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West India Dock Review 2020

It is that time of the year when people begin to review the past 12 months, carrying on the tradition from previous years, normally we would be listing the ships that have visited West India Docks in the last year.

This year has been like no other and the only visitor we had was the Super Yacht Ilona in April.

For the marine lovers out there, I have decided to feature a few favourites from the last few years to show us what we have missed. The most exciting visitors of recent years have tended to be the tall ships which always cause plenty of excitement and gives us a reminder of how the dock would have looked in the 19th century.

Mexican Tall Ship Cuauhtémoc visited West India Dock in 2019.

American Tall Ship USCGC Eagle visited in 2016.

In 2014, the dock featured ships from The Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival.

Royal Navy ships have been regular visitors over the years, here is the HMS Westminster from 2014.

Other Navies have provided ships at the dock, most unusual were the Chinese Navy Ships Huanggang and Yangzhou in 2017.

NATO Ships often berthed in West India Dock, here are some from 2015.

Many types of ships have visited the docks including Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior III in 2019.

Perhaps the most unusual visitor was a H.M. Bruinvis, a Dutch submarine in 2012.

Let us look forward to the return of ships to the dock. The development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf is gradually becoming completed and hopefully we can put the pandemic behind us in 2021.

I would like to wish our readers a happy and healthy New Year.

Dunbar Wharf in the the 1980s

Dunbar  Wharf 2020

Around this time last year, I wrote about Dunbar Wharf in the 1920s with the assistance of Barry Ashworth and Michael Murnoir. Limekiln Dock and especially Dunbar Wharf convey some of the atmosphere of 19th century docklands industry. The original loading doors and cast iron windows of the small, early 19th century warehouses of Dunbar Wharf in Limehouse are a reminder of how much of the riverside would have looked in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dunbar  Wharf 2020

A few weeks ago, Michael got in touch and told me he had come across an old home movie of when he visited Dunbar Wharf in the 1980s. Michael was kind enough to send a copy of the home movie which shows Dunbar Wharf still used as offices and warehouses before the widespread development of the area.

No other part of London underwent a more rapid and radical redevelopment in the 1980s and early 1990s than the Isle of Dogs and Docklands. This development was a response to the decline and eventual closure of the docks. The creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1981 and designation of the area as an Enterprise Zone led to number of initiatives including the DLR which opened in 1987.

Dunbar  Wharf 2020

Dunbar Wharf was home to one of the richest men in Britain who ran a large shipping fleet with connections all over the world. The story really begins with Duncan Dunbar senior who leaves Scotland and founded a brewery in Fore Street in Limehouse in the 1790s. His career as a brewer and wine merchant was obviously very successful because when he died in 1825 he left around £ 40,000 in his will. This wealth allowed his son Duncan Dunbar Jnr who was born in Dunbar Wharf to branch out into shipping. Young Duncan’s bought his first ship in 1827 and by 1842 his fleet stood at 11 ships, over next 20 years he ordered 42 new ships.

Even into the mid 20th century, Dunbar Wharf was used for transporting products all over the world. By the 1980s, many of the docks were closed or ready to be closed and old warehouses were being eyed up developers. In the film we can see the old warehouses across from Dunbar Wharf being pulled down to be developed.

Dunbar Wharf in this period was still being used by a number of companies under the E.W. Taylor Group who were transporting goods around the UK and the world, but it was past its glory days of the 18th and 19th centuries.

One fascinating aspect of the film is to see the area before the large development of Dundee Wharf and to see Dunbar Wharf, just before it was redeveloped as flats and apartments.

The exterior and interior gives the impression that Dunbar Wharf had changed little since the 19th century with many of the original warehouse doors and fittings still there.

Dunbar Wharf overlooks Limekiln Dock which now has a bridge across,

in the 1980s this was not the case with many of the riverside industries not allowing public access to their sites.

Dunbar Wharf occupied a much larger site than the old warehouse with considerable storage areas down to the river.

