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Monthly Archives: May 2015

E14 Book Launch at George Green’s School – 30th May 2015


Part of the task of writing a blog like Isle of Dogs Life is to undertake a great deal of research and to read many of the fascinating stories associated with the Isle of Dogs. It is through the stories of people’s experiences that allows you  to gather insights about the past.

Recently I was made aware of a project that seeks to develop people’s storytelling skills by helping them to get know their community; its history, its achievements and the issues that matter most to people.

The project has been developed by Queen Mary, University of London as  a leadership development program for people who live, work, or study in the E14 postcode of Tower Hamlets. The program was open for everyone regardless of ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds.

Part of the project was to produce a book of some of the stories the group had gathered. The book is titled E14: Our Stories (Stories of hope from an East London Postcode). The launch of this book celebrating the achievements and local heroes of communities from the E14 postcode of Tower Hamlets will take on Saturday 30th May  at George Green’s School from 12-1:30pm.

The launch is an  opportunity to  learn about the project, meet some local heroes and enjoy food and drink from different cultures. There will also be copies of the book available to take away on the day.

The scope of the project  includes the personal development of the participants but looks at ways to make positive change in the local community.

It is remarkable the way that the interest in local history and history in general has grown in recent years.  There is many reasons for this, however you usually find in times of rapid changes there is a tendency to look back to make sense of where we are going. Looking into a history of a particular location also tends to give you a sense of perspective, for those who think times on the Island are bad now, may want to read about the Distress of the 1860s or the experiences of those who survived the Blitz.

It is also worth remembering that Charles Dickens wrote about his visit to the Isle of Dogs, Joseph Conrad wrote about the docks, more recently Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair have featured the area,  the E14 group are following a long tradition of storytellers to want to tell the story of this fascinating piece of East London.

If you would like to find out more about the book and the project, why not attend the launch on Saturday 30th May from 12-1:30pm at George Green’s School, Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, E14 3DW

The new TS Royalist and Havengore in West India Dock – 27th May 2015


Last September after the Tall Ships regatta, one ship stayed in West India Dock to be given a final send off.  That  ship was the TS Royalist when a celebration took place to honour its service  for the Sea Cadet organisation. Although it was a celebration , there was a tinge of sadness as the old ship was due to be decommissioned after over 40 years service. In her years of service it is estimated she had  taken over 30,000 cadets to sea. The cadets generally join the ship for  a week and learn the rudiments of sailing a large ship.


To build  a replacement for the ship, the Sea Cadet organisation had to raise nearly 4 million pounds in two years , when the target was reached the organisation awarded the contract to a Spanish shipbuilder but  sourced a considerable amount of the  equipment  from the UK.


Remarkably  the new TS Royalist is now in West India Dock to await its commissioning on Friday, looking on the surface very similar to its predecessor, the ship has been fitted to better suit the modern sailor.


Another familiar sight on the Thames but a rare visitor to the West India Dock is the famous Havengore. For a small vessel she has carried a large number of distinguished visitors,


Havengore’s most famous moment came in 1965 when, watched live by a worldwide audience of 350 million, she took centre stage as she carried Sir Winston Churchill on his final journey by water along the Thames.


More recently Havengore was selected to carry members of the royal family as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in a flotilla of over a thousand vessels during the River Thames pageant on 3rd June 2012.
It is not known how long the Havengore or TS Royalist are in dock but they are both well worth a visit.


German Navy Ship (F219) FGS Sachsen in West India Dock – 20th May 2015


A recent visit by a number of ships of the German Navy is followed up today by another German Navy ship, the frigate Sachsen.


The ship is a Sachsen-class frigate and part of the Germany air defence systems, its state of the art technologies supposedly include the ability to detect stealth aircraft and stealth .


The ships of the Sachsen class are 143 m (469 ft) long overall with a beam of 17.44 m (57.2 ft) and a draft of 5 m (16 ft). The frigates have a crew of 38 officers, 64 petty officers, and 140 enlisted sailors.  The ships can remain at sea for 21 days at a time


These ships are heavily armed for  anti-air warfare role with  a large number of missile available. There are also torpedoes for use against submarines.Sachsen is equipped with a flight deck and hangar that can accommodate two Super Lynx or NH90 helicopters.


The F219 Sachsen was built at the Blohm + Voss shipyard  and launched in 2001 and was commissioned  in  2003.


