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Autumn in Island Gardens

Whilst enjoying the autumn sunshine, I decided to put on my walking shoes and wander around the Island to Island Gardens. Arriving at Island Gardens it seemed that the Calder Wharf development had progressed but my main aim was to enjoy the gardens.

Anytime is a great place to visit the gardens but my favourite times are spring and autumn, autumn is especially enjoyable because although most of the flowers have died away, there is often an atmospheric mist on the water that shrouds the Old Naval College, Greenwich Park and the Cutty Sark.

Island Gardens is popular with locals and visitors, you often see a tour group wandering around or people sitting enjoying the views. The park is always interesting, you can see children running around the bandstand and people taking their dogs for a walk but you can always find a spot for a little peace and quiet.

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.

Island Gardens were formally opened by Will Crooks in 1895, Crooks a local MP considered that the park would be ‘little paradise’ for local people. It is still a ‘little paradise’ thanks to individuals and local groups such as Friends of Island Gardens who work hard to protect the park.

New Addition to the Memorial Area in Island Gardens

Tucked away in a lovely quiet corner of Island Gardens is the Memorial Area, The Friends of Island Gardens group have worked with the local council to create this small area within the park which is a place that people can pay their respects to the many who have sacrificed their lives.

A plaque was unveiled within the Memorial area in 2014 to mark the centenary of the start of the war and to mark the centenary of the end of the war there is a new addition, a pair of First World Tommies in Silhouette. The soldiers have their rifles in reverse as a mark of respect and mourning.

Unlike many places, there are not a lot of monuments to those who died in the two world wars on the Isle of Dogs. The main reason is that the Island itself suffered from considerable damage from bombing in the Second World War and has had extensive redevelopment since the 1980s.

In recent years, various groups have placed plaques around the Island to remember various events in the past, if you walk around the Island they are usually placed near were the disaster or incident took place.

The Memorial area in Island Gardens has become a community place of remembrance at certain times of the year but especially on a date near Remembrance Sunday. This years event will be held on Friday 9th November from 10.30 am and will have four schools sending children and there will be a bugler in attendance.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton and Friends of Island Gardens for the photographs and information.

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.

Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens – 10th November 2017

This weekend, there will be a large number of events related to Remembrance Day around the country and especially London where the Cenotaph will be focus of attention on Sunday.

In 2014,  a War Memorial Plaque was unveiled in Island  Gardens, to remembers all those from the Isle of Dogs who died in two World Wars, it was particularly poignant considering it was on the centenary of the start of the First World War.

This year, there will be a short Remembrance Ceremony at Island Gardens on Friday the  10th November, it will include contributions from the Friends of Island Gardens, Cubitt Town School and George Green School Choir.

10.55   Welcome from Friends of Island Gardens

10.58   Last Post – Bugler

11.00   Two Minutes Silence

11.02   Reveille – Bugler

Laying of Wreaths

Cubitt Town School – Poem

George Green School Choir will sing the first three verses of “Oh Valiant Hearts”

A hymn remembering the fallen of the First World War

 

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for sending in the  information.

 

 

The Mystery of the Missing Diana the Huntress Statue from Island Gardens

Photo – Metropolitan Archives

Many regular readers will know that Eric Pemberton often send interesting historical mysteries to the website and last week he sent a couple of photographs which feature a statue that used to adorn Island Gardens.

The photographs show the classical style statue which was called Diana the Huntress, this was a familiar subject matter for parks across the UK.

The page from a book  “Greater London by Christopher Trent was published in 1965, so the statue was there in the 1960s. It is in the 1970s that the park was transferred to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and it was around this time that people think the statue disappeared from the gardens.

Over the last 20 years, people have asked what happened to the statue but more recently official requests have been made to the council for more information. These requests have been unsuccessful with the council unable to find any records relating to the statue.

Unfortunately it is not unusual for councils to ‘lose’ works of art in reorganisations or when the responsibility falls on another council.

Many people who visited Island Gardens remember the statue but have no idea when or why it was removed. It is hoped that someone reading this article will have further information that will help to solve the mystery.

I suspect that it is possible that the statue was transferred to another park or is in some gardens somewhere. However it would be nice to know where ‘Diana’ is now residing.

If you have any information, please send to isleofdogslife@gmail.com

Summer Birthday Garden Party in Island Gardens – 5th August 2017

It is shaping up to being a summer of community events with a number of events planned for August.

