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West India Dock Review 2021

It is a tradition of Isle of Dogs Life at this time of the year to write a review of the ships that have called at West India Dock. Whilst we have not had the numbers or variety of previous years, we have a number of interesting visitors.

It has been the year of the superyachts in the dock and three of the ships are still in the dock, Bravo Eugenia, PHI and Here Comes The Sun have been here since December. The old favourite tall ship Tenacious made an appearance and in Greenwich was the RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship for a time.

Bravo Eugenia superyacht

PHI superyacht

Moon Sand Superyacht

Here Comes The Sun Superyacht

Dr No

Super Yacht Kismet

Tall Ship Tenacious

RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship

Let us look forward to the return of more ships to the dock. The development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf is gradually becoming completed and hopefully we can put the pandemic behind us in 2022.

I would like to wish our readers a happy and healthy New Year.

The RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship in Greenwich

An interesting visitor to Greenwich is the RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship which has completed basic sea trials and is ready to undertake its first expedition.

It is due to spend a few days in Greenwich and will highlight the start of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

International scientific advisers are using the Attenborough to issue statements about the urgent need to address the climate crisis.

The 129m-long Attenborough has spent the past year in trials around the British coast preparing for its first ocean voyage to Antarctica in November. The vessel will deliver supplies to the UK’s main scientific base, at Rothera, and other stations around the Southern Ocean.

The Attenborough is a Polar Class 4 icebreaker and cost £200m to build. It has a helipad, cranes and equipment to deploy minisubs and other ocean-survey and sampling machinery

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to reopen on 7th September 2020

Good news for many Islanders is that the Royal Museums Greenwich have announced the reopening of the National Maritime Museum on 7 September. Visitors will once again be able to explore the story of Britain and the sea through science, trade, conflict, work and leisure in the world’s largest maritime collection.

Entry to the National Maritime Museum will remain free. Time slots will have to be pre-booked online and a one-way visitor route will be in place.

In line with the government’s announcement on 31 July, face coverings must be worn inside the museum. Protective screens in the ticket hall and gift shop will be installed and sanitiser stations will also be available throughout to ensure the safety of all visitors and staff.

Initially, the interactive All Hands Children Gallery and Ahoy! Children’s Gallery will remain closed.

The announcement follows the phased approach to reopening Royal Museums Greenwich announced earlier this summer. Cutty Sark reopened on 20 July, the Royal Observatory Greenwich opened in part on 3 August and the Queen’s House reopened on 10 August.

At the Queen’s House, Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will run until 31 August 2020. This is the first time the three surviving portraits have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

Additionally, Woburn Treasures has been extended until Easter 2021. This exhibition is a major collaboration, which will see significant works from the private art collection of The Duke and Duchess of Bedford on show in the Queen’s House. The collaboration marks the first time significant collection pieces have been on public display in a national museum since the 1950s.

For more information , visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website here

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I Exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich


Last week I took the short ride over to Greenwich to come face to face with the three surviving versions of the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I which are on public display together in a free exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich. The exhibition, entitled Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I, is the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London

The Armada Portraits  are considered one of the most iconic images in British history and commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign when the Spanish Armada failed in their attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich showcases its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. From the Woburn Abbey Collection

For all the fame of the Armada Portraits, very little is known about them, they were believed to have been painted shortly after the Armada, in 1588. The origins of the paintings and artists are shrouded in mystery with some experts suggesting that three different artists or studios could be responsible for the three principal Armada Portraits working from a single template.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Queen’s House is a wonderful setting for the exhibition which presents an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to explore closely the  three iconic depictions of Elizabeth I. In all three versions, the Queen is shown in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress with seascapes showing different episodes of the Spanish Armada story.

The Queen’s House is part of Royal Museums Greenwich. It is 17th century Palladian villa, designed by Inigo Jones, which is situated on the site of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a major political centre of the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I herself.

So in many respects, Greenwich with its Tudor and Maritime history is the ideal place to full understand how the paintings relate to an important part of British history, England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was considered one of the greatest military victories in English history and Elizabeth was celebrated in portraits, pageants, and the literature of the day.  Evidence of the  Elizabethan era has largely disappeared from Greenwich, these portraits are a reminder that for hundreds of years that this part of London was the centre of British power and prestige.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I is open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich alongside the Woburn Treasures exhibition that runs from 13 February to 17 January 2021, both are free to visit.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I at the Queen’s House in Greenwich from 13 February 2020 until 31 August 2020

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, circa 1588 © National Maritime Museum, London

Something to look forward to in the new year is the Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich (13 February 2020 until 31 August 2020). The exhibition presents the three surviving versions of the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I and it will be the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.

