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Yearly Archives: 2018
Last week’s post about Wood Wharf was a reminder that the Isle of Dogs have had some remarkable transformations. However the Island has been subject of a few schemes of the last 350 years, some that came to fruition and others that were considered follies.
The peculiar nature of the Isle of Dogs which forms a horseshoe around which the Thames has led many to consider the possibility of creating a short cut at the top of the Island to cut down the time spent going around it. In the early 1570s, a scheme was considered by the City of London to construct a canal from the Thames at Limehouse Hole to the River Lea. They even bought in a Dutchman to survey the potential sites and come up with a plan, eventually nothing was done but it was an idea that did not go away.
A century later, in 1681, the engineer, Andrew Yarranton came up with a scheme for turning the Isle of Dogs into a ‘fishing city’, to provide safe berths for a shipping fleet and houses for fishermen. His plan was to build two parallel docks and a connecting channel, controlled by locks, with houses lining the quays for the fishermen and families. He also believed other businesses like the making of rope and nets could use the Island. The Fishing city never came to light but some of these ideas and the idea of a canal were part of the grand scheme to build West India Docks over a century later.
The building of the West India Docks between 1799 and 1806 changed the whole character of the Isle of Dogs with the top part of the Island effectively cut off by large walls, docks and the City Canal. Between 1800–5, the Corporation of London built the City Canal which had long been thought about but never built. The canal was 3,711ft long between the lock gates, 176ft wide at the surface of the water and 23ft deep at its centre, disaster struck in early 1805 when the coffer-dam failed, causing a great wave to rush through the canal. Extensive repairs were needed and the opening had to be delayed to late 1805.
The City Canal was not a success because the cost of going through the short cut was not really worthwhile. Eventually the West India Dock company bought the canal in 1829 and turned it into the South Dock. This was not the end of the docks expansion with the heart of Island turned into Millwall Dock in the 1860s.
Despite the success of the docks, Philip Revell developed a plan of the 1870s to clear the whole Island and build an island fortress for the defence of London. It was not taken that seriously but was an interesting idea with what seemed to be locks on the Thames.
Even as recently as the 1930s, people were looking at reintroducing a passageway through the Island, a newspaper report gives more details.
An ingenious scheme for shortening the course of the Thames in London by about two and a half miles and converting the Isle of Dogs into a vast docks is advocated by Mr. H. Bragg, L.R.I.B.A., in the current issue of Modern Building Construction (says the London “Daily Chronicle”).
Mr Bragg proposes that the present U-shaped course of the river encircling the Isle of Dogs should be “cut out,”, and that a straight cut be constructed across the north part of the isle between Bugsby’s Reach and the Lower Pool. This could be done, he suggests, by widening the present West India Import Dock and extending it to the river both east and west.
Mr Bragg’s other proposals are:— Five new docks to be built on the Isle of Dogs, A river wall to be constructed along the south bank of the river from Lower Pool to the east end of Greenwich Reach and then across the present land to the river west of Woolwich Reach. Mr Bragg proposes that the ground between the new docks should be utilised not only as wharfage and warehousing space, but also for the erection of dwellings for dock workers with attractive gardens and children’s playgrounds.
Mr Bragg’s ideas were not taken up but this is one of the lessons of these types of schemes it is very difficult to know which will be a success and which will be a disaster. The ideas to turn West India Dock into a financial district and the creation of City Airport were not taken seriously at first.
Over the last few years, we have kept a close eye on many of the developments taking place on the Island and Canary Wharf. One of the largest developments has been Wood Wharf which is considered one of the most ambitious urban regeneration projects in London.
Unlike the main part of Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf is being developed into a 23 acre site with 5m sq. ft of mixed use space. Built on the former docks site, it is envisaged that Wood Wharf will have one of the largest clusters of tech and creative businesses in the UK. Canary Wharf Group are hoping that this Hi Tech hub will bring 20,000 jobs to the region, generate £2bn gross value from new jobs and £199m into the local small business economy.
Canary Wharf Group have produced some computer generated impressions of the finished site that offer a view of Canary Wharf which will probably the final stage of large development in the near future.
