Macbeth at the Space on the Isle of Dogs – 24th to 27th May 2017

Historically, the Isle of Dogs has not had many places of entertainment in the 19th and 20th century, people tended to travel to Poplar or Greenwich for theatres and shows.

One notable recent exception has been the Space which is a performing arts and community centre based in a converted church. The Space is run by St Paul’s Arts Trust and puts on a large number of events per year.

Recently, I was sent the details of a new modern version of Macbeth to be produced by Early Doors Productions which is an Essex based Production Company.

The production reimagines the ‘Scottish play’ for a modern audience and features a gangster named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of whores that one day he will become the ‘King’. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders the current King and takes the throne for himself.

Needless to say it does not end well for our hero/villain.

The Cast List

Macbeth – Justin Cartledge

Lady Macbeth – Rachel Lane

Banquo – Darren Matthews

Duncan – Matt Jones

Donalblain – Ben Martins

Macduff – Matt Jewson

Lady Macduff – Amy Clayton

The Porter/Heccat – Julie Salter

Street Girl 1/Fleance – Hayley Webber

Street Girl 2/Lady Macbeth’s Attendant – Nicole Campbell

Street Girl 3/Lady Macduff’s Attendant – Jen Bell

The performance dates are 24th-27th May and tickets will be £15/ £12.

Tickets can be bought through the box office number is 0207 515 7799 or can be purchased online here.

As well as the attraction of the play, it is well worth visiting the venue which is one of the Island’s historically most important buildings.

The former church was constructed to the design of T.E. Knightley in 1859, the foundation stone was laid by John Scott Russell, the builder of the ship “Great Eastern”. The church, St Paul’s closed in 1972 and the site was used for other purposes until the 1980’s when a locally based group of individuals created the St Paul’s Arts Trust. After a considerable amount of work on the building, a new Arts centre was created. The building has a Grade II listing and the Trust includes Limehouse resident, Sir Ian McKellen as its principal patron and is a non-profit making registered charity.

Super Yacht Justa Delia in West India Dock – March 2017

With all excitement with the St Albans visit, many people (including me) overlooked the arrival of the Justa Delia Super Yacht.

The 143.04ft /43.6m Justa Delia was built in 2008 by Benetti. the yacht was previously named Libra Star and was sold in 2016.

Built by the prestigious Benetti company, her luxurious interior is designed by Zuretti and her exterior design is by Stefano Righini.

The Justa Delia’s can accommodate up to 10 guests in 5 rooms, including a master suite, 3 double cabins, 1 twin cabin and 2 pullman beds. She can carry up to 9 or 10 crew onboard.

The Justa Delia’s leisure and entertainment facilities include Air Conditioning, WiFi connection on board, Deck Jacuzzi, Gym/exercise equipment and Stabilisers.

As usual in the secretive world of Super Yachts, it is not known who is the new owner or how long the yacht will be in dock

HMS Exploit, HMS Explorer and HMS Smiter  in West India Dock – 8th March 2017


After the arrival of the HMS St Albans in West India Dock yesterday, she has been quickly joined by three patrol boats, the HMS Exploit, HMS Explorer and HMS Smiter today.

The three boats are Archer-class patrol and training vessels of the British Royal Navy and are used to train students in a range of naval skills.

HMS Explorer (P164) was built by Vosper Thornycroft in 1986 and was reclassified in 1994. Its homeport is Kingston-upon-Hull and mainly operates on the East coast of the UK, particularly in and around the river Humber.

The ship is primarily assigned to the Yorkshire Universities Royal Naval Unit (URNU), serving the universities of York, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds.

HMS Smiter ( P272) was built by Watercraft Ltd in Shoreham and commissioned in 1986. Her primary mission is to support the Oxford URNU’s activities but the vessel also conducts other RN tasks.

Oxford University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) was formed in October 1994 to provide training to undergraduates from Oxford, Oxford Brookes and Reading Universities.

HMS Exploit (P167) was built by Vosper Thornycroft and commissioned in 1988, the ship is berthed in Penarth, near Cardiff.

HMS Exploit is the Birmingham University Royal Naval Unit’s Training Patrol vessel, although the unit covers a wide area, taking undergraduates from eight Universities in the region including Loughborough and Warwick.

