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Yearly Archives: 2018
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.
The development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf seems to have had a considerable effect on the numbers visiting the dock. It has been a very quiet year for visitors in the dock, however we did welcome an interesting mix of ships and boats.
Some old Tall Ships favourites returned with Lord Nelson and Tenacious, other tall ships included Atyla and Marienborgh. We also had the Tall Ships Youth Trust Challenger Fleet on a visit.
Superyachts included the WindQuest Catamaran, Reef Chief, Forever One and the Lady A.
French Navy ships included Lynx, Guépard, Léopard, Panthère and Lion.
The Marienborgh yacht seems to be permanently in the dock and Tenacious has been berthed for several weeks.
The Massey Shaw, The Portwey and the Lord Amory which are permanently moored in the dock provide year round interest.
With all the development, it is unlikely that in the foreseeable future that numbers visiting will pick up quickly but we will keeping our eye on the many different ships that circle around the Isle of Dogs.
This year we spotted Superyacht Elandess, BNS Crocus, cruise liners Viking Star and MV Ocean Majesty.
May we wish all our readers a Happy New Year and we look forward to welcoming new visitors to the dock in the New Year.
Long time contributor Eric Pemberton has bought to my attention a new book that tells the remarkable story of the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest in East India Dock Road in Poplar. The book entitled ‘Saving Jack’ tells the story of the first 175 years of the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR) and is written by David Hurrell and Alexander Campbell.
Seamen’s missions were institutions that were organised in the 19th Century to cope with the large number of seaman arriving in the London Docks. They were often part of the outreach work of various Churches who tried to provide support to sailors all around the world.
Whilst almost all the Missions founded for Seamen in London have disappeared , one institution still survives and retains its original function after more than a century. This is the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR) which started life as the Wesleyan Seamen’s Mission of the Methodist Church in 1843.
The Methodists had also supported the work of the British and Foreign Sailors Society, however in 1890s they decided they needed to expand their services and build their own mission the Queen Victoria Seamans Rest in Jeremiah Street in Poplar.
As well as providing accommodation it also provided educational and recreational facilities. Remarkably it still provides accommodation and other facilities for seamen, other forces personnel and homeless people in need.
Eric sent a few of his postcards that feature the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest (QVSR) some time ago and feature some of the many facilities available to the residents.
If you would like to find out more about this little known part of Docklands history, you can buy a copy of ‘Saving Jack’ which has been published in a limited edition of 1,750.
To purchase a copy for only £9.99, you can get directly from the mission or visit their website here for further details
The address is
Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest
121-131 East India Dock Road
London E14 6DF
Over the last few years, an amazing array of ships have passed through West India Docks. However it is worth remembering that when the docks was in full use, literally thousands of ships would use the docks. I have recently come across a news paper report from 1910 that illustrates that some of the great British voyages and adventures began from West India and East India Docks, Limehouse and Blackwall.
In the early part of the 20th century, the race to the South Pole was one of the great expeditions to undertake and their was plenty of confidence that the expedition led by Captain Scott would be successful. This confidence is shown by the reporter who goes to West India Dock to look over the expedition ship ‘Terra Nova’ and speaks to Scott and his crew.
The preparations for the South, Polar Expedition are going forward, and the following graphic account is given by ‘The Daily Chronicle’
‘Ware open hatchways!’
The cry might have been heard ringing out every other moment from a stout, square-rigged wooden barque of some 760 tons that lay in West India Dock. Outwardly there was little t0 distinguish this particular boat from others of its class ranged along the opposite quay. But on closer view one noticed signs of special activity.
Besides the men that were working lustily the blazing sun, swinging stores and pig-iron ballast into the thick-ribbed hold, one saw strange figures in top hats and frock coats, and others in elegant mourning gowns being escorted over piles of rope, oil barrels, casks, crates, half-sawn -beams, and newly-painted ladders, by guides whose white caps and gold-braided jackets betokened them undoubted officers of His Majesty’s senior service.
The secret of it all was soon solved by the Inscription on the bow, boats and belts— ‘Terra Nova R.Y.S.” For this plain and unassuming craft is, indeed, the very one in which Capt R. F. Scott and his gallant comrades are going to make yet another effort to capture for England the honour of being first at the South Pole.
