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Monthly Archives: December 2015

West India Dock Visitors Review 2015


It is that time of the year when people begin to review the past 12 months, carrying on the tradition from previous years, we are listing the ships that have visited West India Docks in the last year.

With all the development surrounding West India Dock, there was some concern that the number visiting the dock would be severely curtailed but although numbers were down a little, we still had an interesting mix of ships and boats.
Some old Tall Ships favourites returned, the Stad Amsterdam, Stavros S Niarchos, STS Lord Nelson  and STS Tenacious  but after seeing  see the final appearance of the old TS Royalist in 2014, it was a pleasure to see the new TS Royalist bought into dock.

royalist six

Other interesting Tall Ships included Polish Tall Ship Zawisza Czarny, Dutch Tall Ship Eendracht, the entertaining Colombian Tall Ship A.R.C Gloria  and the controversial  Chilean Training Ship Esmeralda .

Super Yachts seem to be getting bigger and more lavish and the visitors covered a wide range, however the final Super Yacht visitor of the year Ilona probably takes the award for the largest and most expensive.


The visits from NATO ships continued this year with various navies represented but there was probably more from the German Navy. HMS St Albans ( F83) and HMS Grimsby (M108) represented the visits from the Royal Navy.

There were some other interesting visitors, the  hi -tech Tara Expedition Ship, the unusual visit from a cruise ship ( Star Legend ), the ship with royal connections ( MV Hebridean Princess ) and the historic Havengore.


The Massey Shaw, The Portwey and the Lord Amory provide year round interest in the dock and the various ships being used for dredging have shown the dock still attracts working boats.

Super Yachts

Super Yacht Ilona

Super Yacht Latitude

Super Yacht Mischief

Super Yacht Forever One

Super Yacht Positive Carry

Cinderella IV sailing yacht

Tall Ships

Stavros S Niarchos Tall Ship

Tall Ship Tenacious

Dutch Tall Ship Eendracht

Polish Tall Ship Zawisza Czarny

Colombian Tall Ship A.R.C Gloria

STS Lord Nelson

Chilean Tall Ship Esmeralda

Dutch Tall Ship, Stad Amsterdam

TS Royalist, TS John Jerwood and TS Jack Petchey


Navy Ships

Six NATO Ships

Belgian Navy BNS Godetia ( A960 )
Latvian Navy ship Talivaldis (M-60)
HMS Grimsby (M108)
the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860)
The Estonian Navy ship EML Admiral Cowan (M313)
The Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343

German Navy Ships

(P6123) Hermelin,
(P6125) Zobel,
(P6126) Frettchen,
(P6129) Wiesel,
(P6130) Hyäne,
(A514) Werra(F219)

FGS Sachsen

Spanish Navy

Méndez Núñez in West India Dock

Royal Navy

HMS St Albans ( F83) in West India Dock



Tara Expedition Ship in West India Dock

MV Hebridean Princess in West India Dock

Cruise Ship Star Legend in West India Dock

Havengore in West India Dock

May we wish all our readers a Happy New Year and we look forward to the new visitors to the dock in the new year.

London Christmas Paintings

As we edge nearer to Christmas Day, It is a tradition of the blog at this time of the year to show a selection of paintings  that illustrate how different artists at different times have captured the Christmas Period.

All the paintings  have in common is that they are either about London or can be seen in London.


Skating on the Serpentine, London by J. Baber Date painted: 1839 – Collection: Museum of London

This picturesque scene of a crowd of skaters on the frozen Serpentine  in Hyde Park is a copy of a painting of the same name produced in 1823 by John Chalon.

The Nativity at Night possibly about 1490, Geertgen tot Sint Jans (National Gallery)

A very early and unusual treatment of the Nativity , Christ in the crib  illuminates the scene surrounded by angels.

London, Winter by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson Date painted: 1928 Collection: Museum of London

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson 1889 1946) was one of the most famous war artists of World War I.

(c) Arts Council Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Still Life at Christmas by Michael Ayrton Date painted: 1953–1954 (Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre)

Michael Ayrton (1921 – 1975) was an artist and writer.

