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A ‘Rare’ Award for Mudchute Farm

Visiting Mudchute Park and Farm is one of the joys of living on the Island and I was delighted to hear they had been awarded Rare Breed Survival Trust Approved Conservation Farm Park Status.

Mudchute is home to a wide range of rare and native breeds including Oxford Down, Whitefaced Woodland, Southdown and Jacob sheep, Dexter cattle, Tamworth, Large Black and Middle White pigs as well as Golden Guernsey goats. The farm is also home to rare breed poultry including Aylesbury and Rouen ducks, Dorking and Indian Game chickens.

This policy of supporting a rare breeds programme has been recognised and the award of the prestigious Rare Breed Survival Trust Approved Conservation Farm Park Status for an urban farm is ‘rare’ and is high level recognition for the work of farm manager Tom Davis, staff and volunteers. 

The official unveiling of the new approved farm park sign took place  on Tuesday, January 30th with the help of celebrity chef and rare breeds ambassador Cyrus Todiwala MBE.

Quite naturally, everyone at Mudchute was delighted with the award but a few of the animals didn’t seem that impressed.

There have been quite a few developments at the farm recently which offer a variety of attractions, the Park and Farm are well worth a visit at any time of the year.

 

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Eighty Not Out: The Memories of Ernest Edward Loades 1890 – 1976 (Part Two) Disasters

HMS Albion Launch Disaster 1898

When Ernest Edward Loades 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.

A few weeks ago, I published the first part of Ernest’s ‘memories’ which included his not particularly happy time at school, the next part finds Ernest having to contend with local disasters.

Albion Disaster 1898

A sad tragedy occurred near our home in Tidal Basin. The Thames Ironworks had completed a destroyer in their shipyards, the Albion, and on the day of the launching the workmen were allowed to bring their families and friends to witness the ceremony. Just as the ship was leaving the slips the crowd surged forward and the staging collapsed, throwing a couple of hundred or more into the water or under the ruins of the staging. The death toll was very high and cast a gloom over the whole area. Hardly a street around did not have some member of the family involved or employed at the shipyards.

Only one ship of the size of a destroyer was built after this, the Cornwallis, the reason being that as bigger ships were now being built the Ironworks were too far up the River Thames to allow for launching and passage to the fitting basin. This caused a great deal of  unemployment in the area.

An amusing item has just come to mind. Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was quite an event. All schools were given a holiday and on the day before the official celebrations all the kids were marshalled in the playgrounds, provided with papers of different colours that, when we were all in place, would form a diagram (Man Proposes – God disposes).

Just as we got the signal to raise our papers and wave them along came a sudden gust of wind and bang went the diagram, up in the air went most of the coloured paper and after swirling overhead descended like coloured snow.

By the time I was ten, with the family still growing I was a real Mothers help, looking after the younger members – helping my mother all I could. She always did her best for us and I know she sometimes went short herself so as to give to us. She also made most of our clothes so she had a full time job, no wonder she died young.

My father was a good chap too. He was a good tradesman and worked hard. Of course there were periods of ” short time” at places that he worked, also periods of illness when things got pretty grim. Only one fault was that he was inclined to spend too much money on beer; money that would have been better spent at home. Oh well, perfect people have not been born yet.

The school hours were from nine to twelve and from two to half past four. This two hour break was not wasted time as I and very many more children had to take our fathers dinner to where they worked.

West India Dock Import Quay 1902 – Source British History Online

It was when I was so engaged that I saw two of the biggest dockside fires that London to that time had ever seen. The first was a building about a quarter of a mile long, five stories high and about ninety feet deep. This warehouse was full of sugar, jute and other flammable goods, not forgetting a lot of rum. Now, the fire started about eleven in the morning and when I got there at half past twelve the whole mass was alight and I was just in time to see the whole roof go down with a great roar. The other floors also collapsed and all their contents dropped so the whole area was like a huge furnace. With a fire such as this a general call had gone out and fire engines from all the London area had arrived. When we got to one road, the police stopped all us kids from crossing. The hoses were lying so close side by side that there was hardly room to put your foot down, but when all the kids started to howl that they would be late with their fathers dinners the Bobby relented and got us all across in a big convoy. We were unlucky when we got back however, they made us go a devil of a long way round to get back home.

In spite of the efforts of all these firemen and engines on land and four fire floats working from the water side, the fire took about a week to put out. Believe me that when those fire floats start pumping you can nearly see the tide go down. I saw one jet of water knock the bricks out of the wall and a big lump of the wall collapsed just after.

Wood Sheds Limehouse Basin 1902 – Source British History Online

Dad was lucky to get his dinner on this occasion. His luck ran out when the second fire occurred. There was a great place for the storage of Baltic Pine at the West India Docks. Great rafts of Pine were towed across the North Sea and up the river to London. Then these rafts were broken up and the baulks stacked for drying. Well, somehow the fire started and once it got a go on nothing could stop it. As I said earlier when the fire floats start to throw the water ashore anything can happen. I got so far with Dad’s dinner and then nobody could go along the road as the water was running out of a gateway over three feet deep, and an amusing sight was a fire engine on a platform, built out of the wood that was floating out, nearly five feet up in the air and water all around. The relief men had to be brought in by boat as well as fuel to keep the pumps going. This fire also lasted a week and some of the black ash was visible years after.