She sails under the command of Lieutenant Evans— Captain Scott himself going on later by liner and joining the ship at New Zealand and something like seventy tons of provisions will have been got aboard. She will first go to Portsmouth to take in the scientific Instruments, then, onto Cardiff for coaling purposes, and then southward ho!
Accordingly, what with the loading of the stores, with reception of a constant stream of visitors, distinguished and otherwise, and the fixing up of all sorts of alterations that this latest raid of the Antarctic calls for, the Terra Nova was a scene of mingled, cheery activity, of hammering, and shouting that may, perhaps be remembered through many a silent vigil in the Polar solitudes.
With it all Captain Scott himself, who flitted in and out quite informally in a simple lounge suit and straw hat and Captain Evans and the other officers, welcomed everybody who had the remotest right to be there, and guided each round the tough little craft, which is to be their home for so many weary months, with unfailing patience, and courtesy.
Nothing, indeed, could be farther from the truth than any notion that the polar explorer must be necessarily a ‘rough customer,’ shaggy, gigantic, and unsociable, These officers of the Terra Nova, who are going to do things that have baffled the buccaneers and desperadoes of the centuries are neat, dapper, quick-witted young officers, boyish and keen and gentlemen to the core. They are without exception light and ‘wiry in physique— the very antithesis of the John Bull type. They are, in fact, picked men of a new and fine English breed. Behind their cheery modesty there is a determination that is not of cast-iron but of steel.
Shown round by Captain Scott. and Lieutenant Evans, ‘The Daily ‘Chronicle’ representative inspected every corner of the good ship from the tiny laboratories that had been specially built, to the cosy forecastle and the mighty beams beneath which the crew’s hammocks will swing.
Although It is twenty-five years old, the Terra Nova is, Captain Scott explained, in perfect condition. It has already proved its soundness in several voyages, both north and south. It flew the American flag at Franz Josef Land. It was relief ship to the Discovery, itself, which curiously enough now in the service of the Hudson Bay Company is lying in the very same dock.
As for the stores, their variety was bewildering. A specially interesting shipment was case upon case of lubricating oil for the motor-sleighs that are to play so important a part in the actual dash for the Pole. The pemmican and cocoa that are to be the staple food of the shore-party had been already stored away as they would be wanted last.
But as there are to be no less than three different expeditions to ‘cater for as’ soon as the ship touches the ice barrier the needs are infinite. One saw at least twenty crates of biscuits being heaved into the hold, huge stacks of boxes of sardines, a great stand by on account of the oil, casks of beer and crate after crate of mineral waters, dried vegetables of all kinds, beetroots, brussels sprouts, artichokes, broad beans, spinach, French beans, petis pois extra fine, asparagus, cauliflowers, ‘celery au jus, young carrots, cabbage, cheeses, pickles, soups, marmalade, lard, tinned fruits galore, tobacco and cigars, Christmas puddings—the list would have no end.
As it happened, the very last package to be taken aboard when the sheds closed was a large gramophone. By its means doubtless, many an Antarctic night will be charmed away with the songs of the old country, the silence of the ice-floe broken with Recollections of Harry Lauder or a Tetrazzini record.
Terra Nova in the Antarctic
Unfortunately, although Scott and four companions reached the South Pole in 1912, they discovered that Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, had got there first. The expedition group never made it back to safety being overcome by frostbite, starvation or exposure.
If you would like to see some of the relics from Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition (1910 – 1913) they are on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich in their Polar Worlds gallery. They include Captain Scott’s overshoes, Captain Scott’s sledging goggles and Captain Scott’s book bag in which he kept his famous diary.
Swimming Fete at West India Docks 1895
Regular readers may know that the Isle of Dogs played an important part in the history of swimming being the birthplace of John Trudgen and the scene of many swimming competitions.
However, the West India Docks also placed an important part in the promotion of Lifesaving in the water. William Henry who was a champion swimmer became increasingly concerned by the amount of drownings in Victorian Britain. This led him to become the founder of the Royal Lifesaving Society which was founded in 1891. The main architects of the formation of the new Society were William Henry and Archibald Sinclair who were keen to promote lifesaving. In the first year, the first lifesaving courses were introduced and a handbook of techniques produced and a national lifesaving competition was held with 24 teams competing.
