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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Dancing City at Canary Wharf – 29 June to 4 July 2015


Dancing City is part of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) which is one of  London’s leading festival of free outdoor performing arts (theatre, dance, and street arts).

GDIF was founded by Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings in 1996 as an independent festival. It developed out of the former Greenwich Festival into a cross-river festival to incorporate other areas. Due to its success , GDIF has been growing every year and in 2014, the Festival featured over a hundreds performances by dozens of national and international companies with more than 110,000 people attending the outdoor shows in East and South London.


Dancing City  is an  annual outdoor dance extravaganza with performances from UK and international dance companies. This year it will feature the mesmerising footwork of New Zealand Maori Haka, to fluid and fearless Parkour as well as nostalgic 1950’s tap and powerful, contemporary dance from leading UK and international companies .

Dancing City
Mon 29 June – 4 July,
Canary Wharf

Mon – Fri 13:00 & 18:00
Sat 13:00 – 17:00


8 Songs (29 June)
29 June 2015
Time: 13:00, 18:00
Presented by Gandini Juggling

Hold On (30 June)
30 June 2015
Time: 13:00, 18:00
Presented by Stefano di Renzo

Bar Story (1 July)
1 July 2015
Time: 13:00, 18:00
Presented by Etta Ermini Dance Theatre

Every Grain (2 July)
2 July 2015
Time: 13:00, 18:00
Presented by Sole Rebel Tap


Turn Around Boy (3 July)
3 July 2015
Time: 13:00, 18:00
Presented by Compagnie Le Grand Jeté

5 Soldiers
4 July 2015
Time: 13:35, 16:05
Presented by Rosie Kay Dance Company

bar story

Bar Story (4 July)
4 July 2015
Time: 15:05, 16:40
Presented by Etta Ermini Dance Theatre

Caída Libre
4 July 2015
Time: 13:00, 16:40
Presented by Compañía Sharon Fridman

Danger Risk of Falling
4 July 2015
Time: 14:10, 16:35
Presented by Parkour Dance Company

Every Grain (4 July)
4 July 2015
Time: 13:40, 15:35
Presented by Sole Rebel Tap

Haka Day Out
4 July 2015
Time: 14:00, 15:30
Presented by Corey Baker Dance

Of Man and Beast
4 July 2015
Time: 13:00, 16:00
Presented by Company Chameleon

Solo 2
4 July 2015
Time: 14:10, 15:30
Presented by Brodas Bros.

Te Odiero
4 July 2015
Time: 14:40, 16:45
Presented by HURyCAN

Turn Around Boy (4 July)
4 July 2015
Time: 13:45, 15:05
Presented by Compagnie Le Grand Jeté

There are large number of events in Greenwich, Canary Wharf and other locations which are usually very entertaining , visit the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) website here for more details.

Tall Ship Tenacious in West India Dock – 29th June 2015


On a warm sunny day, we welcome the arrival of the STS Tenacious, the Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.


The Tenacious and her sister ship the Lord Nelson are regular visitors to West India Dock. They are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled. The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.


Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.


The Tenacious has just arrived from Poole and often sails around the British Isles and Europe, however she has sailed all around the world and often takes part in Tall Ship races.


The Construction of Wood Wharf – June 2015


When the tall ships arrived last September, Wood Wharf was a wonderful sight, full of ships and people. Fast forward, nearly a year later and we have a very different site. Construction has started on the development to  broaden and extend the Canary Wharf Estate. The masterplan is to create a development with a mix of uses, providing over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and a further 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.


However this is no ordinary site because part of the plans is to reclaiming part of the dock area by constructing a cofferdam. It is expected that 9000sqm of land will be reclaimed from West India Dock South, but this will only achieved by some major work on the cofferdam which will make it watertight to be drained and then filled in.

The cofferdam design features 160 tubular piles 1220mm in diameter socketed 10m into the dock bed. The tubular piles are up to 21m long and each pile is cased, drilled then installed into place below the water. In between the tubular piles sheet piles are installed to create a watertight retaining structure for the 10m head of water being held back.


