children were never short of parks. There was Greenwich Park with Plum Pudding Hill and Island Gardens where the large domed entrance to the foot tunnel was situated. There was also Blackheath and Kidbrooke, but they were too far away to go to alone.


Greenwich Tunnel Entrance

We lived in Stebondale Street, which led to Island Gardens. The park was home to a round iron lift built in Victorian times. A ride down the lift and a walk through the tunnel and then up another lift and you would arrive in Greenwich. Sometimes, I would play a game with myself imagining that the tunnel suddenly cracked and the river came rushing in and I would run quickly through the tunnel in order not to drown. White glazed tiles covered the tunnel’s curved walls, which were always wet with condensation; I used to think this was the river seeping through. We would shout while running through the tunnel so we could hear the hollow sound and the echo of our voices. I can still hear the noise of the gates as they closed. It was all so exciting and the use of the tunnel was free for everyone to use, and still is today.

Lorraine at nineteen was a Lucy Clayton Trained Model and modelled in many of London’s top fashion houses.  In 1949, she married a Doctor of Medicine who later became a Consultant  Psychiatrist. and had a daughter and two sons, and is now a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
In 1979 she left England and with her second husband and moved to New Zealand and opened a number of beauty salons and her own Beauty Therapy Training College.
Lorraine also began to write her own regular page on beauty in The NZ Headway Magazine. In 1987 she and her husband retired and moved to Australia where she developed her creative skills becoming an artist, ceramicist, sculptor, poet and a published author.

The Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s House in Blackwall


Walter Raleigh’s House in Blackwall in 1873

Anyone who has done any historical research usually comes across items that many people believe to be the truth but there is often very flimsy evidence on which to base that assumption. Walter Raleigh’s House at Blackwall which was demolished in 1881 falls into this category.

The information about the house suggest it was very old but there is nothing to suggest it belonged to Sir Walter, in fact there is more evidence that he had property in Islington.

raleigh islington

Walter Raleigh’s house in Islington

There is no doubt that Sir Walter knew the Tower Hamlets area well, Blackwall in  those times was well known for ships departing or arriving from long voyages and he sent at least a couple of letters from Blackwall. His close relationship with Queen Elizabeth I would mean he was a regular visitor to Greewich . He would also often visit his half brother Humphrey Gilbert in Limehouse  to discuss events of the day. There is evidence he spent some time at Mile End where the Throckmorton’s lived. Bess Throckmorton and  Raleigh secretly married  and it appears he often visited Mile End  in 1595 and especially 1596 when one of his servants died and was buried in St Dunstan’s churchyard. His relationship with Bess would lead him to be sent to the Tower for the first time.

1856 redisent

Print from the Illustrated London News 1856

As one of the most famous men of his day, it seems unlikely if Walter Raleigh had a permanent residency in Blackwall it would not be better known, however that’s not to say that he never stayed at the house. It was very common for mariners to stay in taverns and houses in ports waiting for favourable conditions to set sail.

The idea that the link is tenuous is shared by the Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994),

Blackwall was the site of an ancient timber-framed house which became known, some time during the nineteenth century, as ‘Raleigh’s House’. It stood directly opposite the Artichoke Inn. Any association with the sixteenth century courtier and explorer is extremely tenuous, as is the further claim that the same property had been the residence of Sebastian Cabot.   Raleigh was indeed at Blackwall on many occasions, while waiting to go aboard ship or when on naval business. Many letters written by him are signed from Blackwall, but this is not proof that he was a permanent resident.

A photograph of the house taken in 1873 shows it to have been a jettied timber-framed building in filled with lath and plaster Wooden carvings of grotesque heads decorated the facade. The floor of the house was, by the late nineteenth century, below street level and the main entrance was blocked. As early as 1856 it was suggested that such a quaint house should be preserved and turned into ‘a little almshouse or school’.  This advice was not heeded, and pressures to develop the area eventually led to the demolition of the building, which had been carried out by 1881. Its site was bought by the Metropolitan Board of Works from the London and North West Railway Company in 1888 for the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel.

Until we have more information, it may be sensible to treat the claim of Walter Raleigh’s House in Blackwall with some caution. But it would be nice to find out what the house was used for anyway because it was a large and grand house for its time but information seems very scarce even into the 19th century.




The Story of Mary East by Bram Stoker


The true story of Mary East is a unusual one in many ways often told in various magazines from the mid 18th century. Here the creator of  ‘Dracula’ recounts the story in a theatrical manner for his book Famous Imposters published in 1910.

“A young fellow courted one Mary East, and for him she conceived the greatest liking; but he going upon the highway, was tried for a robbery and cast, but was afterwards transported.”

