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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Super Yacht Kalinga in West India Dock


The two Super Yacht in West India Dock, Sovereign and WindQuest  were yesterday afternoon joined by a third Kalinga.


Although quite old , launched in 1982, Kalinga  was built  at the famous Dutch shipyard Feadship.

Kalinga is a 53.70m yacht with a steel hull with a aluminium superstructure with a beam of 8.80m  (28’10″ft) and a 3.00m  (9’10″ft) draft .


She has a cruising speed of 15.00 knots, max speed of 16.00 knots and a range of 4000.00 nm. from her 72,000.00l. fuel tanks.


Kalinga has accommodation for up to 12 guests in 6 suits comprising 1 owner cabin, 2 double cabins.
It appears that the ship has been used for charter in recent years and we have no information how long the ship will be in West India Dock.


Just to prove that the dock is not just for Super yachts , at the end of the dock is the historic ships Massey Shaw and the Portwey. Also moored nearby is the training ship Lord Amory.



A very tidy crew

The Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands


In a couple of recent posts, I have given some background on the Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands which opens to the public on the 27th June.

Well just before the big day, the press was given access to what is likely to be one of the highest profile exhibitions ever held at the Museum of London Docklands.


The exhibition is based in the 19th century warehouse which provides the ideal setting for the paintings, prints , photographs and films.


Old Hungerford Bridge – William Henry Fox Talbot (copyright Museum of London)

Without doubt the star of the show  is the very early photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot,  it is quite incredible that the photograph has survived at all . Called  ‘ Old Hungerford Bridge’ the photo was taken in 1845 , when Fox Talbot was beginning to perfect the process that would dominate photography for the next 150 years. It is somewhat ironic that the bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel only survived 15 years but this extremely fragile photograph has survived over 160 years.

The Exhibition is built around the themes of Bridge ,River, Building , Crowds and Icons.

The Bridge theme considers the way that London for a long period reliant on London Bridge for a crossing, in the 19th century went through a Bridge building explosion fuelled by the industrial revolution and the growth of the railways.

Etchings by Whistler illustrate this growth and pays  homage to Old Westminster Bridge.

The painting by Joseph Farrington made in 1789 gives an almost dreamlike impression of London before major building works on the river began.


Lucinda Grange with a very rare photo of inside London Bridge

More recently the photograph taken inside London Bridge by Lucinda Grange challenges some of our preconceptions of bridges.

The River theme makes the obvious point that without the river, London as we know it would not probably exist. The Thames has been a constant through centuries of change and has provided major challenges  to those who would like to cross it . The William Raban film provides a visual tour through some of the stranger aspects of the river.


The Building theme remind us that building bridges are not always an easy process and are often sources of great engineering ingenuity.


The etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi of Blackfriars Bridge in 1766 illustrates some of the weird and wonderful designs that do not always come to fruition, the recent Thomas Heatherwick  proposal for a Garden Bridge may be  a classic case of this phenomenon.

Thomas Heatherwick Garden Bridge

Thomas Heatherwick (copyright Arup)

The Crowds theme looks at the way that Londoners have used the bridges often for their daily commute, this has often fascinated artists and photographers. The picture by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson from 1927 illustrates London as a working  industrial city.


Finally, the exhibition looks at the way that the bridges themselves become Icons and how they come to represent the city as a whole. For many centuries London Bridge had its iconic role, however in more recent times Tower Bridge has become a focus of world attention especially during the 2012 Olympic Games.

ewan gibbs , london 2007

Ewan Gibbs, London, 2007

Ewan Gibbs Linocut offers a different view which in many ways references Whistler’s work.

Though the  exhibition is relatively small, its ambition and themes are large. Like the Museum’s recent exhibition Estuary  it examines how the river has played a major part in London’s development and how Bridges have become an integral part of that story.

Using the Museum of London’s considerable art resources past and present , this free exhibition is one not to miss and if your bridge fixation is not satisfied visit other parts of the museum to see a scale model of Old London Bridge and many other interesting exhibits.

 Museum of London Docklands – Bridge exhibition

27 June – 2 November 2014,

FREE exhibition,

For more information visit  the Museum of London Docklands website here

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – The Thunderstorm Census Organisation


Eric Pemberton has sent a wide range of postcards which I have shared with readers over the last year or so.

Last week he sent a postcard that were quite unusual because it seemed to be related to recording Thunderstorms in East London.

It has been filled in by a P.G Frank who was stationed one mile east of Whitechapel Church in 1933.

weather 2

After a little piece of research it appears that the postcards were part of a remarkable project undertaken by a S  Morris Bower of Huddersfield.

