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Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Launch of The Isle of Dogs Living Archive at St John Community Centre – 4th May 2016


The 1980s on the Island was a time of considerable unrest, the closing down of the docks threatened the livelihood of thousands of people. Many people on the Island believed politicians and policymakers were unable or unwilling to address some the concerns and began to hold a series of protests. The Isle of Dogs was the scene of some of most unusual and innovative protests which recently in 2014 became the subject of a short film entitled Hardworking People by Woodrow Morris. Out of this film has developed The Isle of Dogs Living Archive which is a community group set up to explore and celebrate the visual and oral history of The Isle of Dogs.

Dockland Poster Project

Photo : Mike Seaborne

Woodrow and Rib Davis, a professional oral historian are working on Heritage Lottery funded project that will train local people in oral history interviewing , sound recording and archival research methods. They will interview key players who were involved in the iconic 80s protests, and it will culminate in an exhibition presenting their research, which will hopefully highlight the creativity and strength of community at the heart of those protests.

Death of a Community march

Photo : Mike Seaborne

The project will be launched at an event at 7pm on Weds 4th May at St Johns. There will be a screening of Woodrow’s film,  as well as short presentations from some of those involved in the protests. The evening will celebrate the launch of The Isle of Dogs Living Archive and their first project which is ‘Island Protests of the 80s’. If you remember the protests or are interested in being an interviewer, an interviewee or a researcher, or just curious why not drop into the event.

Docklands Armada

Photo : Mike Seaborne

Launch Evening – 7pm on Wednesday 4th May at St Johns Community Centre, Glengall Grove, E14 3N

Race Day : The London Marathon 2016 on the Isle of Dogs – 24th April 2016


The Isle of Dogs is thrust into the national and international spotlight once a year with the arrival of the London Marathon. In the week before the race, new boardings appear on the roadside and metal barriers arrive to be placed along the route.


On the morning of the race, volunteers and charities take their spots along the route in eager anticipation of yet another carnival of running. People were not deterred by the icy cold blasts and the threat of snow and began to take their positions along the route . The spectators on the west of the Island have the benefit of watching the runners going down Westferry Road and returning via Marsh Wall before the runners head into Canary Wharf.


A Choir on Marsh Wall

The elite wheelchair races are the first to start and finish and when they raced around the  Island,  the eventual winner Marcel Hug from Switzerland, Australian Kurt Fearnley who was second and six-time London winner and local favourite David Weir who finished third were all in close contention.


America’s Tatyana McFadden continued her domination in the women’s elite wheelchair race winning the race for a fourth consecutive year. McFadden beat Manuela Schar of Switzerland with Wakako Tsuchida of Japan third.


The drama continued with Kenyan Jemima Sumgong winning the race after earlier suffering a fall at a drink station. Sumgong pulled clear of last years winner Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia with Florence Kiplagat of Kenya third.

The men’s race was another win for Kenya with Eliud Kipchoge racing to a new course record of two hours, three minutes and four seconds which was only about seven seconds outside the world record. Stanley Biwott of Kenya was second and Kenenisa Bekele third in one of the quickest London Marathons ever.


After the elite races, the crowds on the Island get bigger with family and friends of the runners of the mass race taking their places along the route, other spectators come out in large numbers to offer support to the runners who face their own particular challenges, it is the mix of serious runners, celebrities, fancy dress runners and fun runners make the marathon the great success it is. Many of the runners run for their favourite charity and since 1981, competitors in the race have raised nearly 58 million pounds for various charities.


Eventually the large mass of runners dwindle down to smaller groups and spectators begin to drift away, the noise and excitement of the big day is replaced by quietness with the occasional lorry appearing on the course to take down various structures and the cleaning department picking up the tons of litter.


Congratulations to all those who took part and all the volunteers who make  the London Marathon, the special event  it  is.


A Guide to the London Marathon 2016 on the Isle of Dogs


It is safe to say that although Canary Wharf is often in the news, the rest of the Isle of Dogs is seldom the focus of national and international interest. However this always changes on the day of the London Marathon when the normally quiet streets are filled by thousands of runners and thousands of spectators.


The race tends to attract the world’s greatest men and women marathon runners and this year is no exception. 2015 champion Eliud Kipchoge takes on 2014 champion Wilson Kipsang when the two Kenyans head a strong field at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 24 April.