Archer-class patrol vessels have a Length of  20.8 m and beam of  5.8 m and often carry a crew of 20 (training) and 12 (operational).

It is not known how long the patrol boats will be in the dock but the St Albans is on a four-day stay.

HMS St Albans ( F83) in West India Dock – 7th March 2017


After a relatively quiet period in West India Dock, we welcome the return of the HMS St Albans who last visited in July  2015.

HMS St Albans is the 16th and last of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates to be built and was launched on 6 May 2000. Constructed by BAE Systems at Scotstoun, she was delivered to the Royal Navy in November 2001. She is based in Portsmouth. The St Albans has a length of  133 m (436 ft 4 in) , Beam: 16.1 m (52 ft 10 in) , Draught: 7.3 m (23 ft 9 in) with a crew of  around 185 .

The ship has had an interesting history, in 2006, she picked up 243 evacuees from the dock in Beirut and safely transported them to Cyprus.

Like many Royal Navy ships she has been deployed around the world included supporting international efforts in tackling piracy, illegal trafficking, and smuggling.

In May 2013 she was handed over to BAe Systems for her refit in Portsmouth Harbour, where she remained until 2014. After intense trials she rejoined the fleet.

More recently, in January 2017 she  escorted the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier task group through the Channel.

The St Albans is on a four day visit to West India Dock, last time the ship was open for the public to visit, however the ships plans are not known at this stage.

The Tragedy at the Upper North Street School in Poplar – 1917


The post about the recent centenary of the Silvertown explosion was a reminder to write about another tragedy that happened a century ago. This tragedy involved a Poplar school and children who were victims of one of the early bombing raids on London.

Although the first air raids on Britain were from German airships, these tended to be short and sporadic. However in late 1916, the German Air Force formed an ‘England Squadron’ commanded by Captain Ernest Brandenburg which undertook a bombing campaign designed to strike terror into the British population. The campaign saw the squadron’s Gotha G.IV and R.VI Giant bombers conduct raids across the country.

The worst raid in terms of casualties took place on the 13th June 1917 and involved 20 Gotha bombers attacking London; when the raid had finished 162 people were killed and 432 injured.

The East End of London was one of the places the Germans targeted especially around the Dock areas. On the 13th June, In the East End alone; 104 people were killed and 154 seriously injured.


One of the worst incidents involved a bomb which entered the Upper North Street School in Poplar and exploded killing 18 young children. 


The pupils who were killed were mainly between the ages from 4 to 6 years old. Around a week later, one of the biggest funerals ever seen in London was held for the children. Fifteen children were buried in a mass grave at the East London Cemetery, while the other three children were buried in private graves. A newspaper report gave details about the ceremony.


Child Victims of  London Air Raid.

Seventeen Little Coffins, covered with pink and white blossoms, seventeen little coffins—-some of them pathetically small—lay in a row before the altar of Poplar Parish Church, London, on the 20th June.

Sixteen of them held the bodies of sixteen child victims of Germany savagery, school children who were killed in the daylight raid. In the seventeenth coffin were broken fragments of two other little bodies.

Seated amongst the mourners were many little boys and girls dressed all in black, with tense white faces, the brothers and sisters of the dead. Some of them (says the London “Daily Express”) had themselves been extricated from the medley of powdered brick, wood, and human flesh and blood in their school building after the bomb exploded.

The eighteen children—fourteen of them were aged only five—were all killed in their classroom at a London County Council school on Wednesday, 13th June, by a bomb dropped by a German airman.

Children took a large part in the funeral ceremonies. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides made an aisle on the church steps, cadets in khaki from the secondary schools lined the road in front of the church, and at the end of the service the band of boys from the Poplar Training School played the “Dead March,” and, later, a special funeral march composed by their conductor.

Although the tragedy has largely been forgotten, at the time it was widely used by the newspapers and government for propaganda purposes and encouraged anti-German sentiment, often the newspaper reports had lots of gory details.

Whilst people accepted atrocities on the battlefield, air-raids breached the boundary between soldiers on the battlefield and civilians at home. It was the first time that people began to understand the concept of total warfare.

