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Monthly Archives: August 2014

The unveiling of the War Memorial Plaque in Island Gardens

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Thursday evening saw the  unveiling of the War Memorial Plaque in Island  Gardens, although it remembers all those from the Isle of Dogs who died in two World Wars, it has been unveiled as part of the large number of events to remember the centenary of the start of the First World War.

The event was well attended by a wide range of local people and representatives from the Police and Fire Brigade.

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The Friends of Island Gardens group have worked with the local council to create a small area within the park which will be a place that people can pay their respects to the many who sacrificed their lives.

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The plaque will act as a reminder that those sacrifices are still remembered even as time marches on.

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Frank Thienel (Treasurer) did the introductions, Sir George Iacobescu, Chief Executive Canary Wharf plc gave a short speech and laid a wreath on behalf of Canary Wharf & the Friends of Island Gardens,  Rita Bensley (Islander) and Chair of the Association of Island Communities gave a speech and unveiled the plaque, the Friends of Island History also laid a wreath.

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Photo’s by Eric Pemberton

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Tower Beach – Remembering London’s ‘Riviera’

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Photograph Museum of London ( Henry Grant 1952)

One of my favourite walks is from the Isle of Dogs to the Tower of London, it is a walk  that offers plenty of Docklands history.

The Tower of London is often surrounded by visitors from all over the world, it is especially popular at the moment with the added attraction of the ceramic poppies installation.

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Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

However few people would realise that between the 1930s and 1970s , it was still a very popular spot but not only for the Tower but also for its beach.

People had walked on the Thames foreshore for thousands of years but Tower Beach as it was known  was created by bringing 1,500 barge loads of sand to the site.

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Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

In 1934, Tower Beach was officially opened , King George V decreed that the beach was to be used by the children of London, and that they should be given “free access forever”.

It was such a success in the 1930s , that it was estimated half a million people had used the beach.

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Photograph English Heritage 1950s

A news paper report from 1934  gives us more details

First, and to most people, most interesting, is the new “lido” on the Thames by Tower Hill. The strip of foreshore, which is uncovered to some width at low tide, has had its shingly surface improved by the addition of sand. A boatman is posted on duty to see that venturesome children do not get themselves into danger, and thousands of boys and girls whose homes are in drab grey buildings clustered at the south of Tower Bridge and London Bridge, are spending happy holiday hours at play there. Even the authorities have been taken by surprise at the new Lido’s popularity. When it was opened a few weeks ago they expected that 500 children a day would visit it. But there were 5,000 a day from the beginning, and considerably more since the summer holidays started.

For the many East End children who had never been to the seaside , this was a great substitute and thousands flocked there especially from Stepney and Poplar.

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Photograph Museum of London(Henry Turner 1935-36)

In many ways it was just like the seaside, you could hire a deck chair and watch the children build their sandcastles, have a paddle, go and buy an ice cream or watch the many entertainers.

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If you wanted to brush up on your history  you could wander into the Tower itself which was free for children.

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A newspaper picture of the beach reopening in 1946

Although Tower Beach was closed during the war ,  normal business resumed in 1946 and was still popular in the 1950s and 1960s. However in the 1970s there were concerns about the pollution in the river and the beach officially closed in 1971.

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The Tower today, no seaside but a sea of poppies

Do not forget that if you are a Tower Hamlets resident you can visit the Tower of London for only £1 , for more details visit the Idea website here

 

 

Remembering the City Canal – The Story of the Limehouse Lock Entrance

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Early 19th century view of West India Docks and City Canal on the left hand side.

One of the interesting aspects of Docklands is the way that history is all around us but is often difficult to recognise. A prime example of this is Limehouse Lock entrance which is situated just below Westferry Circus.

Most of the walkers, joggers and cyclists who cross the bridge over the lock would have no idea about the lock’s historical importance and how its creation was inextricably linked to the ill fated City Canal in the 19th Century.

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Last week a cleaning crew was hard at work cleaning  the lock which allowed a clear view of the still predominately 19th century dock.

The idea of building a canal across the top of the Isle of Dogs had been often raised but it was not until the plans for the West India Docks were finalised that plans for building the canal were discussed seriously.