One event not to miss is the Summer Birthday Garden Party in Island Gardens which celebrates the 122nd year of the park being opened and its continual attraction for Islanders and visitors.

The event will include a number of attractions including Face painting, a Magician, Balloon artist, the Pearlies, Police and Fire Brigade, Pimm’s and Prosecco Lounge, Food and Drink, Games and Live Music.

The free event is organised by the Friends of Island Gardens who work tirelessly to improve and maintain the famous gardens and play a major role in protecting the park from developments that would impinge on its special character.

In recent years, the development of Calders Wharf which is located next to the park has raised a number of concerns about the impact to the park. If you would to find out more, find a link to the FOIG’s petition here

The Garden Party takes place on the 5th August between 12 and 5 pm.

 

A Visit to the Queen’s House in Greenwich

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Like many people who live on the Island, I will occasionally take the short ride to Greenwich or walk through the foot tunnel. Greenwich is a favourite with locals and visitors who come to admire its many delights.

In the numerous times, visiting Greenwich I have never visited the Queen’s House located near the National Maritime Museum. Therefore I was delighted to be invited to a preview of the newly restored Queen’s House before it opens to the public on October 11th.

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The House’s closure has given the Royal Museums Greenwich the opportunity to refurbish galleries, including the King’s Presence Chamber and the Tulip Stairs, as well as introducing new displays and colour schemes, bespoke lighting and new interpretation. The window-glazing and flooring of the Grade I listed building has also been upgraded.

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The Queen’s House has a remarkable history and is considered one of the most important buildings architecturally in the country.  The famous architect Inigo Jones was commissioned to design the building in 1616 by King James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark , although she never saw Inigo Jones’s Classical design completed because she died in 1619 when only the first floor had been built. In 1629, James’s son Charles I gave Greenwich to his wife Henrietta Maria and work on the Queen’s House resumed to be finally completed around 1636. The house is considered one of the first fully Classical buildings in England and marked a distinct break from the traditional, red-brick Tudor style of building.

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The Civil War  meant that Henrietta Maria had little time in the house before she went into exile, her husband was executed and his property seized by the state, although she did eventually return after the restoration in 1660. The house was then used by members of the royal family and for other purposes until 1805, when George III granted the Queen’s House to a charity for the orphans of seamen, called the Royal Naval Asylum. This remained until 1933, when the charity moved to Suffolk. It was taken over by the National Maritime Museum in 1934.

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To celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2016, the Queen’s House has been refurbished to celebrate its Royal connections and the National Maritime Museum’s outstanding art collection.

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Turner Prize winner Richard Wright has created a new artwork for the ceiling of the Great Hall which is inspired by the remarkable Tulip Stairs.

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Visitors to the re-opened house will also be able to see Orazio Gentileschi’s Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife displayed in this iconic building for the first time since 1650. The painting, which is part of the Royal Collection, was one of a sequence commissioned for the Queen’s House by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria.

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The King’s Presence Chamber and Queen’s Presence Chamber have been used to house paintings illustrating the kings, queens, consorts and courtiers associated with the House and Greenwich during this period.This helps to bring the history of the Queen’s House to life and illustrates the connection with the Tudor Placentia Palace that once stood near the site.

Walking around the remarkable house provides plenty of evidence of how Greenwich was at the centre of Royal life for centuries and how little remains to remind us of its Royal connections.

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Standing on the balcony on the first floor gives you a wonderful view of Greenwich Park but when you walk outside you realise why so many people fail to visit the house, despite the grand entrances there are no large doors, entry is via the colonnade and it is easy to believe that the house is part of the larger complex not a standalone house.

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There is another interesting element that is relevant to Islanders, Queen Mary stipulated that no building should block the view to the river, so when Christopher Wren designed the Naval College he left a gap in the building. When viewing from Island Gardens, the Queen’s House is nicely framed by the Naval College and offers a wonderful view of Greenwich Park behind.

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I would highly recommend a visit to the Queen’s House to enjoy some of the wonderful features and the art collections which help you to understand the building’s history, and its considerable significance.

The Queen’s House is Free Admission

A Guide to the London Marathon 2016 on the Isle of Dogs

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It is safe to say that although Canary Wharf is often in the news, the rest of the Isle of Dogs is seldom the focus of national and international interest. However this always changes on the day of the London Marathon when the normally quiet streets are filled by thousands of runners and thousands of spectators.