(c) Stephen Chaplin; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mr Churchill’s Speech, Christmas 1941 by Stephen Chaplin –  Date painted: 2005 – Collection: Bromley Museum Service

This is one of a series of 39 paintings produced by Stephen Chaplin based upon his memories of his childhood during the Second World War in Orpington. The painting depicts the occasion when Stephen Chaplin’s father poked himself in the eye whilst listening to a speech by Winston Churchill.

(c) David Gear; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christmas Tree by William Gear – Date painted: 1950 (Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre)

Although now largely forgotten, William Gear was considered one of the leading abstract British painters of his time. He worked in Paris with Fernand Legér and his work was shown in New York , alongside Jackson Pollock.

May I wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year



Hat Shows, Princess Margaret and Parrots : The Prospect of Whitby in the 1950s


Whilst going through some Pathe News Reels, one of the more amusing stories was a feature about a Hat Show at the Prospect of Whitby pub.  In the 1950s, the Prospect was a popular watering hole for ‘society’ people who made the trip from the fashionable parts of London. Even royalty made an appearance with Princess Margaret often visiting with  her escorts. Another attraction of the pub was the mix of people which included  dock workers, medical students and tourists.


The Pathe News Reel is really entertaining with bemused dockers outside watching the arrival of the models to the pub.


There is also scenes of the interior which featured all manner of strange memorabilia including what looks like a crocodile holding the lights in place.


The crocodile was deceased but there were live animals present, the landlord often had parrots and occasionally a monkey to give the pub ‘atmosphere.’


One of the parrots was particularly interested in the hat with a bird on top with the model looking increasingly uneasy.


A  newspaper report of the time gave more details of the event showing the hats of  English milliner Hugh Beresford .

The Prospect of Whitby, England’s oldest Thames-side inn-built in 1520 at Wapping was chosen by English milliner Hugh Beresford for the showing of his autumn collection.

In the “Pepys” room three mannequins showed hats In the shades which their creator thinks will be the “big hit” of the autumn season.  These colours are peppermint white, tangier crimson, dahlia mauve, and silver sand.

All the hats are “snug-fitting” and made of rich materials such as plush, velour, panne velvet,and trimmed lavishly with silk bobbies and fringes.

Sometimes fur is used, or glycerined goose or pheasant feathers, many of these from Denmark and brought over by Danish students who from their sale, pay for their holiday.


Robert Newton with the famous and talented ‘Captain Flint’

The ‘Prospect’ many have had its fair share of human celebrities but also was home to a celebrity of the feathered variety, a newspaper from 1951 gives the details.

‘Captain Flint, the talented parrot which rides the shoulder of Robert Newton during his portrayal of Long John Silver in ‘Treasure Island,’ has not been relegated to oblivion. When the picture was finished, Captain Flint was retired to a life of luxury in the famous ‘Prospect of Whitby.’

Attracting wealthy visitors did have its downside, in 1953 the pub was the scene of a notorious armed robbery in which customers cash and jewellery was stolen with a number of customers receiving injuries from a cosh used by the robbers.

If you would like to see the News Reel, it is available on You Tube here


SPLASH Art Exhibition on the Poplar Glass Bridge


The glass DLR Bridge at Poplar station may seem an unusual location for an art exhibition but in many ways it represents a unique connection between Poplar and Canary Wharf.  The artwork was created by the SPLASH Arts (South Poplar and Limehouse Action for Secure Housing) Team led by David Bratby who  worked with over 350 adults and children across the local Community in Poplar, Tower Hamlets College, Crossrail and Canary Wharf to develop the new art installation.


Artists Karine Gullino, Laura Napier and Anita Ellis facilitated sessions whilst Wylfried Tondelier brought all the pieces together to create the final exhibition which highlights the Docklands strong maritime heritage.  The East India Company were based in Blackwall and  established a chapel on Poplar High Street 360 years ago.


The historical trade routes created by the company connected many parts of the world and much of the artwork reflect the ships, cargoes and the people. One of the remarkable aspects of this part of docklands is that it has developed connections with all parts of the world for centuries which led to a global outlook and attracted people from all around the world.