The Albion disaster is well known, however the fires at West India Docks are often overlooked but caused considerable damage. From Ernest’s description, I think he is referring to the fires in 1900 and 1903, these were major fires which were widely reported.  It is quite amazing to consider that with widespread fires taking place, Ernest seemed more concerned that his dad would receive his dinner. It is very unusual that you get eye witness views of these kind of disasters and Ernest’s description of the fire engine on a wooden platform in the river and the fact the black ash was visible for years afterwards  is fascinating. 

Many thanks to Sharlene Jones-Martin from Brisbane, Australia for sharing the memories of her great grandfather.

 

Pineapples Don’t Grow in Poplar by Coral Rutterford

I was delighted when I received the following piece from long time contributor Coral Rutterford about how a small interest as a child can lead to a long time passion.

It all started when I was in Alton Street School, Poplar when the “Flower Lovers League” was introduced to my school after the war had ended and we could think more of positive and creative ideas.

Here was an opportunity to buy a packet of nasturtium seeds for sixpence.

I asked my mother if I could have 6d to buy a packet of the seeds, knowing money was tight in our house, as indeed the same situation all over our area. She agreed and I was quite excited to get the project started and liven up the back yard.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

We lived in back to back street houses with short narrow yards and not a blade of grass to be seen. After the Anderson Air Raid shelter was removed, Grand Dad erected chicken runs in its place and above them rabbit hutches appeared.

There was an old lilac tree on the boundary of the back yard which was the place where cats would congregate nightly and howl or fight each other. When spring came around leafy buds appeared on the branches and then we were privileged to see the long lilac coloured blossoms, so beautiful to see in the colourless gardens around us. But all gone too soon.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

The packet of nasturtium seeds finally arrived and I planted them in a pot and placed it on our window sill that backed onto the outside toilet and waited, and waited for shoots to appear, then finally the flowers emerged, deep orange and yellow in colour and with the lovely green leaves that cascaded down over the lavatory roof and looked so lovely and that made me a something 10 year old girl very happy and proud.

That was my first effort at growing anything and didn’t grow anything for years with school and eventually starting work and teenage years taking my time.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

After emigrating to Auckland, New Zealand in 1964 and finally settling into our newly built house the task of starting garden beds again became my focus. Here in Auckland one can grow almost anything, put a cutting in a pot and you have a plant in no time. I started a vegetable garden and grew more than we could eat and  the neighbours were happy to receive whatever we gave them. The tending of the veges, tying up plants, watering which is necessary here in Auckland because of the heat and one could spend a lot of time doing all of that and can become a chore and stealer of time.

My husband built me a little glasshouse which backs onto our aviary which has colourful and mischievous Rainbow Lorikeets and other little finches.

My glasshouse is 14ft x 5ft with a bench on one side where I keep my potted plants and some plants grow in the narrow strip along the aviary wall behind me.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

I grow bromeliads mainly as they are very colourful and not all produce flowers. The centres of the plants are the colourful parts and I have to be careful of the serrated edges of the leaves and can be painful if a spike is lodged in your hand.

Pineapples are part of the bromeliad family and are not grown here in New Zealand because our climate does not suit its growing conditions and Australia does and they produce huge numbers and distribute them to many countries.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

Way back in 2009 I bought a pineapple and cut off the spiky leaves at the top of the fruit and included about one inch of the top of the fruit. I let it dry off a bit for a week or so and planted it in a gravelly mix to produce roots, this took about 3 months. Then I planted it in a pot with soil and waited, and waited for it to grow and mature and it finally produced a pineapple after 3 years.

I then repeated the process of cutting off the spiky leafed top and getting it to set roots and waited another 3 years for a pineapple to grow. From that initial pineapple I have grown fruit every 3 years and this year I experimented further and presently I have 3 fruits growing, by the time the youngest of them matures it will have taken almost 4 years. I feed them liquid citrus fertilizer.

Photo – Coral Rutterford

I have ventured into other colourful species of plants that are easy to grow here in Auckland.

All of this started with a sixpenny packet of seeds.

I was delighted to finally meet Coral in Auckland over the summer and although she left these shores many years ago she remains fascinated by the changing landscape of her birthplace.

May I wish all are readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 

Eighty Not Out: The Memories of Ernest Edward Loades 1890 – 1976 (Part One) Education


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.

Poplar 1900s

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.

Chrisp Street 1900s

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.

Poplar High Street 1890

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.

Many thanks to Sharlene Jones-Martin from Brisbane in Australia for sharing the memories of her great grandfather.

Local Community Champions recognised by Awards

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.

Christmas at Mudchute Park and Farm

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

 

 

Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens – 10th November 2017

This weekend, there will be a large number of events related to Remembrance Day around the country and especially London where the Cenotaph will be focus of attention on Sunday.

In 2014,  a War Memorial Plaque was unveiled in Island  Gardens, to remembers all those from the Isle of Dogs who died in two World Wars, it was particularly poignant considering it was on the centenary of the start of the First World War.

This year, there will be a short Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens on Friday the  10th November, it will include contributions from the Friends of Island Gardens, Cubitt Town School and George Green School Choir.

10.55   Welcome from Friends of Island Gardens

10.58   Last Post – Bugler

11.00   Two Minutes Silence

11.02   Reveille – Bugler

Laying of Wreaths

Cubitt Town School – Poem

George Green School Choir will sing the first three verses of “Oh Valiant Hearts”

A hymn remembering the fallen of the First World War

 

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for sending in the  information.