Recently I was contacted by Sharlene Jones-Martin from Brisbane in Australia regarding her great grandfather Ernest Edward Loades who was born in Poplar in 1890 and spent much of his early years there.
When Ernest was eighty in the early 1970s, he wrote about his eventful life which started from humble beginnings in Poplar before he worked in service to some members of the aristocracy before leaving the UK for the sake of his health to live in Australia. Sharlene, very kindly sent me a copy of his memories and I was fascinated by his story and will produce a few excerpts over the next few weeks.
Crisp Street 1900s
The late 1890s was a time of overcrowding and considerable hardship in the East End and Ernest memories are not one’s of an idyllic childhood. The following account tells of his time at school which provides evidence of how the school system was still very Victorian in outlook which relied rather too much on corporal punishment to instil discipline. I have used some pictures from the period to give some idea of the type of environment that Ernest was bought up in.
By the time I was ready for school the family had grown to five, but the two elder brothers had not neglected my preschool training, so much so that the day I went to school at North Street, Poplar, the old maid who was the head teacher took me, and three other victims to our classroom. She introduced us to the teacher as “four more new brats”.
Young as I was I didn’t quite like being called a brat, but I did not know how soon I was going to score a point in retaliation. Whilst the headmistress was still there, the teacher started to ask questions -“Do you know how to count? Do you know your A.B.C.? “My answer caused such a look of surprise I can still see it. I said” Yes, and backwards too, can you?” and started off – Z.Y.X. etc.
Owing to the fact that the family continued to grow, we frequently had to move to larger houses, causing changes to schools, but in spite of this, the whole family were all fairly smart as regards general education.
Although some members of the family would have benefited by going to higher sources of education, the economics of the family prevented this. As soon as we were able to leave school and earn a few shillings to add to the family income we all did. But this did not deter my eldest brother from continuing his education by attending night school. When he finally obtained a regular job, with the Post Office as telegraph messenger, he continued to go to classes organised by the P.O. After years of study and passing step by step to higher positions he reached the top of the tree, first class sorter in the Registered Mail Office in the General Post Office in London.
My own schooling was a little disjointed, but I always managed to get good marks. Living in the days when education was mostly injected by the cane, in the hands of some of the greatest sadists that ever lived, this was something of an achievement.
Of course there were some men that even today I still remember with high regard, notably the teacher at the Manual Training Centre. Here was a man absolutely dedicated to his work who would go out of his way to help a backward lad or one who showed extra ability.
Poplar High Street 1890
One school head master had been dealt a severe blow when his only son, a brilliant scholar died of consumption. After the boy’s death, he took his spite out on the boys at the school. He would wield the cane for anything he could devise a reason.
I wonder to this day how any boy attending that school could still have faith in religion, when after morning prayers- a shortened form of C of E morning prayers – when the Head was the loudest in the prayers, intoned in the most pious manner, could, if the lad reading the “lesson of the day” – a full chapter of the Bible- made the slightest mistake, tell him to wait, then take him outside and lay the stick on hard and heavy. It got so bad that boys had to be conscripted to read the lesson.
But even he was not as bad as another head of a school in one of the poorest districts in London that we lived in for a short while. This teacher was the brute of all brutes. All the children attending this school came from really poor homes and were poorly clad and suffering from malnutrition, but that was nothing to this sadistic swine.
He would come down to the playgrounds and at the blast of his whistle would make all the scholars run round the grounds. Some of the kids were weak for want of food and could not run at the speed that he considered right, so he used to lash them with his stick driving them like cattle. The hovels where some of the children lived were dirty and lousy, and also a state of malnutrition has been has been proved as a good place for breeding lice.
Somebody complained to this sadist that their children were bringing home lice that could only come from the school. This was something he was really going to enjoy. He went from class to class inspecting the heads and clothes of the pupils. I can only write about what happened in my class but, for a classic in sadism I have never heard its equal.
He made us all take our coats off and he made a thorough search to see if we were clean or not. Those that showed any sign of a louse were sent out to clean themselves. So far so good. Nobody could complain about that. But about an hour later he came into the classroom well equipped with canes and punishment book and ordered all boys that he had previously sent out, to line up in front of the class.