Looking over towards what is now Canary Wharf, we can see the old timber yards and pier down to the river.

The only tall buildings on the Isle of Dogs at this time are the four Barkantine  tower blocks completed in the 1970s.

The old Dunbar Wharf warehouses were often used for storage and Michael shows sacks of Juniper berries being stored high in one of the warehouses. The sacks were stored for local gin distillers for up to two years, the warehouses were chosen because they tend to be airy and were the perfect temperature for the berries.

The film offers a remarkable insight into a world that was on the cusp of changing forever. Although Dunbar Wharf is now residential, it does retain much of its character and is a reminder of the large number of riverside wharves and warehouses that have largely disappeared.

Many thanks to Michael for sharing his memories.

Connected by Light at Canary Wharf from 2 December 2020 to 27 February 2021

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Although the Canary Wharf annual Winter Lights festival has been postponed, the estate has decided to bring some colour and light to the area with Connected by Light which is a specially curated collection of nine light artworks.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Local photographer Loren Brand on a cold chilly night went to have a look at these new works which aim to bring a sense of calm and reflection in these difficult times as well as a much-needed splash of colour as the winter nights draw in.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Tetra Park by Mandylights, Westferry Circus
Tetra Park is a geometric artwork that explores colour progressions through a complicated series of linear pathways. The series of stars sometimes appear to work together, while at other times the installation breaks down into seemingly chaotic colour. Their star forms remain true throughout though; shining as bold forms in the night for anyone who follows their path.

The Stories Under Our Feet by Elisa Artesero, Jubilee Park
A poetry trail across Jubilee Park is created by ephemeral shadows of text cast out from underneath the benches. Each cluster of benches form micro poems of a larger poem across the site. These dream-like poems encourage moments of contemplation, connection, and wonder.

Newfoundland Reflections by Hawthorn, viewing point at Mackenzie Walk
Newfoundland is a new Canary Wharf icon and a striking addition to the skyline. This stunning building will soon open its doors to its first residents but before then, we have transformed it into a beaming spectacle of light. Watch the colourful patterns evolve and glow in the waters below.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Colour Cubed by Mandylights, Wren Landing
Colour Cubed is a simple exploration of the beauty that comes from a single light source. While we are constantly surrounded by vibrant displays of constant technology, the artwork uses a single traditional lamp along with long-used coloured glass techniques to cast a display of coloured light just as brilliant, dominant and inspiring as any other artwork or object in our lives.

Office Party by Parker Heyl, 20 Water Street

2020 has been defined by quarantine and social distancing, with many Londoners now working from home. “Office Party” comes from the playful idea that our work spaces may come to life in our absence. The blinds’ unexpected movement in an office after the workers have left, creates a moment of magic. 

Curious Fluorious by Baker & Borowski, Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Artists Baker & Borowski are turning Lewis Carroll’s much-loved Alice in Wonderland into a magical fluoro installation for the modern day – Curious Fluorious. The installation features giant sculptural pieces that transform the space with a luminous glow, creating selfie moments aplenty, as we head on a magical journey through Crossrail Place Roof Gardens.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Murmuration by Squidsoup, Montgomery Square
Several hundred networked orbs, each containing lights and speakers, visualise a swarm of networked data moving through real space. Welcome to Murmuration, a piece originally inspired by the flight patterns of flocks of starlings, here transformed into digital form, but navigating and negotiating its way around the physical location of Canary Wharf’s Montgomery Square. Originally commissioned by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ.

Ghost Trees by Tom Wilkinson, Middle Dock
Ghost Trees is a site-specific artwork that draws attention to an extraordinary prehistorical event. When the East India docks were constructed in 1790 evidence was found of the remains of a great subterranean forest in a state of preservation the trees were not scattered or dispersed but lay in regular order.These rings of light represent these hidden trees, glowing from under the dock’s surface.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Neon Tree by Hawthorn, Canada Square Park

The artworks will be on display from Wednesday 2 December until 27 February to ensure visitors can take their time to enjoy them. Some installations can be viewed at any time of day, but others will only come to life after dark so, we advise you visit after dusk. All installations will be switched off at 10pm daily.

