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Glengall Grove Xmas 1984 (photo Chris Hirst )
Last week, I published a piece about Chris Hirst living on the Island in the 1980s. By the reaction to the article it seemed to bring back a few memories. In the second part, Chris is beginning to see signs of redevelopment especially with the building of the DLR. But there were far more important developments closer to home.
Christmas 1984 was a cold one. This picture above from Skeggs House shows snow on Glengall Grove, and you can also see that the Glass Bridge has now gone.
We still travelled everywhere by bike, despite the new addition that arrived in November 1984.
Skeggs Balcony 1985 (photo Chris Hirst )
By the summer of 1985, construction of the DLR was well underway.
DLR South Dock 1985 (photo Chris Hirst )
In early 1986 (February I think) it was cold enough to partly freeze Millwall Dock. There are more signs of redevelopment now, including the DLR although it was not yet open.
Millwall Inner Dock 1986 (photo Chris Hirst )
The cold winter didn’t stop some from enjoying their water sports. This next shot is from the bottom end of Millwall Inner Dock looking south west towards the Outer Dock. You can just see the remains of the McDougall’s silos near the centre of the picture, demolished but still recognizable on the ground.
Millwall Outer Dock 1986 (photo Chris Hirst )
Skeggs House was renovated in early 1987, with new double-glazed windows, central heating, and new kitchens and bathrooms. This was a massive improvement. They did all the work on our flat in just a few days, and we didn’t have to move out.
The DLR opened in August 1987. The following pictures were all taken on the opening day. The first one has Skeggs House in the background.
DLR Crossharbour 1987 (photo Chris Hirst )
DLR Crossharbour 2 1987 (photo Chris Hirst )
DLR Crossharbour 3 1987
The final picture shows the original elevated platforms at Island Gardens.
DLR Island Gardens 1987
We moved away from the Island in 1988. Every couple of years when we visit London we almost always take a look around the old neighbourhood. Despite the huge changes with Canary Wharf and the other developments it’s nice to see at least some parts of the Island are still recognizable, including the Mudchute and most of the old estates (at least for now).
Many thanks to Chris for his memories and the amazing photographs, the DLR transformed travel around the Island and it is really interesting to see the original elevated platforms at Island Gardens which used the old London and Blackwall Railway viaduct.
The next part of our walk brings us to the middle of the Island and Millwall Docks, and the boards provide information into yet another interesting and historic part of the Docks system. The creation of the Millwall Docks in the 1860s was against the background of economic depression and when they opened in 1868, there was little indication that they would be a success. However by 1869 the warehouses were nearly full with a variety of goods.
Unlike the West India Dock, goods were stored in transit sheds rather than warehouses and wholesale building around the dock never really took place. Millwall Docks became the main destination of grain and timber into the docks system and in the 1870s, innovative methods of handling grain were developed.
The dock company built granaries and extended its warehousing in the 1880s and Millwall Docks were considered as the centre of the European grain trade. By 1900 about a third of London’s grain imports and 10 per cent of its timber trade came through the Millwall Docks. From 1909 to 1980, the PLA administered the Millwall Docks with the East and West India Docks and The West India and Millwall Docks were connected by the formation of the Millwall Passage in 1926–8 .
In the Second World War, Millwall Docks were damaged but not as badly as the West India Docks, however the entrance lock suffered a direct hit and never reopened. After the war, the PLA developed Millwall Docks especially in the 1950s and 60s with the creation of the Fred Olsen Terminal. Various huge single-storey sheds were erected with large doorways for fork-lift trucks and mobile cranes. This redevelopment led to the belief that the berths at the Millwall Docks were among the most efficient in the world, unfortunately this did not prevent their closure in 1980s.
Nearly the entire dockside around Millwall Docks has been developed with a large number of apartments and development is still continuing with the Baltimore Tower complex. Walking over the Glengall Bridge and down to the old dry graving dock is slightly less developed and is quite picturesque with the houseboats and occasionally the yachts from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre.