This work has already began and the sight of large cranes on pontoons being transported around have become commonplace. Although The Wood Wharf project is a large project it does face a number of difficulties that makes it not one of the easiest development. For example access to the site is limited especially for lorries, therefore the constructors are bringing in materials by river where possible. There is also the problem of operating within a dock area which needs testing of dock walls and of silt in the dock. Lack of access means that cranes are taken around the site on large pontoons.The dock is still in use with shipping, so movement of equipment and barges and other marine vessels has to be cordinated with other users.


Sometimes we are so used to developments that we underestimate the difficulties that they sometimes have to overcome. The Wood Wharf project is a good opportunity to watch the different stages of development at close quaters, so if you are in the area over the next few months why not take a look.

The Story of the Limehouse Pier

limehouse pier

Many of the posts on the blog are the outcome of research suggested by contributors, Eric Pemberton often sends one of his interesting postcards which engages my curiosity and makes me determined to find out more about the subject. Eric sent a postcard recently which was a reminder that certain parts of the river have an intriguing history all of their own.

Historically, The riverside district from the South West India Dock (Impounding) entrance lock up to Dunbar Wharf was known as Limehouse Hole. The name was in use by the seventeenth century, this was one of the first parts of the parish of Poplar to be developed, but almost nothing survives of its earliest 17th century development, In the 18th to 20th century, Limehouse Hole was developed with a number of shipping-related enterprises. There were shipbuilders, barge-builders, boat-builders, ropemakers, sailmakers, mastmakers, blockmakers and ship-chandlers.


1908 Map

Due to its location on the river, Limehouse Hole was a popular place for watermen to ply their trade, which they did successfully from the seventeenth century. In the ninetieth century, watermen were losing business to steamboats and tried to encourage trade by erecting a floating pier at Limehouse Hole Stairs. It was erected in 1843 but did not have the required effect and was gone by 1860. However it was the first pier in Limehouse Hole, but not the last because when a passenger steamboat service to the locality was proposed, a new floating pier was erected at Limehouse Hole Stairs in 1870. This pier, a walkway on three pontoons, was designed by Stephen William Leach  was removed in 1901 for the building of Dundee Wharf. The postcard sent by Eric dates  from the early 20th century and features another Limehouse Pier, this construction  was built for the short lived  ‘Penny Steamer’ service in 1905 but managed to survive until 1948.

stairs limehouse

Other views of the pier are from Thames Riverscape  and the Britain from Above photographs. In 1937 the Port of London Authority commissioned Avery Illustrations to document both banks of the Thames between London Bridge and Greenwich/Island Gardens. This Thames Riverscape now provides an invaluable record of the Thames from this period.


The aerial picture from Britain from Above shows the pier in 1928 and clearly shows how far it extended.

The pier was not the most successful ever but it did feature in a 1927 poem by Helen Markham

At Limehouse Pier, the tide is strong,
And there are curious things adrift,
But the wind hath a nobler song,
Salt with the sea’s sharp kiss, and swift.
A flowing fire is on the river,
Like wine outpoured, wine-gold, wine-red,
or purging of her piteous dead.
The great crane engines swing and quiver.
And the lost sea-birds wheel and cry,
The long, slow barges, dreamfully,
The little brown-sailed boats, go by
Intent to find the sea.

To a large extent, Limehouse Hole has now disappeared underneath Westferry Circus and  the Riverside developments, this  stretch is now known as part of the longer Limehouse Reach but for centuries the name of Limehouse Hole and to a lesser extent Limehouse Pier were known all around the world.

Super Yacht Forever One in West India Dock – 19th June 2015


After the departure of one super yacht, West India Dock welcomes another with the arrival of Forever One. Super yacht Forever One, a 54 metre motor yacht  was launched in 2014 by ISA from their Ancona, Italy-based yard.