The Sachen has been involved in a number of anti terrorist and anti piracy patrols around the world.

It is not known why the ship is visiting London at this time, but there seems to be a number of functions. It is likely the ship will be leaving dock at the weekend.

Floating House in West India Dock – 19th May 2015


Recently the West India Dock has been home to ships of the German Navy and Super yachts , however today’s visitor is something more unusual.

Yesterday the news channels were reporting on a floating house with garden travelling up and down the Thames, in between its travels it has been berthed at West India Dock.


Airbnb, a home sharing company is behind the publicity stunt of floating a house down the river Thames to celebrate new rules on short term lets in London.


The full size house and garden was created by designers Nick and Steve Tidball who were determined it should be a real house not a stage set. Therefore it has bedrooms and a bathroom, a book collection, a dog kennel, and private garden.


It is not the only publicity stunt that has made its way to West India Dock, in recent years we have had a gigantic inflatable duck and enormous lottery balls.


There is a competition run by Airbnb to stay in the house which bring a whole new meaning to houseboat.


Murder in Mudchute : Kissed a Sad Goodbye by Deborah Crombie

kissed a sad goodbye

After the nautical excitement of last week, it is now the time for murder on the Isle of Dogs. Fortunately it is a fictional crime and a book  written by well-known American crime writer Deborah Crombie.

Regular readers will know I am always on the look out for books that feature the Isle of Dogs and Kissed a Sad Goodbye features many of the Island landmarks. The book was written in the late 1990’s and captures the considerable changes taking place on the Island at that time.

The story begins with George Brent, an Islander walking his dog near to Asda when he finds  a  young woman’s body  in the tall grass of  Mudchute Park, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, Detectives from Scotland Yard are assigned to the case and quickly begin to realise that this will not be a straightforward case.

A number of characters appear on the police’s radar, a mysterious busker who plays in Island Gardens and the Greenwich foot tunnel, the victim’s well to do fiancé; her sister’s ex-husband and her  father.

What is intriguing about the book is that the author uses the history and character of the Docklands and the Isle of Dogs  to provide an atmospheric background to the story. She cleverly intersperses the modern aspects of the story with historical accounts of the evacuation of local children during the bombings of WWII.

Another interesting part of the book is how the author has used the research of people like local historian Eve Hostettler to provide small quotes at the start of some of the chapters. The author’s extensive research gives the book a great deal of credibility and manages to tap into the Islands unique history.

Deborah Crombie was born in Dallas and bought up in Texas, She then worked in advertising and newspapers. A visit to England led to a life-long passion for Britain, and she later moved to the UK with her first husband living in Edinburgh and Chester. She returning to the US and wrote her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novel, A Share in Death in 1993. Her subsequent novels have been published with success all over the world.

It is quite surprising how many American crime writers write about London and especially about East London, but this is one that focuses almost entirely on the Isle of Dogs which is more unusual. If you come across a copy it is well worth a read and shows that in many ways the Island certainly has a global appeal.

The Viking Star Liner in London – May 12th 2015

Viking Star 003

In the 9th century, Viking attacks on London were common and the sight of the Longships going around the Isle of Dogs would have provoked terror amongst the local population. There is even evidence that the Longships travelled up the River Lea to go inland to pillage.

How times have changes, the sight of the enormous liner Viking Star was captured by Eric Pemberton has it made its way for a short stay in Greenwich.

Viking Star 004

The modern day descendants  of the Vikings prefer  a more comfortable mode of travel with the Viking Star liner boasting  luxury accommodation and a Wellness sanctuary described in the brochure as ‘ We also reinvented the spa experience; drawing upon the holistic wellness philosophy of Nordic culture. To stimulate your circulatory system visit our Snow Grotto where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air, then invigorate yourself in the sauna, following a centuries-old Nordic tradition… If you would like to rest and relax, visit the Explorers Lounge  this is the place to unwind over a chilled pint from the extensive Craft Beer Library.’

Viking Star 003

47,800 tonne cruise ship which has  465 cabins and will accommodate 930 passengers  is on its maiden voyage only just squeezed through the Thames Barrier and was captured by Eric as it passed the O2 Arena.

Viking Star 001

The ship  set sail on April 11th from Istanbul, before traveling through the Mediterranean. After her short visit, the ship will continue back north to be christened in Bergen on May 17th.

