Home » Human Life » Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part Two)

Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part Two)

island board walk

Part two of the Island Board Walk trail takes us along the west of the Island to the attractive Sir John McDougall Gardens which is a welcome piece of greenery, the park was named after John McDougall who was one the famous McDougall Brothers who owned a large flour mill in Millwall Docks. The park is on the site of former wharves and was opened in 1968.


Although today, Marsh Wall is a road at the top end of the Island.  In the 17th Century, Marsh Wall was the embankment built up on the west edge of the Island. These embankments had been built and maintained since medieval times mostly by landowners who had drained the marshes and used it as pasture for their animals.

Although the Isle of Dogs was largely uninhabited until the early 19th Century, there  was in the late 17th Century a number of windmills that were built on the Marsh Wall embankment  that took advantage of the strong winds that would blow over the unprotected Island. Although it is widely thought that there was only seven mills,  there is evidence that there could have been as many as 13. However most of the mills were small concerns and from the early nineteenth century were in decline and one by one the mills were abandoned and demolished.

However although the windmills disappeared, from the 18th Century the  area become generally  known as Millwall and when the Island became industrialised it gained a reputation not as an idyllic rural scene but rather for the industries that prospered here and the thousands of workers who came to live in the area.


From some of these workers at the Morton’s factory , Millwall Football Club was born and the team played on the Island until 1910 when they moved to South London. The rivalry between Millwall and nearby West Ham United has its origins in the days when supporters worked in the docks and shipyards. The board (5) gives more details of the Island’s interesting football past.


The next board (6) is located near the Limehouse Lock entrance which is situated just below Westferry Circus and indicates the lock’s historical importance and how its creation was inextricably linked to the ill-fated City Canal in the 19th Century.

The idea of building a canal across the top of the Isle of Dogs had been often raised but it was not until the plans for the West India Docks were finalised that plans for building the canal were discussed seriously. The scheme was funded by the Corporation of London who were confident that the short cut would be popular with ship owners, the Canal was finally open for business in 1806 it was 3,711ft long between the lock gates, 176ft wide at the surface of the water and 23ft deep at its centre.


It quickly become clear that the small savings in time for ships using the canal was not enough to attract a large amount of business, ultimately the decision was made to sell the canal to the West India Dock Company in 1829 who renamed the City Canal, The South Dock and stopped all transit passages and connected the dock to other parts of the West India Dock system.

Limehouse  Lock  entrance  or South Dock West Entrance (Impounding) Lock has it became known were designed as the west City Canal entrance locks.  Of all the docks entrances  built-in the 19th century, The South Dock west entrance lock is the only survivor with some of its original features.


The next board (7) takes up the story of the City Canal and the New South dock which became famous in the days of sail when large fleet of clippers moored along the north side of the New South Dock.The New South Dock was used especially as a loading dock for wool clippers to Australia and New Zealand.

The walk then takes us to Westferry Circus with its wonderful views of the City of London skyscrapers and into the old West India Docks, the next board (8) is located on the North quay of the Docks complex near to the statue of Robert Milligan and in front of the Museum of Docklands.


Robert Milligan  was the man considered largely responsible for the construction of the West India Docks. He was a wealthy West Indies merchant and shipowner who was upset at the losses due to theft and delays along London’s riverside wharves.

Milligan with a  group of powerful and influential businessmen including George Hibbert created the wet dock circled by a high wall for added security. The creation of the large complex of docks in the next couple of  years amazed visitors and West India docks were considered one of the most magnificent docks in the world.


The docks were in use for 178 years until they closed in 1980, in that time thousands of ships came in and out of the dock picking up and discharging cargo and the complex  provided work for thousands of  workers.


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:



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