One of the aims  of the project is to connect the four communities of Poplar High Street, Tower Hamlets College, Canary Wharf and Crossrail.  In many ways the creation of Aspen Way roadway cut off Poplar from the Docks area which it had always been associated with. The creation of the DLR  reconnected the transport links between Poplar and the West India Docks and the Glass Bridge footbridge provided the ability to walk across from Poplar to Canary Wharf.


The exhibition is part of wider project to develop connections between local communities and the Canary Wharf estate. The exhibition is an interesting  attempt to look at the past to create connections in the present and the future and will be in place until  2016.



The Island Gardens Christmas Lights Switch On – 10th December 2015

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The wet and windy weather did not deter the crowds from attending the switching on of the lights in Island Gardens. Located at the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, Island Gardens is a small park famed for its wonderful views of Greenwich.

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The event was organised by the Friends of Island Gardens and featured a Craft Market for those still looking for Christmas gifts.


Local schools and other community groups provided the evening’s entertainment with carol singing and other festive songs.


The lights were switched on by Sir George Iacobescu, chairman and chief executive officer of  Canary Wharf plc who gave a short speech about the importance of Canary Wharf playing a role in the local community. Sir George and the Canary Wharf group have  taken a particular interest in the Friends of Island Gardens project and provided their support since its inception.

cwsir georges

The  Friends of Island Gardens was formed to protect the park from any future developments,  the group has been responsible for raising the profile of the park but also have helped to bring  a number of initiatives to make the park an even better place to visit. The lights at Christmas is just one event that they have initiated that hopefully will  become an annual event.


They may not have the scale of the lights in Canary Wharf or over the river in Greenwich, but these are very much part of the local community and this was indicated by the large number of local people who enjoyed the event.


If you would like more information or would like to join the Friends of Island Gardens , contact them on friendsofislandgardens@gmail.com.


Super Yacht Ilona arrives in West India Dock


On a grey and miserable day, the West India Dock welcomed the Super Yacht Ilona, the weather is very different from the last time she visited the dock which was during the warm and sunny 2012 London Olympics.


The 73.81 metres (or 242 ft) long custom built yacht was launched by Amels in the Netherlands in 2004 and she has also refitted in 2006, and 2012. She is classed as one of the world’s top 100 largest private yachts and has the unusual feature of a helipad, when she was built the helicopter could be stowed in a hangar below deck. In the latest refit, the helicopter garage was replaced by a large 10m by 3m swimming pool.


Estimated to have cost 100 million dollars, the Super Yacht Ilona is owned by one of Australia’s richest men, businessman Frank Lowy who made much of his fortune developing shopping centres with the Westfield Group. Lowy has also been one of the main individuals  responsible for developing professional football in Australia in the last decade.


Unusually for a Super Yacht owner, Lowy and his family have used the yacht to travel extensively around the world and the boat is the fourth yacht called Ilona which has been built and launched for the owner.


As usual in the secret world of Super Yachts, little is known about plans of the owner or the boat during its stay. Whatever the plans, the boat provides plenty of on board comfort with a cinema, a massage room and a gymnasium.The boat can also accommodate a maximum of 16 guests, in 6 cabins and carries a crew of around 28 .

The Changing Face of Canary Wharf


Since the 2012 Olympics, the Canary Wharf skyline has become famous nationally and around the world. However in the next few years the skyline on the Canary Wharf estate and at the top of the island will change dramatically.


Most visitors to Canary Wharf will be probably  unaware of the new developments  which are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. Over the last few months, there has been considerable work on the two major schemes New Phase (formerly known as Wood Wharf) and the Newfoundland development.


The developments are unusual due to the locality of the docks and the limited access onto the estate. Massive pontoons have been used to take large cranes between the sites and dredgers have been used to clean the bottom of the docks.


Both of the developments have built cofferdams that have reclaimed parts of the dock to enable building to be undertaken.


When completed there will be 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site and the New Phase site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of  commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.