Not sure what Sweyn Forkbeard  or Cnut the Great would have made of the ship, the Snow Grotto and the Craft Beer Library, but it is the latest of a number of interesting recent visitors.



Cinderella IV sailing yacht in West India Dock – 11th May 2015


Somewhat overlooked when the German Navy was in West India Dock, a large sleek sailing yacht now takes centre stage.


The Cinderella IV is a  39m sailing yacht built by Vitters in 2009, it has a carbon composite hull with a lifting keel.  It is in West India Dock to allow potential buyers to see the yacht at close quarters, Y.CO are the company behind the sale.


As regular readers of the site know, Super yachts are quite common in West India Dock  and  this is a nice example of the luxury sailing yachts.


Although it has an attractive exterior, no expense has been spared on the interior including a fully panoramic salon. There is accommodation for 8 guests in 4 staterooms.


It is always quite surprising how many of these Super yachts are available for charter or for sale,  if you want to take this particular Cinderella to the Ball the price  is  12.75 Million Euros.

Builder: Vitters
Designer: Donald Starkey Designs
Designer: Tripp Design
Hull Manufacturer: Green Marine

HMS Ocean and the German Navy Ships – May 10th 2015


On the final day of 70th anniversary commemorations of the end of WW2 in Europe, a walk around the Isle of Dogs  offers considerable reminders into the human costs of the conflict and how far we have moved since the war to bring  former enemies together.

The Isle of Dogs and Docklands in general were prime targets in the war and suffered a considerable loss of life and injuries. The area also suffered from damage to housing and decimated the Island population with many people never returning to their homes.


Walking down to the south tip of the Island, the huge Royal Navy ship HMS Ocean was open for visitors in Greenwich and in the bright sunshine, large crowds were on deck.


Meanwhile in West India Dock, the visiting ships of the German Navy were attracting a number of people admiring the flotilla.


Looking at the ships, I wondered what people who had survived the war thought about the German Navy being in the dock, in 1945 the thought of a German navy coming up the Thames and into the dock would have been unimaginable.


But if time does not always heal wounds, the coming together of Europe has enabled various countries who were once enemies to work together for the common good.

Therefore it is important to celebrate the end of the WW2 and acknowledging the sacrifices of millions of people who enabled the following generations to enjoy the 70 years of peace since.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton who sent the following pictures of HMS Ocean and German Ships being turned around near the O2 last week and departing.

hms ocean111




German Navy Ships in West India Dock – May 9th 2015


The West India Docks have not had many visitors recently, however the arrival of a number of ships from the German Navy have quickly filled up the dock.


The ships FGS Hermelin, FGS Wiesel, FGS Werra, FGS Zobel, FGS Frettchen and FGS Hyane are in London this weekend to take part in VE Day celebrations.


A514 Werra was commissioned in the 1990s and is one of the  Type 404 Elbe class replenishment ships of the German Navy which were built to support its squadrons of Fast Attack Craft, submarines and minesweeper/hunters.
The ships carry fuel, fresh water, food, ammunition and other material, they also have a medical station aboard.


(P6123) Hermelin,(P6125)Zobel,(P6126)Frettchen,(P6129) Wiesel and (P6130) Hyäne are Type 143A Gepard class which is a class of missile bearing fast attack craft.



The Opening of Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf – May 2015


Anyone travelling into Canary Wharf on the Docklands Light Railway over the last two years can hardly have missed the construction of the distinctive Crossrail Station. Over the May Bank holiday, part of the structure called Crossrail Place was opened to the public and offered a number of surprises.


The main surprise was a large exotic roof garden in the top level which is located  underneath of the distinctive latticed timber roof. The designers have tried to draw on the area’s heritage planting plants that are native to countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company, which used to unloaded their cargo in the area where the station now sits.


Another surprise is the size of the structure, it has seven levels with a number of shops, cinema, restaurants and fitness facilities.


Although keen to draw on the area’s heritage, the almost space age design fits into the general modern design of Canary Wharf itself, however there is a couple of memorials that remind us these modern developments are only possible because of the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in the Two World Wars of the twentieth century.


With considerable building work on the Canary Wharf estate, there will be a number of changes in the next few years that will transform the area even more. The opening of the Crossrail network in 2018 will make the area an even more attractive location to work and live.


What effects this will have on the Isle of Dogs is open to question, but in the meantime it does provide more facilities for Islanders to enjoy.