Kipchoge, Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto and Stanley Biwott head a strong Kenyan team in pursuit of Marathon glory and Rio 2016 Olympic places. The Kenyans will not have it all their own way with Ethiopia’s triple Olympic gold medallist, Kenenisa Bekele, and Eritrea’s hero from the Beijing World Championships, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie in the field.


In the women’s elite race, Tigist Tufa will return to the scene of her greatest triumph when she lines up to defend her Virgin Money London Marathon title. Mary Keitany was denied a third London Marathon victory last year and the Kenyan looks set to be Tufa’s main rival again in 2016. Dibaba, Cherono and Florence Kiplagat will also be in a strong field.


No fewer than 13 Britons are set to line up in the race with the hope of securing a place on Team GB’s For Rio. Londoner Scott Overall and Scot Callum Hawkins have already beaten the Olympic qualifying time and need to be in the first two Britons across the line to guarantee a ticket to South America.

Two unusual features of this year’s race is Tim Peake will be running the course in Space and a runner will cross the finish line in The Mall at the end of the Virgin Money London Marathon to become the millionth finisher in the history of the event.


However, for many people the race is a personal challenge and an opportunity to raise considerable amounts for their particular charities. The large number of  fancy dress runners add to the carnival aspect of the race.


Due to the fact that many people may be unfamiliar with the Isle of Dogs I thought I would do a mini guide to the Isle of Dogs.

The race enters the Island at Mile 15 when it comes onto Westferry Road , this is a long road down the side of the west side of the Island. Lots of shops and a few pubs here and most of the spectators will be locals.


Just before Mile 16 you will pass the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre  which leads into the Millwall Docks and  is often filled with small yachts overlooked by the old cranes standing next to the dock.


The sweep around the bottom of the Island takes you near Island Gardens which has wonderful views of Greenwich and the river. Here is also the entrance and exit of the Greenwich foot tunnel.

Going up the East Ferry Road to  mile 17 you will see the greenery of Millwall Park on the right and the Mudchute DLR on the left.


Just past Mudchute you will see the entrance to Mudchute Farm and Park ,one of the  biggest inner city farms in Europe.

A little further on you have Asda on the right and Crossharbour DLR on the left, then the route takes you further up to Limeharbour adjacent to Millwall Dock  and then onto Marsh Wall.

A short run down along Marsh Wall to South Quay DLR, is followed by a run past the International Hotel to mile 18, there is a quick switchback into the Canary Wharf estate for Mile 19.


Canary Wharf has become a popular watching base for many spectators due to its proximity to the transport system and the over 200 shop, bars  and restaurants.

The race then goes out to Poplar to begin the long stretch home.

Some of the benefits of watching the Marathon on the Isle of Dogs is that you can actually watch in comfort rather than being part of the massive crowds in Greenwich and Tower Bridge. You also have easy access to the transport system and access to many pubs, bars and restaurants.

To make sure you are in the right place at the right time here is rough time guide .

Start time

The wheelchair race starts at 08.55 am

The elite women’s field: 9.15am

Elite men and mass start: 10.00am


At Mile 15 (Westferry)

Wheelchair men 09:46  Wheelchair women 09:55

Elite women 10:35 Elite men 11:11

Mass begins   11:21


At Mile 17 (Mudchute )

Approximate times when pass Mudchute

Wheelchairs 9:53 (men), 10:03 (women);

Elite women from 10:45

Elite men from 11:21

The masses  from 12:26.


At Mile 19 (Canary Wharf)

Approximate times when pass Canary Wharf

Wheelchairs 10:03 (men), 10:11 (women);

Elite women from 10:56

Elite men from 11:30

The masses  from 12:46.

German Navy Ships : FGS Main, FGS Siegburg and FGS Pegnitz in the West India Dock – April 15th 2016


After a quiet period for visits, West India Docks welcomes three ships from the German Navy. Two coastal minesweepers FGS Siegburg, FGS Pegnitz and auxiliary support vessel FGS Main are berthed in the dock and will be moored until the 18th April.


The FGS Siegburg and FGS Pegnitz are based in Kiel, are part of the 3rd German mine-sweeping squadron, whereas the FGS Main is normally stationed in Eckernförde and is part of the 1st German submarine squadron.


The FGS Main was commissioned in 1994 as a supply ship and is known as a Type 404 Elbe class replenishment ship or tender which supports the German Navy squadrons of Fast Attack Craft, submarines and minesweepers. The ships carry fuel, fresh water, food, ammunition and other materials.

