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Super Yacht Kismet in West India Dock

It has been a very quiet year for boats visiting West India Dock but we have the arrival of a regular visitor over the years. The Super Yacht Kismet was last here in 2019 before the pandemic.

Kismet is a large superyacht and has visited the dock a couple of times before in 2014 and 2016. It often comes to London when its owner Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan wants to entertain guests attending NFL matches in London. His NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars play Maimi Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the 17th October 2019.

The yacht is often tucked away at the bottom of the dock for some time before being taken up to near Tower Bridge for entertaining guests.

Kismet is 308ft long has three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area and all mod cons. The ship features exterior styling by Espen and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20.

This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan and estimated to have cost 200 million dollars, a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £70 million in 2013. The new Kismet was built at German boatyard Lurssen.

Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and it was rumoured in 2019 that the yacht was up for sale.

Tall Ship Tenacious in West India Dock

After a very quiet period, we welcome an old favourite back to West India Dock with the arrival of the STS Tenacious tall ship

The Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.

The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson  are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.

Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.

London: Port City at the Museum of London Docklands from 22 October 2021 – 8 May 2022

At this time, the ‘Tuscania’ was operated by Cunard on the London – New York passenger route.

I was delighted to receive news of a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in October, the exhibition entitled London: Port City explores how the Port of London has changed and shaped the city, its people, places and language, over centuries. The exhibition will trace more than 200 years of experiences and intense activity on a river.

It is appropriate the the exhibition is in the Museum of London Docklands, itself originally part of West India Docks, London’s first enclosed dock system and packed with valuable cargoes from around the world from 1802 until its closure in 1980.

The first consignment of 28 railway carriages for Kenya & Uganda railways arriving at the Royal Albert Dock, lifted by the London Mammoth.

The exhibition will draw upon the extensive archives of the Port of London Authority (PLA) to present a wider picture of the complex operations that have enabled the Port to connect London to the rest of the world, from the final days of the 18th century to the creation of the huge London Gateway ‘mega port’ in the Thames Estuary. The exhibition will full of stories, incidents, major operations, characters, technological advances, pivotal moments, surprising details and little-known facts.

Imported bananas being handled at the Royal Docks.

Exhibition highlights include:

Revealing the stories behind 80 words and expressions that entered the English language and the place names of streets and pubs as a result of the docks including ‘crack on’, ‘aloof’ and ‘Mudchute’.

An impressive audio visual display that will transport visitors into the PLA control room, using large-scale projections to create a day in the life of the Port of London, with multiple spectacular views of the river and all of the activity happening 24 hours a day.

An interactive timeline reveals stories from the docks since 1800, using 222 objects from the PLAs vast and eclectic archive. Material ranges from sandals with hollowed out soles to smuggle opium, seized in the 1870s, to original plans for the world’s most innovative purpose-built dock complexes.

Many of the dockers whose voices feature throughout the exhibition recall being hit by a heady aroma as a new cargo was unloaded or as they made their way through different areas of the docks. Visitors will experience a suite of distinct scents, carefully blended to capture the original pungency of the port.

Trade Winds: London, a new artwork by contemporary artist Susan Stockwell, using archive material and international currency to explore themes of international trade, economies, migration and empire. Elsewhere, a new artwork by Hilary Powell uses experimental photographic techniques and film to explore the container shipping industry and the people who keep it going.

Importantly, the exhibition will address the wider global context of London’s seaborne trade, most notably its historical dependence on the sugar trade and slavery. A document commemorating the original unveiling of the statue of merchant and slave owner Robert Milligan, which was removed from outside the museum in 2020, is displayed alongside original plans for docks.

For more information visit the Museum of London Docklands here

Dr No in West India Dock

There was a welcome sign that life was returning to West India Dock with the arrival of Dr No which is a 37 m / 121′5″ luxury motor yacht built by Narasaki Zosen in 1995.

The ship is very unusual because it was first launched in 1995 as the Japanese Fisheries training ship Wakachiba at the Muroran shipyard.

The yacht underwent major changes under her first yacht owner, Tom Perkins, who acquired the vessel in 2011 and developed it as an explorer yacht. The deck is littered with equipment to enable dinghies or submersibles to be launched.

The motor yacht can accommodate 12 guests in 5 cabins.

You often see larger ships converted for explorations but very unusual to see something of this size being used in this way.