The yacht was designed by Horacio Bozzo, a naval architect and the Interior design is by Studio Massari . It includes a number of interesting features, unusually the yacht is five decks high and has a reverse bow.


The upper deck includes the owners’ suite  and a alfresco area and a balcony. Additional folding balconies on the main deck and folding platforms give swimmers easy water access. The yacht has its own the 29’5” (9-meter) tender.


Because the yacht is five decks high,  Forever One  has a glass-enclosed elevator that can take guests from their staterooms up to the bridge. Forever One has an overall length of 54.65 metre, a beam of 11.10 metre with a top speed of 16 knots and a range of 4,200nm at 12 knots.


The private guest accommodation consists of with three staterooms, the crew area is located forward with  six crew cabins.
In the world of super yachts finding out who actually owns the ship is sometimes a problem because often they are financed by someone to build and then they are used for charter until they are sold on.   In Forever One’s case, the original owner was Fernando Nicholson a broker who named the ship after his wife.


It is not known how long the Forever One will be in dock.




The Photography of Christina Broom at the Museum of London Docklands – 19 June to 1 November 2015


The Museum of Docklands is located in West India Quay within a Grade One listed converted Georgian sugar warehouse and has a large number of fascinating permanent exhibits, however they also have a series of temporary exhibitions on particular themes.


On the 19th June, the museum presents a new exhibition which looks at the life and work of an early 20th century female photographer, Christina Broom. The exhibition is entitled  Soldiers and Suffragettes: The Photography of Christina Broom and includes a wide range of her work, including Suffragette processions, First World War soldiers, official photographs of the Household Division and key London events, from the Lord Mayor’s Parade and royal coronations and funerals to historical pageants.


Although Broom is  considered to be the UK’s first female press photographer, she only began her photographic career in 1903 at the age of 40.  The injury of her husband in a cricket accident led Broom to turn to the photography trade  as a source of financial income. What made Broom’s work stand out from her female photographer contemporaries was that she became a sort of roving reporter taking to the streets to photograph newsworthy events.


What was extraordinary about Broom’s work was that although she was driven by commercial concerns using the photographs to make postcards to sell at her stall  at the gates of the Royal Mews in London, what she was actually producing was a unique visual record of the people, locations and events of the time. In her thirty-six year career she produced around 40,000 photographs .


Perhaps because of her commercial output, her photographic reputation has been ignored up to the present day, however this exhibition goes some way to rectify this oversight. In an age when camera’s were bulky and difficult to transport, Broom achieves a wonderfully high standard that was recognised even by the Royal Family.


A walk around the exhibition  offer glimpses into the past from pageants to funerals, parades to protests. Perhaps the most poignant are the servicemen from the First World War,  the fun and high jinks of the soldiers in the photographs is tempered by the fact that the viewer would understand many would not return from the front.

This intriguing and important free exhibition runs till November and is well worth a visit.


Super Yacht Positive Carry in West India Dock – 13th June 2015


After the departure of the Sea Cadet ships last week, West India Dock welcomes a quite impressive Super Yacht named Positive Carry.


The 203.41ft /62m  Super Yacht ‘Positive Carry’ was built in 2005 by the famous Dutch shipyard Feadship and last refitted in 2014. The vessel’s exterior design and engineering are the work of De Voogt. Previously named Rasselas , she was bought in 2014 for around asking $50 million and renamed Positive Carry by her new owner, who intended to  cruise her around the world.


Positive Carry’s interior layout sleeps up to 12 guests in 6 staterooms, including a master suite, 3 double cabins and 2 twin cabins. She is also capable of carrying up to 19 crew onboard .


She is built with steel hull and aluminium superstructure  with a modern stabilization system which reduces roll motion effect , she has a cruising speed of 16 knots, a maximum speed of 13 knots and a range of 4500nm from her  fuel tanks.


As with many of the larger super yachts, the Positive Carry has some impressive leisure and entertainment facilities including  a Jacuzzi (on deck), Spa, Air Conditioning,  Gym, Touch-n-Go Helipad, Helicopter Landing Pad, WiFi connection on board.

