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ISLAND WOMEN: Experiences, Challenges, Impact at St John’s Community Centre – 9th March 2019

As part of International Women’s Week, the Friends of Island History Trust will host an exhibition which will be looking at the significant contribution of women living, volunteering and working on the Isle of Dogs from the 20th Century onwards.

The exhibition includes a screening of a short film entitled Island Girl, by the female students of George Green School and an exhibition of images of ‘Island Women’ by Designer Anna Lincoln and will include a presentation by FoIHT on the life of Nellie Cressall, one time Island resident and former Mayor and Councillor for Poplar. During the afternoon attendees will also be invited to reflect on and consider how the Equality Act and recent campaigns have impacted on ordinary women today and how further changes can be achieved.

The afternoon will start off with a fitness session in the main hall with Zumba for ladies 18 and over from 1.15 until 2.15, at the same time the presentation on the remarkable Nellie Cressall will take place in the history room.

There will be stalls run by local groups and refreshments and time to reflect on the event which will be rounded off at 4’oclock by centre user group TANGO E14 with a demonstration of Argentinian Tango

Invited participants include One Housing, George Green School, Tower Hamlets Sports Development and TANGO E14 and Exhibition Designer Anna Lincoln and local photographer Ioana Marinca

St John’s Community Centre,
37-43 Glengall Road E14 3NE
Saturday 9th March 1pm-5pm

Everyone is welcome.

Remembering Wharf Road and St John’s Church

College View on Wharf Road

Regular readers will know that Eric Pemberton often sends photographs and postcards which often illustrate little known aspects of the Island. Recently he sent an interesting photograph of College View and a postcard of the interior of St John’s Church which was damaged by bombs in the Second World War and eventually demolished in the 1950s.

Wharf Road in the 1860s with College view  ( inset Island Gardens after 1937 )

College View was on Wharf Road which had been a feature on the Island from the 1850s, there was little housebuilding in this area till the 1860s when the small amount of development was quickly bought to a standstill by the depression on the Island due to financial problems of many of the shipbuilding yards. Wharf Road ran parallel with Manchester road from Ferry Street to near Pier Street.

Wharf Road 1880s with Station built.

Just off Wharf Road, three cross streets were formed: Barque Street, Ship (later Schooner) Street, and Brig Street.

In the 1880s,two rows of two storey houses with basements were put up in Wharf Road. These were No. 5–8 Wharf Road and No. 1–10 College Row were built. By this time, some of the area near Wharf Road was sold to build North Greenwich Station.

As the photograph shows, the railway cut across Wharf Road and a subway was built to allow people access.

So the question is, what happened to Wharf Road ? in 1937 it was renamed Saunders Ness Road which it remains today. As time moved on, Wharf Road has been forgotten but it is amazing that an old photograph can remind us of these little piece of Island History.

A walk down Saunders Ness Road today shows very little has survived of the past, the George Green School occupies much of the site near Island Gardens.

St John’s Church was consecrated in 1872 was designed by (Sir) A. W. Blomfield. The church was one of most active of the Island parishes where attendances at the church exceeded those at Christ Church and St Luke’s in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was estimated that the annual attendance figures for St John’s had reached 6,000. Unfortunately the church was a victim of the extensive bombing in the area in 1941 and became abandoned. Other churches on the Island lost the vast majority of its worshippers during the war and the three Island parishes were merged in 1952.

The postcard appears to be from someone associated with the church in 1904. Once again many thanks to Eric for providing such interesting information about the Island’s history.


Memories of Poplar in the 40s and 50s – Coral Rutterford


Coral’s Grandfather on his Poplar Council cart

Recently I was contacted by Coral Rutterford  who now  lives  in New Zealand, she very kindly sent some of her memories of her early life in Poplar and Shadwell.

Coral lived with her family in 2 rooms in her grandparents rented house in Bright St, Poplar and about 1949 they moved to a block of flats in Watney St, Shadwell, About 2 years later they moved to St. Paul’s Cray, Kent. In 1964 Coral and her husband and baby son sailed on the P & O liner “:Oriana” to Auckland, NZ, it was an immigrant sailing with 2000 passengers wanting to settle in Freemantle, Melbourne and Sydney, then onto Auckland.