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The race tends to attract the world’s greatest men and women marathon runners and this year is no exception. 2015 champion Eliud Kipchoge takes on 2014 champion Wilson Kipsang when the two Kenyans head a strong field at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 24 April.

Kipchoge, Kipsang, Dennis Kimetto and Stanley Biwott head a strong Kenyan team in pursuit of Marathon glory and Rio 2016 Olympic places. The Kenyans will not have it all their own way with Ethiopia’s triple Olympic gold medallist, Kenenisa Bekele, and Eritrea’s hero from the Beijing World Championships, Ghirmay Ghebreslassie in the field.

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In the women’s elite race, Tigist Tufa will return to the scene of her greatest triumph when she lines up to defend her Virgin Money London Marathon title. Mary Keitany was denied a third London Marathon victory last year and the Kenyan looks set to be Tufa’s main rival again in 2016. Dibaba, Cherono and Florence Kiplagat will also be in a strong field.

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No fewer than 13 Britons are set to line up in the race with the hope of securing a place on Team GB’s For Rio. Londoner Scott Overall and Scot Callum Hawkins have already beaten the Olympic qualifying time and need to be in the first two Britons across the line to guarantee a ticket to South America.

Two unusual features of this year’s race is Tim Peake will be running the course in Space and a runner will cross the finish line in The Mall at the end of the Virgin Money London Marathon to become the millionth finisher in the history of the event.

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However, for many people the race is a personal challenge and an opportunity to raise considerable amounts for their particular charities. The large number of  fancy dress runners add to the carnival aspect of the race.

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Due to the fact that many people may be unfamiliar with the Isle of Dogs I thought I would do a mini guide to the Isle of Dogs.

The race enters the Island at Mile 15 when it comes onto Westferry Road , this is a long road down the side of the west side of the Island. Lots of shops and a few pubs here and most of the spectators will be locals.

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Just before Mile 16 you will pass the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre  which leads into the Millwall Docks and  is often filled with small yachts overlooked by the old cranes standing next to the dock.

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The sweep around the bottom of the Island takes you near Island Gardens which has wonderful views of Greenwich and the river. Here is also the entrance and exit of the Greenwich foot tunnel.

Going up the East Ferry Road to  mile 17 you will see the greenery of Millwall Park on the right and the Mudchute DLR on the left.

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Just past Mudchute you will see the entrance to Mudchute Farm and Park ,one of the  biggest inner city farms in Europe.

A little further on you have Asda on the right and Crossharbour DLR on the left, then the route takes you further up to Limeharbour adjacent to Millwall Dock  and then onto Marsh Wall.

A short run down along Marsh Wall to South Quay DLR, is followed by a run past the International Hotel to mile 18, there is a quick switchback into the Canary Wharf estate for Mile 19.

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Canary Wharf has become a popular watching base for many spectators due to its proximity to the transport system and the over 200 shop, bars  and restaurants.

The race then goes out to Poplar to begin the long stretch home.

Some of the benefits of watching the Marathon on the Isle of Dogs is that you can actually watch in comfort rather than being part of the massive crowds in Greenwich and Tower Bridge. You also have easy access to the transport system and access to many pubs, bars and restaurants.

To make sure you are in the right place at the right time here is rough time guide .

Start time

The wheelchair race starts at 08.55 am

The elite women’s field: 9.15am

Elite men and mass start: 10.00am

 

At Mile 15 (Westferry)

Wheelchair men 09:46  Wheelchair women 09:55

Elite women 10:35 Elite men 11:11

Mass begins   11:21

 

At Mile 17 (Mudchute )

Approximate times when pass Mudchute

Wheelchairs 9:53 (men), 10:03 (women);

Elite women from 10:45

Elite men from 11:21

The masses  from 12:26.

 

At Mile 19 (Canary Wharf)

Approximate times when pass Canary Wharf

Wheelchairs 10:03 (men), 10:11 (women);

Elite women from 10:56

Elite men from 11:30

The masses  from 12:46.

Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part One)

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Last week, I reported on the new Island Board Walk initiative which had revamped many of the heritage boards dotted around the Island. To find out more about the boards, I decided to follow the trail to give readers some indication of the amazing history of this small part of East London.

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The first board on the trail is near the Newcastle Drawdock which was part of Cubitt’s initial development of the riverside in the 1840s. The board is entitled School days which acknowledges the nearby presence of George Green School which has been providing education since the 1970s.