The Rise of Wood Wharf

Over the last few years, the top of the Island and Canary Wharf has seen unprecedented development with a number of large scale projects. One of the largest developments has been the Wood Wharf site which will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.

Wood Wharf is part of the historic West India Docks and is the largest addition to the Canary Wharf estate since it came into being.

With part of the development near to completion, it is now possible to have a wander around some parts of Wood Wharf.

Wood Wharf is connected to the main estate by a bridge with two large Floating Pavilions nearby, one of which will be a restaurant.

Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf makes full use of the docks themselves with dockside walks and views from the Blue Bridge to the new buildings in the west.

The neighbourhood will have everything a thriving community needs, from a new local primary school to its own doctor’s surgery.

Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf already has plenty of outside public art and sitting areas.

Wood Wharf is multi-billion pound development and is expected to generate £2bn gross value from new jobs, add £199m into the local small business economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.

Under normal circumstances, the opening of Wood Wharf would a cause for celebration, however recent events have cast a cloud over the whole Canary Wharf site.

With many large firms allowing workers to work for home, many people are now looking at Wood Wharf and now asking whether it is surplus to requirements. Due to its mixed usage, it might escape the slowdown in Canary Wharf itself.

What the site does for visitors is provide plenty of attractive walks around the docks and places to sit and watch the boats and ships when they return to the dock.

Secrets of Millwall Slipway

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Following local photographer Loren Brand’s visual tour of the Island, we come across a piece of land by the side of Westferry Road which most people would just walk past. However, the old bollards and industrial equipment that pepper Millwall Slipway gives some indication of its importance in relation to Millwall Dock.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The site of Millwall slipway was originally the entrance to the Millwall docks and when it opened, the Millwall Dock entrance lock was the largest lock in London, being 80ft wide with chambers 247ft and 198ft long. It was 28ft deep at high water at the centre and 23ft deep at the sides.

Millwall Docks Entrance gates in 1867, before the flooding of the docks (British History Online)

Excavation began in the summer of 1865 and work on the coffer-dam outside the entrance in early 1866. The lock was without doubt the most difficult part of the works and progress was slow. The contract for iron lock gates, sluices, capstans and related hydraulic machinery went to W. G. Armstrong & Company and the lock was completed by August 1867.

Sluices and culverts allowed water to pass between the lock and the dock or the river, or directly from the dock to the river. The massive wrought-iron gates were each 42ft 3in. wide by 34ft high and weighed approximately 60 tons. The outer gates were perforated on the river side to allow water to flow through compartments, thereby reducing the effect of impact damage.

Ordnance Survey of 1893–4 (British History Online)

Near to the Dock entrance was a series of cottages called Pierhead Cottages which were built in 1875, to provide a security presence at the Millwall Dock entrance and to accommodate dock company employees.

Pierhead Cottages in the 1920s.  (British History Online)

The easternmost cottage had a top room overlooking the docks and was probably occupied by the dockmaster, while the others went to the lock foreman and dock policemen. Number 3–10 were demolished in 1954–5; the remaining four became derelict and were pulled down by the LDDC in 1986.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The gates were originally operated by hydraulically powered windlasses but were replaced by hydraulic jiggers in 1875. In 1906 two 3-ton capstans on the inner side of the lock were replaced with direct-acting, double-headed capstans from C.  A. Musker Limited, of Liverpool. In 1910 that firm supplied three more hydraulic capstans, one of which survives on the slipway.

Millwall Dock; Traffic queuing in the Westferry Road as a ship enters the Millwall entrance lock in September, 1926. Photo Albert Gravely Linney (Museum of London)

Anyone who has seen ships entering the West India docks via the Blue bridge would have some idea of the sights and sounds of ships moving through the Millwall dock entrance into the dock. ‘Bridgers’ were common and there was often a build up of traffic on Westferry Road.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The entrance lock was badly damaged in September 1940, when bombing destroyed the middle gates, hydraulic machinery, sluices, culverts and part of the south wing wall. Reconstruction to a revised version of the pre-war plans was proposed for 1949, but the work was postponed due the cost of reconstruction and led to damming of the lock inside the Outer Dock. The dam was built in 1956 by John Mowlem & Company using precast-concrete blocks and timber taken from a temporary dam at the Royal Albert Dock. A rebuilding of the lock was considered before it was permanently closed in 1967, its east end filled in.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

The lock was left to silt up until 1988–90 when the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), filled it as far as the outer gate recesses, leaving a slipway. The pierhead was landscaped and the hydraulic jigger from the middle-gate machinery was mounted on display.