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The scheme was funded by the Corporation of London who were confident that the short cut would be popular with ship owners, however excavation was slow due to lack of finance.
When the excavation was finally completed in 1804, it was just a case of waiting for the locks to be completed which was expected in 1805. Hopes were dashed of reaching completion when there was a breach in the east end of the canal that need extensive repairs. When the Canal was finally open for business in 1806 it was 3,711ft long between the lock gates, 176ft wide at the surface of the water and 23ft deep at its centre, It cost £133,850 to build.

It quickly become clear that the small savings in time for ships using the canal was not enough to attractive a large amount of business, therefore the Corporation began to let plots near the canal to raise some finance. Ultimately the decision was made to sell the canal to the West India Dock Company in 1829 who renamed the City Canal, the South Dock and stopped all transit passages and connected the dock to other parts of the West India Dock system.

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Limehouse  Lock  entrance  or South Dock West Entrance (Impounding) Lock has it became known were designed as the west  City Canal entrance locks.  Of all the docks entrances  built in the 19th century The South Dock west entrance lock is the only survivor with some of its original features.

It remains basically  unaltered because it was never heavily used,  it has not been used for shipping since 1891.

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Since 1929 it has provided an inlet for water to an Port of London impounding station that maintains the water level in the West India and Millwall Docks. It is now predominately known as the Impounding Dock entrance.

When the  lock was permanently closed in 1928 , the outer gates were removed  and a concrete dam, 15ft thick was built between the gates, containing three pump-discharge pipes and two sluicing-culverts.

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It is interesting when you walk past the lock to try and pick out the older sections that formed the original City Canal entrance. The east entrance to the canal , although greatly modified is still in use for ships entering the West India Docks.

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The Canary Wharf Jazz Festival 15th – 17th August 2014

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In an earlier post, I remarked that many people may be surprised by the fact that Canary Wharf has a quite extensive Arts, Drama and Music calendar.
The highlight of the Music season is the Jazz festival which features established acts and up and coming talent from the Jazz World.

It is London’s largest free jazz festival and takes place  this weekend with a variety of styles from Jazz-funk, Latin, big band, soul, instrumental, and folk – jazz .

FRIDAY 15 AUGUST
7-8pm Ed Barker & Friends
8.30-10pm Riot Jazz Brass Band

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Zara McFarlane

SATURDAY 16 AUGUST
1.30-2.45pm GoGo Penguin
3.15-4.30pm Zara McFarlane
5-6.15pm Hidden Orchestra with special guest Phil Cardwell
6.45-8.15pm Ciyo Brown’s The Motown Sound featuring Gwyn Jay Allen and special guest James Morton

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Polar Bear

SUNDAY 17 AUGUST
1.30-2.45pm Nostalgia 77
3.15-4.30pm Polar Bear
5-6.15pm Yiddish Twist Orchestra
6.45-8.15pm Andy Sheppard Quartet

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Andy Sheppard

Friday 15 – Sunday 17 August
Friday 7-10pm / Saturday 1.30-8.15pm / Sunday 1.30-8.15pm
Canada Square Park
Canary Wharf
FREE

The Tragedy at the Launch of the HMS Albion at Blackwall 1898

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Many thanks to Eric Pemberton who bought to my attention, two remarkable films about the launch of the HMS Albion in Blackwall in 1898.

This launch was made famous by the tragedy that occurred after the launch when over 30 people died when a bridge collapsed.

E.P. Prestwich’s footage of the launch of the battleship HMS Albion is from a high view and shows the ship gliding into the water. However the film by British film-pioneer R.W. Paul is remarkable because it shows from the water , the huge crowds both on and off the water.

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It was estimated that up to 30,000 attended the launch and Paul’s film shows the chaotic scenes along the riverbank. At the end of the film it suggests that a number of the boatmen were desperately trying to help with the rescue  but it is all a confusing scene.

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This tends to support the following news report of the disaster.

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THE ALBION DISASTER
SAD LOSS OF LIFE. GALLANT RESCUES.
36 BODIES RECOVERED. London June 22.