If you would like to see more of Loren’s work, go to her website here  and Instagram account here

Lumps and Bumps: Let’s Talk Cancer – 6th December 2020



Health has been uppermost on most people’s minds this year and recently I was contacted by two student-led groups at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry about a community, interactive webinar on Cancer which aims to bring awareness on the signs and symptoms of cancer as well as how to self-check and get the appropriate help.

The groups are ROCK (Reconnecting Our Community through Kindness) which has the aim of encouraging students to engage in community activities and Oncology Society (OncoSoc), which is an academic group focused on all aspects of cancer management, from primary care screening to cutting-edge research.

The event is called: “Lumps & Bumps: Let’s Talk Cancer”

The purpose of this event is to:

  • Raise awareness of cancers that affect both males and females (looking at cervical/testicular, breast, bowel and lung cancer – the online event will be segregated for males and females to allow everyone to feel comfortable )
  • Highlight the signs and symptoms of cancer
  • How to self check yourself – including live explanations
  • Who and where to go for help and advice
  • De-bunking myths surrounding cancer
  • Followed by a live Q&A with a GP

The groups hope that raising awareness on this sensitive topic will help increase the likelihood of self-checking and encourage members within the community to visit their GP early when something does not look right.

The groups make it very clear that the webinar does not replace the need for people to visit their GP if they have any concerns, but should help people be more aware of what is concerning and have more confidence to book and attend an appointment.

The webinar takes place on Zoom on the 6th of December 2020 from 2-3:30 pm.

The link to register is as follows:  https://bit.ly/LetsTalkCancer

Bright Lights, Colour and Diversity: Photographs by Loren Brand

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Isle of Dogs Life has over the years showcased a number of talented individuals who live on the Island and recently I was contacted by Loren Brand who is developing her career as a photographer and videographer.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Loren was kind enough to send over a number of photographs that illustrate her skills and provided some background about why she is inspired by the Isle of Dogs and London.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

I grew up in Scotland in a coastal area of outstanding scenery and beautiful beaches but I was drawn to cities and moved firstly to Edinburgh and then on to London. I moved to the Isle of Dogs 4 years ago and love how connected it is, by river, road, tube and DLR.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

After spending most of my working life in finance and asset management, I felt that I wanted to be more creative and was drawn to photography. I bought my first DSLR and I’ve very happily dedicated myself to it ever since.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

I’m drawn to bright lights, colour and diversity. A theme I’m keen on is the mix of old and new. London in general and the Isle of Dogs in particular has all of these elements.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

I follow a lot of photographers on Instagram so I’m inspired on a daily basis by fabulous photography from around the world. I particularly like the work of Jon Herbert (London photography), Nigel Danson (landscape photography), Peter McKinnon (a Canadian and prolific YouTuber) and fellow Scot, Albert Watson, who’s an all round photographer, comfortable with people, landscapes and detail.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

I try to capture beauty in my images and want to share that so during the coronavirus restrictions I’ve switched my focus to developing images good enough to offer as large (and small) scale prints. Just recently I’ve worked on getting an initial small selection of these onto my website.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

What I really like about Loren’s work is her night photography that gives a very different perspective from what you normally see. She also manages to capture some of the stunning sunsets over the City of London.

If you would like to see more of Loren’s work, go to her website here  and Instagram account here  

Masks in the Past

Wandering around the Island, it is noticeable that a large number of people are wearing masks as they go about their business. Although many people at the beginning at the pandemic had considerable reservations about wearing masks, it is now accepted by most people that they do offer some protection. But what about in the past ? I decided to do some research into past outbreaks especially the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918/1919 and found some familiar themes that we are facing today.



Newspapers received by the last mail from London contain reports of a conference called by the Institute of Hygiene to consider “influenzas and its Prevention.”

Sir Malcolm Morris presided.