Owners of such ships tend to keep a low profile, however the unusual name would indicate that the owner is an American financier.




Sketches of Limehouse from the early 20th Century


Limehouse Cut, 1933, Nathaniel Kornbluth

Local writer Alfred Gardner was kind enough to  give me access to two books that provide information on artists who worked in the East End in the 20th century up to the 1990s. The books Artists and the East End and A London Docklands Album were written and published by Peter Marcan.

They represent a survey of many of the artists who worked in the East End, sometimes the illustrations were used for books whilst others were anxious to record the local surroundings.

I have made a few selections from the book to illustrate the quality of the work and to give more information about some of the artists.


Junk Shop, Limehouse  Nathaniel Kornbluth

One of the artists was Nathaniel Kornbluth  who had a lifetime’s association with the the East End, not just as an artist but he also run a wholesale clothing business in Whitechapel.


Limehouse Cut : etching 1935, Nathaniel Kornbluth

He studied under well known artist Norman Janes at evening classes in Hackney and produced a number of etchings in the 30s and 40s. He exhibited at the Whitechapel gallery in the 1930s and 1949. In the 1970s he revisited some of his work and produced some new etchings.

His collections were highly rated and there are some of his works in the British Museum and the Guildhall.


Limehouse Waterfront , 1910 , Percy Noel Boxer

Percy Noel Boxer produced a series of etchings and drawings of Limehouse and Wapping , very little is known about the artist who produced work between 1910 and 1920. Athough it appears he studied at Blackheath Art school and Goldsmiths’ College  and lived in South London. he also drew a series of pictures of Greenwich.


Limehouse Cut , 1930 , Noel Spencer

Noel Spencer was born and raised in Lancashire and studied at the Royal College of Art during the 1920s.


Limehouse Cut, 1926, Noel Spencer

For nearly 20 years he was Head of Norwich School of Art, where his memory has been honoured with the annual Noel Spencer Award for Painting. He  produced a number of items of Wapping, Limehouse and Poplar in the 30s, 40s and 50s.


Limehouse Basin : etching 1940, Noel Spencer

The quality of the etchings and drawing illustrate that in the early part of the twentieth century there were a number of talented artists recording the changing face of the East End and especially places like Limehouse. Each picture gives a glimpse of a time sadly passed when the river and the canals were bristling with activity.

Fishy Business at Billingsgate Market by Dawn Wedajo


I must confess that since starting this blog, there have been a number of places I have promised myself I would  visit but never get around to going.  One of these destinations is Billingsgate Market, the oldest and the largest inland fish retailer in the United Kingdom.

Billingsgate market has a fascinating history, the Markets origins  lay in the granting of a charter to the City of London by Edward III in 1327.  In 1400 King Henry IV granted to the citizens the right, by charter, to collect tolls and customs at Billingsgate, Cheap and Smithfield. Since then, various Acts have asserted the  City’s role as the Market Authority and laid down its responsibilities and rights, including the making of regulations, the collection of tolls, rents and other charges.

Billingsgate was originally a general market, only  associated exclusively with the fish trade from the sixteenth century. Until the mid-nineteenth century, fish and seafood were sold from stalls around the dock at Billingsgate. However as trade flourished a purpose-built market was built. In 1850 the first Billingsgate Market building was constructed on Lower Thames Street but it proved to be inadequate and was demolished in 1873 to make way for the fine building that still stands in Lower Thames Street today. It was 1982 the Market relocated to Docklands but is still under the City of London authority.


In spite of this history,  the fact the market starts and finishes so early has tempered my curiosity and a couple of weeks ago, an Islander offered me a way out of my dilemma by offering to send me her memories of a visit to the Market. Dawn’s visit was undertaken in the winter, so she deserves a lot of credit for getting out of a nice warm bed to undertake the visit.

