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The Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s House in Blackwall

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

NATO Fleet in West India Dock – Part Two

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After yesterday’s excitement of the arrival of seven NATO warships, West India Dock is a little bit quieter today.

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The warships  include  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.

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Although unusual, there have been a few visits by ships in the NATO fleet in the last few years.

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All the ships are generally involved with mine detection or mine laying and the detection of enemy submarines and ships.

The ships from Eastern Europe show how times have changes, before the end of the Cold War they would have been seen as the enemy.

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How long they remain in dock is not known but any visitor to the West India Dock interested in ships and boats is in for a treat, as well as the Nato Ships, there are the historic ships the Massey Shaw and Portwey plus the Thames Sailing Barge Will.

For a different view, regular contributor Eric Pemberton has sent a couple of the ships turning into the dock.

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The way the ships and tugs come down the Thames and line up to go through the Blue Bridge is always interesting  to watch.

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NATO Fleet in West India Dock – November 19th 2014

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West India Dock was a hive of activity as a number of ships from a number of countries arrived. As part of a larger fleet, many of the ships had been on a NATO exercise called Joint Warrior in October. It was Europe’s largest military exercise which started off the coast of Scotland and involved 22 ships and submarines, as well as the vast number of warships there was 52 fixed wing aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm and RAF and  3500 personnel taking part.

In the exercises, Lithuanian Minelayer LNS Jotvingis led the other fleet minehunters, 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.

It was all these ships who have arrived at West India Dock today.

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M1068 Datteln built at Lürssen launched 1994.

Datteln is a Type 332 Frankenthal class mine hunter which is a class of German mine hunters. The ships are built of non-magnetic steel. Hull, machinery and superstructure of this class is similar to the original Type 343 Hameln class minesweeper.

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Latvian Navy LVNS Talivaldis M06

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HNLMS Zierikzee (M862) is one of six Dutch Alkmaarclass minehunters, based on the Tripartite design – built as a partnership program between France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The ship has a Glass-Fibre Reinforced Polyester Hull.

BNS Crocus (M917) is a Tripartite class minehunter of the Belgian Naval Component, launched on September 3, 1986 at the Mercantile-Belyard shipyard in Rupelmonde It was the third of the Belgian Tripartite class minehunters

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Polish Navy’s ORP Flaming, a Projekt 206FM-class minehunter,
The Project 206FM class originally designated Project 206F, were mine-countermeasure vessels of the Polish Navy built during the mid-1960s  at the Komuny Paryskiej Shipyard in Gdynia.

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N42 Jotvingis of the Lithuanian Navy is a Norway Vidar-class minelayer Minelayer , Former HNoMS Vidar (N52) of the Royal Norwegian Navy.

EML Sakala (M314) is a Sandown-class minehunter of the Estonian Navy and belongs to the Estonian Navy Mineships Division.

The EML Sakala  was built in the United Kingdom, in a Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. The vessel was launched on 27 February 1990 and she entered service a year later on 24 January 1991. She was known as the HMS Inverness  but was sold to the Estonian Navy.

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As it was unknown that all the ships were arriving today, it is not known how long they will be here.

 

Remembering the London Trolleybus

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One of my regular contributors, Coral Rutterford sent me a film about London Trolleybuses and she reminisced about travelling on one the trolleybuses that used to travel around London.

 I remember these and often the driver had to get out and put the trolley wires back in place and move on. This brought back memories of places where my relations once lived, where I lived, and places that I recall like Gardiners Corner when the huge shop Gardiners once dominated the crossroads. Sadly that has gone and a small stone plaque against a wall now marks where it once stood.

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Gardiners Corner

I must confess I have never seen an old trolleybus in action and was quite fascinated about how and why they took over from Trams. It seemed strange they did not just convert to motor buses but it did make some economic and political sense as the power generated to operate the trolleybus was from British coal fired power stations whilst much of the fuel used in cars and buses was imported from abroad. I was also quite surprised looking at the research that the modern nostalgia for trams was often at odds with feelings of the time a newspaper report of the time remarks

In 1933 London had 2564 trams, carrying 13 million passengers daily, but traffic conditions were so chaotic that other road users could only travel along main streets, even in off-peak periods, at a snail’s pace.

But the decision to do away with the trams was controversial, another newspaper report states:

As we anticipated when the announcement was made a couple of months ago, the proposal of the London Passenger Transport Board to seek powers to convert certain of their tramway routes to trolley-bus operation has aroused a great deal of opposition. It is now stated that 72 petitions have been deposited against the Bill, these emanating from such diverse bodies as the county and borough councils, the Trustees of the British Museum, ground landlords, like the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Duke of Bedford, the Automobile Association, and the Royal Automobile Club.

But when the decision was made to convert to trolley buses, the Times at least were happy

The ‘Times’ states: ‘For over 75 years the tramway, horse-drawn and electrically driven, has held sway. Today it is being fast replaced — and rightly so — by the trolley omnibus, which is that rare thing, a successful compromise.’

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Other than they were slow, Trams were costly to set down tracks and any breakdown would disrupt the entire system, Trolleybuses needed no tracks just overhead power lines, they could hold up to 70 passengers and were clean and quiet. The first routes were opened in 1931 and by the mid 1930s trolleybuses were introduced across the capital. In fact the system became so popular many other cities set up their own trolleybuses networks.

However, trams  just did not just disappear, in 1950 there were still 850 trams in use but the writing was on the wall.