The catastrophe which occurred in connection with the launching of H.M.S. Albion at Blackwall yesterday, was of most appalling character. The Albion is a battleship of 12,900 tons which has just been completed for the Admiralty by the Thames Iron Works Company. Among those present at the launching were the Duke and Duchess of York, Mr. G. J. Goschen (First Lord of the Admiralty), Sir William Vernon Harcourt (Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons), Lord Brassey (the Governor of Victoria), some of the Ambassadors, and a large number of members of the House of Commons.

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The Duchess of York, who christened  the vessel, made three unsuccessful attempts to break a bottle against the ship’s side. Loud cheers greeted the vessel’s approach to the water. The guests then departed. There was a general holiday for the workmen and their wives. These people were massed together, wherever a view of the proceedings was obtainable. Two hundred of the spectators occupied an old wooden bridge, despite the police and placards warning them of the danger. A huge backwash, which followed the launching of the vessel, rose high above the bridge, and swept all the people on it into the river. A terrible scene ensued.

Owing to the shrieking of the siren horns on the boats, the departing guests did not hear the cries of the unfortunate people. Several workmen dived from the quay walls, and rescued some of the screaming women and the babies in arms. Others were saved by means of boats. One gallant sailor rescued no fewer than six persons. The greatest confusion prevailed, the depth of the water where the accident occurred was 12ft. Mr Robinson, of the St. John’s Ambulance Society  revived four of the rescued sufferers by artificial respiration, and altogether 25 were resuscitated by this means. Thirty-six bodies have been recovered. One boat rescued 50 persons. The Duke and Duchess of York have sent a telegram expressing their sorrow at the terrible accident.

The  result of the inquiry into the disaster a verdict of accidental causes, indeed the inquest was quick to point out the crowd itself was responsible for the disaster.

 “no blame was attributable to the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co., nor to the police. There was 30,000 people present, and the disaster  arose from the stupidity of the crowd, who would not accept any warnings of danger. Thousands crowded on to the  dilapidated  bridge which ultimately collapsed under their weight, and refused to obey all orders to got off, Warnings and entreaties were completely disregarded. and the police were jeered and mocked , while vainly attempting to avert the impending danger.”

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I doubt whether a modern inquiry would be so lenient with the police or the company who if they allowed so many people in a small area should have been more responsible. The great tragedy was most of the victims were women whose heavy clothing would have given them little chance of survival in the currents of the Thames.

If you would like to see the films here is a couple of links that will take you to You Tube.

Launch of HMS Albion at Blackwall (1898) Prestwich Film  here

‘The Launch of H.M.S. Albion’ (1898) Paul film here

Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic in Poplar – 10th August

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A few weeks ago, Aspen Way just behind Canary Wharf was thronged with spectators watching the Tour de France flash by, today there was not the large crowds but a British Tour de France winner with Sir Bradley Wiggins contesting the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic .

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The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic is the final event of the Mayor of London’s  festival of cycling.

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Other   top cyclists in the field are 2012 World Champion Philippe Gilbert, Laurens ten Dam and Steven Kruijswijk, 19th and 15th respectively in this year’s Tour de France, plus five medallists from the Commonwealth Games – Luke Davidson, Tom Scully (both gold), Shane Archbold (gold and bronze), Scott Thwaites and Aaron Gate (both bronze).

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After  a rainy thundery morning, the sun shone as the cyclists made their way from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford down to Aspen Way before going into Central London and then into the Surrey Countryside.

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The finish will be in the Mall between 5.30 and 6pm.

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Aboard the Luigi Durand de la Penne in West India Dock

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One of the pleasures of living near to West India Dock  is to see the ships that visit, but an added bonus is that on some occasions you can actually go aboard the ship to have a look around.

The Italian Destroyer Luigi Durand de la Penne is unusual that it is open to the public for most of its stay.

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The crew welcomed aboard this morning a large number of local children who were quite excited to go aboard such a large warship.

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The Luigi Durand is a guided-missile destroyer  whose sleek shape is specially designed according to  stealth principles.

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The weapons are all over the ship with both long and short distance missile systems.

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The ship  is named after a famous naval diver who served in the Regia Marina during World War II, Luigi Durand de la Penne. He, together with other members of X MAS made the most successful human torpedo mission, damaging the British battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant in Alexandria, December 1941.

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Here is a couple of picture of the ship leaving on Wednesday 13th , kindly provided by Eric Pemberton.

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