The Isle of Dogs is a collection of all kinds of buildings, however Jubilee Crescent is unusual in many ways. Built in 1935 by architect G R Unthank, Jubilee Crescent is a very attractive group of properties that stand in their own landscaped grounds. They have that sort of 1930s design that would not look out-of-place in the suburbs but represents quite a different design for the Isle of Dogs.
The story behind the building of the crescent is tied into the Island’s history of ship building and the philanthropic works of one the largest local firms. Local ship repairing firm, R. & H. Green & Silley Weir Ltd were based in Blackwall and were part of a long shipbuilding tradition. R. and H. Green Ltd was formed from the old-established Blackwall firm of Wigram and Green who were famous shipbuilders in the 19th century, however with the decline of Thames shipbuilding in the early 20th century, R. & H. Green became part of ship repairing partnership called R. and H. Green and Silley Weir.
It was the chairman of the firm, John Silley, who was determined to provide homes for retired workers of the shipbuilding and repairing industries. Silley had already built some dwellings for his workers in Falmouth and chose the Isle of Dogs to build a series of dwellings that would mark King George V’s Silver Jubilee.
Silley approached the Port of London Authority and persuaded them to give him 1.5 acres on the edge of the Mudchute in exchange for some land owned by his firm at Beckton. The firm then provided the money to build the flats and then handed them over to a trust – the Shipworkers Jubilee Housing Trust – which initially let the dwellings at 2s 6d per week. The scheme received a State housing subsidy, and Poplar Borough Council co-operated by charging a special inclusive figure for the costs of rates (at a nominal assessment of £3 per house), electric light, and water rates, so that these could be covered by the rent.
The crescent got its name because it was built-in the year of the Silver Jubilee of King George and Queen Mary. There are two reliefs of the King and Queen on the front of two houses in the crescent.
John Silley was a committed Christian who contributed toward the YMCA and numerous other charities, however although Green and Silley Weir still had 8,000 employees in the 1960s, the firm went into decline and in 1977 was sold to become part of the Government-owned River Thames Shiprepairers.
Staff at R. & H. Green and Silley Weir Ltd’s Blackwall establishment
Date: circa 1930s (Photo Royal Museums Greenwich)
Amazingly, although the firm has now disappeared, Jubilee Crescent managed to avoid the bomb damage that blighted this particular area in the war and still provides very attractive accommodation for retired people and is managed by a housing trust.