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Rare objects discovered in the Havering Hoard reveal life in Bronze Age London

Photo – David Parry/PA Wire

One exhibition, I am looking forward to seeing at the Museum of London Docklands this April  is related to the Havering Hoard. 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 April to November 2020 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
Fri 3 Apr – Sun 1 Nov 2020

The Fancy at the Ferry House in 1832

The nearby O2 arena has been the scene of a number of major boxing matches in the last few years, however many people may not realise that the Isle of Dogs was a popular location for a number of sporting activities in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these activities were illegal and the Island which was barely inhabited at the time was a way to get on with the ‘business’ away from prying eyes. In the early 19th century, boxing was a very popular sport but was very different from the boxing of today.

There were very few rules and the fight would go on until one fighter was unable to continue or would give up, seconds would wait in the ring assist the boxer between rounds. The bareknuckle fights were often brutal and severe injuries or death were not uncommon. The ‘Fancy’ was the name given to aristocrats who followed the sport in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although all sections of society followed the sport and fights could attract huge amounts of gamblers’ money.

Isle of Dogs 1837

A news report from 1832 illustrates that even with relatively small purses, people were willing to fight and risk serious injury or death.


The Fancy – Two Men Killed

On Wednesday night, an inquisition was held at the King’s Head, Church-street. Deptford, before Joseph Carter, Esq. Coroner and a respectable jury, on the body of Richard Dodd, aged 27 years, who was killed under the following deplorable circumstances.-

The deceased was a shoe-maker, and resided in Whiteheart-yard, Coleman street, A month since, a match was made between him and a man named James Cox, a shoemaker at the Crispin public-house, Milton street to fight for two sovereigns, and Monday last was fixed for the fight. The two men dined together at the house of the deceased, and were quite friendly. After dinner they, with a host of their partisans, proceeded to Battersea fields, where they fought 17 rounds, but being disturbed by the new police, the seconds proposed that they should proceed to the Isle of Dogs to terminate the fight. Thither they went, and a ring was formed near the Ferry house; but before the men set-to, they expressed a wish to draw the stakes and shake hands. The stakeholder, a man named Jordan, refused to give them up, saying, the money was placed in his hands for the men to fight, and he would be d-d if they should not. Many persons, and the men themselves remonstrated, but he and the seconds were inexorable, and the men then commenced fighting. Several blows were given on both sides, and the friends of Cox cried on to him “Kill him, murder him,”.

After about 14 rounds, both men fell insensible to the ground, and were unable to come life, and they lay on the grass to all appearances dead. Dodd was carried in a boat to the Grampus Hospital ship, where he was attended to by Dr. Lawson, and every thing that was possible was done to restore animation, but all to no purpose, and lie expired about an hour after. Cox was conveyed home in a dying state in a coach, and the news arrived at the inquest-room, on Wednesday, night, that he had also expired.

Several witnesses were examined, but they were unable to identify any of the parties engaged in the fight, with the exception of one man named Green, who held the clothes of the deceased. He was apprehended and carried to the cage at Deptford ; the others have at present escaped. Dr. Lawson stated, that he had made a post mortem examination of the body, which was most frightfully disfigured and found upwards of three ounces of coagulated blood on the brain, which was cause of death. At 11 o’clock, the Jury came to a determination to adjourn for further evidence to Friday, and the Coroner issued warrants against the seconds, and Jordan the stakeholder, to enforce their attendance.

Both deceased persons were married men, and have left families to deplore their untimely death.

This tragic event on the Island is a reminder that for many years in the 18th and 19th century, the Isle of Dogs had an unfortunate reputation from pirates hanging from gibbets to illegal fights.


The Commute of the Future at Canary Wharf

Bemused commuters outside Canary Wharf station were faced with what seemed like a large drone but may be part of the commute of the future.

A Bristol-based start-up Vertical Aerospace have been working on developing electric aircraft vehicles, designed specifically for vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL).

The company’s eVTOL aircraft named Seraph completed its first ever test flight in June last year when the 750kg aircraft successfully flew across Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire proving that its technology works and paving the way for eVTOL aircraft to be used in the future.

With the flight of the Seraph, Vertical Aerospace became the first company in the world to release flight footage of an eVTOL aircraft capable of carrying 250kg. The aircraft can reach speeds of up to 80kmph.

Founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical Aerospace is building technology to revolutionise how people fly, by making air travel personal, on-demand and carbon free.

With more research and money being ploughed into electric aircraft vehicles like Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL, there are a real possibility that many short-haul flights can be replaced with environmentally-friendly flying vehicles within four years.

It was a dream of many a young child in the 1960s, that flying vehicles would be the mode of the transport in the future, it may be possible  that over half a century later it may becoming a reality.

A Limehouse Baker and ‘Carey Street’

Clennam (from “Little Dorrit”) in Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison

Many people overspend and get into debt over the festive period but getting into debt in the early 19th century had more serious consequences including spells in prison. Michael Munoir sent the following which illustrates the case of a local Limehouse baker who was in Newgate prison for debt and wishes to be discharged from prison in 1813.