Sir Malcolm Morris directed attention to a number of points on which light was needed. He expressed the opinion that alcohol was not essential either for the prevention or the treatment of influenza.

Speaking of the precautions recommended by the Local Government board, he said the solution of common salt and permanganate of potash for washing the nostrils and throat was a most horrible mixture. He had found a solution of colloidal silver beneficial.

Sir St. Clair Thomson said the disease was splashed on us by people talking, laughing, coughing, and sneezing at any body within ten feet of them. People known to have the disease should be isolated, Persons who in a omnibus or tube who coughed without putting up their hands, or sneezed without putting up their handkerchief should be prosecuted for indecency.

Sir Kingsley Wood said If we were to grapple with the disease we have to spend a great deal more than £50,000 a year on medical

In Poplar a gargle or douche was being distributed to all who liked to apply for it, this example might well be followed by other municipalities.

Dr. Carnegie Dixon said He was afraid experience did not yet sufficiently show whether masks were useful or not. His own opinion was that they were useful.

Dr. Hector Mackenzie said The wearing of masks for the general public he considered unpractical. 

Dr. Kirkhope, of Tottenham, was inclined to think alcohol stimulated the activities of the body in resisting disease.


London Times

“One of the simplest precautions,” writes the medical correspondent of the London “Times,” “is to wear a small mask made of gauze and tied
across the mouth. Those who have dared to do this have largely escaped infection because the danger germs are caught in the mask, and so do not penetrate to the throat. The mask must cover the nose.” American experience confirms this advice. One, N F. Ostberg, writing to the
newspapers, states: “I have been in the thick of the epidemic since March last year in different countries in Europe, and also in America. I have had the opportunity to judge of the efficiency of various preventives and remedies, such as antiseptics, inoculations, and drugs, and can truly say that in Europe and America these have had no effects whatever in the stamping out of the disease. A few days before my arrival in San Francisco the epidemic broke out, and it was allowed to spread without hindrance until the ravages were so bad that compulsory wearing of gauze masks was decided on. Almost immediately the progress of the influenza was stopped, the number of cases decreased daily, and after about a month the disease was stamped out and the masks abandoned.



The influenza epidemic is Britain is not abating. There were 138 deaths in Edinburgh last week, of which 90 were from pneumonic influenza.
The “Daily Mail’s” medical correspondent estimates that the deaths from influenza last quarter of 1918, totalled 175,000, largely young adults, involving an economical loss of £130,000,000.
Doctors are increasing their belief that the, wearing of masks affords protection against the disease:,



The Fresh Wave in February was Expected : Masks Recommended when in contact with Infection

The following observations by the medical correspondent of the London Times printed on January 31,

Indications point to a fresh wave of the influenza epidemic. There is nothing surprising in this; indeed, the thing has been foretold on many occasions. What is interesting is that this new wave corresponds in time, as did the last one, with a notable break in the weather.
The new wave seems to be of considerable virulence, though whether or not it will last any length of time remains to be seen. The fact that it follows so closely upon the earlier waves may serve to limit it to quite small proportions, since presumably many persons have acquired a degree of resistance to the infection. On the other hand, optimism is dangerous and precautions should not be neglected.

The disease, as has been indicated again and again, is contact-borne. Consequently contact with persons who are affected should be avoided if possible; a mask gauze (a handkerchief serves very well) should be worn. It is better to avoid crowded places and hot places. Chills should also be avoided very carefully, but fresh air is most valuable.

Fierce controversies have raged about the use of alcohol. The facts would seem to be against those who declare that it is a useless. Indeed, the opinion of many of those who have been prescribing it recently it that it forms a most valuable aid to treatment.


LONDON, Thursday.

In a, memorandum issued by the Local Government Board, the use of masks during the influenza epidemic is not advised. An exception Is made in the case of nurses who, it is stated, should wear goggles, as infection is receivable through the eyes.
The practice of spraying halls is said to be of doubtful value, und creates a false sense of security. The golden rule is the avoidance of fatigue, alcoholism, cold and crowds, and the gargling of the throat and nostrils with a teaspoonful of salt In a pint of warm water, adding a few potassium pormanganate crystals.