Although the days of ships crossing into Millwall Dock are long gone, the slipway is still the scene of some excitement, one day a year when the Great River Race comes to the Island.

The organisers uses the slipway as its starting point and up to 300 small boats go into the water at this point to start their voyage down the Thames.

Millwall Slipway is a reminder that the history of the Island is there for anyone to see if you are willing to do a little bit of investigation.

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

Around Millwall Dock with Loren Brand

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Before the Christmas lockdown, local photographer Loren Brand began to provide a visual update around the Island and Canary Wharf. Because of the large developments over the last few years, the skyline has changed considerably and it is a great time to get up to date with the ever changing landscape.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is it is a great place to walk. Unlike much of London, cars are not found in great numbers and much of the Island has areas to walk well away from the road. Although the promenades next to the Thames are lovely with wonderful views, the walk around Millwall Dock brings you to the heart of the Island and uncovers a number of surprising links to the past.

The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and is L-shaped, with a ‘Outer Dock’ running east-west, and a ‘Inner Dock’ running north from the eastern end. Millwall Docks originally contained around 36 acres of water and the site covered 200-acres. The western end of the Outer Dock was originally connected to the Thames at Millwall.

It is now possible to walk around the whole of Millwall Dock, which of course was not the case when the docks were working docks.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Around the Inner Dock is new developments that have grown considerably in the last few years. Across the dock is the new Baltimore Tower and the Lotus Chinese Restaurant that has been on a large pontoon since 1994. Up from the restaurant is Harbour Exchange which has two 1960s cranes standing in front of the glass covered buildings.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Glengall Bridge is where the inner and outer dock connect but also marks where many of the large developments cease and the older developments from the 1980s are in view. These older developments were part of more low level housing that used the space around the dock when it closed down.

The Outer Dock is much more relaxing with plenty of swans and ducks swimming amongst the sailing boats from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is located at the far West end of the dock near where the dock previously connected to the Thames. The centre was set up in 1989 by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council and provides plenty of water experiences to a wide range of people especially young people.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Near to the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was the large West Ferry Printing Works, which was the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built-in 1984–6. It has now been flattened for yet more residential development. Walking on the other side of the dock gives wonderful views of Canary Wharf and allows you to look at many of the new developments at the top of the Island.

If you carry on, you end up the picturesque Clippers Quay housing estate built in 1984–8. Although now filled with water, this was the site of Millwall Dock Graving Dock which was a dry dock for ship-repair which opened in 1868. Many famous ships have been repaired in this dry dock including the Cutty Sark. It was said this dry docks was the best on the Thames, it was one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide with a depth of 25ft. It was closed and flooded in 1968 and is a haven for birdlife with swans and ducks enjoying its quite secluded location.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Walking on round the corner, you come across of a number of houseboats, mostly Dutch in origin , they offer some final interest before we come back to Glengall Bridge.

© Photograph by Loren Brand

Unlike West India Docks, the original buildings around Millwall Docks were more modest with sheds rather than grand warehouses. Therefore little remains from the estate from the working docks period other than 1960s cranes and a large number of bollards dotted about. But the docks themselves are still full of water and are an important resource for the Island. In the frantic redevelopment of the Island , the docks provides an attractive space and peaceful oasis to sit and watch the world go by.

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

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.

‘Docklands at War’ Photographs from the Museum of London Docklands

The Docklands ablaze during the Blitz on 7th September 1940. The rising palls of smoke mark out the London Docks beyond the Tower of London, the Surrey Docks to the right of the bridge and the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the distance. This image can be found on page 36 of the book London’s Changing Riverscape. © PLA Collection / Museum of London

To commemorate VE Day on Friday 8 May, the Museum of London Docklands has released a number of images from its ‘Docklands at War’ gallery with additional exclusive content from the collection rarely on display.

Many of the photographs illustrate that the London docks and the riverside factories in the East End of London bore the brunt of enemy attack and were targeted by enemy aircraft, with over 25,000 German bombs falling on the Docklands over the course of the war.