The site will have open spaces, waterside walkways, running trails and more retail areas and will be designed to high sustainability standards. The development will be targeting zero-carbon and zero-waste and is being built to have a positive social impact on the local area and communities. 25 per cent of the 3,600 residential homes will be affordable housing.
Although the new development does not directly impinge on the Isle of Dogs, indirectly it will have a knock on affect will more people living and working in the area. The top of the Island has seen unprecedented amounts of development in recent years and that development is slowly encroaching towards the bottom. It is likely that the development of Wood Wharf will accelerate that process even further.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the development of one of the largest business districts in Europe, that development was not necessarily welcomed by many Island residents. However in last 30 years, the Island has changed considerably and many will view the Wood Wharf development as more of an extension of the Canary Wharf footprint. Lots of Islanders use Canary Wharf for shopping, attending the various events and the transport system and of course, many residents work on the Canary Wharf estate.
In the 1800, the Isle of Dogs was largely inhabited before the coming of the Docks, after the rise and fall of the docks, we now have the rise of Canary Wharf. So the only real constant for the Island is change but there are few areas in London that have been the site of so many large global concerns in a relatively short time.
In the past few weeks, we have a number of training ships in West India Dock and we welcome more training yachts but with a difference. The Tall Ships Challenger Fleet consists of four yachts were built-in 2000 and designed to race around the world.
The 72ft yachts in the Challenger fleet are operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. The charity, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007, also operates the brig Stavros S Niarchos which has often visited West India Dock.
The Challengers can each accommodate a crew of up to 18 and due to their background in the Round the World Challenge races are modern, safe, purpose-built yachts, perfect for sail training and coastal adventures.
The Challengers can take up to a maximum of 18 crew which often consists of Skipper, Mate, 2 Watch Leaders, 2 Watch Assistants, Youth Mentor and 12 trainee Voyage Crew.
These type of training ships are very different from the large tall ships that are often used but offer a very different experience. The Tall Ships Youth Trust offer young people, from all walks of life, unique physically and mentally challenging experiences at sea which aim to develop their long-term life skills including team working, confidence and problem solving skills.
Tucked away in a lovely quiet corner of Island Gardens is the Memorial Area, The Friends of Island Gardens group have worked with the local council to create this small area within the park which is a place that people can pay their respects to the many who have sacrificed their lives.
A plaque was unveiled within the Memorial area in 2014 to mark the centenary of the start of the war and to mark the centenary of the end of the war there is a new addition, a pair of First World Tommies in Silhouette. The soldiers have their rifles in reverse as a mark of respect and mourning.
Unlike many places, there are not a lot of monuments to those who died in the two world wars on the Isle of Dogs. The main reason is that the Island itself suffered from considerable damage from bombing in the Second World War and has had extensive redevelopment since the 1980s.
In recent years, various groups have placed plaques around the Island to remember various events in the past, if you walk around the Island they are usually placed near were the disaster or incident took place.
The Memorial area in Island Gardens has become a community place of remembrance at certain times of the year but especially on a date near Remembrance Sunday. This years event will be held on Friday 9th November from 10.30 am and will have four schools sending children and there will be a bugler in attendance.
Many thanks to Eric Pemberton and Friends of Island Gardens for the photographs and information.
Last year, I had a look around The Forge which is one of the few buildings that survive from the great Victorian shipbuilding industry in Millwall.
If you would like to look inside this fascinating old building it will open during the Open House weekend on the 22nd and 23rd September 2018. Recently the Forge was turned workshops and gallery space for Craft Central.
However, many original features remain and The Friends of Island History Trust will be on hand to explain about the building and the surrounding area.
The Friends of Island History Trust have recently become a recognised charity and will show a variety of images and prints that celebrate the remarkable history of the Isle of Dogs.
Emrys who redesigned the Forge for Craft Central will be exhibiting their innovative designs, shortlisted for several awards and commended for a New London Award.
There will be a Glass at the Forge exhibition with twenty international glass & metal artists in The Gallery.
Darren Appiagyei, one of a new generation of woodturners, will be showcasing a range of his work.
There will also a Pop-up cafe available.