Gauze Masks to Check Epidemics in London Shelters

The serious view taken by medical authorities regarding the risk of epidemics in the , coming winter is indicated in a letter to
“The Times” by T. H. Sanderson- Wells, M.D., F.R.C.S., suggesting the use of gauze masks, covering the mouth and nose in three or four layers of gauze to prevent the dissemination of germs by the infectious, and the inspiration of floating organisms by the healthy.

He is echoing the fear expressed in the “British Medical Journal” which says: “Unless effective measures are promptly taken we can foresee with the approach of winter a’ state of affairs in respect of contagious and infectious disease which may prove more devastating than the blitzkrieg.”


May Order Masks As Flu Check

To prevent the spread of the influenza epidemic in Britain, everybody may be ordered to wear gas masks. The Ministries of Health,
Labour, and Aircraft Production are reported to be making special arrangements to stop the spread of infection in British war factories.
Effective preventive measures are being sought by health and medical officers in factories where production has been affected.
Some experts who consider gas masks too uncomfortable and too great a hindrance at work, suggest that gauze masks should be worn.

The Government has instructed the British Medical Research Council to proceed with tests to prove the value of the new “cold cure” — the drug patulin.

The present deathrate is 7000 a week. At the height of the 1918 epidemic the deathrate in Britain was 80,000 a week.

Controversies over wearing masks, contradictory medical advice, strange and sometimes dangerous home remedies. All this seems very familiar and an illustration that nothing is really ‘new’.   

Support for The Space on the Isle of Dogs

The Isle of Dogs has never been a place that is considered a centre of the Arts or Culture. However since 1996, The Space at the bottom of the Island has provided inclusive and ambitious theatre in a converted church.

The Space was opened by Robert Richardson and the St Paul’s Arts Trust, a group of local residents and quickly became known for staging exciting, unique productions. The also run workshops, courses and artist development opportunities. Space Productions has produced over 30 plays and received 6 Off-West End award nominations. Last year, they broke their box office records, hosting 9,407 audience members across 244 performances.

During lockdown, the Space run a Locked Down, Looking Up online programme which supported their practitioners, participants and audiences. Over the course of 16 weeks, they produced and staged 10 play readings, 30 theatre workshops, 16 theatre club sessions and 2.0 Fest, a special festival of 8 duologues 3 of which have won OnComm awards.

Like many other theatres, due to the pandemic they face a very uncertain future and have launched a crowdfunding promotion to raise funds. The theatre has had to deal with decreased income from traditional ticket sales, venue hires and rent from their cafe/bar. As a result, the Space now faces risks that could result in permanent closure.

The Space is due to celebrate 25 years as a theatre in September 2021 and any donations will provide a lifeline till performances get back to reasonable levels.

If you would like to donate follow this link


Colour on the Thames (1935)

After last week’s post about how quiet the river is at the moment, long time contributor Trevor Wayman bought to my attention a BFI film “Colour on the Thames (1935)” on YouTube.

What is remarkable about the film is that it is in colour, colour film was still a novelty for audiences in 1935, and the filming was done using a new Gasparcolor system.

The film begins in the west near Richmond with a family on the riverside before showing a few local boats.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the film is that it shows cranes moving along the newly constructed Waterloo Bridge which was not completed till the 1940s.

The Pool of London shows how busy the river was on the city side of London Bridge, boats and ships of all size jostle for position on the river.

The riverside is notable for the many cranes and warehouses, lots of produce found its way to the warehouse dotted along the river.

On the other side of Tower Bridge, we see a distinctive Thames barge plying its trade on the river.

The Dockland section is little bit more confusing because it is difficult to pinpoint the locations.

What you can see is that large ships were unloading and loading cargoes and the many lighters and tugs in the water.

Some of the final scenes show the boats and ships making their way along the stretch of Thames down to estuary.