Billingsgate Market is situated within an area synonymous with London’s city bankers, financiers and high fliers located just ten minutes walk from Canary Wharf in east London. The juxtaposition of these two different ‘worlds’ intrigued me. I gazed up at the impressive array of tall sleek office buildings as the car whizzed by, even in the early hours when the sky resembled dark velvet the spectacle of that place managed to grab my attention. In my mind’s eye I could see smartly dressed men in pin stripped suits talking on their iphones and women in posh frocks power walking as they approached  work. Where I was heading I imagined it was more about white overalls, physical grafting and fishy tales.


When I arrived I hurried inside wrapping my coat up a little tighter anticipating a cool reception. The ground was wet with water. I was grateful to be wearing sensible shoes. Business appeared to be brisk. The crowds were plentiful. A lively roar of chatter filled the atmosphere. People moved busily around the stands and shops selecting what was on offer. Porters wheeled goods from one part of the market to another. Merchants got on with trading. By seven some of them had already finished their selling and were packing up. I was amazed by the scale of everything including the vast array of fish and sea food on display. Fish of every description priced and presented for a variety of different pallets and ethnic groups. The smell of fish although clearly evident, surprisingly didn’t bother me too much, perhaps this was because much of what was being sold was so fresh. Some sea creatures were still alive and wriggling about in polystyrene containers.

Each day fish are brought in by the lorry load from coastal districts and abroad to meet the demands of eager customers. Many of whom buy wholesale. Frozen fish are also available.

I walked around the site at quite a leisurely pace and managed to acquire a few fishy treats to take home. There were also outlets to purchase a range of catering supplies for those whom required this service. Above the trading hall were offices including a seafood training school. Relaxing in a market café,  I had a conversation with other customers about the market. One regular customer gave his reasons for attending the market. He remarked “I have been coming here for years, the banters good and you can’t beat this place for the amount of choice on offer, prices aren’t bad either.”

My visit was about becoming a bit more acquainted with this part of London and seeing first hand what it was like. As well as picking up some lovely fresh salmon. Billingsgate is one of those iconic landmarks which most of us have heard about. Even if you are not planning to open a restaurant any time soon there is always the option to buy retail, like me. Forget the stuff you can pick up anywhere covered in a mountain of plastic wrapping try the good stuff. I returned home and that evening  prepared a fish supper for me and a few friends. Was it worth it, the empty plates at the end of the meal was a good indication. Listen, It may not be the first choice on your list of places to go but at least for me it made me appreciate the history that bit more and even though this was not its original location the legacy of Billingsgate lives on. It was strange really to think, amongst the hub bub and ‘hidden’ life at Billingsgate, staff had arrived to work and stalls had been busily prepared and set up under the veil of an inky deep blue sky, while much of London was still asleep.

The market is open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 a.m. – 9 . 30. a.m.

Many thanks to Dawn for her contribution, it is remarkable that  the oldest and the largest inland fish retailer in the United Kingdom carries on its business in the shadows of Canary Wharf.

The Market is open to the general public. Guided tours of the market are organised by Billingsgate Seafood School. If you wish to arrange a guided tour, contact Billingsgate Seafood School on their website here for more information about services they offer.

Children under the age of 12 are not permitted on the Market floor and It is advised that suitable non-slip footwear is worn.

The Story of the Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall – 1833 to 1930


19th century view of Brunswick Wharf with Brunswick hotel on the left

Regular readers will know that I often recall the interesting and varied history of Blackwall, it is an area that has suffered greatly during 20th century redevelopment with only fragments left of its maritime past.

Up to 1930, the Brunswick  Hotel was a landmark on this stretch of the Thames, the hotel had a long and intriguing history until its demolition.

The Brunswick Hotel and Tavern was erected in 1833–4, the building contract was awarded to Messrs William and Lewis Cubitt. The first tenant was Samuel Lovegrove, who was already the proprietor of the West India Docks Tavern in Coldharbour.