In 1736, when Mary East was sixteen, life was especially hard on women. Few honest occupations were open to them, and they were subject to all the hardships consequent on a system in which physical weakness was handicapped to a frightful extent. When this poor girl was bereft of her natural hope of a settlement in life she determined, as the least unattractive form of living open to her, to remain single. About the same time a friend of hers arrived at the same resolution but by a different road, her course being guided thereto by having “met with many crosses in love.” The two girls determined to join forces; and on consulting as to ways and means decided that the likeliest way to avoid suspicion was to live together under the guise of man and wife. The toss of a coin decided their respective roles, the “breeches part” as it is called in the argot of the theatre, falling to East.

The combined resources of the girls totalled some thirty pounds sterling, so after buying masculine garb for Mary they set out to find a place where they were unknown and so might settle down in peace. They found the sort of place they sought in the neighbourhood of Epping Forest where, there being a little public-house vacant, Mary now under the name of James How — became the tenant. For some time they lived in peace at Epping, with the exception of a quarrel forced by a young gentleman on the alleged James How in which the latter was wounded in the hand. It must have been a very one-sided affair, for when the injured “man” took action he was awarded £500 damages — a large sum in those days and for such a cause. With this increase to their capital the two women moved to Limehouse on the east side of London where they took at Limehouse-hole a more important public-house. This they managed in so excellent a manner that they won the respect of their neighbours and throve exceedingly.

After a time they moved from Limehouse to Poplar where they bought another house and added to their little estate by the purchase of other houses. Peace, hard work, and prosperity marked their life thence-forward, till fourteen years had passed since the beginning of their joint venture.

Peace and prosperity are, however, but feeble guardians to weakness. Nay, rather are they incentive to evil doing. For all these years the two young women had conducted themselves with such rectitude, and observed so much discretion, that even envy could not assail them through the web of good repute which they had woven round their masquerade. Alone they lived, keeping neither female servant nor male assistant. They were scrupulously honest in their many commercial dealings and, absolutely punctual in their agreements and obligations. James How took a part in the public life of his locality, filling in turn every parish office except those of Constable and Churchwarden.
From the former he was excused on account of the injury to his hand from which he had never completely recovered. Regarding the other his time had not yet come, but he was named for Churchwarden in the year following to that in which a bolt fell from the blue, 1730. It came in this wise : A woman whose name of coverture was Bently,and who was now resident in Poplar, had known the alleged James How in the days when they were both young. Her own present circumstances were poor and she looked on the prosperity of her old acquaintance as a means to her own betterment. It was but another instance of the old crime of “blackmail.” She sent to the former Mary East for a loan of £10, intimating that if the latter did not send it she would make known the secret of her sex. The poor panic-stricken woman foolishly complied with the demand, thus forcing herself deeper into the mire of the other woman’s unscrupulousness. The forced loan, together with Bently’s fears for her own misdeed procured immunity for some fifteen years from further aggression. At the end of that time, however, under the renewed pressure of need Bently repeated her demand. “James How” had not the sum by her, but she sent £5— another link in the chain of her thraldom.

From that time on there was no more peace for poor Mary East. Her companion of nearly thirty- five years died and she, having a secret to guard and no assistance being possible, was more helpless than ever and more than ever under the merciless yoke of the blackmailer. Mrs. Bently had a fair idea of how to play her own despicable game. As her victim’s fear was her own stock-in-trade she supplemented the sense of fear which she knew to exist by a conspiracy strengthened by all sorts of
schemes to support its seeming bona fides. She took in two male accomplices and, thus enforced, began operations. Her confederates called on James How, one armed with a constable’s staff, the other appearing as one of the “thief -takers” of the gang of the notorious magistrate, Fielding — an evil product of an evil time. Having confronted How they told him that they had come by order of Mr. Justice Fielding to arrest him for the commission of a robbery over forty years before, alleging that they were aware of his being a woman.
Mary East, though quite innocent of any such offence but acutely conscious of her imposture of manhood, in her dismay sought the aid of a friend called Williams who understood and helped her. He went to the magistrates of the district and then to Sir John Fielding to make inquiries and claim
protection. During his absence the two villains took Mary East from her house and by threats secured from her a draft on Williams for £100. With this in hand they released their victim who was even more anxious than themselves not to let the matter have greater publicity than it had already obtained. However, Justice demanded a further investigation, and one of the men being captured — the other had escaped — was tried, and being found guilty, was sentenced to imprisonment for four years together with four appearances in the pillory.

Altogether Mary East and her companion had lived together as husband and wife for nearly thirty-five years, during which time they had honestly earned, and by self-denial saved, over four thousand pounds sterling and won the good opinion of all with whom they had come in contact. They were never known to cook a joint of meat for their own use, to employ any help, or to entertain private” friends in their house. They were cautious, careful, and discreet in every way and seemed to live
their lives in exceeding blamelessness.

The pub that Mary East ran in Poplar was the White Horse. An archaeological dig in 2004 found  documentary evidence for a tavern on the site dating from 1690, and  connections to brewing dating back to the 14th century.

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White Horse pub – picture taken by William Whiffen (Poplar Photographer)

The pub was rebuilt in 1870 and in 1928. It closed and was demolished in 2003. All that remains of the historic tavern is a pub sign of a white horse on a pole.