Now this sadist had his own special way of administering punishment. He would measure the exact distance he stood away from his victim and balancing himself on his toes he would with one stroke bring down the cane. He was dealing out eight strokes each to these children and his eyes were shining with glee.
The children in the desks were all crying and so was the poor teacher. One lad whose only clothes were a pair of oversized trousers tied up with a piece of rope and an old overcoat, no shirt and only the remains of a pair of boots, whose name I cannot remember but should have received a medal, faced the brute, held out his hand and never flinched as this apology of a man tried his hardest to make him break.
The look of contempt on his victim’s face- he so enjoyed making his victims scream with pain. After this lad had received his ration of really severe strokes he held out his hand again. His persecutor looked at him in surprise then said, ” Do you want some more?” Without turning his eyes away the boy said. “If you think I deserve any more, carry on” and it was not the lads eyes that dropped.
I always think that that lad was the bravest person I have ever known. Here he was at the mercy of an unprincipled brute and although suffering agony he proved that even he, the sadist, could not break his spirit.
On another occasion he thrashed a sick lad till he fainted. The next day the father came to the school yanked the sadistic swine away from his desk grabbed the cane and gave him the thrashing of his life. The poor father was arrested and because he was too poor to pay the fine he was sent to jail for six weeks.
The people in the neighbourhood all threw in their shillings, tanners or any other coin they could afford to keep the man’s family. In addition any food or clothing or any other help they could give was given. This gesture alone should have been enough for the authorities to take action against this man but nothing was done and although I escaped real brutal treatment from this man, I was a very pleased lad when we moved away from this neighbourhood and back to civilisation.
After a number of warships in dock in recent weeks, we welcome a superyacht to West India Dock with arrival of the Sea Falcon II.
Sea Falcon II is a 150.92ft /46m motor yacht which was built in 1993 by Puglia, the yacht was previously named Elle and her interior designed is by Kerry Alabastro and her exterior design by Gerhard Gilgenast.
The yacht has high quality leisure and entertainment facilities on board and Air Conditioning, Stabilizers at Anchor, WiFi and Deck Jacuzzi.
The Sea Falcon II’s sleeps up to 10 guests in 5 rooms, including a master suite, 4 double cabins and she can accommodate up to 10 crew on-board.
Winter does not tend to be the season when we have many superyachts in the dock and it is not known at this time how long the Sea Falcon will be in dock.
Over the last few years, Isle of Dogs Life has featured a number of local initiatives that have contributed greatly to the local community and beyond. Behind these projects are a large number of volunteers that work tirelessly in the background to make the Island and surrounding areas a great place to live and work.
It is always nice when these people are recognised for their work and recently I have heard of two award ceremonies where local people’s work have been recognised and celebrated.
At the end of November, the Canary Wharf Group announced the winners of its fourth annual ‘Community Champions’ Awards which recognised and celebrated the voluntary work of eight individuals and two couples who have been champions of their local community.
The award recipients were Susan Blinman; Derrick and Lilian Cutler; Peter Fordham; Raymond and Janice Fortune; Janet Foster; Eileen Groves; Buddy Penn; Fr Tom Pyke; Gloria Thienel and Remmie Williams. Each person was presented with a framed certificate, along with £250 to donate to a community organisation of their choice.
Another award winner was Kids Matter who recently won an award in the Best Replicable Project category at the recently held CFF Awards. Kids Matter is a local charity working to strengthen families in East London which is partly run by local mum and church leader Fuzz Dix and her husband Ed.
Sunday was a bright, sunny if a little chilly morning and it was time to turn my back on the road works and building sites on Marsh Wall and head for the wide open spaces of the countryside. Fortunately when you live on the Isle of Dogs, the countryside is not far away, in fact it is only a short walk down the Island to Mudchute Farm.
Mudchute Park & Farm is one of the largest inner City Farms in Europe with a wonderful collection of British rare breeds and currently home to over 100 animals and fowl. Set in 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London, Mudchute is a community charity, with a working farm, stables and a wide range of education activities.