Modern Weather forecasting relies on satellite photographs and cutting edge technology, however  before the digital revolution the weather forecasters relied on data often collected by ordinary people.

What was remarkable about Mr S Morris Bower was the scale of his project, he was always fascinated by thunderstorms and in 1924 decided to set up the Thunderstorm Census Organisation.

Showing a great deal of initiative he wrote to many newspapers and magazines asking for volunteers who would record thunderstorms in their area and send the data back to Mr Morris Bower in Huddersfield.


Mr Morris Bower and his wife with a weather station in their garden

Once the data was received both Mr Morris Bower and his wife collated the information and published the information in a annual report.

A newspaper report from the thirties gives us a little more information:

Annual Report On Disturbances

Mr S. Morris Bower, a young Huddersfield man, is known in the north of England as “the man who collects thunderstorms. “What he calls himself is “honorary director of the thunderstorm survey.”
Mr Bower has collected during the past few years so much data about thunderstorms from all over the British Isles that he is now able to publish an annual report.
He has organised a small army of voluntary observers to work for him. They include naval and military officers, M.Ps, country vicars, shepherds, and scientists.
There arc more than 1,000 of them scattered up and down the country in crowded cities, on isolated farms, and in lonely lighthouses.
Whenever there is a thunderstorm in their district they fill in special postcards supplied by Mr Bower, and post them to him.

It is suggested that the organisation once had 3000 volunteers who would send off their pre paid postcards.

The cost alone regardless of time and labour was considerable but he and his wife seemed to make it their life’s work.

Amazingly they carried on recording the data from 1924 to 1982 when he died.

His method for measuring distance was interesting, he asked people to measure the time from the lightening strike to the thunderclap and worked out that 5 seconds was the equivalent to one mile.

This was often taught to schoolchildren, how accurate it was is open to question.

One the back of the postcard there is a franked message which says ” The best investment is a telephone ” , but for this type of research that was not the answer because so few people had telephones especially in remote areas.


Lotus Racing in Canary Wharf


Canary Wharf on a Sunday morning is often a quiet place, ideal for a morning stroll around the old docks.


However this morning, many people’s quiet morning was disturbed by the roar of  a racing car.

RSCN3280 (2)

Under further investigation I came upon a rather strange scene of a racing car roaring around a small section of Canary Wharf watched by a few bemused spectators and a number of stewards.

RSCN3279 (2)

The pit stop was manned by Lotus racing , so I am presuming it was some kind of photo shoot for the team.


It is a strange aspect of Canary Wharf is that they do have a number of Camera Crews about at weekends.

WindQuest Catamaran in West India Dock


Earlier in the week, we welcomed Super Yacht Sovereign  and now we have the arrival of a 85 foot Super yacht catamaran WindQuest.


Built by French yacht builders JFA  in 2014 , this is the first of  a semi-custom “Long Island” series. The hulls are aluminum-built while the deck is in composite material.
WindQuest has three staterooms and an office.  In total, eight guests and six crew can be accommodated.


It has been built for fast cruising but has plenty of room for all the accessories including a tender.

It has recently completed her maiden voyage in southern Brittany, and will sail along the English Channel and down the Atlantic coast travelling from London to Lisbon this summer before heading to  the Caribbean this winter.


Although we have plenty of Super yachts that visit West India Dock, however catamaran’s Super yachts of this size are unusual.


As is often the case, how long the boat will be in the dock is unknown.

Underneath the Arches – The Bridges of London


In a previous post I wrote about the forthcoming exhibition called Bridge at the  The Museum of Docklands. To give some insight into the exhibition, the museum organised a trip on the river by Thames Clipper to have a closer look at some of London Bridges.


With renown architectural historian Dan Cruikshank as our guide, we departed London Bridge Pier and were made aware that it was once London Bridge that dominated the Thames for over 1700 years.

It was in the 18th and 19th century that a series of bridges were built  over the Thames that  meant that London Bridge lost its unique position in London and when the medieval bridge was finally pulled down  in 1830  to be replaced by an elegant but not iconic stone bridge, it lost  most of its historical significance.


The bridges opened up the city to encourage development of the South of the River and enable freedom of people to move  between the North and South especially when tolls were done away with.

When your on the river and get past Tower Bridge heading west, you quickly realise how many bridges there are, ranging from  pedestrian, railway  and multi purpose bridges.


A few surprising facts are given by Dan Cruikshank  such as the solid-looking London Bridge is actually  hollow inside, in fact in the exhibition is a photograph by Lucinda Grange  which illustrates this.

Luncinda Grange - Inside London Bridge

Inside London Bridge (copyright Lucinda Grange)

A couple of rather unusual facts was that Waterloo Bridge is known as the ‘Ladies Bridge’ because it was said it was mostly built using the labour  of women in the Second World War , it also has a more melancholy reputation due to the high number of people who have committed suicide throwing themselves from it.