Walking away from the dock we cross the East Ferry Road and move from an urban to a rural setting when we walk through the gates into Mudchute Park and Farm.
The large open space where the Mudchute Park and Farm now stands was once grazing land. However during the building of the Millwall Docks in 1860s much of this land was used for storing the bricks that were used to build the dock walls and buildings. This changed in 1875 when The Dock company developed an innovative system of dredging its docks designed by the company’s engineer, Frederic E. Duckham. This involved the pneumatic transmission of mud, out of the dock into a pipe which ran under East Ferry Road to be deposited on the grazing land creating a mudfield. Gradually the hardened mudfield became known as the Mudchute and was later used for allotments.
After the war various schemes were put forward for the use of the land , however it was not until 1973 that the site was transferred to the GLC to be used for housing. However, there then began a campaign by local residents and supporters called the Association of Island Communities who wished the land to be used as public open space , the success of this campaign led to the creation of an urban farm in 1977.
It was somewhat ironic that the mud from Millwall Dock which was considered a health hazard and made the land unsuitable for development turned out to be blessing in disguise as the concentration of mud was full of nutrients that provided good growing conditions for many plants and ideal for farm animals. Since its creation Mudchute Farm and Park has developed into one of the largest City Farm in Europe covering 32 acres and is maintained largely by local volunteers.
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:
After the nautical excitement of last week, it is now the time for murder on the Isle of Dogs. Fortunately it is a fictional crime and a book written by well-known American crime writer Deborah Crombie.
Regular readers will know I am always on the look out for books that feature the Isle of Dogs and Kissed a Sad Goodbye features many of the Island landmarks. The book was written in the late 1990’s and captures the considerable changes taking place on the Island at that time.
The story begins with George Brent, an Islander walking his dog near to Asda when he finds a young woman’s body in the tall grass of Mudchute Park, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, Detectives from Scotland Yard are assigned to the case and quickly begin to realise that this will not be a straightforward case.
A number of characters appear on the police’s radar, a mysterious busker who plays in Island Gardens and the Greenwich foot tunnel, the victim’s well to do fiancé; her sister’s ex-husband and her father.
What is intriguing about the book is that the author uses the history and character of the Docklands and the Isle of Dogs to provide an atmospheric background to the story. She cleverly intersperses the modern aspects of the story with historical accounts of the evacuation of local children during the bombings of WWII.
Another interesting part of the book is how the author has used the research of people like local historian Eve Hostettler to provide small quotes at the start of some of the chapters. The author’s extensive research gives the book a great deal of credibility and manages to tap into the Islands unique history.
Deborah Crombie was born in Dallas and bought up in Texas, She then worked in advertising and newspapers. A visit to England led to a life-long passion for Britain, and she later moved to the UK with her first husband living in Edinburgh and Chester. She returning to the US and wrote her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novel, A Share in Death in 1993. Her subsequent novels have been published with success all over the world.
It is quite surprising how many American crime writers write about London and especially about East London, but this is one that focuses almost entirely on the Isle of Dogs which is more unusual. If you come across a copy it is well worth a read and shows that in many ways the Island certainly has a global appeal.
Photo Margaret Monck 1931-40 Museum of London
In the fifth instalment of Lorraine’s memories, she writes about the importance of her extended family. In the 1930s and 1940s on the Island it was not unusual for family relatives to live near each other and formed the nucleus of the close knit communities. Lorraine also discusses how difficult it could be for women especially widows with a large family.
I was born on my Grandma’s fiftieth birthday and I was her first grandchild. Maybe that is why I always felt such a strong bond with her. Grandma would never put on the gaslight till it got very dark. She was left a widow with seven children when she was forty-two and had learned to live on a very tight budget. We would sit in the glow of the firelight. I would talk and she would listen. There was a black stove with a kettle always on top of it, steaming away, ready for a cup of tea for whoever called. I loved my Grandma and I really enjoyed being with her. I would sit and watch her comb her long grey hair, and when she had finished she would take the hair that was in the comb, hold it in her fingers and twist it into string. With this she would tie the end of her plait to stop it from unwinding. Then she would wind the plait round and round the back of her head and with large hairpins she would fasten it into place. While she did this, the curling tongs would be heating on the gas ring. Holding them near to her face she would test their heat and when she felt they were the right temperature she curled her short fringe. This daily ritual would be in readiness for her youngest son, my Uncle Bill, coming home from work. Most men of his age were married in those days but he was the breadwinner and needed to help Gran.