By 1897, the Lifesaving Society were ready to expand their society and organised its first International Gala at the West India Dock in the presence of the Duke & Duchess of York. Competitors participated from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany Sweden and France. Events included swimming competitions, lifesaving demonstrations and diving events.
Swimming Fete at West India Docks 1895
This was not the first time that swimming events had been held in West India Dock but was one of the largest and most prestigious.
A newspaper report from 1897 gives all the details.
Swimming Fete at the West India Docks
In the six years of its existence the Life-Saving Society has organised no more important or successful gathering than the “Diamond Jubilee International Championship Gala,” which took place at the West India Docks on July 3. Various circumstances combined to give a distinction to the occasion, not the least being the presence of the Duke of York, who is president of the society, accompanied by the Duchess of York. Although not a wealthy organisation, the Life-Saving Society has a great and widespread influence in all parts of the world where swimming clubs are established. The proceedings had been timed to begin at 3 o’clock, but long before that hour vast concourse of spectators had lined the quays of the West India Dock, and had occupied every position from which a view was obtainable.
In honor of the occasion, the warehouses and other buildings in the neighbourhood hung out flags, and the vessels in the dock made a liberal display of bunting, which gave au appearance of unusual gaiety and brightness to the generally sombre surroundings.
A most enthusiastic welcome was given to the Duke and Duchess of York, when punctually at 3 o’clock, they arrived, accompanied by Lord Knutsford and the Hon Sydney Holland, acting-president of the society. The Royal party entered the dock in the steam launch Cintra, which, besides flying the Royal Standard and the Union Jack, was tastefully decorated with flowers and. evergreens.
The first item on the programme was a display of rescue and release drill by twenty-two teams of four swimmers each. The most important event on the “card ” was the mile amateur championship, for a challenge cup, which has been held since 1893 by J. H. Tyers, Manchester Osborne S.C., champion of England, and holder of the world’s record. As events proved, however, Tyers was not to retain the championship for another year. First to get away, he was speedily challenged by J.H. Derbyshire, a member of his own club, but at the end of the first lap, he was leading by nine yards. At the third round out of the eight which made up the mile, the race lay between Tyers, Derbyshire, Arnold Toepfer (Poseidon S.C., Berlin, champion of Germany),and Percy Cavill (East Sydney S.C., champion of Australia). Very soon, however, Derbyshire, Toepfer, and Cavill fell off, and J. A. Jarvis (LeicesterS.C.), Midland Counties champion swam to the front. Tyers steered very wide, and finally the Midlands champion finished the winner by fully twenty yards. The English amateur record time for this distance is 26min 46sec. The time on Saturday was not so good, being 32min 28 sec. Jarvis who is a house-painter by trade—is a young man of twenty-five, and he has won all the Midland County championships for the past four years. On every previous occasion when he competed for the mile championship he was placed third. He has not swum a mile for twelve months, and won Saturday’s race practically untrained.
Later events proved that in diving the Swedish representatives are unapproachable, bat the race unmistakably demonstrated the superiority of the Englishmen in strong, powerful swimming. Toepfer, the German, was the only representative from abroad, who seemed able to maintain anything like the pace of the English swimmers. Guy Seron (Brussels S.C.), the Belgian champion, Cavill, of Australia, and W. J. Stratton (Zephyr S.C.), champion of New Zealand, all fell behind early in the contest, and finished a long distance in the rear of Jarvis and Tyers.
In a special 100-Yards Scratch Race, J. Hellings (Bondi), Sydney, obtained first place, J. Hunt (May field), Manchester, second, and T. Rourke, Salford, third position. The winner’s time was 1 min 11 sec , the second and third man being respectively one and three seconds behind
A 100-Yards Rescue Race was won by J. T. Savill and W. E. Wood (London and India Docks S.C.), W. W.. Green and S. W. Turner
(Pacific S.G.) being awarded second place. A 100 yards open amateur handicap was swum in four heats, the final result being:—
O. W. Payne (Polytechnic), first ;
F. G. Robinson (Neptune), second ; and
E. Eildred (York), third.
The winner received s start of 16sec.