The FGS Siegburg and FGS Pegnitz are minesweepers of the German Navy’s Type 352 Ensdorf class which carry remote controlled Seehund drones which locate and destroy mines.


According to the German Embassy, the ships will moor in West India Docks between the 15th to 18th April and be open to the public from 2-4pm on the 16 April 2016.


The vessels are part of a German task group visiting London. The task group led by the commander of the 3rd German minesweeping squadron, Commander s.g. Axel Schrader, is currently on a two weeks squadron exercise, which started on 11 April. The first week of exercise focused on seamanship, as well as damage control and communications, to followed by mine countermeasure exercises.

The task group will return to their home ports on 22 April.


Regular contributor, Eric Pemberton managed to get a few photographs of the FGS Main coming into the dock.


Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part One)

island board walk

Last week, I reported on the new Island Board Walk initiative which had revamped many of the heritage boards dotted around the Island. To find out more about the boards, I decided to follow the trail to give readers some indication of the amazing history of this small part of East London.


The first board on the trail is near the Newcastle Drawdock which was part of Cubitt’s initial development of the riverside in the 1840s. The board is entitled School days which acknowledges the nearby presence of George Green School which has been providing education since the 1970s.


Wallking a little bit further and  you will arrive at Island Gardens with its wonderful views and attractive gardens, there is also the entrance to the foot tunnel if you fancy a quick visit to the other side of the river.


If you decide to carry on the trail, it is a short walk to the Ferry House, the oldest pub on the Island. Across the road from the pub is Johnson’s drawdock next to the Poplar and Blackwall Rowing club. Johnson drawdock was part of a large part of riverside frontage owned by Henry and Augustus Johnson in the 1840s. This is also a spot near to the ferry point from the Island to Greenwich which was widely used for centuries until the opening of the foot tunnel.


For many of the Island population , this drawdock gave access to the river and the board carries memories of people who when children would swim across the river to Greenwich.

Walking further around the Island, the classical views of Greenwich are replaced by the various developments across the river, it illustrates that similar to the Island, most of the riverfront were used by industries. The building of housing developments have still not dominated the southside but many developments are being planned or being built.


The next board is in front of Burrell’s Wharf and illustrates one of the businesses that dominated this part of the riverfront, Burrell & Company were oil refiners and manufacturers of paints, varnishes and colours. From the late 1880s until the early 1920s a number of stores, warehouses and workshops appeared on the site. Earlier buildings on the site were also used especially from the famous Scott Russell and Fairbairn’s works.


The board pays tribute to the many women who worked in the many industries on the Island, Burrell’s employed many women in their business until it closed in 1986.

A little further along the riverfront is another board which marks the location of one of Islands most famous events, the launch of the Great Eastern in 1857.


In the 19th century, the Thames foreshore from Blackwall around the Isle of Dogs  to Limehouse was known for  the many shipyards. However, the building of the Great Eastern between 1854 and 1859 at the Millwall Iron works was on a scale never seen before. It was undertaken by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the most famous engineer of his day and John Scott Russell  the famous Naval architect. The ship was four times bigger than any ship built before weighing 21,000 tons, 692ft long with a beam of 83ft.


One of the major problems was how to launch the ‘monster ship’, Brunel’s solution was to launch the ship sideways using chains and cradles. Unfortunately, the ship got stuck and it took months to finally float the ship in the Thames, by this time Brunel and the shipbuilders became a bit of a laughing stock. The ship seemed ill fated and had significant problems before it was ready for service. Remarkably part of the wooden structure from the launch is still  there and looking down onto the foreshore, further remains of the launch can be spotted.

This part of the walk covers the south end of the Island, the next part will take us along the western side usually associated with Millwall. This side was the location of windmills in the 18th century before the building of the West India Docks which transformed  this rural part of the Island into an industrial and trading centre.

The Boards are a great introduction to the Island and this project provides plenty of interest, the new audio tour has been devised to coincide with the launch of the walk and will be available to download as a podcast from the website: www.islandboardwalk.com/audio-trail It is derived from exclusive interviews with those who live and work on the island and provides real insights into the past, present and future of the Island.

‘Free’ Leaflet/Trail Maps which are available to download online and to collect from The Ship pub, The George pub, HubBub cafe bar and restaurant, Cubitt Town Library and the Great Eastern pub by the School Day’s board at start of the trail.