 London Transport chairman, Lord Latham, said ‘buses were quieter and more comfortable. The same mileage could be covered in much shorter time and use of buses had transformed the most congested traffic spots. Bus services had achieved far greater regularity than was possible with trams, with consequent reductions in waiting time for passengers. ‘The changes in conditions at a number of key points are little short of dramatic,’ said Latham. ‘Improvements have been achieved because of the greater mobility of buses over trams where delay of a single vehicle affected all those behind it, and because tram conversion has freed the centres of roads from hold-ups. ‘Private and commercial vehicles using the affected routes are now able to do their journeys into and about London in much less time and with greater ease.’

However the victory of the Trolley bus over the tram was short-lived by the end of the 1950s, the increase of motor cars on the road and the cost of replacing the ageing trolleybuses led to a decision to convert entirely to diesel motor buses. By the 1960s , the age of the London trolleybus was over and although some 125 were sold to Spain, the great majority were scrapped.

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Like Coral, many people who rode them tended to like them, they were large, clean and quiet. People tended to like the way the crackling on the wires let you know a trolley bus on its way and the shower of sparks from the connectors at certain points. Most people mention the driver  with a long pole to put the connector back on the wire when it dropped off. The trolley bus system did not come onto the Isle of Dogs but did have a terminus at the West India Dock and a stop at Poplar on the way to the Royal Docks.

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The age of the London trolleybus may have ended in the 1960s, but even as recently as 2012, there have been calls for them to be reintroduced. Many people believe the environmentally friendly Trolleybus is one of the answers to the traffic gridlocks in major cities.

The (Old) Isle of Dogs from A to Z by Mick Lemmerman

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Photo Cover, (Peter Wright)

Regular readers to the blog will know that I often refer to another Isle of Dogs blog called Isle of Dogs Past Life, Past Lives run by Mick Lemmerman,  Mick (who was born in Whitechapel, but moved to the Island when he was eight) with colleagues Con Maloney and Peter Wright have been responsible for collecting photographs and documents about the Island and making them widely available on a number of websites. Mick has recently started to collate all this information and now has produced a book that gives a comprehensive view of the people, firms, schools, churches, buildings, streets and landmarks on the Isle of Dogs.

As well as concise descriptions and interesting nuggets of information, there are a large number of historical photographs of people and places.  For example many Islanders remember the Glass Bridge, the book gives the following history.

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Photo Glass Bridge, Jackie Wade (nee Jordan)

Glass Bridge   When the dock company stated at the end of the 1950s its intention to close the Glengall Rd. bridge over Millwall Docks, protests and support from the council lead to the construction of a high-level footbridge across the docks, very quickly referred to as the Glass Bridge due to its glass enclosure.
The bridge became a target for vandals and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed and it was demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1983.

One aspect of the Isle of Dogs is that it is always changing and the book lists many of the streets, buildings and landmarks that have disappeared over time. The ever changing nature of the Island  is especially noticeable when considering  the Island pubs, many now a distant memory but fondly remembered by many. One of my favourite illustrations is the ill fated actress Jayne Mansfield serving a pint in the George, which is still with us but pubs like the Anchor and Hope are in a sorry state awaiting demolition.

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Photo Anchor & Hope, (Peter Wright)

The book also offers some original photographs  of  well known Isle Of Dogs landmarks such as Mudchute.

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Photo Mudchute, (Mick Lemmerman)

Mudchute (aka Muddy)   The name derives from it being the former dumping ground for mud dredged from the Millwall Docks which had to be regularly dredged to prevent silting up. A novel, pneumatic device was employed which pumped the liquefied mud through a pipe over East Ferry Rd. (close to the George pub), dumping it on the other side.

However looking through the book  it is noticeable that many of the streets on the Island have changed almost beyond recognition. Cuba Street being a prime example.

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Photo Cuba St, (Peter Wright)

Cuba St.   Name changed from Robert St. (after Robert Batson) in 1875. As with other streets in the area, it was named after places in the West Indies (a major source of sugar imports into the West India Docks).

This book would appeal to people who have lived in the area all their life and to the new residents who want to find out more about one of the most interesting parts of East London. It will also appeal to anyone with an interest in the area and the people and would like to  find out more. Even those of us who think we know a bit about the Island will find in the book a number of genuine surprises.

Mick has provided a valuable resource to the many people and amateur historians interested in the Island. This together with the Island Trust books are invaluable for understanding the amazing history of the Island.

If you would know more  about the book or would like to buy a copy in either print or eBook , visit the Amazon store here

 

Super Yacht Kismet in West India Dock -November 11th 2014

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To prove that good things come in threes, we have another visitor in West India Dock that arrived yesterday afternoon. With due respect to the Sailing barge and the French Patrol boat , this ship is a bit of a celebrity causing considerable interest as it was initially moored near Tower Bridge for the last few days.  Part of the reason for the interest in the Super yacht Kismet is that it is suggested it is owned by the owner of Fulham FC, Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan.

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Shahid Khan is also the owner of the NFL  team the Jacksonville Jaguars who played the Dallas Cowboys at an International Series game on Sunday.  It is reported in United States newspapers that he entertained the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and others at a party on the yacht over the weekend.

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A major clue to the ownership is a silver Jaguar has been recently  attached to the bow, with one of its paws resting on a silver American football helmet. However it must be detachable because in West India Dock it is not there.

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Kismet is 308ft long has  three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area

This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan , a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £69 million last year.  The  new Kismet is  94 meter (308ft) and  built at German boatyard Lurssen.

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The ship features exterior styling by Espen Øino and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20.

Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and  if you fancy life aboard, the super yacht can be chartered for £940,000 or  1.6 million dollars a week.

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