Considered, one of the most iconic images in British history, the Armada Portrait commemorates the most famous conflict in Elizabeth’s reign, the Spanish Armada’s failed attempt to invade England in 1588. Royal Museums Greenwich will showcase its own version of the Armada Portrait alongside the two other surviving versions, from the collections of Woburn Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.  From the Woburn Abbey Collection

Athough the artists of the paintings is unknown it is believed that three versions of the Armada Portrait were painted shortly after the event, circa 1588. The three portraits united at the Queen’s House are the only contemporary versions in existence and the only three featuring seascapes that depict episodes from the Spanish Armada in the background.

The portraits will be displayed in the Queen’s House, the 17th century house, designed by Inigo Jones which is part of the original Greenwich Palace complex, which was a centre for the Tudor dynasty and the birthplace of Elizabeth I.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown English artist, circa 1588 © National Portrait Gallery, London

In all three versions of the iconic portrait, the dominating figure of the Queen in a rich gold-embroidered and jewelled dress, behind her are two seascapes, depicting different episodes in the Spanish Armada. The portraits were used to present a public image of Elizabeth I, presenting her as a powerful, authoritative and majestic figure.

The exhibition will be a rare opportunity to see iconic portraits of Elizabeth I in a location that will be forever be associated with the Tudor world.

Faces of a Queen: The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I will be open from 13 February – 31 August 2020 at the Queen’s House in Greenwich and is free to visit.

Silver Spirit Cruise Ship at Greenwich

Although we are approaching the end of the holiday season, we have a cruise ship berthed near Greenwich. The ship is called the Silver Spirit and operated by Silversea Cruises.
The ship was built at the Fincantieri Ancona shipyard and was launched in 2009, although the ship looks large it only carries a maximum 650 passengers and about 400 crew.
Silver Spirit is considered a luxury cruise ship  with 270 ocean-view suites and six restaurants with plenty of amenities.
Cruise ships are not an unusual sight on the Thames where they often berth at Greenwich or near Tower Bridge.
The Silver Spirit leaves Greenwich today to start its cruise to Barcelona.

The Remarkable History of the Cutty Sark

In last week’s post about Millwall Dock, I mentioned that in the early 1950s, the Cutty Sark was bought into the Millwall dry dock for an inspection and repairs.

Cutty Sark is now a major landmark in Greenwich where she has sat serenely for over 60 years. But in the 1950s, her future was not clear cut and she became the subject of a public debate about what to do with the famous old clipper. Cutty Sark was built on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest. She came into service at a time that sail was giving way to steamships.

The Cutty Sark spent only a few years working on the tea trade before being used to bring wool from Australia, quite often she would bring her cargo into West India Docks. The Cutty Sark became famous due to her races against Thermopylae, especially the one that took place in 1872. The Cutty Sark was damaged and finished second but most people were agreed that she was one of the fastest clippers of all time. The ship held the fastest time achieved between the UK and Australia for ten years.

Cutty Sark and HMS Worcester at Greenhithe in 1938

For all her fame, the days of sail were nearly over and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed Ferreira. There she continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman who remembered some of her past glories and he used her as a training ship in Falmouth. After he died, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College which was based near Greenhithe in 1938. There she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester.

By the early 50s, it was considered that this career had come to an end and various ideas were put forward as regards what to do with her.

A number of newspaper reports of the time gives some idea about the debate.

Cutty Sark to Sydney?

LONDON, December 25 1951 (A.A.P.).— A famous tea clipper may end its days in Sydney Harbour.The Evening News’ gossip writer says that sailing enthusiasts are discussing the possibility of sailing the Cutty Sark to Australia. The Thames Barge Sailing Club president (Mr Hugh Vaudrey) said the lowest estimate of the cost of refitting the vessel was £10,000 sterling. Mr. Vaudrey believes that strongly-supported Cutty Sark societies in Australia and New Zealand would help bear the cost. He added : Out there they regard the Cutty Sark the same way as Americans do the Mayflower.

Plan for Cutty Sark to Sail Again

A dispute has arisen over a proposal to reconstruct and refit the world’s only surviving clipper, 83-year-old Cutty Sark, and sail her to Australia and New Zealand. The man behind the idea is a London solicitor, Mr. Hugh Vaudrey, who says the plan has the sympathetic backing of members of Cutty Sark societies in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. Mr. Vaudrey, who founded the Thames Barge Sailing Club, which has the Cutty Sark Preservation committee, believes that the clipper could be made seaworthy and a crew recruited.

The project is strongly opposed as completely impracticable by the Greenwich National Maritime Museum, which considers that the vessel could not make a sea journey of any length and that officers and crew would be unobtainable.

Director of the museum, Mr. Frank Carr, said: — ”We would like to see the Cutty Sark cradled in concrete at Greenwich as Nelson’s Victory is at Portsmouth. This would cost upwards of a quarter of a million sterling, but we are assured of Government, London County Council and private support, and feel sure all Dominion shiplovers would help also.

‘However we feel that the present isn’t the time for such expenditure and are prepared to wait for upwards of four years before launching an appeal. ‘The vessel is at present owned by the Thames Nautical Training College, and is capable of staying afloat at her berth at Rotherhithe for at least that time.

