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Part two of the Island Board Walk trail takes us along the west of the Island to the attractive Sir John McDougall Gardens which is a welcome piece of greenery, the park was named after John McDougall who was one the famous McDougall Brothers who owned a large flour mill in Millwall Docks. The park is on the site of former wharves and was opened in 1968.
Although today, Marsh Wall is a road at the top end of the Island. In the 17th Century, Marsh Wall was the embankment built up on the west edge of the Island. These embankments had been built and maintained since medieval times mostly by landowners who had drained the marshes and used it as pasture for their animals.
Although the Isle of Dogs was largely uninhabited until the early 19th Century, there was in the late 17th Century a number of windmills that were built on the Marsh Wall embankment that took advantage of the strong winds that would blow over the unprotected Island. Although it is widely thought that there was only seven mills, there is evidence that there could have been as many as 13. However most of the mills were small concerns and from the early nineteenth century were in decline and one by one the mills were abandoned and demolished.
However although the windmills disappeared, from the 18th Century the area become generally known as Millwall and when the Island became industrialised it gained a reputation not as an idyllic rural scene but rather for the industries that prospered here and the thousands of workers who came to live in the area.
From some of these workers at the Morton’s factory , Millwall Football Club was born and the team played on the Island until 1910 when they moved to South London. The rivalry between Millwall and nearby West Ham United has its origins in the days when supporters worked in the docks and shipyards. The board (5) gives more details of the Island’s interesting football past.
The next board (6) is located near the Limehouse Lock entrance which is situated just below Westferry Circus and indicates the lock’s historical importance and how its creation was inextricably linked to the ill-fated City Canal in the 19th Century.
The idea of building a canal across the top of the Isle of Dogs had been often raised but it was not until the plans for the West India Docks were finalised that plans for building the canal were discussed seriously. The scheme was funded by the Corporation of London who were confident that the short cut would be popular with ship owners, the Canal was finally open for business in 1806 it was 3,711ft long between the lock gates, 176ft wide at the surface of the water and 23ft deep at its centre.
It quickly become clear that the small savings in time for ships using the canal was not enough to attract a large amount of business, ultimately the decision was made to sell the canal to the West India Dock Company in 1829 who renamed the City Canal, The South Dock and stopped all transit passages and connected the dock to other parts of the West India Dock system.
Limehouse Lock entrance or South Dock West Entrance (Impounding) Lock has it became known were designed as the west City Canal entrance locks. Of all the docks entrances built-in the 19th century, The South Dock west entrance lock is the only survivor with some of its original features.
The next board (7) takes up the story of the City Canal and the New South dock which became famous in the days of sail when large fleet of clippers moored along the north side of the New South Dock.The New South Dock was used especially as a loading dock for wool clippers to Australia and New Zealand.
The walk then takes us to Westferry Circus with its wonderful views of the City of London skyscrapers and into the old West India Docks, the next board (8) is located on the North quay of the Docks complex near to the statue of Robert Milligan and in front of the Museum of Docklands.
Robert Milligan was the man considered largely responsible for the construction of the West India Docks. He was a wealthy West Indies merchant and shipowner who was upset at the losses due to theft and delays along London’s riverside wharves.
Milligan with a group of powerful and influential businessmen including George Hibbert created the wet dock circled by a high wall for added security. The creation of the large complex of docks in the next couple of years amazed visitors and West India docks were considered one of the most magnificent docks in the world.
The docks were in use for 178 years until they closed in 1980, in that time thousands of ships came in and out of the dock picking up and discharging cargo and the complex provided work for thousands of workers.
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:
The Isle of Dogs is thrust into the national and international spotlight once a year with the arrival of the London Marathon. In the week before the race, new boardings appear on the roadside and metal barriers arrive to be placed along the route.
On the morning of the race, volunteers and charities take their spots along the route in eager anticipation of yet another carnival of running. People were not deterred by the icy cold blasts and the threat of snow and began to take their positions along the route . The spectators on the west of the Island have the benefit of watching the runners going down Westferry Road and returning via Marsh Wall before the runners head into Canary Wharf.
