NATO Ships, Wambola (A433), Hinnøy (M343) and Schiedam (M860) in West India Dock

Whilst much of the recent ship attention has been on the tall ships, three NATO ships have arrived at West India Dock.

The arrival of the Estonian Navy Ship EML Wambola (A433) ,Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860) came as a bit of a surprise, but for security reasons, the visits tend to be low key. The ships are part of the Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group ONE (SNMCMG1).

The Standing NATO Maritime Groups, are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform a variety of tasks ranging from participating in exercises to intervening in operational missions.

These particular ships regularly take part in NATO exercises and the SNMCMG1 ships and crew have been engaged in  port visits and mine clearance operations in order to contribute to NATO collective defence and regional security.

The Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860), last visited West India Dock in November 2015.

 

Sailing on a Tall Ship down the Thames

On the eve of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta, I was fortunate to be invited to take a trip on one of the Tall Ships on the Thames from Woolwich to Greenwich.

Whilst I have seen a lot of Tall Ships in West India Dock and at Greenwich and occasionally been on board to have a look around, actually sailing on a ship down the Thames was to be novel experience.

Many of the Tall Ships for the Regatta are berthed at Woolwich and provide a wonderful sight that is perhaps a reminder of past especially in the West India and East India Docks.

Travelling down the river offers a very different perspective on familiar sights and after passing the Thames Barrier, I began to scan the riverside for familiar landmarks.

Not surprisingly, the lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf grabbed my attention before we approached the O2 and the Emirates Airline cable car overhead.

The familiar skyline of Canary Wharf dominated the next stretch but I was surprised how the familiar buildings on the riverfront took on a completely different aspect, even the Blue Bridge which is the entrance to West India Dock looked quite small from the river.

Travelling around the bends of the river, new viewpoints appeared quickly until the stately outline of Greenwich came into view and the masts of the Cutty Sark.

With a number of Tall Ships in the river at this point, you did not need a lot of imagination to go back in time when the river was full of ships of all descriptions.

It was not just the views that takes your interest, watching the crew bringing down the sails and carrying out various duties gives a little insight into how much work will be involved sailing one of these ships across the Atlantic.

Which is the destination of many of the boats after the Regatta in Greenwich and Woolwich, the regatta, organised by Sail Training International, will sail from Greenwich to Quebec in Canada, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. A fleet of over 30 large Class A and B Tall Ships will sail for Canada via Sines in Portugal, Bermuda and Boston.

If you are in London and would a trip down the Thames on a Tall Ship, some cruises will be available over the weekend or you visit some ships which will be open for visitors to get on board to look around and talk to the crew.

Two Tall Ships festival villages are open at the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greenwich town centre, and the Royal Arsenal riverside in Woolwich.

The most spectacular part of the Regatta will take place on Sunday when the huge Parade of Sail starts at 5pm from Deptford Creek, during the Parade of Sail, the whole Tall Ships fleet will sail together down the Thames to the sea, before crossing the Atlantic and arriving in Quebec on 18 July 2017.

If you would like to find out more, visit the Royal Greenwich website here

Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta in Greenwich – 13th to 16th April 2017

In an exciting few weeks for the Island, we will have two major events on our doorstep. Later in the month is the London Marathon, but next week is a Tall Ships Regatta at Greenwich.

Over the Easter weekend, Greenwich will host the start of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. The regatta, organised by Sail Training International, will sail from Greenwich to Quebec in Canada, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation.

The fleet of over 30 large Class A and B Tall Ships will gather for four days on the River Thames at Greenwich and Woolwich before setting sail for Canada via Sines in Portugal, Bermuda and Boston.

The ships will be anchored in the Thames alongside two Tall Ships festival villages. These will be located at the Maritime Greenwich in Greenwich town centre, and the Royal Arsenal riverside in Woolwich.

In the festival villages, there will be food stalls serving street foods and drinks will be available at bars at each of the Festival sites.