Getting to the Forge
Craft Central at The Forge is a five-minute walk from Mudchute DLR which connects at Canary Wharf with Bank and Stratford. The Forge is close to Masthouse Pier for Thames river bus services from Central London and Greenwich. It is also a short walk from the Greenwich foot tunnel.
After the visit from the Lord Nelson, we have the delight of a visit from her sister ship STS Tenacious. 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.
Photo – Eric Pemberton
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.
Photo – Eric Pemberton
Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.
With the Totally Thames festival in full swing, there are plenty of interest on and near the river, St Katherine’s Dock has a number of historic boats in the dock including the Havengore and Gloriana.
Photo – Eric Pemberton
Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs of the Tenacious coming into West India Dock.
Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by the Trinity Buoy Wharf area which is one of the most unusual places in London. The area has a fascinating history, The Corporation of Trinity House were a company responsible for buoys, lighthouses and lightships and in the early 19th century established Trinity Buoy Wharf as its Thames-side workshop where wooden buoys and sea marks were made and stored. Eventually new buildings were constructed during the Victorian period including the Electrician’s Building and an Experimental Lighthouse whose roof space housed a workshop for the famous scientist Michael Faraday.
By 1910 Trinity Buoy Wharf was a major local employer, with over 150 workers on the site and carried on until 1988 when it finally closed. In 1998, Trinity Buoy Wharf which was then an empty, derelict site was taken over by The Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust which began to develop the area as a centre for the arts and creative industries and the location is now home to a working community of over 350 people.
As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, Trinity Buoy Wharf will explore the site’s rich maritime history of Trinity Buoy Wharf; its buildings, lighthouse and the Thames, River Lee and their banks nearby with a night of special events will take place including specially installed light projections, art shows, films, images, stories and guided tours.
6pm- 6.40pm Maritime Heritage talk
6pm- 6.40pm “The Wharf” by Rupert Murray screening
6pm- 7pm Supercomputer performance
7.20pm- 7.55pm Guided Site Tour
8.30pm- 9pm TBW Drawing Prize PV
Open from 6pm- 9pm:
Story Box installation
3D projection light show
Andrew Baldwin’s Sculpture Park
Elisabeth Bond Exhibition
RioFoneHack interactive experience
Fat Boys Diner + The Orchard Cafe
Open Studios including:
Royal Drawing School
English National Opera
Trinity Art Studios
One positive aspect of the trust taking over the site was that it has preserved many historical aspects of this important part of London that may have been lost. If you would like to see how this was achieved, why not visit the Anniversary party on the 26th September, attendance will be free and there are plenty of cultural delights to enjoy.
For more information, visit the Trinity Buoy Wharf website here
After being away for a couple of weeks exploring the far north of Europe, it is nice to return and see the familiar masts of the STS Lord Nelson in West India Dock. By a strange coincidence I had a conversation while I was away with someone who had worked on the Lord Nelson for some years. As they say it is a small world.
The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people. The ship was the fulfilment of the vision of JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew.
The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members.
However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able-bodied crew.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.
The Lord Nelson and her sister ship, the Tenacious are regular visitors to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities.
At this time of year, the Thames sees the arrival of many cruise ships which make their way up to Tower Bridge, Eric Pemberton managed to capture some photographs of the MV Ocean Majesty as it passed by the Isle of Dogs.
The MV Ocean Majesty is a small cruise ship that was originally built-in 1966 as the ferry Juan March. As the Juan March, the ship worked on routes for the Madrid based ferry operator Trasmediterránea. During her service with her original owners, Juan March was mainly used to ferry passengers from Spain to the Balearic Islands.
In 1985 Juan March was sold to the Sol Mediterranean and became Sol Christina.She quickly changed name when she became the Kyros Star of Opale Lines. Eventually she was then sold to Majestic International Cruises, who rebuilt her from her original ferry-like form into a cruise ship, and she received her current name Ocean Majesty.
Since 1995, she has been charted out to other companies including Page & Moy and German cruise company Hansa Touristik.
The MV Ocean Majesty has a length 135 metres (443 ft) and beam of 15.8 metres (52 ft) and has 274 cabins, of which 185 are outside.
Thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs and it is time for us at Isle of Dogs Life to take a summer break for around three weeks.