Winter Lights Festival 2018 at Canary Wharf – 16th to 27th January 2018

The weather has been grey and miserable but there is light at the end of the tunnel in many different forms with the return of the Winter Lights Festival which features spectacular light installations and interactive art throughout Canary Wharf.

Abstract, Collectif Coin, Montgomery Square – France

Artists from across the world showcase installations that can be interactive, performance art or visual spectacles.Light technology has moved on in recent years and many of the sculptures and installations are created so the viewer can interact in some way.

Braving the cold, I went for a quick walk around some of the installations to give a quick preview what is on offer.

Sonic Light Bubble, Eness, Jubilee Plaza

This six-metre wide living, breathing installation pulsates with light and sound when you approach or touch it, emitting a warm glow through 236 programmed LEDs as it constantly generates new visual patterns to a unique soundtrack.


Halo, Venividimultiplex, Cabot Square

See Cabot Square in a new light as a giant Halo seems to levitate above the fountain creating a powerful light experience.


The Cube, Ottotto, Cubitt Steps

This exploded cube of light symbiotically bonds with the pedestrian bridge at the bottom of Cubitt Steps. During the day it is an intriguing black and white abstract skeleton, but from sunset the faces of this 3sqm cube reflect and frame the adjacent scenery


Apparatus Florius, Tom Dekyvere, Westferry Circus

Apparatus Florius will illuminate the trees of Westferry Circus with a multi-coloured light installation featuring giant geometric patterns that grow and intersect as you watch. The structure symbolises the instinctive flow of a plant, taking over the city in search of light to be able to expand and create natural space.


Intrude, Amanda Parer, Jubilee Park

Some huge inflatable white rabbits, illuminated in stark white light, have been invading festivals around the world. The seven metre high bunnies appear to be quite at home in Canary Wharf!


Some of the indoor installations to look out for.

On your Wavelength, Marcus Lyall, UK

Reflecting Holons, Michiel Martens & Jetske Visser, Netherlands

Future Fashion, Cutecircuit, UK

Appealing to families, young and the old, the Winter Lights Festival is free and will run from Tuesday 16th to Saturday 27th January 2018.

The best time to see most of the installations and light affects is after 5pm with the lights closing down at 10pm. If you need a warm drink or a bite to eat, there are plenty of options around the Canary Wharf estate.


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.


Telling the Story of Bow Creek

Many thanks to Buzz Bullock who sent the following article from the Tower Hamlets News which was written in 1969. Entitled Bow Creek, it tells the story of the community and the area with a number of photographs. It is particularly interesting that even in the late 1960s, the story of the small community fascinated local historians.

Orchard Place 1867

I have over the last few years written a number of articles about Orchard Place which is a little known part of Poplar. It lies in an unusual location and is surrounded by Bow Creek, the area itself is two peninsulas with an odd configuration which looks like a finger and a thumb.

Orchard Place has a long industrial history and for over centuries was popular with a large number of firms with its access to the Thames and the River Lea. Despite its industrial nature a small contained community lived here from the 19th century up to the 1930s.

Despite being part of a large East London, the community in Orchard Place was known as   ‘London’s “Lost” Village’, with no public transport links with the rest of Poplar, and a long walk down Leamouth Road was needed to connect with the rest of Docklands.  

Very little was written about the community, although the community shared many of the problems and pastimes of other East End folk, there were aspects of the community that were unique. They often made a living from the river either by collecting some of flotsam and jetsam or fishing.

The community may have benefitted from the river at times, but it was also a source of destruction. High tides often flooded the small houses and the Great Thames Flood of 1928 caused considerable damage which the community never really recovered from.

Recently one of the peninsula in Orchard Place is being turned into a mixed residential City Island nicknamed ‘Mini Manhattan’. Standing on Canning Town station you can get quite a good view of this rather unusual development.

As I have mentioned before, there are not many areas that have changed from ‘London’s “Lost” Village’ to ‘Mini Manhattan’ in a few decades.


West India Dock Visitors Review 2017

It is that time of the year when people begin to review the past 12 months, carrying on the tradition from previous years, we are listing the ships that have visited West India Docks in the last year.

With all the development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf, there was some concern that the number visiting the dock would be severely curtailed but although numbers were down again this year, we still had an interesting mix of ships and boats.

TS Royalist

Some old Tall Ships favourites returned Stavros S Niarchos, STS Lord Nelson and TS Royalist and we had the impressive Tall Ships Cisne Branco and Bap Union.

Cisne Branco

We seemed to get a lot fewer Super Yachts this year, perhaps the building works are putting off some of the more prestigious owners.  

Sea Falcon

There were visits from a large number of Navy Ships including the Netherlands, Norway, France, Portugal, Estonia, Belgium and perhaps more surprising China and India.

Chinese Navy Ships Huanggang and Yangzhou

There were also more visitors from the Royal Navy including HMS Sutherland, HMS Richmond,  HMS Exploit, HMS Explorer, HMS Smiter and HMS St Albans.

There was a degree of nostalgia when I joined the thousands of people in Island Gardens and at vantage points at the bottom of the Island to watch the spectacular Parade of Sail which was the final element of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta in Greenwich & Woolwich and Tall Ships Festival.

The Massey Shaw, The Portwey and the Lord Amory which are permanently moored in the dock provide year round interest.

Super Yacht Justa Delia

Super Yachts

Super Yacht Sea Falcon II

Super Yacht ‘Gene Machine’

Super Yacht Justa Delia

Super Yacht Kismet

Peruvian Navy BAP Unión Tall Ship

Tall Ships

Brazilian Navy Tall Ship Cisne Branco

Peruvian Navy BAP Unión Tall Ship

Stavros S Niarchos Tall Ship

TS Royalist

The Lord Nelson

HMS Richmond

Navy Ships

Royal Navy

HMS Sutherland

HMS Richmond

HMS Exploit,

HMS Explorer

HMS Smiter 

HMS St Albans

Portuguese Navy

Portuguese Navy ship NRP Francisco de Almeida

Norwegian Navy

Norwegian Navy ship HNoMS Otto Sverdrup

Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343)

French Navy

French Navy Ship Flamant

French Navy Ship Lapérouse 

Chinese Navy

Chinese Navy Ship Huanggang

Chinese Navy Ship Yangzhou

Belgian Navy

Godetia (A960)

Bellis (M916)

Indian Navy Ship Tarkash

Indian Navy

Indian Navy Ship Tarkash

Estonian Navy

Estonian Navy Ship EML Wambola

Dutch Navy

Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam

May we wish all our readers a Happy New Year and we look forward to the new visitors to the dock in the New Year.


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.


Superyacht Sea Falcon II in West India Dock

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.


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