Bomb damage to London Dock. Shed, formerly Guiness’s on west side of eastern dock, looking north from the southend. Date of air raid: 8/12/1940 Date: 19/12/1940 Photography: John H Avery & Co  © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The Nazi’s believed by destroying the docks, they could severely hamper local and national economy and weaken British war production.

By the end of World War II, the damage to the East End left much of the area in ruins. Tens of thousands of homes were uninhabitable, businesses were destroyed, and a third of the Port of London’s docks were decimated with West India Docks and St Katherine Docks suffering most of the damage.

St. Katharine Dock air raid damage. F warehouse including S end of ‘E’. From Marble Quay looking south east. 7th Sept 1940. “St Katharine Dock after air raid, September 1940. The damage occurred on Saturday 7 September 1940, the first attack on Docklands. The photographs were taken later as a technical record.” Photography: John H. Avery & Co © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The Prime Minister visits some of the thousands of British workers at East India Dock, 1944, engaged upon the construction of sections of the prefabricated ports. Two prefabricated ports, each as big as Gibralter, were manufactured in Britain in sections, towed across the channel, and set down off the coast of Normandy. The use of the prefabricated port greatly simplified the problem of supplying the Allied Armies in France. The dock was pumped dry to allow for the building of concrete ‘harbours’ that would be towed to France for ‘D Day’. © PLA Collection / Museum of London

Tanks arriving in the London Docks prior to embarkation for the D Day beaches, 1944 © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The crucial role of the dockers to the war effort brought some improvement in their working conditions, including the introduction of mobile canteens. Here the staff of the Port of London’s Mobile Canteen No 32 dispense tea to queuing dockers in 1942. © PLA Collection / Museum of London

West India Dock WWII concrete air raid shelter showing precast units being placed in position by crane. South of East Wood Wharf office. Date: 21/07/1939 © PLA Collection / Museum of London

Bomb damage to London Dock. Milk Yard Boundary Wall. South side of Shadwell Old Basin, looking east. Date of air raid 8-9/12/1940 Date: 19/12/1940 Photography: John H Avery & Co © PLA Collection / Museum of London

Bomb damage to London Dock. West End of Denmark Shed showing bulged quaywall of South Side of Western Dock. Date: 19/12/1940 Photography: John H Avery & Co © PLA Collection / Museum of London

River Emergency Services’ volunteers carrying bandages, and blankets and taking a break from their civil defence duties to pose for this photograph. © PLA Collection / Museum of London

The photographs are a reminder that in a crisis, normality goes out of the window and people come together to fulfil jobs that they not normally do. Although the present crisis is not the same as the horrors of the Second World War, there are similarities and we probably can now understand better the human costs of any kind of crisis.

If you are interested in Docklands at War, you will find plenty of information and photographs at the Museum of London Docklands and their online collections.

Online Maritime Records at Lloyd’s Register

Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation

In these strange times, I have found there is plenty of time for research, therefore I was delighted to find out about a new resource to investigate from Debbie Levett, Secretary for Friends of Island History Trust.

Debbie informed me about the Heritage & Education Centre of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation and their digital online records. I had visited the centre some years ago and was fascinated by the information in their records. However the access to the physical records was not straightforward and I thought it was more useful to search for information in other ways.

Fortunately many of those records have now been catalogued and digitised, and are searchable online for free and available for public use.

Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation

When I visited their office, I was fascinated by the history of Lloyd’s Register which was the first maritime classification society, the Register began in 1760 and has inspected and surveyed vessels on the basis of the quality and condition of their workmanship and materials. These vessels were given a classification and entered within our annually published Register of Ships as a record of safe ships, and later, a record of all vessels over 100 tons regardless of whether they had been surveyed.

Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation

The society operated at ports and offices all around the United Kingdom and Ireland, and eventually, across the globe. The society eventually accumulated a large collection of material (1.25 million documents), that are being digitised and catalogued, consisting of survey reports, correspondence, photographs, ship plans and certificates, dating back to 1834. Around 200,000 of these are now online with more scheduled at a rate of around 30,000 a month.

Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation

From a local point, it is worth mentioning that Lloyd’s Register has long had a presence in and around the Isle of Dogs and a number of the records deal with the main shipbuilding areas of Limehouse, Blackwall and Millwall.

Photo – Lloyd’s Register Foundation

I will be exploring the site over the next few weeks and hopefully will bring some of the stories related to ships built on the Isle of Dogs.

The portal to the online catalogue can be found here