Situated at the western end of Brunswick Wharf, the Brunswick Hotel and Tavern,  was considered one of Blackwall’s more elegant buildings, with an attractive river front with bay windows for good views over the river., At the back was a range of buildings including offices, stables (for 25 horses) and coach-houses, an ice-house and a bar or tap later known as the Brunswick Tap.

Lovegrove spared no expense in fitting up the hotel , hoping to attract a wealthy clientele . Within a few years the Brunswick had built up  a  good reputation  amongst ‘connoisseurs in gastronomy’ as a gourmet establishment, much patronized by the nobility and gentry. It became one of the venues for the famous Blackwall Whitebait Suppers which attracted politicians and the wealthy.

However by the 1870s, the craze for whitebait had died and the hotel closed in 1873, in 1874 the main part of the former hotel was let to representatives of the New Zealand Government for an emigrants’ depot, and this use continued until about 1900.

A newspaper article from 1900 included the reminiscences of someone who had stayed at the hotel in this period.

The Diary of a Queensland Emigrant.

The emigrants’ home, which I believe had been once known as the Brunswick Hotel, was presided over by a Norwegian captain and his wife, and was evidently an endowed or subsidised institution, run on Church of England principles. This captain had an authoritative touch about him that would do credit to a lion-tamer in a penny menagerie, but was not class enough for Barnum and Bailey’s. He had some slight sense of humour. I remember him telling the emigrants that it was not necessary to light a fire in order to make tea in Queensland. All they required to do was to throw a handful of tea into a saucepan of water, and leave it out in the sun. Many of us bad looked forward to seeing the sights of the city, but this privilege was denied us. In fact we were absolutely forbidden to go outside the dock gates.  The bedrooms or cubicles of the home were beautifully neat and clean, and contained a soldiers bed, a chair, table and a bible. These cubicles were ceiled with rabbit proof netting so that there was no danger of being struck on the face with a hob-nailed boot if your snoring disturbed the slumber of the occupant of an adjoining bedroom.
The food at the home was really good,! and there was plenty of it to be had. Besides the emigrants there were also at the home some of their friends who had come to see them away, and the colonial contingent,, and a friend or two of theirs. The emigrants did not have to pay for their board and lodging, but the other inmates had to, although the charges were so reasonable as to be merely nominal.

The emigrant depot closed in 1900 when the Managers of the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum leased the premises for a children’s convalescent home.  During the First World War the building was occupied as a barracks, and in the 1920s as offices by the adjoining firm of shipbuilders, R. & H. Green and Silley Weir Ltd of Blackwall Yard.

originalbrunswick hotel

The historic Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall, shortly before its demolition, in March 1929. A.G. Linney (Museum of London)

The well known River Thames photographer A G Linney managed to take a couple of photographs of the Hotel in 1929, just before it  was  demolished in 1930, by this time its glory days were well in the past, however there were a few newspapers that marked its passing and its past glories.


The Brunswick Hotel, on the north bank of London River Thames, in Blackwall Reach, with its historical associations, has disappeared, The hotel was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the East India Company whose famous old sailing vessels were anchored in the river opposite.
The hotel was situated on the meridian of Greenwich, and a mark to indicate this was cut on the parapet under the direction of the Astronomer Royal. The enormous bay windows afforded a magnificent view of the shipping, which from time immemorial had passed up and down the Thames.
A hundred years ago, Its spacious rooms were filled with gay society, which included Royalty and Cabinet Ministers, who went down river to enjoy the whitebait dinners; which were then the vogue.
It is believed that William IV, then Duke of Clarence frequently went there. The hotel was also much used by passengers and officers of the East India Company.
During the ‘sixties and later the building was used as an emigration centre for Australian colonists. The property passed into the possession of the Port of London Authority when that body was created to control the Port of London in 1909.


The historic Brunswick Hotel at Blackwall, shortly before its demolition, in March 1929. A.G. Linney (Museum of London)

Eventually the whole wharf was taken over by the building of the Power station and all the past swept away.  However , for a short time in the 19th century, the Brunswick Hotel was one of the most fashionable eating establishments in London.