A Choir on Marsh Wall
The elite wheelchair races are the first to start and finish and when they raced around the Island, the eventual winner Marcel Hug from Switzerland, Australian Kurt Fearnley who was second and six-time London winner and local favourite David Weir who finished third were all in close contention.
America’s Tatyana McFadden continued her domination in the women’s elite wheelchair race winning the race for a fourth consecutive year. McFadden beat Manuela Schar of Switzerland with Wakako Tsuchida of Japan third.
The drama continued with Kenyan Jemima Sumgong winning the race after earlier suffering a fall at a drink station. Sumgong pulled clear of last years winner Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia with Florence Kiplagat of Kenya third.
The men’s race was another win for Kenya with Eliud Kipchoge racing to a new course record of two hours, three minutes and four seconds which was only about seven seconds outside the world record. Stanley Biwott of Kenya was second and Kenenisa Bekele third in one of the quickest London Marathons ever.
After the elite races, the crowds on the Island get bigger with family and friends of the runners of the mass race taking their places along the route, other spectators come out in large numbers to offer support to the runners who face their own particular challenges, it is the mix of serious runners, celebrities, fancy dress runners and fun runners make the marathon the great success it is. Many of the runners run for their favourite charity and since 1981, competitors in the race have raised nearly 58 million pounds for various charities.
Eventually the large mass of runners dwindle down to smaller groups and spectators begin to drift away, the noise and excitement of the big day is replaced by quietness with the occasional lorry appearing on the course to take down various structures and the cleaning department picking up the tons of litter.
Congratulations to all those who took part and all the volunteers who make the London Marathon, the special event it is.
Walking around Canary Wharf and Marsh Wall gives the impression that the top of the Isle of Dogs is one big building site.
The work on Heron Quays and Wood Wharf are part of the Canary Wharf group masterplan that will include the first residential housing on the estate.
On Marsh Wall , there are already a couple of tall residential buildings with the Landmark and Pan Peninsula developments, other construction is being carried out at the new Novotel hotel on Marsh Wall and the Baltimore Tower in Millwall Dock area.
A report last week by an Architecture survey indicates this is just the beginning of a move to build tall buildings all over London but particularly in Tower Hamlets and the South of the river.
The New London Architecture (NLA) and GL Hearn released the results of their annual London Tall Buildings Survey. The survey highlighted 12 months ago , 236 tall buildings were planned for the capital. However the new data finds 263 tall buildings over 20-storeys proposed, approved or under construction within Greater London. This figure includes 76 proposed or in the planning system, 117 with planning approval , and 70 under construction.
62 of the 70 towers currently under construction are residential and 80% of all 263 towers in the pipeline have a primary residential use.
Tower Hamlets was at the centre of the tower boom last year and will see the most activity this year, with 18 tall buildings under construction, 27 with planning approval and 14 in planning.
The dominance of Tower Hamlets is reflected in the status of tall building proposals the borough has the most approved towers (27 or 23%) and the most proposed towers (22 or 29%). Tower Hamlets also has the highest number development projects under construction with 18 proposals (26%).
Regular readers will know that I often relate how often these big schemes never get off the ground and are often mothballed for years,the Riverside development is one such example.
However, even if only a percentage are built it is going to drastically change the face and the character of the Island. It is fair to say that the building of Canary Wharf and the large apartments around the edge of the Island were generally built on old industrial sites. The new developments are still clustered around the top of the Island but there is evidence of steady encroachment into the centre which will impinge on the many residential areas.
With a planning stage of generally eight months and then around six years for completion, the full picture of these developments will not really been seen for 6 to 10 years. By that time this once neglected piece of London will have some of the most expensive property in London.
A quick survey of some of the schemes on the Island shows the state of play for many of the developments.
Designed by Horden Cherry Lee Architects and developed by Canary Wharf Group.
