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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Christmas at Mudchute Park and Farm

Sunday was a bright, sunny if a little chilly morning and it was time to turn my back on the road works and building sites on Marsh Wall and head for the wide open spaces of the countryside. Fortunately when you live on the Isle of Dogs, the countryside is not far away, in fact it is only a short walk down the Island to Mudchute Farm.

Mudchute Park & Farm is one of the largest inner City Farms in Europe with a wonderful collection of British rare breeds and currently home to over 100 animals and fowl. Set in 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London, Mudchute is a community charity, with a working farm, stables and a wide range of education activities.

The Park and Farm are a great example of community action, in the 1970s, the Island community fought against plans to build a high rise estate on the land. The success of the campaign against these plans led to the creation of the Mudchute Association which was formed to preserve and develop the area. Since then it has become a well-known London attraction loved by adults and children alike.

One of the ironies of the site is that the hills and mounds were formed in the 19th century by the waste matter dredged up by the construction of Millwall Dock. This foul-smelling mud put off any prospective developers of the land and it remained derelict for much of the 20th century. Another irony was that the mud was actually full of minerals and nutrients and provided ideal growing conditions for the many allotments that were built on the site.

Once inside the gates of the Park and Farm you are transported into another world of sheep grazing in the fields, donkeys, goats, llamas and pigs.

But that is not all, the Park and Farm is proud of its roots in East London and you can even enjoy some mussels and jellied eels. 

A visit to the Park and Farm is a pleasant way to get away from stresses of Christmas shopping and crowded trains. You can wander around the fields and look at the beehives, visit the old Ack Ack gun which was stationed in the park in the Second World War, let the kids have a go on the merry go round and enjoy a warm drink at the wonderful café whilst watching the horses in the stables.

Not surprisingly, the Park and Farm is very popular with families but is free and open to everyone who enjoys some peace and quiet away from the urban jungle.

If you are looking for a Christmas treat, the Park and Farm is having a special Christmas Open day on the 9th December between 11am and 4 pm with a Santa’s Grotto, Kid’s craft workshops, Donkey rides, Fairground rides, Cream teas and plenty of food and drink options. 

The Park and Farm are also selling Christmas Trees from 3ft to 10ft with proceeds going to the Mudchute charity.

If you have never been to Mudchute Park and Farm, it is well worth a visit at any time of the year and is one of the best and most enjoyable open spaces on the Island.

If you would like more information about Mudchute Park and Farm, visit their website here



Portuguese Navy ship NRP Francisco de Almeida and Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup in West India Dock.

Two new arrivals in West India Dock are the Portuguese Navy ship NRP Francisco de Almeida (F334) and Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312).

Both ships are part of the NATO’s standing maritime group 1 (SNMG1) which has been carrying out operations in the North and Baltic Sea.

NRP Francisco de Almeida is a former Karel Doorman frigate that Portugal bought from the Netherlands. The ship was previously the HNLMS Van Galen and was renamed to NRP Francisco de Almeida in 2010.
The 122 meter frigate has a crew of around 180 and includes a Lynx helicopter on board.

The HNoMS Otto Sverdrup is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate, the ships are named after famous Norwegian explorers. The Otto Sverdrup was one of five ships ordered from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and was launched in 2006. The ship is 440 feet (134.11 metres) long and carries a crew of around 120.

The main mission of the frigates is anti-submarine warfare and the ships are equipped to detect, identify and engage hostile submarines.

The ships involved in NATO’s standing maritime group 1 (SNMG1) are regular visitors to West India Dock, although I am not sure these particular ships have visited before.

As usual with these type of naval ships, how long they are in dock is not known at this time.

Photo –  Fraser Gray

Photographer Fraser Gray sent a couple of photographs of the HNoMS Otto Sverdrup heading back to sea.

Photo – Fraser Gray

Craft Central Winter Market at The Forge – 24th to 26th November 2017

Regular readers will know that a few weeks ago, I visited the Forge which has become the new home for Craft Central. The Forge is one of the most interesting industrial relics from the time of shipbuilding on the Island.

