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Monthly Archives: December 2020

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