Z. Claro (City Police), with a start of 16sec
wonthe 100yds Open Obstacle Handicap,
with S. Ross (Shakespeare) for second,
and W. Fewell (Polytechnic) in third
Apart from these contests, the most interesting feature of the programme was the display of high aud fancy diving given by the twelve gentlemen who came as representatives of the Swedish Swimming Associations. It is no exaggeration to say that nothing to equal it has ever been seen in London, and it drew from the spectators round after round of the heartiest and most appreciative cheering. So great was the interest manifested in it by the Duke of York that the launch was moored out nearer to the diving platform, in order that His Royal Highness and the Duchess of York who also followed the exhibition with evident
pleasure might have a better opportunity of witnessing the performances.
Succeeding this display came a national graceful diving contest, which was won by V. Sounemans, of Brussels, H. S. Martin, of St. James, being awarded second position, and Master W. E. Webb, of the same club (a mere boy), taking third place. Sounemans, when the result was announced, offered to give an exhibition of high and fancy diving, and was rewarded with an outburst of hearty, honest English cheering, the recollection of which must always remain with him. The diving display was “sandwiched” between several minor events, and shortly after it was over the Duke and Duchess of York took their departure, having remained for fully an hour and a half, most interested spectators of the gala.
Swimming events were held in West India Dock up to the 1930s but few would have been as well attended than this one. The Royal Lifesaving Society has gone from strength to strength and runs courses and competitions all around the world. It is now a Drowning Prevention Charity and the UK’s leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education.
With all the large development on the Island, a smaller development has been somewhat overlooked but carries on a tradition that goes back to the 1860s.
The last remains of the old St Luke’s Church, Millwall were demolished in 2014 which marked the end of a church that had been built in the 1860s. The first church was built in 1868 on land donated by Lady Margaret Charteris and Lord Stafford, it was considered quite a grand church for the area seating 700. The architect was E. L. Blackburne who had earlier restored Crosby Hall in Bishopsgate.
A mission hall was built on to the south side of the church in 1883. It was converted into a chapel when new parish rooms were built in 1912. There was also a Gothic-style vicarage built on the site in 1873.
The church became an important part of the local community but was badly damaged in the Second World War. In 1960 the decision was made to demolish the church, however a chapel with stained-glass windows was made at the east end of the parish rooms and consecrated for worship. This chapel and the parish rooms was only ever intended to be a temporary solution but were used for the next 54 years. Eventually this chapel and the parish rooms were demolished in 2014 and a new church with community centre planned.
Four years later a wonderfully designed spacious church has been built which will be an important resource for the people of Alpha Grove and beyond. The official opening of the new St Luke’s at Millwall was when it was blessed by the Bishop of Stepney in October.
After Remembrance Sunday, it is a timely reminder that the effects of war can last for a long time, the original church severely damaged by an enemy air-raid in 1940 is only now being replaced by a new church.
After a quiet period in West India Dock , we welcome back a regular visitor, the tall ship STS Tenacious into the dock.
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 the Lord Nelson 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.
Photo – Eric Pemberton
Last week I wrote about the Remembrance trail in Canary Wharf, this week there are a number of Remembrance events on the Island.
There is a joint exhibition which is being run by Friends of Island History Trust and Christ Church, between 11am and 3pm on Thursday 8th November at Christ Church Manchester Road, London E14
Photo – Friends of Island History Trust
The exhibition remembers the many civilians as well as service men, women and animals who were affected by the war and guests and attendees are invited to bring along any photos, memorabilia or artifact relating to WWI and the volunteers on the day will invite visitors to sign a white triangle with a dedication or thought during the exhibition, which will then be joined together as bunting and displayed at the Church.
Christ Church, consecrated in 1857 was used as a place of shelter during the First World War and is one of the most recognisable landmarks on the Island.
Photo – Eric Pemberton
The annual Remembrance event at Island Gardens organised by the Friends of Island Gardens will take place on the 9th November with children from four local schools joining members from the community from 10.30 to reflect all wars, and a bugler will play the last post and two minutes silence to be observed from 10.58 at the memorial plaque at the Eastern End of the Gardens.
St Luke’s Church in Alpha Grove will be holding an exhibition at the newly built church on Saturday 10th November, it will include actors, artifacts from war, Craft and Live music and afternoon tea between 2pm and 4.30pm and a special service, wreath laying and 2 minutes silence on the 11th starting at 10.55am and there will also be a Service of Remembrance at Christ Church and St Edmunds Church, West Ferry Road on Sunday.