The exhibition will have a large number of exhibits that will show existing and demolished bridges in paintings, prints and photographs, however it will also look at the way artists and writers have used bridges in their work.

It is perhaps with some irony that the Bridge Exhibition will take place in a warehouse in the West India Dock area because it was the shipping trade that curtailed any suggestion of bridges east of Tower Bridge.

The only major crossings attempted in this area were the tunnels at Wapping, Rotherhithe and Blackwall.

For those who cannot make the exhibition, I will be writing a review next week.

The Bridge Exhibition will run from 27th June – 2nd November at the Museum of Docklands

For more information visit the Museum website here

Super Yacht Sovereign in West India Dock


Now the warmer weather has arrived, we are having a few more visitors into West India Dock and today we welcome the Super yacht  Sovereign.

We do not often have American built yachts visiting the docks, however the Sovereign was built by Newcastle Shipyards in Palm Coast, Florida .


When it was built-in 2011, the boat was known as  Harbour Island, it changed ownership and underwent a name change  in 2012.


It is a 54.90m (180 ft ) luxury yacht which has a steel hull with an aluminium superstructure with a beam of 10.40m  (34’1″ft) and a 2.90m  (9’6″ft) draft.

Sovereign has a top speed of 15 knots and  a cruising speed of 12 knots.


Sovereign has  accommodation for up to 14 guests in 6 suites . She is also capable of carrying up to 7 crew on board.


As regular readers will know, finding who owns the ship and how long it will remain in West India Dock is very difficult. In the secretive world of Super yachts, perhaps not surprisingly they are very reticent to give out information.

Picture the Moment – The Photographs of Roxy Kapranos


Shadows (Paris)

One of the pleasures of writing a blog is that you find a lot of talented people who live in or are inspired by the Isle of Dogs. A few weeks ago I came across the work of Roxy Kapranos , Roxy is a local photographer who has lived on the Island for over six years and often uses local locations as the backdrop to her photo shoots.


Divers (Dubai)

Photography has been a life long passion for Roxy  and was often found taking pictures with her father’s camera as she was  taken around the ancient sites in Greece by her parents. She can still remember the excitement of returning home to the UK  and helping her father process the photographs in a small lab.


She still likes to take photographs in exotic places as illustrated by the photographs from Dubai and Paris.

Family L

However Roxy is really in demand for her portrait photography and family photography, although she does some conventionally posed photographs, her aim is to produce a more spontaneous and natural photographs. Her philosophy is based on that the more formal photography does not always allow for the sitter’s personality to come through and when photographing children especially you have to often get them to forget the camera is there and allow them to behave naturally.


To achieve this she will often travel to outside settings such as a garden or even Mudchute farm to make sure everyone is relaxed and she is better able to capture those moments that show the individuals personality and shows the interaction between different members of the family.


Roxy makes the point that even though many people have a camera, many families will have photographs where there is often an important member of the family missing ! the one taking the photographs.

It is often later in life when people realise they do not have many photographs of someone special to them.


This may suggest that it would be useful in having an outside photographer who can sometimes ensure there are at least some occasions that the whole family can be photographed together.

2nd Birthday

If  you would like to see more of Roxy’s work or find more information, visit her website here

Boris Akunin,The Winter Queen and the Isle of Dogs


Over the past year or so, I have tried to show that the Isle of Dogs although widely considered a bit of  literary wasteland  has featured in a number of works by  authors. Carol Rivers tends to base most of her novels on the Island and she is in a long line of writers who have featured this small piece of London in their writing.

However I have recently come across a book that surprisingly features the Island, why surprisingly ? because it was written by a Russian author Boris Akunin which is the pen name for Grigory Chkartishvili, a Russian writer, academic and translator.

The book is called the Winter Queen (although originally called Azazel in Russia) and features a young police detective called Erast Fandorin, the book first published in 1998 is incredibly popular in Russia where it has sold 15 million copies.

The Winter Queen is the first novel of the Erast Fandorin series of historical detective novels and is based in Moscow in the 1870s.  The story begins with the apparent suicide of  a wealthy university student,  he leaves his large fortune to the newly opened Moscow orphanage of Astair House, an international network of schools for orphan boys founded by an English noblewoman, Lady Astair.

The  open-and-shut suicide case is given to the  inexperienced 20-year-old detective Erast Fandorin who begins to suspect that things are not quite what they seem.

Fandorin begins to suspect that a glamorous femme fatale Amalia is involved and follows her to the Winter Queen Hotel in London. When he confronts her there is a struggle and his gun goes off and Amalia lies on the floor apparently dead.