Oriana 1964

My grandfather was a dustman who worked for Poplar Borough Council and he drove a horse and cart and he used to bring it home and park outside each lunchtime. The horse would then receive his bag of oats or whatever horses eat for lunch. I used to love stroking his head and his muzzle was so soft.

Grandfather had a bad accident, he had picked up some French chalk that had spilled inside the high sided cart. He slipped and broke both arms and his kneecap was twisted. He suffered with the kneecap injury the rest of his life, one operation after the other, and he never returned to work again.

I attended Alton St. Primary School, Poplar, after the war ended, previously my mother, brother and myself travelled out of London to Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Co Durham  during wartime to escape the nightly bombing raids around the dock areas of the East End, I remember vividly sleeping in the Anderson shelter in the back yard amongst the rabbit hutches and chicken runs that Granddad had to help with supplying food for the family and to sell off some at Christmas time.

It was a happy time at Alton St, at playtime the kids all played together, all very friendly, with skipping ropes, 2 tennis balls playing up against the walls and a giant ring of kids all playing and singing “The Farmer wants a wife” At assembly each morning we sung with gusto the hymn “Jerusalem”  and did those feet in ancient times walk upon fields of green….. there was no fields at all in Poplar at that time.


Paulette Goddard; the film actress, visiting to the East End to distribute food parcels to children of the Hague-street school, Bethnal Green in 1948

Mr Mills was the Principal and he introduced country dancing and we all loved that and we put on a show for our parents and all feeling very proud to do so. Just before I left the school we had a surprise visitor who was a movie actress Paulette Goddard, who was once married to Charlie Chaplin who also came from the East End, she looked so beautiful in her white rabbit hooded long coat with gold sandals.It was the only school in London that each child received a large 20 pound weight box of goodies of tinned butter, a huge bar of chocolate which was so good as we had rationing for almost everything and confectionery was almost non-existent and other food stuffs that our mothers were grateful for.
I had the honour of accepting a parcel from Paulette on behalf of my class and a child from each class also  represented their classmates.

After passing my 11 plus exam I went to George Green’s Grammar School which was in East India Dock Rd at that time and the playing fields were in Millwall where we bussed weekly to play netball and hockey.

I used to walk through Chrisp St market on the way to Grammar school and the barrow people were friendly and would say hello and I used to buy a 1d – penny speck apple or pear and eat it on the way home, often I got a nice red apple with no specks.

Walking behind a lady one day who had bought live eels from a barrow and they were wrapped in newspaper. I saw them wriggle out into the gutter and slide into a drain, I bet she wasn’t too pleased when she got home.

queens theatre

Queen’s Theatre Poplar

Each Christmas we were treated to a Pantomime at the Queen’s Theatre, in Poplar and Billy “Uke” Scott was the star at one time. Often we would go to Music Hall and I loved seeing the performers singing and dancing and got to learn all the words of the old music hall ballads. “My old man said follow the van” and “For it was Mary, Mary” and the audience would sing along too, good old memories of days long ago when the folk were getting on with their lives after the war years.


1950’s Music Hall star Billy ‘Uke’ Scott

We moved from Poplar to Shadwell and I still attended grammar school and got a bus each day to ride along Commercial Rd  to East India Dock Rd.

I enjoyed walking Cable St and onto Leman St to visit “The Tower of London” in those days we just walked into the Tower area and I used to follow the Beefeaters around and listen to their telling of historic facts and I soaked it all up.

Nearby is  Middlesex St, or Petticoat Lane as it is commonly known for the Sunday market with stall holders lining the street and full of varied goods and often not of value for money. Fast talking barrow boys were entertaining and one had to be careful that during their banter they were only putting 10 apples in the bag but somehow they had counted 12 going into it. My mother  was approached by someone/ undercover police? who had been watching this and asked Mum to count her apples and was asked to testify in court.