Many Thanks to Debbie Levett, Secretary for Friends of Island History Trust for the information.
In the run up to Remembrance Sunday, Canary Wharf presents the 2018 Remembrance Art Trail which is an exhibition of works by artist Mark Humphrey.
The artist has created 11 pieces of art that will be displayed across the estate to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One. Six of the artworks displayed in 2016 are on display alongside 5 new pieces including Every One Remembered, courtesy of the Royal British Legion who commissioned the work in 2014.
The works illustrate the way our perception of World War One has changed over the years, they display the sacrifice and human costs rather than the glory of the conflict. The works are inspired by the artist’s own family upbringing and explores the nature of service, sacrifice and remembrance.
1. Lost Armies, Jubilee Park – a piece remembering the fallen and those who made sacrifices for countries who have fought for the British Armed Forces.
2. Lost Soldiers, Montgomery Square – a work examining healing, remembering and forgiveness.
3. Jutland Capsule, Art Window Gallery, Canada Place – the poppy capsule floats on water, sinking beneath the waves over the shipwreck of HMS Invincible. The copper and brass memorial, full of heartfelt supporter messages, commemorates all sailors who fell at the Battle of Jutland, in the largest naval WW1 conflict.
4. Life Blossoms Again, Design Window Gallery, Canada Place – every time we see a poppy grow, we shall be reminded of an individual who made the ultimate sacrifice.
5. Brothers in Arms, Crossrail Place Roof Garden – an exhibit demonstrating human sacrifice, comradeship and remembrance for all military conflicts.
6. ANA (Army, Navy & Airforce) Triptych, Adams Plaza – using parts of military transport vehicles from the British Armed Forces, this work displays poppies in an abstract form.
7. Fallen Soldier, Cabot Square – this work remembers our servicemen and women from all conflicts.
8. Nick Beighton Part 1 (Trauma To Champion: Windows Of The Soul) Hepatych, 2017-2018, lobby, One Canada Square – a work about life’s trauma and triumphs, the resolve for resolution, searching deep into the soul, that death is not an option in the pursuit of illumination.
9. Nick Beighton Part 2 (Tragedy To Triumph: Metamorphosis Of Life) Pentatych, 2017-2018, lobbby, One Canada Square – a work demonstrating the strength overcoming disaster, finding the power to heal, rebuild and stand strong. The ability to grow, develop and emerge into something beautiful.
10. Every One Remembered, Jubilee Plaza – thousands of poppies dedicated by the public throughout the UK flutter around the soldier, paying tribute to each and every one for their sacrifices made.
11. Point of Everyman’s Land, West Wintergarden – this piece delves into war in time and space, alongside moments of battle.
Whilst the art trail is open, there will be charity pop-ups where you can make talk about their work and give donations. Charities involved include The Royal British Legion, Combat Stress, 68 Squadron and The Poppy Factory. There is also a series of Walking Tours around the Remembrance Art Trail.
The artworks provide a reminder to the many thousands who work in and visit Canary Wharf that although the First World War is a distant memory, the nation has not forgot the sacrifices made and over the next two weeks a series of events will take place in London including one on the Isle of Dogs in Island Gardens and culminating with the Remembrance Sunday event at the Cenotaph.
For more information, visit the Canary Wharf website here
Whilst enjoying the autumn sunshine, I decided to put on my walking shoes and wander around the Island to Island Gardens. Arriving at Island Gardens it seemed that the Calder Wharf development had progressed but my main aim was to enjoy the gardens.
Anytime is a great place to visit the gardens but my favourite times are spring and autumn, autumn is especially enjoyable because although most of the flowers have died away, there is often an atmospheric mist on the water that shrouds the Old Naval College, Greenwich Park and the Cutty Sark.
Island Gardens is popular with locals and visitors, you often see a tour group wandering around or people sitting enjoying the views. The park is always interesting, you can see children running around the bandstand and people taking their dogs for a walk but you can always find a spot for a little peace and quiet.
One of the most unique features of the gardens is the view across to Greenwich, this famous view is still one of the great views of London and has remained largely unspoiled for centuries.
Island Gardens were formally opened by Will Crooks in 1895, Crooks a local MP considered that the park would be ‘little paradise’ for local people. It is still a ‘little paradise’ thanks to individuals and local groups such as Friends of Island Gardens who work hard to protect the park.