One major development approaching completion is the Crossrail station at Canary Wharf which becames operational in 2018. The station has been built in the North Dock of West India Quay using an innovative box method that was built in the dock itself. Since work began on the new station in May 2009 by creating a 250 x 30 metre watertight dam in the waters of North Dock it has been built ‘top down,’ below the water surface.


Other buildings gradually changing the skyline at the top of the Island is the new Novotel hotel, Baltimore Tower and the Dollar Bay development.

All these developments add up to some of the largest future buildings in London in one of the smallest areas. If Canary Wharf has changed dramatically in the last twenty five years, it is likely to change even more in the next twenty five years.

Having residential developments on the Canary Wharf estate will in many ways change the character of the area and will answer some of the critics who call the development ‘soulless’. However with the working population due to almost double in a decade it is still likely to remain a working destination rather than a place to live.

A Drink for the Empire : The Curious Story of Bow Brewery and India Pale Ale

Style: "Neutral"

Bow Brewery 1827

One of the major changes in beer production in the last few years is the growth of craft beers. Following the example of American small brewers, a number of small breweries have been created especially in London to produce craft beer. One of the most popular types of craft beer is IPA which stands for India Pale Ale. Remarkably, India Pale Ale has a long history and is intrinsically tied to the Isle of Dogs and the surrounding area.

The East End has a long tradition of brewing, however it was to be the small and relatively unknown Bow Brewery that stood on the banks of the River Lea at Bow Bridge that would play crucial part in the development of India Pale Ale. George Hodgson had acquired the Bow Brewery in 1752 where he began to brew porter for the surrounding district. Porter was a dark bitter beer which was the most popular London beer in the 18th century. It was in the 1780’s when George Hodgson’ s son , Mark, decided to brew a type of beer for export to India, which would use a pale malt and plenty of hops. Although there was a large British presence in India, the decision to export beer to India was still a risky undertaking for a small brewery.

(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

View of Mr Perry’s Yard, Blackwall by William Dixon 1796 (National Maritime Museum) 
Blackwall Yard was privately owned and built merchant ships and warships. To the far right, one of the ships flies the East India Company flag.

However, the Hodgson’s believed they could use local knowledge to gain an advantage. A couple of miles from the Bow brewery was the docks of the East India Company and possibly a family member called Thomas Hodgson just happened to be a captain of the East India Company ships. One of the perks of being an officer in the East India Company was that you could fill the ship with exports on the outward journey which you could sell in India. The Bow Brewery offered generous credit terms to East India Company officers to take their beer to India to sell to the British stationed there.


Hodgson Advert 1835

The first trips confirmed that the combination of pale malt with a high proportion of hops produced a distinctive taste which quickly became a favourite brand of beer in India. In fact, Hodgson’s India Pale Ale dominated the market for a number of years creating almost a monopoly. Mark Hodgson died in 1810 and the running of the Bow Brewery was placed in the hands of a trust until 1819, when his son Frederick took control.   Frederick had developed a number of financial and commercial ventures before taking control at the Bow Brewery and passed the day to day running of the business to Thomas Drane, a brewer from Limehouse. In the 1820s, Frederick Hodgson maintained a virtual monopoly in the Indian market for his pale ale, however he faced accusations of price fixing by reducing supplies to get higher prices. Indian agencies began to look for suppliers who could provide a steady supply and large Burton breweries owned by Samuel Allsopp and Michael Bass took up the challenge to create their own India Pale Ale.

Allsopp beermat

Although there is no evidence that the Hodgson’s invented pale ales, Hodgson’s India Pale Ale developed into a brand known all over the world, but certain dubious business practices and the competition of the Burton breweries led to the business going  into decline and in 1843, Frederick Hodgson sold the brewery to another brewer, Edwin Abbott who carried on till 1862 when he was declared bankrupt and the Bow Brewery closed.

India Pale Ale was sold in Britain to many of those that had returned from India and had developed a taste for the drink. But over time, breweries developed their own pale ales and India Pale Ale gradually disappeared until its renaissance with craft beer brewers.


So the next time you are sipping your IPA, remember the origins of the drink is a small East London brewery that decided to quench the thirst of people that were building the British Empire nearly two hundred years ago.