A memorial in Poplar Recreation Ground, unveiled in June 1919, bears the names of the 18 Upper North Street School pupils that were killed.

Inside the new Crossrail Canary Wharf Station


One of the attractions of attending the preview for the new Tunnel: The archaeology of Crossrail exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands was that it offered a possibility for some people to have a look inside the new Canary Wharf Crossrail Station. The upper 3 floors of the station including retail, roof garden and restaurants have been open since 2015, however the lower sections are still being fitted out and access is limited to the occasional special event or open day.

The station is one of the most unusual in London because it has been created by sinking a 250 metre-long station box into waters of West India Quay dock. The station facilities are 18 metres below water level which has presented a number of challenges.  


Arriving in the lower levels, the first surprise is the size of the station ticket hall which will be accessed via eight long-rise escalators from the promenade level entrances at either end of the building.


The concourse is 185 metres long and is very similar in design to the main Canary Wharf station with large open spaces.


The platforms are even longer at 241 metres long and will provide plenty of space to passengers.


The platforms are still being worked upon, but a sneak preview of the track and tunnel gives some idea of the scale.


One interesting fact is the station footprint which at 256m long is slightly longer than the height of One Canada Square which stands over the station.


Trains running on the Elizabeth Line will start from the new Canary Wharf station in December 2018. Trains will terminate at Paddington in the west and Abbey Wood in the east.

When the route fully opens in December 2019, a train every five minutes at peak time will allow passengers to travel all the way through to Paddington, Heathrow or Reading in the west and Abbey Wood in the east.

It is important to realise that these types of engineering undertakings are once in a lifetime and Crossrail will be considered to one of the great engineering achievements of the early 21st century. I have written posts about the nearby Thames Tunnel and Blackwall Tunnel which were considered wonders of their time.

Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail at the Museum of London Docklands from 10th February to 3rd September 2017


Regular readers will know that I am often intrigued by tunnels and have written about the Thames and Blackwall tunnels. Therefore it was with a great deal of anticipation that I attended the preview for the latest exhibition at the  Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition is entitled Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail and explores the wide range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail .

Many people may be aware of Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, but few people will realise that since work began in 2009, the project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever in the UK, with over 10,000 artefacts found covering almost every important period of the Capital’s history.


The construction of London’s newest railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line has sliced through London from East to West and gone through many layers of London’s history.

Some of the finds include:

Prehistoric flints found in North Woolwich, showing evidence for Mesolithic tool making 8,000 years ago

Tudor bowling ball found at the site of the Tudor King John’s Court manor house in Stepney Green

Roman iron horse shoes found near Liverpool Street Station

Medieval animal bone skates found near Liverpool Street Station

Late 19th century ginger and jam jars from the site of the Crosse & Blackwell bottling factory near Tottenham Court Road station

Human remains including one of the skeletons found near Liverpool Street Station from the 17th century Bedlam cemetery, which a DNA has shown died from the Plague.


Just before you enter the main part of the exhibition, there is a statue of St Barbara who is associated with explosives and lightning. She is the patron saint of miners and tunnellers and despite all the high tech equipment, the people on the Crossrail construction took the statue down one of the shafts for good luck.


The exhibition follows the trail of the Elizabeth Line and features highlights from each section. Of particular interest in our local area were the digs at Pudding Mill Lane that looked at some of the old industries on the River Lea, The old Thames Ironworks site near Canning Town was explored and a number of finds like iron chains and brickworks was found.


Digging under Canary Wharf, part of a woolly mammoth’s jaw bone was found and a fragment of amber that was estimated to be 55 million years old. Both items are currently being analysed at the Natural History Museum.


Some objects at Stepney Green are from the Tudor period when it was the location of many large mansions for the wealthy.


The exhibition illustrates some of the problems of archaeology with the mystery of the Walbrook skulls which are from different periods but were all found together.


As well as the archaeological finds, large screens show how the massive engineering project of Crossrail burrowed its way beneath the London city streets and beyond.

This fascinating exhibition is without doubt one of the biggest and most comprehensive exhibitions held at the Museum of Docklands and is well worth a visit. The exhibition is free and runs until September 2017.

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