I John Jones, a prisoner for debt, confined in His Majesty’s gaol of Newgate, and late of St. Ann’s-place, Commercial-road, in the parish of St. Ann, Limehouse, in the County of Middlesex, and using the name and description of John Jones, baker, do hereby give notice, that on the 26th day of October 1821, I presented my petition, schedule, and oath to the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors, at No. 6, Carey-street, Lincoln’s-inn, praying to be discharged from custody upon all process, and to have future liberty of my person against the demands for which I am now in custody, and against the demands of all other persons named or specified as my creditors, or as claiming to be my creditors, in my schedule annexed to my said petition ; and the said petition, oath, and schedule have been filed in the said Court: whereupon the said Court hath ordered, that the matter of the said petition shall be heard in the said Court, to be holden at the Guildhall of the City of Westminster, on Tuesday, the 14th day of December next, at the hour of nine in the morning ; and the said Court hath judged fit to dispense with my serving the Assignees of ……

A long list of creditors follows including a number from Limehouse such as Robert Gammon, Narrow-street, Limehouse, coal merchant; Thomas Luens, Ratcliffe Highway, grocer; Elizabeth Gardiner, Ratcliffe Highway, tallow chandler: I. Hawley, Ratcliffe Highway cheesemonger; John Williams, Church-row, Limehouse, coal-merchant; James Roberts, Three-colt-street, Limehouse, butcher;

being the creditors named in my schedule, with notice of my application in manner directed by the Act of Parliament in that behalf; and hath ordered, that notice of the said petition, oath, and schedule, be inserted in the London Gazette, and in the two newspapers called the Morning Post and the Star, of which my said creditors, hereinbefore-named are hereby required to take notice. JOHN JONES

Although we do not know the full story about John Jones, we can see from his long list of creditors that he was in considerable debt. Public notices regarding insolvent debtors and bankrupts, informing creditors about proceedings and applications for release, have appeared in The London Gazette for centuries, as a statutory requirement.

Newgate West View of Newgate by George Shepherd 1784-1862

During the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was said that more than half of all prisoners were debtors. In London, there were separate prisons for debtors including the Fleet (closed 1842); Farringdon (closed 1846); King’s Bench (closed 1880); Whitecross Street (closed 1870); and Marshalsea (closed 1842).

Execution by hanging, outside Newgate, early 1800s

We can see from the petition that John Jones was a prisoner in Newgate Prison which was one of the most notorious prisons in the capital. Until 1861, only those who bought and sold goods to make a living could be made bankrupt. Others who were unable to pay their debts were referred to as ‘insolvent debtors’. Public executions took place outside the Debtors Door which would not have made our Limehouse baker feel any better.

Newgate Exercise yard by Gustave Dore , from ‘London : A pilgrimage’ by Gustave Dore and Blanchard Jerrold 1872

Debtors could be imprisoned indefinitely until the debt was repaid to creditors. This was made more difficult because some prisoners had to pay for their keep in prison which could mean getting into more debt. One of the reasons that debtors were put into prison was because it was expected that the debtors’ families and friends would repay the debt. Imprisonment for debt only ended in 1869, although there were some exceptions.

One of the best known individuals who were imprisoned for debt, was John Dickens, father of author, Charles Dickens. He was incarcerated in Marshalsea in 1824, when Charles was just 12 years old. John owed a baker, £ 40 10s, and was committed to prison, where he lived with his family (apart from Charles, who worked in a blacking factory) until he was released three months later.

This episode had a profound effect on Charles Dickens, who featured debtors’ prison in his work. Little Dorrit features a story about a debtor, imprisoned in Marshalsea which is also mentioned in David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers.

In the original petition, many readers would have noticed the address of the court, Carey Street became famous for the saying ‘being on Carey Street’ which indicates you were bankrupt or had serious financial difficulties.

Many thanks to Michael for bringing this fascinating subject to my attention.



Dunbar Wharf in the 1920s by Barry Ashworth and Michael Murnoir

Credit – Barry Ashworth

Recently, I mentioned Barry Ashworth and his long career at Dunbar Wharf, when he first started work at the wharf in the 1960s he came across a number of documents and photographs from Dunbar Wharf’s previous owner, Francis Vernon Smythe.

I am publishing a couple of these remarkable photographs of Dunbar Wharf in the 1920s, I have taken a couple of pictures recently in roughly the same place and was amazed that the facade of Dunbar had changed very little in the pass 90 or so years.

Credit – Barry Ashworth

In the photo the coastal schooner is the Plymouth registered ‘Alfred’ offloading alongside Open Wharf. Michael Murnoir in conversation with Barry Ashworth guessed it had offloaded the pile of staves which can be seen on the wagon. Vessels such as schooners could settle in the mud without damage because they were shoal draft or very shallow keeled.