For downloads and more information visit:


West India Docks : An Ever-changing Pageant by J. R. P. Taylor (1928)

London, West India Dock (Import), 1837. Engraved by FW Topham after a picture by R Garland.

Visiting the Warehouse 1 exhibition at the Museum of Docklands gave me the impetus to write something about the West India Docks. Fortunately I came across the following article which was written by J. R. P. Taylor in the P.L.A Monthly in 1928. The  P.L.A Monthly often carried interesting articles about the river and the docks and this one mentions the filling in of the Limehouse Basin in 1928 and the writers memories of the great days of sail in the docks in the late 19th century.


The Limehouse Basin was two-acre basin that was at the west end of the West India Docks, It was built slightly later than the Import Dock and Blackwall Basin and was not completed until 1803. When the Limehouse entrance lock closed in 1894 the basin was little used. The Limehouse Basin was filled in 1927–8, to increase storage space, it was filled in using material from the excavations for the Millwall Passage.


West India Docks: View eastwards across the Limehouse entrance basin in March, 1928. The process of filling the dock with rubble has begun.Photo by A. G Linney (Museum of London)

Smugglers’ “Black Ditch”

During the past century and a quarter, the area containing the East and West India Docks has been the scene of industry’s ever-changing pageant (writes J. R. P. Taylor In the “P.L.A Monthly,” the magazine of the Port of London Authority). Old works, like old men, must sooner. or later be replaced, so let the first picture be of Limehouse Basin, soon to be no more, as the one and a quarter acres of water space are now being filled in with the material from tho new cuttings in various parts of this dock system. The old basin, however, and its solid oak bollards with deep ropeworn chines is just as it was originally constructed and it is clear that the West Indiaman of, say, 1820, was quite a pigmy compared with her successors, such as, for example, the S.S Inanda.


West India Docks: Filling the old Limehouse entrance basin with rubble, March, 1928. Note the old crane still in position on the quayside. Photo by A. G Linney (Museum of London)

These vessels used to enter to the accompaniment of good old shanties and lay by waiting for a berth, while the tars, whose lusty voices matched their physique, soon clambered to shore with their sea chests and dirty bags containing the essentials, of their calling, such as palm and needles, fid, grease cup, and such-like. True to tradition, these children of the sea would hug the shore, and when Poplar and Llmehouse had absorbed their money would very soon be outward bound again.

Prior, to the building of the West India Docks (and, indeed, for forty years thereafter) smugglers used the “Black Ditch” at night to run their goods. This stream, now filled in, gave access to the river and ran past where the London Salvage Corps station now stands, and was really, only a cess drain serving the cottages reached via Dingle Lane and the houses along Poplar High Street. One of the commodities that city merchants used to journey down to purchase cheap was Irish linen.

Protruding from the walls of Nos. 1 and 11 warehouses are still to be seen thick Iron rings, which were used during the sixties and seventies, when the Fiery Cross and other famous China tea clippers brought their valuable cargoes, and throughout the season the intervening space, now known as “The Square,” was roofed with canvas.


West India Dock ( New South Dock) National Maritime Museum 1885

Two long masts were guyed to these rings, and then a huge marquee was run up, and the unlucky servants of the company were then “In for It,” as they were required to be at the scales at six in the morning and work until eight at night, when those whose homes were at a considerable distance were allowed to sleep in the “Dead House,” a building situated near Limehouse Basin, and used then, as now as a mortuary for the bodies recovered from the Dock.

Old customs seem to die harder here than elsewhere, and many strange characters have been produced who would doubtless have been immortalised by Dickens had he been their contemporary. Not so long ago It was the custom of all warehouse keepers and first-class clerks to wear top hats and long-tailed coats. The latter practice survives, although it only needs the fingers of one hand to count the devotees, For the “snuffers,” however, both hands are needed, but, on account of their age, a few years must see their eclipse, and their boxes will be relegated to the class of curios. I have one which was handed down from father to son, and In turn to his son, a lately deceased first-class clerk.

1880 nmm

West India Dock ( New South Dock) National Maritime Museum 1880

Up to tho advent of the Boer war, the decks of windjammers provided during lunch time an admirable parade for the dock staff, whilst messenger-boys, undeterred by Jacob’s ladder, climbed the rigging and sunned themselves, lying flat on the yards.