I am delighted to say that the Forge will be open this weekend for visitors to enjoy their Craft Central Winter Market.

The seasonal market will be selling handmade products by over 50 talented craftspeople. Home accessories, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, stationery, prints and more will be on sale. The winter market will be a chance to meet and buy directly from designer-makers, take part in one of the family craft workshops and enjoy a drink in the pop-up café.

An added bonus will be Friends of Island History Trust will have a membership and information stall at the market, FoIHT books and calendar will be on sale and there will be displays of Mike Seaborne’s 1980s photographs of the Island and a collection of even older images provided by Frontispiece Antique Prints.

Opening Times

Friday 24 November 5pm – 8pm

Saturday 25 November 11am – 6pm

Sunday 26 November 11am – 5pm

Free Entry

For more information, visit the Craft Central website here



Molly’s Christmas Orphans by Carol Rivers

Regular readers will know that I am always keen to find books with a link to the Island. Very few writers have written about the Island in a series of books, the great exception is bestselling author Carol Rivers who has written a number of books which generally feature characters on the Island.

Carol’s gritty and heart-warming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and appear regularly in many bestseller charts and Carol has a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.

I was delighted to receive a copy of Carol’s latest book, Molly’s Christmas Orphans which is focused on the   Island during the bombing of the Second World War and tells of the trials that Molly endures throughout the war years.

The story begins with war-torn Isle of Dogs struggling to deal with the constant bombing. Molly and her father own Swift’s General Store on Roper Street, the store is Molly’s domain, where her and her father both live and work supplying groceries to local people. Molly, who has already suffered the tragedy of losing her husband at Dunkirk and daughter to illness, bravely carries on helping and supporting local people on the Isle of Dogs, through the shop and her friendship with people both on her street and the surrounding area.

When a bomb falls in the street outside Swifts General Store, Molly finds herself covered in rubble and not knowing what had happened. Not suffering any injuries, Molly waits in a cold hospital corridor for her father who had his leg broken during the bombing.

A sudden bombing raid forces Molly to take shelter in the hospital basement where she meets good time girl Cissy Brown and merchant seaman Andy Miller and his two young children Evie and Mark and an unlikely friendship begins.

Having been told by the nurse that her father needed to stay in hospital, Molly prepares to return home. During the wait, Molly’s conversations with Cissy and Andy had revealed that both were homeless and had nowhere to go. Molly’s good hearted response was to  immediately offer a roof in Roper Street until they could find alternative means.

Molly’s adventures with both Cissy, Evie and Mark are revealed throughout the book, Molly learns to deal with the shadier side of life, and becomes mother to Evie and Mark and as her relationship with Andy deepens, would tragedy strike again, what lies in wait for Molly during the next few years and will she have a happy ending?

Molly’s Christmas Orphans is a wonderful tale of East End life during the war years, Molly is the central character and follows her  struggles to survive and finds her protective and supportive nature are tested to the limit.

Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here

French Navy Ship Flamant in West India Dock


On a grey miserable day,  we welcome the arrival of French Navy ship Flamant (P676).


FS Flamant is a Flamant class patrol boats of the French Navy used for fishery monitoring, search and rescue, and patrolling France’s coastal waters.


FS Flamant  and sister ships FS Cormoran and FS Pluvier were built and are based in Cherbourg. The three boats were ordered 1993 and entered service in 1997.


Cormoran and Pluvier have visited West India Dock previously in 2013 and 2014, Flamant is 54 m (177 ft 2 in) long and has a beam of 10 m (32 ft 10 in). The ship usually carries a crew of 21 which includes 3 officers and 18 men.

Flamant photo Fraser Gray

Photo – Fraser Gray

The FS Flamant visited West India Dock at this time last year and the visit is likely to be related to Remembrance Sunday which takes place this weekend.

Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens – 10th November 2017

This weekend, there will be a large number of events related to Remembrance Day around the country and especially London where the Cenotaph will be focus of attention on Sunday.

In 2014,  a War Memorial Plaque was unveiled in Island  Gardens, to remembers all those from the Isle of Dogs who died in two World Wars, it was particularly poignant considering it was on the centenary of the start of the First World War.

This year, there will be a short Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens on Friday the  10th November, it will include contributions from the Friends of Island Gardens, Cubitt Town School and George Green School Choir.

10.55   Welcome from Friends of Island Gardens

10.58   Last Post – Bugler

11.00   Two Minutes Silence

11.02   Reveille – Bugler

Laying of Wreaths

Cubitt Town School – Poem

George Green School Choir will sing the first three verses of “Oh Valiant Hearts”

A hymn remembering the fallen of the First World War


Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for sending in the  information.



Blackheath Fireworks by L Katiyo


Regular contributor, L Katiyo  over the weekend enjoyed the many delights of the Blackheath firework display that can be often seen from the Island.

The Island does not have a major bonfire display and the Blackheath display is one of the largest in London attracting crowds of over 100,000 people.

Most of the firework displays in London are well organised and  family friendly which can be enjoyed by everyone.

Blackheath has a long of celebrating Bonfire Night, a newspaper report from 1885 illustrates Lewisham, Blackheath and the surrounding area really enjoyed the parade of the ‘ Lewisham Bonfire Boys’.


On Wednesday, the Lewisham Bonfire Boys held their annual carnival in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. At 6 o’clock a procession has formed outside the Lewisham-road station of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway and with bands and banners flying, the bonfire boys started on their perambulation of the principal thoroughfares of Lewisham, Lee, Blackheath, Greenwich, and Catford. The cavalcade, which was about half-a-mile in length, included many vehicles illuminate with coloured fires and a large number of mounted men attired in fancy costumes. The characters were, of a most varied description. The houses and shops along the line of route were all brightly illuminated with coloured fires and Chinese lanterns. The streets were thronged with people, and the motley procession must have been witnessed by some 40,000 or 50,000 persons.


 Many thanks to L Katiyo for the photographs.

A Certificate of the Lord’s Supper for John Wildman of Whitechapel 1812

Regular readers will know that Eric Pemberton often sends in pieces of local history which often throws a light on the more unusual aspects of history. His latest document is very topical considering it is nearly  Guy Fawkes Night.

As many people will know Guy Fawkes Night originates from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 which was a failed attempt by a group of English Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic head of state.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was strong in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with constant fears of a Catholic rebellion. One way that parliament sought to prevent the country from being taken over was to pass the ‘ Act for preventing Dangers which may happen from Popish Recusants’ (1673) which became better known as the Test Act.

The Test Acts were religious tests for public office and imposed severe restrictions on Roman Catholics, the principle was that only people taking communion in the established Church of England would be eligible for public employment. The oath for the Test Act of 1673 was:

I do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.

Of course, no Catholic would agree with such an oath and therefore they would not be eligible for public office.

The sacrament had to be taken within three months after being admitted to office, and after the communion they were given a sacrament certificate signed by the minister and churchwarden of the parish and witnessed by two witnesses.

It is one of these sacrament certificates that Eric has sent in, the certificates were also known as a Certificate of the Lord’s Supper and in this particular case was in the name of John Wildman who attended the Parish Church of St. Mary, Whitechapel on the 5th day of April 1812. The certificate was signed by Daniel Mathias, Minister and Wm.Cooke, Churchwarden. Witnessed by John Flood and Thos. Barnes. Written on the certificate is sworn in Court 17th April 1812. At the top of the certificate is a Five Shilling Revenue Stamp.

Although the information on the certificate is quite limited, these certificates were produced in large numbers and are sometimes of interest to those looking into family histories and you can occasionally find the signatures of famous people of the time.

This particular certificate of 1812 is quite late because the Test Acts were abolished in 1828.

Many thanks to Eric for sending in this fascinating item.