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Wallking a little bit further and  you will arrive at Island Gardens with its wonderful views and attractive gardens, there is also the entrance to the foot tunnel if you fancy a quick visit to the other side of the river.

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If you decide to carry on the trail, it is a short walk to the Ferry House, the oldest pub on the Island. Across the road from the pub is Johnson’s drawdock next to the Poplar and Blackwall Rowing club. Johnson drawdock was part of a large part of riverside frontage owned by Henry and Augustus Johnson in the 1840s. This is also a spot near to the ferry point from the Island to Greenwich which was widely used for centuries until the opening of the foot tunnel.

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For many of the Island population , this drawdock gave access to the river and the board carries memories of people who when children would swim across the river to Greenwich.

Walking further around the Island, the classical views of Greenwich are replaced by the various developments across the river, it illustrates that similar to the Island, most of the riverfront were used by industries. The building of housing developments have still not dominated the southside but many developments are being planned or being built.

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The next board is in front of Burrell’s Wharf and illustrates one of the businesses that dominated this part of the riverfront, Burrell & Company were oil refiners and manufacturers of paints, varnishes and colours. From the late 1880s until the early 1920s a number of stores, warehouses and workshops appeared on the site. Earlier buildings on the site were also used especially from the famous Scott Russell and Fairbairn’s works.

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The board pays tribute to the many women who worked in the many industries on the Island, Burrell’s employed many women in their business until it closed in 1986.

A little further along the riverfront is another board which marks the location of one of Islands most famous events, the launch of the Great Eastern in 1857.

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In the 19th century, the Thames foreshore from Blackwall around the Isle of Dogs  to Limehouse was known for  the many shipyards. However, the building of the Great Eastern between 1854 and 1859 at the Millwall Iron works was on a scale never seen before. It was undertaken by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the most famous engineer of his day and John Scott Russell  the famous Naval architect. The ship was four times bigger than any ship built before weighing 21,000 tons, 692ft long with a beam of 83ft.

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One of the major problems was how to launch the ‘monster ship’, Brunel’s solution was to launch the ship sideways using chains and cradles. Unfortunately, the ship got stuck and it took months to finally float the ship in the Thames, by this time Brunel and the shipbuilders became a bit of a laughing stock. The ship seemed ill fated and had significant problems before it was ready for service. Remarkably part of the wooden structure from the launch is still  there and looking down onto the foreshore, further remains of the launch can be spotted.

This part of the walk covers the south end of the Island, the next part will take us along the western side usually associated with Millwall. This side was the location of windmills in the 18th century before the building of the West India Docks which transformed  this rural part of the Island into an industrial and trading centre.

The Boards are a great introduction to the Island and this project provides plenty of interest, the new audio tour has been devised to coincide with the launch of the walk and will be available to download as a podcast from the website: www.islandboardwalk.com/audio-trail It is derived from exclusive interviews with those who live and work on the island and provides real insights into the past, present and future of the Island.

‘Free’ Leaflet/Trail Maps which are available to download online and to collect from The Ship pub, The George pub, HubBub cafe bar and restaurant, Cubitt Town Library and the Great Eastern pub by the School Day’s board at start of the trail.

For downloads and more information visit:

www.islandboardwalk.com

The Island Gardens Christmas Lights Switch On – 10th December 2015

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The wet and windy weather did not deter the crowds from attending the switching on of the lights in Island Gardens. Located at the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, Island Gardens is a small park famed for its wonderful views of Greenwich.

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The event was organised by the Friends of Island Gardens and featured a Craft Market for those still looking for Christmas gifts.

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Local schools and other community groups provided the evening’s entertainment with carol singing and other festive songs.

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The lights were switched on by Sir George Iacobescu, chairman and chief executive officer of  Canary Wharf plc who gave a short speech about the importance of Canary Wharf playing a role in the local community. Sir George and the Canary Wharf group have  taken a particular interest in the Friends of Island Gardens project and provided their support since its inception.

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The  Friends of Island Gardens was formed to protect the park from any future developments,  the group has been responsible for raising the profile of the park but also have helped to bring  a number of initiatives to make the park an even better place to visit. The lights at Christmas is just one event that they have initiated that hopefully will  become an annual event.

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They may not have the scale of the lights in Canary Wharf or over the river in Greenwich, but these are very much part of the local community and this was indicated by the large number of local people who enjoyed the event.

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If you would like more information or would like to join the Friends of Island Gardens , contact them on friendsofislandgardens@gmail.com.