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Monthly Archives: October 2019

Raving with the Clangers at the Museum of London Docklands – 23 November 2019

Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

One of the Museum of London Docklands most popular events is the museum’s annual family rave with the award-winning Big Fish Little Fish. Now in its fifth year, family rave pioneers Big Fish Little Fish will turn the 200 year old warehouse into a wonderland with confetti, balloons and bubbles as world-famous DJ Barry Ashworth (Dub Pistols) takes to the decks to serve a host of tunes from acid house to drum and bass.

This year, the event will have some special guests with youngest members of the Clangers family, Tiny and Small. They will also make an appearance in the special Clangers room where mini-ravers can get creative by decorating eco-friendly plant pots before taking a special pack of Clangers seeds to grow at home. Celebrating fifty years of the iconic children’s TV show, the curious creatures will be helping to provide eco-friendly fun for all the family.

Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

Elsewhere in the museum, you’ll get the chance to experience the unique sensory room and make animal and plant inspired décor with Captain Cookie Crafts while the smallest of ravers can take a break from the beats in our modified Mudlarks children’s gallery.

With a licensed bar and café bites available, the Museum of London Docklands is the place to be for fun-loving families in this cross-generation celebration of dance, play and creativity. Different zones are created to cater to babes in arms and toddlers plus craft tables, colouring mural and play dough table.

So if you have little ones with surplus energy, let them have a great time and still be home for tea-time.

Family rave: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle with the Clangers
Museum of London Docklands
Saturday 23 November 2019

For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website here

ARA Libertad Tall Ship in West India Dock

Another interesting visitor for West India Dock is the ARA Libertad tall ship which is a training ship for the Argentine Navy. Ara Libertad is one of the largest and fastest tall ships in the world and holds a series of speed records.

The tall ship was designed and built in the 1950s by the Río Santiago Shipyard in Argentina and made her maiden voyage in 1961. Since then she has been a training ship and a travelling goodwill ambassador for Argentina. The ship is estimated to have covered more than 800,000 nautical miles (1,500,000 km), visited about 500 ports in more than 60 countries and trained over 11,000 navy personel.

The ship has a total length (including bowsprit) of 103.75 m (340.4 ft); a beam of 14.31 m (46.9 ft) and is world’s sixth longest tall ship and the third heaviest. The crew usually numbers around 350, including 24 officers, 187 crewmen and 150 naval cadets. Unusually the ship has four fully functional cannons which are used for salutes.

It is the first time that the Libertad has visited London for 17 years and marks the half-way point on the 48th midshipman training voyage.

The Frigate departed from Buenos Aires on 17th of August and will navigate over 23 thousand miles in 2019, visiting 15 ports in 10 countries, including: Salvador de Bahía (Brazil); Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Cadiz (Spain); Lisbon (Portugal); Brest (France); Antwerp (Belgium); London (United Kingdom); Dublin (Ireland); Boston and Miami (U.S.A); Bridgetown (Barbados); Recife and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Montevideo (Uruguay).

The ship is due to be open for visitors for free tours on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th of October before the ship departs on the 29th October.

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery at the Museum of London Docklands – 3 April to 25 October 2020

Havering Hoard site discovery (c) Archaeological Solutions Ltd

Something to look forward to in the new year is a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in April 2020. The exhibition entitled Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery will feature the largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London which was unearthed in Havering.

A total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800 BC have been uncovered during a planned archaeological investigation, with weapons and tools including axe heads, spearheads, fragments of swords, daggers and knives found alongside some other unusual objects, which are rarely found in the UK.

Havering Hoard (c) Museum of London

Because most of the weapons appear to be partially broken or damaged, the exhibition will offer some suggestions about why these objects ended up being carefully buried in groups close together.

Havering Hoard (c) Museum of London

Bronze Age finds of this type are very rare and the exhibition is a unique opportunity for Londoners to find out more about their ancestors. This exhibition is the latest of a long line of fascinating free exhibitions at the Museum of London Docklands.


Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery
Museum of London Docklands
Fri 3 Apr – Sun 25 Oct 2020



Super Yacht Kismet in West India Dock

The nights may be drawing in and there is a slight chill in the air but we are still having a few interesting visitors in West India Dock. Today saw the arrival of the Super Yacht Kismet.


Kismet is a large superyacht and has visited the dock a couple of times before in 2014 and 2016. It often comes to London when its owner Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan wants to entertain guests attending NFL matches in London. His NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars play Houston at Wembley Stadium on the 3rd Nov 2019.

Last time the yacht arrived it was tucked away at the bottom of the dock for some time before being taken up to near Tower Bridge.


Kismet is 308ft long has three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area and all mod cons. The ship features exterior styling by Espen Øino and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20. This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan and estimated to have cost 200 million dollars, a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £70 million in 2013. The new Kismet was built at German boatyard Lurssen.

Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and it was rumoured last year that the yacht was up for sale. If you would fancy life aboard the Kismet, the super yacht can be chartered for £940,000 or 1.6 million dollars a week.

Remembering Steam Wagons in London

Credit – Barry Ashworth

Recently , I mentioned Barry Ashworth and his long career at Dunbar Wharf, when he first started work at the wharf in the 1960s he came across a number of documents and photographs from Dunbar Wharf’s previous owner, Francis Vernon Smythe. One of those photographs illustrates a long forgotten mode of transport on London streets and the various connections within the British Empire.

The fascinating photograph in question features a steam wagon collecting silver ingots in the City of London, more information is given at the bottom of the photograph with the caption ‘Steam Wagons loading Bar Silver for the British India Steamer.’ On the side of the trucks is F.V. Smythe of Dunbar Wharf, Limehouse. The photograph is taken outside the offices of Durham Stokes which was a stockbrokers in Old Broad Street and seems to be in the early 20th century.

The British India Steamer referred to in the photograph is the British India Steam Navigation Company which was formed in 1856 as the Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company. It became the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1862, Lord Inchcape, became chairman in 1913 and the company became part of the P&O group of companies in 1914, it kept its own identity and organisation for another nearly 60 years until 1972, when it was fully absorbed into P&O.

At its peak, the company was one of the largest shipowners of all time, the company owned more than 500 ships and managed 150 more for other owners. The main shipping routes of the line were: Britain to India, Australia and Kenya but ran services throughout Asia and Africa. Silver Bullion was an important cargo for the ships from the UK to satisfy the demand for the metal in India where it was used in a variety of ways especially in its currency.

Alley & McLellan steam wagon (Mechanical Transport,1911)

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the steam wagon was considered the alternative to horse drawn vehicles especially for heavy hauling and short journeys. They first made an appearance in London in 1879, a newspaper report gives more details.

1879 A New Steam Waggon

A new style of road vehicle, designed to be propelled by mechanical power, has made its appearance in London, England. The carriage closely resembles an ordinary dog-cart; the shafts are very short, and incline together, meeting two feet in front of the dashboard; between them there is a third wheel, working upon an upright shaft, which could be turned by a handle placed the same as that of a bicycle; this handle is worked by reins in the hands of the driver. The motive power is obtained by the combustion of beozoline, a small jet of which is admitted into the burner. Itis then set on fire, and is completely consumed by a current of air, which until the machine is in action, is produced by turning the small handle already alluded to. The burner, about the size of an ordinary chimney-pot hat, and quite as elegant, is lined by coils of a copper tube containing water.

Thorneycroft steam wagon (Modern_Engines, Vol III)

By the early 20th century, steam wagons were a common sight on London roads and in 1903 there was a parade in the capital of the latest models.

1903 A Steam Waggon Parade.

On May Day last a display took place in London which may probably lead to an important annual function in future years This was a parade of self-propelled vehicles for carrying heavy freights, and this description, so far as last week’s gathering was concerned, is synonymous with “steam waggon,” for all the vehicles that attended were propelled by the time-honoured engine and boiler. Possibly by next May Day the internal-combustion engine may have been sufficiently improved to take its place as an important factor in the propulsion of heavy freight-in waggons.

The parade of thirty steam powered vehicles had been arranged by the Thorneycroft Steam Waggon Company, as in the older established cart-horse parade, the object was the encouragement of drivers, and three prizes were offered.

However by the 1920s, petrol and diesel lorries were considered cheaper and more efficient and steam wagons were considered slow and sometimes dangerous.

1929 Steam Waggons in London: Coroner Criticism

A rider to the ‘effect that steam waggons should no longer be licensed unless the driver has a full and unrestricted view of the whole road was added by the Jury at a Westminster Inquest. A verdict of accidental death was returned in the case of Laura Hodman, 18, typist, of High Street,Islington, who while crossing the Victoria Embankment to catch a tramcar during the rush hours on Tuesday evening was run over by a steam waggon.

Mr Ingleby Oddle (the coroner) said that the accident was a simple one. The girl did not look to see, If anything was coming on her left, the driver of the steam waggon was sitting on the near side, and could not see on the oft side at all, having to rely on his fireman.

“It is perfectly obvious , to me that the time has long since, gone by when vehicles of this type should not be permitted on the streets at all.”

The time of the steam wagon was almost over and new road taxes and limits on weight sent them to scrapyards in large numbers, although some were saved and preserved and can sometimes seen at steam fairs. Steam wagons were largely a short lived British phenomenon and quickly became forgotten as internal combustion powered vehicles took over the roads.

It is always remarkable how one photograph can takes us back to a forgotten piece of London history and many thanks to Barry Ashworth for permission to use the photograph and related information. I have undertaken some research into the photograph but if anyone has any more information, please comment below.