Permanent Home For Cutty Sark

LONDON, Tuesday. — Famous old racing tea and wool clipper Cutty Sark may be preserved for all time as the result of an offer by an “anonymous body.”

AN official of the Thames Nautical Training College, where the clipper is moored, said that she would be taken from Greenhithe to Mlllwall tomorrow for survey to see if she was in suitable condition for permanent preservation.

After that she will either moored in the river or put into dry dock at the college to be kept open for visitors.

The Cutty Sark was taken to Millwall for a survey and repairs but this was not without incident. In January 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark’s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark’s jib boom into Worcester’s forecastle rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester’s starboard side. Cutty Sark’s figurehead lost an arm in the process and the Cutty Sark was towed to the Shadwell Basin for repairs.

In the end the money was raised and the ship was finally bought to dry dock in Greenwich. But as many people may know, even that was not the end of the story with two fires that threatened to destroy the old clipper.

It is always a pleasure to see the old girl at Greenwich from the bottom of the Island and its important to remember that the ship has many longstanding ties with the West India and Millwall Docks.

A Spring Stroll to Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm

Last week when it looked like Spring had finally arrived, I put on my walking shoes and wandered around Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Arriving at Island Gardens it was with some surprise to see that the Calder Wharf development had started. The development has been the subject of some controversy due to its design which brings the property right up to the Island Gardens wall and dominates the dome where the foot tunnel is located. First impressions are not very good and the local community is still seeking answers to why the development has been allowed to go ahead without adequate consultation.  

Better news was a flag that denoted that Island Gardens had been selected to receive a Green Flag award which is a national quality standard for parks and green spaces.

Wandering around the gardens it was easy to why the award was given, spring flowers were in abundance and the blossom was on the trees.

One of the most unique features of the gardens is the view across to Greenwich, this famous view is still one of the great views of London and has remained largely unspoiled for centuries.

We are very fortunate on the Island that we have Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Spring is a wonderful time to visit the farm with spring lambs running around the field. Local children stood captivated as the different breeds of sheep showed off their young lambs. The lambs began racing each other around the field till it was time for a drink.

The sheep were not the only attractions, the Alpaca were enjoying the sunshine as were the various horses and donkeys.

It is remarkable that in the middle of an urban scene that you can watch sheep in the field and the various animals enjoying the more rural location.

If you suffer from some the strains of urban life, why not take a wander to Island Gardens and Mudchute and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.

Blackheath Fireworks by L Katiyo

DSC_8305

Regular contributor, L Katiyo  over the weekend enjoyed the many delights of the Blackheath firework display that can be often seen from the Island.

The Island does not have a major bonfire display and the Blackheath display is one of the largest in London attracting crowds of over 100,000 people.

Most of the firework displays in London are well organised and  family friendly which can be enjoyed by everyone.

Blackheath has a long of celebrating Bonfire Night, a newspaper report from 1885 illustrates Lewisham, Blackheath and the surrounding area really enjoyed the parade of the ‘ Lewisham Bonfire Boys’.

1885

On Wednesday, the Lewisham Bonfire Boys held their annual carnival in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. At 6 o’clock a procession has formed outside the Lewisham-road station of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway and with bands and banners flying, the bonfire boys started on their perambulation of the principal thoroughfares of Lewisham, Lee, Blackheath, Greenwich, and Catford. The cavalcade, which was about half-a-mile in length, included many vehicles illuminate with coloured fires and a large number of mounted men attired in fancy costumes. The characters were, of a most varied description. The houses and shops along the line of route were all brightly illuminated with coloured fires and Chinese lanterns. The streets were thronged with people, and the motley procession must have been witnessed by some 40,000 or 50,000 persons.

DSC_7930

 Many thanks to L Katiyo for the photographs.

RFA Argus in Greenwich

For those at the bottom end of the Island, the arrival of the RFA Argus in Greenwich provides considerable interest.

The RFA Argus is one of the more unusual ships in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary operated by the MoD under the Blue Ensign. The ship was built in Italy as the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship.

Before the ship entered service, the ship spent four-years at Harland and Wolff in Belfast to be converted from a container ship into a hospital ship.  In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with a fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship.

The unusual layout of the ship allows the ship to be used for aviation training when small helicopters can land on flight deck.

Since its conversion, the RFA Argus has been seen service in Bosnia, Kosovo, Middle East and Sierra Leone and many other areas.

The ship has undergone upgrades to its hospital functions with its Primary Casualty Receiving Facility consisting of over 40 different medical and surgical specialties, and is manned by personnel drawn from the MOD Hospital Units and Royal Marine Band Service.

The unit has a state-of-the-art emergency department, resuscitation and surgical facilities, a radiology suite that includes a CT scanner, a critical care unit, a high dependency unit and a 70-bed general ward.

Argus is generally stationed at her home port of Falmouth in Cornwall.

Although we have often seen the HMS Ocean berthed at Greenwich, it is rare to see the RFA Argus with its very unusual design.