Fandorin panics and runs away and finally ends up on the Isle of Dogs.

On the Isle of Dogs, in the maze of narrow streets behind Millwall Docks , night falls rapidly. Before you can so much as glance over your shoulder the twilight has thickened from grey to brown and one in every two or three of the sparse street lamps are already glowing . It is dirty and dismal , the Thames ladens the air with damp, the rubbish tips adding the scent of putrid decay. The streets are deserted , with the only life , both disreputable and dangerous, teeming around the shady pubs and cheap furnished lodgings.

It is safe to say that his first impressions were not great and the guesthouse he selects is not much better.

The rooms in the “Ferry Road” guesthouse are home to decommissioned sailors ,petty swindlers and ageing port trollops.

The landlord is known as Fat Hugh who is always on his guard because ” The clientele here is a mixed bunch and you never know what they might be getting up to.”


Ferry House Pub

Obviously the Ferry Road guesthouse is likely to based on the Ferry House pub, the oldest pub on the Island and already over a hundred years old even in 1876 when the story is based.

Fandorin lies low and consider what to do next , but things begin to move quickly, he is kidnapped and tied up in a sack and  dropped from a pier into the Thames. The ever resourceful Fandorin escapes and leaves the Isle of Dogs to return to Moscow.


Millwall Docks

Although there are mention of Millwall Docks and Ferry Road there are no other clues to other locations on the Island but that has not stopped fans of the book from making a pilgrimage to the Island to follow the footsteps of their fictional hero.

The book is an exciting adventure mystery and Fandorin a bit of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones with a Russian twist, but the real mystery is why a Russian based author with no obvious connections to London would set part of his novel in a not widely known part of East London.



The Return of the West India Dock Pier ?

Anita Gerzsenyi

West India dock Pier , last year (Photo copyright Anita Gerzsenyi)

Last year I was lamenting the state of West India Dock Pier which had been derelict for 20 years and was slowly getting worse.

old pier

Pier – last year

Imagine my surprise in the last few weeks when there were signs that the old pier was getting a bit of a facelift. It was at this stage when I began to grow a little bit curious of what was happening.


Pier – now

If you look at the pier now, you may find it hard to believe that there has been a pier on this site  since the 1870s. The original pier was built-in 1874–5 to allow access for merchants to the East and West India Dock Company’s new wool warehouses at the South Dock of the West India Docks.

Since then it has been used in many schemes to provide a comprehensive transport service on the river. In 1905 – 1908 it was part of the Penny Steamer Service, then it was used by private steamboat operators before being transferred to the new Port of London Authority (PLA) in 1909.

originala linney 1936

West India Dock Pier 1936 Photo A.G. Linney (Museum of London)

It was in use up to the Second World War,  then the  pier was destroyed from German bombing in 1941.

The pier was rebuilt in 1949–50, it was one of the stopping points for the river buses in the Festival of Britain.

It was used by Docklands River Bus service in 1987–91 which was subsidised by Olympia and York, builders of Canary Wharf.  When they had financial troubles the River service was stopped.


One of the 1980s River Buses

But what of the present ? I was fortunate enough to come across the pier’s new owner who kindly showed me around the pier and gave me some indications of his plans.

Unfortunately twenty years of neglect has led to some damage to the pier, so the first priority for the new owner is to repair the damage and give the pier a bit of a makeover in a way  sympathetic to its surroundings.


He is fully aware of the pier’s history and is keen to restore the pier to reflect this, he also has another historical project in mind.


Tied next to the pier’s pontoon is a large barge which has quite a history of its own. The barge is a Humber Keel barge which was once owned by Victor Waddington who was known as the “King of the Canals”.

Born in Yorkshire, he  inherited a small family boatyard, EV Waddington of Swinton and Mexborough, and turned it into a multi-million pound inland canal fleet.

Whilst others left the canals to leisure craft, he carried on hauling freight around the Humber estuary,  the South Yorkshire mines and steel foundries.

In the 1980s, he was estimated to have been worth 40 million pounds and run a fleet of 80 large barges. His particular favourite barge was the Northern King  which now stands attached to the West India Dock pier pontoon.


Built in 1928 by well-known barge builders J Scarr of Howden, the Northern King was still a working boat at Waddington’s up till a few years ago.

When you get close to the barge it seems enormous and it is not hard to imagine it winding its way through the Yorkshire canals full of steel.


However like the pier it has seen better days and needs considerable restoration to bring it back to its former glory.

With a large number of historic parts of the Isle of Dogs under threat from modern development it is nice to report that one old tumbledown Isle of Dogs pier may be getting a new lease of life.