Photo Margaret Monck 1931-40 Museum of London
Hair done, it was time for her daily change of overalls. This was always prettily printed cotton, which crossed over and folded across her big tummy and was tied at the back. Poor Gran had bad feet and wore black plimsolls. After all these preparations had been completed, Gran was ready to sit in her chair, resting and reading the evening paper, The Star. This was her time, and she deserved every minute of it.
Photo Cyril Arapoff 1931-1940 Museum of London
At one end of the room was an old organ and sometimes my Aunt Con would play it and sing. She was great and she and my Mum had good singing voices. Granddad, who died before I was born, was supposed to have been a great pianist and played and sung all over London. He was a ladies’ man so I have been told, and would be out all the time, working by day on the wharves and out all night, leaving my poor Grandma at home with the children. He was a bully and a drunk like a lot of men were in those days. Mum used to say that she wished he was still alive so she could give him a piece of her mind.
Grandma had a very hard life with him by all accounts and I used to feel very sorry for her when I looked at her stooped figure and the plimsolls on her poor feet. She had no real enjoyment out of life, especially as one of her beloved twin daughters had died at twenty-one. How could she live through such trauma and be so nice? This set an example for me, which I have always tried to follow. I often wonder if Gran knows what an important part she played in my life. I would like to think she does.
Crowded backyards at Totnes Terrace and Totnes Cottages on the Barnfield Estate, Millwall, in 1932
Every Saturday I would do her weekend shopping and she would give me a penny for doing so. Running errands was the way we children were able to save up and buy birthday and Christmas presents for her, Mum and Dad.
One day I tore my new best Sunday coat while climbing over a high fence at the Mudchute, another of the Isle of Dogs’ large parks. I ran to Grandma and she sewed it for me so Mum would not know and I could avoid a telling off. Later, I realised Mum must have known because the sewing was not very good and you could see it a mile off, but Mum never said a word and I think Grandma must have warned her not to say anything. That was my Gran!
Grandmas had a very special place in those days and provided security when children felt parents had been unjust or did not love them. I always knew that my Grandma understood, whatever the problem was. She would tease me about my long legs and say, “You will catch your legs in your dress if you are not careful.” Seeing as my dress was short this was quite a joke.
One day I saw a pair of brown brogue shoes in a shop window at Greenwich. I asked Mum if I could have them and she gave me the money to go “over the water” and buy them. I was so thrilled and showed them to Grandma, who said, “That is the first sensible pair of shoes I have ever seen on your feet.” You can imagine how happy that made me. I think Mum used to put me into ankle strap black patent shoes. I do not think she considered a brogue shoe fashionable at that time. My Mum was a very smart and fashion-conscious young woman; she was good-looking, tall and slim. I was very proud whenever she came to my school as she always stood out from the other mothers.
I realise now that she was only young then. She was twenty-nine when I was ten. I never thought of her as young, which is sad really, but then she was my Mum and that was all that counted. Most children never seem to care or know how old their parents are.
Now my Gran was always old, though looking back I realise she was only fifty-eight when we first came to live near her. A hard life does show, that’s for sure. She had lived on the Island for many years and was just a few houses away from us. Of course it was rented, as most houses were, and she had a living room in the Airey which was down a few steps and under the house. It never saw much daylight or sun.
On nice days people who lived in Aireys would lean on the railings at the top of the steps and watch people go by. Neighbours on their way to Mrs Kirks’ shop would stop and have a chat. My Uncle Bill would be there on a Saturday morning and would ask me to get him some razor blades or a packet of cigarettes and I would go to Mrs Kirks and he would give me a penny for going.