The opportunities of seeing these survivors of the glorious days of sail are getting rarer each year, but it is a consolation to record that as long as they last one can count on seeing an occasional representative in the East and South-West India Docks, for it is here that they discharge and stack, mountain high, cargoes of cut box timber. One very interesting arrival during August last was the Loch Linnhe, formerly of the Australian wool fleet and her log showed that it had taken her 25 days to struggle and ghost over from Sweden, owing to the lack of fair wind, and during the whole time no rain was met. Her usual time is about nine or ten days compared with a steamer’s six days.

Remarkably, sailing ships still occasionally frequent West India Dock, which gives us some insight of how the dock would have looked in its glory days with row after row of sailing ships.

The Launch of the Island Board Walk

island board walk

Anyone who has walked around the Island will have noticed the heritage-boards which at various points  give some information of the island’s industrial past. The boards were installed 20 years ago and have provided some insights of many of the key sites, unfortunately in recent times some of the boards are showing their age and in need of a revamp.

An exciting new East End arts project not only has revamped the boards but will feature unseen images and personal accounts of island life from the locals. The Island Board Walk offers a unique platform for visitors and locals living on the Isle of Dogs to explore the heritage of the Island.


Of the 18 existing boards, 9 have been fully repurposed to feature a diversity of local voices, alongside unseen archival images and new accounts of island life from schools, individuals and local community organisations based on the island.

The Island Board Walk takes the form of an interactive walking trail which allows visitors to gain some historical insights about life in this famous but little known East London area.


The Island Board Walk was devised by National Maritime Museum designer Anna Lincoln and audio trail component was devised and scripted by journalist Anna Savva, who also conducted the interviews for the project. Local groups who have made significant contributions to the project include the Friends of Island History Trust and George Green’s School pupils, who have spent half-terms and volunteering hours exploring the island using photography then enhancing their images using Photoshop skills acquired in workshops led by Island Board Walk volunteers.

Other notable accounts came from Volunteers on the Massey Shaw, Friends of the Portwey Steam Tug, Mudchute Farm manager Nick Golson and a number of George Green’s School pupils, who contributed predictions about future life on the island.

The Boards are a great introduction to the Island and this project provides plenty of interest, the new audio tour has been devised to coincide with the launch of the walk and will be available to download as a podcast from the website: www.islandboardwalk.com/audio-trail It is derived from exclusive interviews with those who live and work on the island and provides real insights into the past, present and future of the Island.

Canary Wharf Group PLC and Print Future Awards supported the printing of the ‘Free’ Leaflet/Trail Maps which are now available to download online and to collect from The Ship pub, The George pub, HubBub cafe bar and restaurant, Cubitt Town Library and the Great Eastern pub by the School Day’s board at start of the trail.

For downloads and more information visit:


Over the next two weeks, I will be walking the trail and will show some of the new boards and their unique locations in this little piece of the East End.

The Changing Face of the Isle of Dogs – April 2016


Regular readers will know that part of the Isle of Dogs Life story is to look at the past and the present. Last year in March I wrote a couple of posts about the developments happening on the Island and Canary Wharf. Considering it was time for an update, I began to walk around the various developments.

Most of the work at Canary is taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. two major schemes are under development, New Phase (formerly known as Wood Wharf) and the Newfoundland development.


At first sight, The developments do not seem to have made that much progress. However, the developments are located near the docks and considerable time has been used cleaning and securing 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.

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


By contrast with the Canary Wharf developments, each of these developments has made significant progress with indications that the Novotel Hotel may be open for business as early as late 2016. Novotel Canary Wharf will have an height of 124m and consist of 39 floors.


The Dollar Bay development at the bottom of South Dock will be a 31 storey tower and is gradually rising above the dock.


Baltimore Tower in Millwall Dock area is likely to become a significant landmark for the Island due to its location away from the Canary Wharf skyscrapers. The development seems well advanced and will eventually be around 45 floors.

Tower Hamlets is at the centre of the tower boom with 18 tall buildings under construction, 27 with planning approval and 14 in planning. It is worth mentioning that not all these big schemes get off the ground and many are often mothballed for years, the Riverside development near Westferry Circus is one such example.

However, even if only a percentage are built it will drastically change the face and the character of the Island. The new developments are still clustered around the top of the Island but its likely that lack of space will see a steady encroachment into the centre which will impinge on the many residential areas.

With a planning stage of generally eight months and then  around six years for completion, the full picture of these developments will not really been seen for 6 to 10 years. But these new developments under construction suggest that this once neglected piece of London will over the next ten years will have some of the most expensive property in London.