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Monthly Archives: September 2020

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

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery at the Museum of London Docklands from 11 Sep 2020 to 18 Apr 2021

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

One exhibition, I was looking forward to seeing at the Museum of London Docklands is related to the Havering Hoard, although it was originally scheduled for April it is now opening in September. This major exhibition called Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery will take visitors on a journey through life in the Late Bronze Age. Artefacts from the hoard, including tools and weapons, will feature alongside objects from the museum’s collection to tell the story of the people who lived and worked during this period.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Among the objects are a pair of terret rings, a rare discovery and it is believed these are the first Bronze Age examples of their kind ever to be found in the UK. These objects are believed to have been used on horse-drawn carts. The discovery of these terret rings, bracelets and copper ingots possibly originating from the Alps suggests there was a well established trade route across Europe.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

Buried in four separate parts, the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in London provides fascinating clues about the beliefs, values and nature of a complex and little known society.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

The Havering Hoard is a total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800 which were uncovered by archaeologists from Archaeological Solutions as part of a planned archaeological excavation.

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

This internationally significant find will be on display from September 2020 to Aptil 2021 and offers the opportunity to go back in history and find out what Late Bronze Age Havering folk got up to and how they lived.

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery
Museum of London Docklands
11 Sep 2020 to 18 Apr 2021
Free with timed entry ticket to the museum