This 60-storey tower is currently In planning.
Quay House, 2 Admiral Way
Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and developed by Investin.
This 68-storey tower is currently Refused.
Cuba Street Tower 2
Designed by 3D Reid / Gultekin Architecture and developed by Talya (was Agaoglu Group).
This 57-storey tower is currently Proposed.
Designed by Squire and Partners and developed by Chalegrove Properties.
This 75-storey tower is currently Approved.
Novotel Canary Wharf ,40 Marsh Wall,
Height: 124m | Floors: 39 | Architect: BUJ Architects | Developer: Accor
Current status: Under Construction
Designed by Rolfe Judd and developed by Docklands Centre Ltd .
This 50-storey tower is currently In planning.
Angel House, 225 Marsh Wall
Designed by Jacobs Webber and developed by The Angel Group.
This 43-storey tower is currently Approved.
Designed by Ian Simpson Architects and developed by Mount Anvil.
This 31-storey tower is currently Under construction.
Lincoln Plaza (previously Indescon Court Phase 2)
Designed by BFLS and developed by Galliard Homes (was Oracle).
This 32-storey tower is currently Approved.
Designed by and developed by Tameric Investments.
This 45-storey tower is currently Proposed.
1 Park Place
Designed by Horden Cherry Lea Architects and developed by Canary Wharf Group Plc.
This 33-storey tower is currently In planning.
151 East Ferry Road
Designed by Town and Beach and developed by Asda Stores Ltd/Ashbourne Beech.
This 21-storey tower is currently Approved.
Designed by TP Bennett and developed by Telford Homes .
This 23-storey tower is currently Approved.
Tucked away behind some offices off Marsh Wall is a small white van dispensing food and drink to the office and construction workers.
The van is located opposite the gleaming skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and few would realise the connection between the two.
Remarkably Ernie Bennett who began Ernie’s Snack Bar was Canary Wharf’s first retailer, When Olympia and York started the Canary Wharf development, there was virtually no catering facilities nearby for refreshments. So Ernie moved his burger van to a pitch at Westferry Circus, and soon became a favourite with the construction workers providing tea and food.
However it was not just the construction workers, in the early days of the London marathon, around the top of the course there were few catering outlets. The developers asked Ernie to pitch his van just off Cabot Square.
Canary Wharf News 1991
Ernie ‘s catering career started in the docks just after the war when he would provide tea for the dockers, however he then got a job with a clothing firm in the city for the next 30 years.
In 1984, Ernie was made redundant and to fill his time he started the Isle of Dogs Angling Society and began to use his caravan to make cups of tea for the members. Gradually he had the idea of a burger van. He was quoted in a local newspaper saying ” so here I am, back where I started, selling tea.”
Although his original van was destroyed in a fire , that did not deter Ernie who bought a new one.
From the Canary Wharf News 1991
Ernie was born in the Isle of Dogs and his family had lived on the Island since 1863, he was always proud of this heritage and in the windows of the new van he had pictures of the Island .
Ernie’s at Mudchute 2000
From a number of pitches around the Island, Ernie’s Snack Bar became a familiar sight , Ernie and his wife Doreen sold food and drink and built up a loyal following. When Ernie passed away in the 1990s , Doreen and other members of the family have carried on the business.
So if you are passing down Marsh Wall, you will most days see Ernie’s and Doreen’s daughter Sharon busy serving customers who little realise the intriguing history of Ernie’s Snack Bar.
Many thanks to Sharon and Michael Bennett for the further information and the permission to use some of the photographs.
London River Man
As regular readers will know, the Isle of Dogs is never short of surprises, however coming across the statue of The River Man on Marsh Wall was surprising due to the fact I have walked past the statue hundreds of times without realising it was there.
In my defence its position in front of Ensign House near Admirals Way is obscured by buildings and the DLR.
The statue was made by John W Mills in 1987, The statue is about 75% life size with the Figure being around 145cm high.