The Park and Farm are a great example of community action, in the 1970s, the Island community fought against plans to build a high rise estate on the land. The success of the campaign against these plans led to the creation of the Mudchute Association which was formed to preserve and develop the area. Since then it has become a well-known London attraction loved by adults and children alike.
One of the ironies of the site is that the hills and mounds were formed in the 19th century by the waste matter dredged up by the construction of Millwall Dock. This foul-smelling mud put off any prospective developers of the land and it remained derelict for much of the 20th century. Another irony was that the mud was actually full of minerals and nutrients and provided ideal growing conditions for the many allotments that were built on the site.
Once inside the gates of the Park and Farm you are transported into another world of sheep grazing in the fields, donkeys, goats, llamas and pigs.
But that is not all, the Park and Farm is proud of its roots in East London and you can even enjoy some mussels and jellied eels.
A visit to the Park and Farm is a pleasant way to get away from stresses of Christmas shopping and crowded trains. You can wander around the fields and look at the beehives, visit the old Ack Ack gun which was stationed in the park in the Second World War, let the kids have a go on the merry go round and enjoy a warm drink at the wonderful café whilst watching the horses in the stables.
Not surprisingly, the Park and Farm is very popular with families but is free and open to everyone who enjoys some peace and quiet away from the urban jungle.
If you are looking for a Christmas treat, the Park and Farm is having a special Christmas Open day on the 9th December between 11am and 4 pm with a Santa’s Grotto, Kid’s craft workshops, Donkey rides, Fairground rides, Cream teas and plenty of food and drink options.
The Park and Farm are also selling Christmas Trees from 3ft to 10ft with proceeds going to the Mudchute charity.
If you have never been to Mudchute Park and Farm, it is well worth a visit at any time of the year and is one of the best and most enjoyable open spaces on the Island.
If you would like more information about Mudchute Park and Farm, visit their website here
Portuguese Navy ship NRP Francisco de Almeida and Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup in West India Dock.
Two new arrivals in West India Dock are the Portuguese Navy ship NRP Francisco de Almeida (F334) and Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312).
Both ships are part of the NATO’s standing maritime group 1 (SNMG1) which has been carrying out operations in the North and Baltic Sea.
NRP Francisco de Almeida is a former Karel Doorman frigate that Portugal bought from the Netherlands. The ship was previously the HNLMS Van Galen and was renamed to NRP Francisco de Almeida in 2010.
The 122 meter frigate has a crew of around 180 and includes a Lynx helicopter on board.
The HNoMS Otto Sverdrup is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate, the ships are named after famous Norwegian explorers. The Otto Sverdrup was one of five ships ordered from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and was launched in 2006. The ship is 440 feet (134.11 metres) long and carries a crew of around 120.
The main mission of the frigates is anti-submarine warfare and the ships are equipped to detect, identify and engage hostile submarines.
The ships involved in NATO’s standing maritime group 1 (SNMG1) are regular visitors to West India Dock, although I am not sure these particular ships have visited before.
As usual with these type of naval ships, how long they are in dock is not known at this time.
Photo – Fraser Gray
Photographer Fraser Gray sent a couple of photographs of the HNoMS Otto Sverdrup heading back to sea.
Photo – Fraser Gray
Regular readers will know that a few weeks ago, I visited the Forge which has become the new home for Craft Central. The Forge is one of the most interesting industrial relics from the time of shipbuilding on the Island.
The seasonal market will be selling handmade products by over 50 talented craftspeople. Home accessories, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, stationery, prints and more will be on sale. The winter market will be a chance to meet and buy directly from designer-makers, take part in one of the family craft workshops and enjoy a drink in the pop-up café.
An added bonus will be Friends of Island History Trust will have a membership and information stall at the market, FoIHT books and calendar will be on sale and there will be displays of Mike Seaborne’s 1980s photographs of the Island and a collection of even older images provided by Frontispiece Antique Prints.
Friday 24 November 5pm – 8pm
Saturday 25 November 11am – 6pm
Sunday 26 November 11am – 5pm
For more information, visit the Craft Central website here