Credit – Barry Ashworth

The photo is posed as you can see from the group standing on the wharf (Smythe with a very dapper boater) and the workmen in the lofts. Both Michael and Barry guessed the photograph was taken in the 1920s and the oak staves came from Germany and Spain mainly, but also from America, and the schooners cargo was a transhipment. Staves were transported a short distance to the cooperage on Ropemakers Fields which had a frontage to Narrow Street right opposite Duke Shore Wharf and ran through to Ropemakers Fields.

In the background on the left looms the much larger Barley Mow Brewery building, since demolished. It is unlikely it would have backloaded beer or barrels because the railways carried most of beer and there were plenty of local brewers. Oak barrels which left Limehouse full of beer, port and sherry could return to the Port of London from all over the globe refilled with juices, preserved vegetables in brine, rum or molasses.

Many of the original warehouse doors and fittings are still there, although the buildings are now used for residential use.

Credit – Barry Ashworth

Both Barry and Michael believe this is Dunbar Wharf between 1920-30. The guy in the light grey suit, legs apart is Cyril Legge, Wharf Superintendent until at least 1970. His father was before him.

Credit – Barry Ashworth

The guy in the gabardine raincoat is Francis Vernon Smythe, owner of Dunbar Wharf.

Once again the original layout of the wharf are still recognisable with still the same doors and fittings.

Creeks: Sailing barges packed into Limekiln or Limehouse Creek in October, 1930 by Albert Gravely Linney ( Museum of London )

I have also managed to find a picture of Dunbar Wharf from roughly the same period by well known Thames photographer Albert Gravely Linney.

Many thanks to Barry for permission to publish the photographs and to Michael and Barry for the information about one of the most interesting parts of modern Limehouse.

May I wish the readers of Isle of Dogs Life, A Merry Christmas  and a prosperous New Year.


Frost Fair Festival at Museum of London Docklands from 21 to 22 December 2019

A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stair 1864 (c) Museum of London

A two day family festival at the Museum of London Docklands is a reminder of an unusual London tradition that took place on the frozen surface of the Thames.  London’s frost fairs took place for over two centuries when Londoners would descend on the frozen River Thames to build markets, play games and sell all manner of food and drink.

A View of Frost Fair on the River Thames 1814 (c) Museum of London

It was only rarely that the conditions would allow these carnivals to happen, between 1564 and 1814 there were around seven frost fairs in total but the festival of 1814 would be the last and one of the grandest. The construction of the new London Bridge in 1831, and development of the river and embankment during the Victorian era bought an end to this tradition.

Frost Fair festival (c) Museum of London

The tradition may have died but the memories of these festivals are still alive and the Museum of London Docklands hopes to create some of the excitement with its free family festival with the Telegraph Community choir and Newham Super Choir performing a number of festive songs.

Frost Fair festival (c) Museum of London

Visitors will also be able to enjoy talks, an Under 5s festive music session or try their hand at a range of arts and crafts. From making a pop-up frost fair card and a paper yule wreath, to hand puppet crafting and snow globe making, this is a festive experience for all the family.

Frost Fair festival (c) Museum of London

So if you want to celebrate a long gone London tradition and entertain the children, why not make your way to the Museum of London Docklands on the weekend before Christmas.

Frost Fair festival
Museum of London Docklands
Saturday 21 & Sunday 22 December 2019

Raving with the Clangers at the Museum of London Docklands – 23 November 2019

Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

One of the Museum of London Docklands most popular events is the museum’s annual family rave with the award-winning Big Fish Little Fish. Now in its fifth year, family rave pioneers Big Fish Little Fish will turn the 200 year old warehouse into a wonderland with confetti, balloons and bubbles as world-famous DJ Barry Ashworth (Dub Pistols) takes to the decks to serve a host of tunes from acid house to drum and bass.

This year, the event will have some special guests with youngest members of the Clangers family, Tiny and Small. They will also make an appearance in the special Clangers room where mini-ravers can get creative by decorating eco-friendly plant pots before taking a special pack of Clangers seeds to grow at home. Celebrating fifty years of the iconic children’s TV show, the curious creatures will be helping to provide eco-friendly fun for all the family.

Photo credit David Parry/PA Wire

Elsewhere in the museum, you’ll get the chance to experience the unique sensory room and make animal and plant inspired décor with Captain Cookie Crafts while the smallest of ravers can take a break from the beats in our modified Mudlarks children’s gallery.

With a licensed bar and café bites available, the Museum of London Docklands is the place to be for fun-loving families in this cross-generation celebration of dance, play and creativity. Different zones are created to cater to babes in arms and toddlers plus craft tables, colouring mural and play dough table.

So if you have little ones with surplus energy, let them have a great time and still be home for tea-time.

Family rave: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle with the Clangers
Museum of London Docklands
Saturday 23 November 2019

For more information, visit the Museum of London Docklands website here