Some ships will be open for visitors to get on board to look around and talk to the crew and visitors can buy tickets to enjoy a cruise on the Tall Ships on the Thames to Tower Bridge and back.

There will plenty of maritime entertainment and live music from Thursday 13 April to Sunday 16 April, before the huge Parade of Sail starting at 5pm from Deptford Creek on Sunday 16 April.

During the Parade of Sail, the whole Tall Ships fleet will sail together down the Thames to the sea, before crossing the Atlantic and arriving in Quebec on 18 July 2017.

Watching the tall ships is always a fantastic sight and I will be out and about bringing you some stories and articles from the Regatta.

If you would like to find out more, visit the Royal Greenwich website here

In Search of Old Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe 1795

Anyone who has looked into the history of Docklands will come across the small enclave of Ratcliff or Ratcliffe which is located between Shadwell and Limehouse. It is now a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which just adds to the confusion because the new Ratcliffe is above Commercial Road whereas the old Ratcliffe was generally below that main thoroughfare.

Ratcliffe 1804

The name of Ratcliffe is probably most known for the notorious Ratcliffe Highway, the road from the Tower of London towards Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs. The Ratcliffe Highway was the scene of a infamous murder of seven people of 1811.

The name Ratcliffe derives from a small sandstone cliff that stood above the surrounding marshes which had a red appearance, it was originally called Redcliffe. Ratcliffe from the fourteenth century was known for shipbuilding and the fitting and provisioning of ships. In the sixteenth century, various voyages of discovery were began from Ratcliffe, including those of Willoughby and Frobisher. The Brethren of Trinity House made Ratcliffe their headquarters in the early 17th century before they moved to the City.

One of the most interesting structures at this time stood at the bottom of Butcher Row, it was a Market Cross of considerable age which was still standing in 1732. The market that stood at this place later moved to Ratcliff Square.

Ruins of Ratcliffe after the fire of 1794

In the 17th and 18th century, Ratcliffe developed an unsavoury reputation with waterfront made up of lodging houses, pubs, brothels and music halls. In 1794, almost half of the hamlet was destroyed in a fire
which began when a barge loaded with saltpetre exploded, the resulting fire destroyed over 400 homes and 20 warehouses and left 1000 people homeless.

Although the slums returned in the early nineteen century, by the late 19th century the area was cleaned up and populated with people associated with the maritime trade.

Looking at the old maps, the area of old Ratcliffe gradually became  absorbed into Limehouse but it is possible to find odd references to the historic old area.

Ratcliffe 1851

The hamlet was divided between the parishes of Limehouse and Stepney until 1866, when it was constituted a separate civil parish (as Ratcliffe). From 1855 it was administered by Limehouse District Board of Works, and in 1900 became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney.

Ratcliffe 1908

Generally the old maps show Ratcliffe occupying the land between Love Lane and Butcher Row with the boundary of Commercial Road to the north.

One of the most historic slipways to the river is the Ratcliffe Cross stairs which was a crossing for centuries and the starting off point for a large number of voyages. Part of the Old stone slipway to the River Thames has Grade II listing.

Making your way inland you come across Ratcliffe Lane near the Limehouse DLR station. This was not really on the old maps and does not go anywhere in particular.

More interesting is the Ratcliffe Cross Street which runs from Commercial Road down to Cable Street, once again this is a relatively new road but is in the general area of Ratcliffe Square which was a well known part of old Ratcliffe.

Not on a lot of maps is Ratcliffe Orchard  which is really just a footway, what makes this interesting is that there was for a long period an orchard in the area but it was not called Ratcliffe Orchards on the old maps.

The area that was known as Ratcliffe for centuries was one of the most notorious areas of the old docklands, now it is a rather strange mix of small industrial units and a few residential areas. Little remains other than place names of the place that was known all over the world has the starting place for adventures and the location of lodging houses, pubs, brothels and music halls that crowded the waterfront.

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.

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