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Remembering Orchard Place

Regular readers will know that I am fascinated by Trinity Buoy Wharf and Orchard Place, although some way distant from the “Island”, the area was considered for centuries, part of the Isle of Dogs. Orchard Place is now the site of the City Island development but for many years the small spit of land surrounded by Bow Creek was the home to a few Industrial concerns.

However from the 19th century up to the 1930s this was the home for a small settlement of people who in some ways were effectively cut off from the Isle of Dogs. Their remoteness led to number of stories about their lawlessness and rough lifestyle, their reputation were not helped by visitors such as William Booth researchers who considered them some of the poorest and roughest in London.

These stories were obviously exaggerated because a police inspector told the Booth researcher that the residents were no trouble and Inspectors of the local board school often praised its educational performance and children’s behavior.

The small population suffered greatly with the 1928 flooding of the area. In the early 1930s a newspaper report labelled them London’s Lost village. In the slum clearances of the 1930s, most of the small population was rehoused in a new block of flats at Oban House in nearby Poplar and the houses pulled down.

One of the people rehoused was Charles Lammin who wrote down his recollections in 1935 about life in the “lost” village.

“The Orchard House, is in the shape of twin peninsulas, it was populated about 120 years ago. On the site was built about 100 two-storied cottages, also several factories. Thirty or forty cottages have since been demolished at various dates to make room for improvements. (The rest are now in 1935 condemned as unfit for human habitation).

“The Orchard House is part of old Blackwall in the Parish of All Saints, Poplar, but about 1876 it was separated from the main part by the cutting of the basin of the East India Dock which left us isolated from the main roads, excepting a narrow road, named Leamouth Road, (this was formerly named Orchard Street).

“The Orchard House is bounded on the south side by the river Thames, on the north and east by Bow Creek, on the west by the East India Dock. The narrow Leamouth Road between Bow Creek and the East India Dock is all that joins us to the mainland of Poplar; therefore, the natives have always felt to be nothing to do with other districts.

“From its start to the present, we have never had either a butcher, baker, barber, post office, Police Station, Fire Station or Pawn Shop, or seen a tramway or bus in our neighbourhood, so we have to do all our domestic business in Poplar, via Leamouth Road, which is a long and lonely walk, especially by night.

People originally moved to Orchard Place to work in the various industrial concerns especially the Glass Works, Charles Lammin provides more information.

“Up to about 1875 the Glass House prospered, employing about 75% of all the inhabitants of the Orchard House, who were nearly all related. Plate glass was made there and sent all over the Country, including all the glass used in making the Crystal Palace, but about 1875 the competition of the United States glass industry ruined the Old Orchard House glass factory and caused them to close down. Therefore, the largest proportion of the workers, both men and women emigrated to New Albany, Indiana, U.S.A. to follow up the same class of work. They have invariably stayed there and have gradually died. (My Grandfather and Grandmother amongst them).

“There are still a large number of descendants of the glass workers living in the Orchard House, the most numerous are the Lammins, the Scanlans and the Jeffries, who also have greatly intermarried.”

Over the last few years, I have been contacted by a number of people whose relatives lived on Orchard Place and have sent more information about the close but relatively unknown community. Recently I was contacted by Lynn Gordon whose grandfather lived in Orchard Place and had been recently had a number of documents and photos passed onto her by a relative who has sadly recently passed away.

Lynn with grandad Fred Scanlan

Lynn has kindly permitted Isle of Dogs Life to publish a few of the photos for the benefit of other relatives and interested readers. Lynn has fond memories of her grandad and was 11 when my grandad passed away. She has a letter from Tom Scanlan, her grandads cousin, they used to live next door to each other in Orchard place, two brothers married two sisters. In the letter, he was asking her grandad to go to Canvey island on a boat.

The people in Orchard Place were known for their boating prowess and innovation, Charles Lammin mentions that “At the present time 20% of the men of the Orchard House own motor boats of various sizes; they are mostly converted from old ships, lifeboats, whalers, fishing boats, etc., These are converted by the men themselves, and a great source of pleasure for them and their families and friends in fine weather or holiday times, is a trip down the Thames as far as Canvey Island.”

Lynn recognises her grandfather Fredrick James Scanlan and Rose Cooke in the photographs. They were to get married but sadly Rose died. One early photograph bears the name Jeremiah Scanlon.

If anyone has further information about the photographs or Orchard Place, please get in touch.


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