What is noticeable is the amount of people working along the river, many people who worked on the river remark how dangerous it could be and fatal accidents were not that rare.

One thing we probably do not miss is the pollution associated with coal and oil burning, in the 1950s, this became a major problem with smog causing health problems.

When watching the film it is worth remembering that many of the ships featured were to come to a sad end in the Second World War, one of the ships in the film, the Dartford, was torpedoed off Cape Race with loss of 30 out 47 crew.

If you would like watch the film follow the link here

Many thanks to Trevor for the information.

Tales from the Riverbank

One of the joys of living on the Isle Of Dogs is the access to large stretches of water with the docks and the Thames winding around the Island. Over the years, I have reported on the large number of boats and ships that have visited West India Docks that have included warships and tall ships. Over the last few years, these marine visitors have got less and less due to the large developments near the dock.

Since the Covid crisis, the visitors have stopped almost altogether and I decided to go down to the riverbank and look for any interesting boats or ships on the river.

I often think when I am looking at the river about what it would have looked like a hundred years ago when the Thames was a truly working river full of lighters, barges and boats bringing their produce and materials to the centre of London.

Until the crisis, the river was not busy in the old sense but did have quite a large range of ships and boats going up and down the river from cruise ships, large yachts, tall ships, river cruises and many more.

Standing on riverbank near the O2, it was some time before a Thames Clipper appeared and a little later a Port of London boat Barnes drifted by. Barnes is a Port of London Harbour Service vessel which is a catamaran designed for the lower tidal waters and for use as Pilot cutters.

Walking down to Westferry Circus, I had more hope that the river stretch around Limehouse may be busier.

A London Port Health Authority Londinium boat appeared, and in the distance a Cory Riverside Energy barge was taking some containers into the city.

Thames Marine Services boat Gosso, Port of London’s Driftwood II and a Police speed boat all went by as I sat and enjoyed the warm weather.

The Cory Riverside Energy barges are a familiar sight on the river all through the year. The barges are used to transport non-recyclable waste from waste transfer stations along the River Thames to Cory’s energy waste facility in Belvedere.

Driftwood II as the name suggests is a Port of London boat whose main function is the collection of driftwood and other debris from the River but they are also equipped with hydraulic cranes, burning gear and salvage pumps.

Whilst the traffic on the river was well down on normal times, it did remind me that working boats were still going up and down the river. Although we tend to ignore these smaller boats when there are larger ships in the river, it is these boats that are the workhorses that keep things ticking along.

The last boat I watched was Cory Riverside Energy barge Recovery bringing its containers backdown river, this seemed appropriate in the present climate when we are all looking for signs of recovery in our everyday life.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to reopen on 7th September 2020

Good news for many Islanders is that the Royal Museums Greenwich have announced the reopening of the National Maritime Museum on 7 September. Visitors will once again be able to explore the story of Britain and the sea through science, trade, conflict, work and leisure in the world’s largest maritime collection.

Entry to the National Maritime Museum will remain free. Time slots will have to be pre-booked online and a one-way visitor route will be in place.

In line with the government’s announcement on 31 July, face coverings must be worn inside the museum. Protective screens in the ticket hall and gift shop will be installed and sanitiser stations will also be available throughout to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff.

Initially, the interactive All Hands Children Gallery and Ahoy! Children’s Gallery will remain closed.

The announcement follows the phased approach to reopening Royal Museums Greenwich announced earlier this summer. Cutty Sark reopened on 20 July, the Royal Observatory Greenwich opened in part on 3 August and the Queen’s House reopened on 10 August.

At the Queen’s House, Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will run until 31 August 2020. This is the first time the three surviving portraits have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

Additionally, Woburn Treasures has been extended until Easter 2021. This exhibition is a major collaboration, which will see significant works from the private art collection of The Duke and Duchess of Bedford on show in the Queen’s House. The collaboration marks the first time significant collection pieces have been on public display in a national museum since the 1950s.

For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here