John Mills has a reputation as one of Britain’s leading sculptors with recent high-profile works such as the “Memorial to the Women of World War 2” which is now situated in Whitehall and the National Firefighters Memorial outside of St Pauls Cathedral.
“This sculpture salutes all London river workers – toshers
bargees – dockers – ale tasters – coalheavers – ferrymen”
John Mills was born in London in 1933, he studied at Hammersmith School of Art and the Royal College of Art.
In addition to his work as a sculptor, he worked as a teacher up to the 1980s.
In the last 40 years he has had One Man Exhibitions all over the UK and around the world. His work is collected by the Royal Family and many prestigious galleries and Museums.
His work is probably known to most of us through his awarding winning designs for coins at the Royal Mint in the 1990s.
As well as the large public statues, he also created statues of as diverse figures as Jackie Milburn in the North East and Alan Turing in Guildford
National Firefighters Memorial outside of St Paul’s Cathedral
Memorial to the Women of World War 2 in Whitehall
Strong winds are not unusual on the Isle of Dogs, however the storm this morning was stronger than normal and caused a certain amount of damage around the Island.
For most of the morning Marsh Wall has been closed due the dangerous state of scaffolding on a roadside building site.
Most of the other damage on the north end of the Island was due to falling trees or wooden fencing collapsing.
Fortunately there are no reports of injuries at the moment.
Near Westferry Circus
Gascoyne’s map of 1703
After discussing Folly Wall in a previous post, we now travel to the other side of the Island and look at the origins of Marsh Wall and Millwall.
Today Marsh Wall is a road at the top end of the Island and the Millwall area covers the west side of the Island.
However in the 17th Century, Marsh Wall was the embankment built up on the west edge of the Island. These embankments had been built and maintained since Medieval times mostly by landowners who had drained the marshes and used it as pasture for their animals. However breaches in the embankments were common and the one the map above shows occurred in 1600 and was still there when docks and city canal was built in the 1800s.
Although the Isle of Dogs was largely uninhabited until the early 19th Century, there was in the late 17th Century a number of Windmills that were built on the Marsh Wall embankment that took advantage of the strong winds that would blow over the unprotected Island. Although it is widely thought that there was only seven mills as shown on Gascoyne’s map of 1703, there is evidence that there could have been as many as 13.
William Hogarth’s Idle Apprentice 1747
It is considered the earliest mill was built in 1679,followed by five more in the 1690s, one more was then added by the time of the Gascoyne map making a total of seven. Three more were added between 1710-1720 and two more before the middle of the eighteenth Century.
A view across the Thames towards the Isle of Dogs from Rotherhithe 1821.
W. H. Timms (artist and engraver); C. Richards (publisher) National Maritime Museum,
The early mills were used for grinding corn before moving on to oil seed crushing.
With further windmills at Limehouse and at Rotherhithe it paints a rather picturesque picture of the Thames which the sound of the sails turning a constant soundtrack to the ships travelling to and from the City of London. Although the sight of hanging pirates in gibbets ruins the romance of this idealised picture a little bit.
Fishermen dredging off the Isle of Dogs 1838 Painted by WHF ( Wisbech and Fenland Museum)
However most of the mills were small concerns and from the early nineteenth century were in decline and one by one the mills were abandoned and demolished.
Isle of Dogs. 1859. Engraving of a drawing by Walter W. May, R.N. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall, p. 474. “ The river bank of the island is generally known as Millwall, a name derived from the embankment, once surmounted by windmills, of which one still remains, and is seen in our engraving” .
B. H. Cowper in 1853 looking at the history of Millwall decries the lack of decent recent maps noting that on one map there is one windmill still standing on another there is four. He personally found the foundations of two with only one Theobald’s Mill still standing.
However although the Windmills disappeared, from the 18th Century the area become generally known as Millwall and when the Island became industrialised it gained a reputation not as an idyllic rural scene but rather for the industries that prospered here and the thousands of workers who came to live in the area.