Grandma had the downstairs room and two bedrooms on the first floor and in the rest of the house there lived another family. At the back was a scullery where the washing was done in a copper. This worked by lighting a fire under it to heat the water and so the washing was boiled. The scullery always smelt of Sunlight soap and boiled beetroot. It had a damp stone floor and this is where Gran did her washing for all her family as well as the washing she took in to earn a few extra bob. One outdoor toilet served both families, but everyone had a jerry under the bed for use at night.
Gran had a hard life and died at eighty-six, having lived for twenty years with her youngest daughter and family in Reading. Sadly, my mother was full or remorse after Gran died. She cried as she told me how she would hide when she was little to avoid helping Gran. When she got older she realised how unkind she had been and sadly the guilt never left her. I am sure there are many children who carry some form of guilt in their later years, but as they were children one can forgive them.
With Tootal ties and pocket-handkerchiefs to match, my Dad was also a smart dresser. My parents loved going to the West End to see the latest shows and I was so pleased for them when they got all dressed up. I would feel very happy when they were going out to enjoy themselves. I was left in charge of my brothers when they went out, but Aunt Con and Gran were nearby if they were needed and Aunt Con would call and check on us every so often. She told me that once when she looked in I was dancing on the table with a friend watching me. I don’t think Mum would have liked to know that.
Before the war, Mum and Dad owned a hardware shop and Dad had a business as a master builder and decorator. He was a true artist and the work he did was beautiful. I would go to a house where he was working and watch him. His graining and marbling looked so real and he was always praised for his work. I was very proud of him. In those days, you could not buy ready-mixed coloured paint, so Dad had to mix his own.
Watching my father work was a real joy and I loved to be with him. There came a day when everything in the shop had to be sold off cheaply. There were Ack Ack guns on the Mudchute. Whenever the guns went off, the blast would knock some of the china off the shelves, ending up broken on the floor. It became necessary to sell everything and close the shop. This was sad, as it was a thriving business and the sale of the stock brought little of its true value. I remember we sold toilet rolls, which were a very new product and were special, as everyone had used newspaper until then.
Lorraine at nineteen was a Lucy Clayton Trained Model and modelled in many of London’s top fashion houses. In 1949, she married a Doctor of Medicine who later became a Consultant Psychiatrist. and had a daughter and two sons, and is now a grandmother to nine grandchildren.
In 1979 she left England and with her second husband and moved to New Zealand and opened a number of beauty salons and her own Beauty Therapy Training College.
Lorraine also began to write her own regular page on beauty in The NZ Headway Magazine. In 1987 she and her husband retired and moved to Australia where she developed her creative skills becoming an artist, ceramicist, sculptor, poet and a published author.
Other related posts
Photo Cover, (Peter Wright)
Regular readers to the blog will know that I often refer to another Isle of Dogs blog called Isle of Dogs Past Life, Past Lives run by Mick Lemmerman, Mick (who was born in Whitechapel, but moved to the Island when he was eight) with colleagues Con Maloney and Peter Wright have been responsible for collecting photographs and documents about the Island and making them widely available on a number of websites. Mick has recently started to collate all this information and now has produced a book that gives a comprehensive view of the people, firms, schools, churches, buildings, streets and landmarks on the Isle of Dogs.
As well as concise descriptions and interesting nuggets of information, there are a large number of historical photographs of people and places. For example many Islanders remember the Glass Bridge, the book gives the following history.
Photo Glass Bridge, Jackie Wade (nee Jordan)
Glass Bridge When the dock company stated at the end of the 1950s its intention to close the Glengall Rd. bridge over Millwall Docks, protests and support from the council lead to the construction of a high-level footbridge across the docks, very quickly referred to as the Glass Bridge due to its glass enclosure.
The bridge became a target for vandals and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed and it was demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1983.
One aspect of the Isle of Dogs is that it is always changing and the book lists many of the streets, buildings and landmarks that have disappeared over time. The ever changing nature of the Island is especially noticeable when considering the Island pubs, many now a distant memory but fondly remembered by many. One of my favourite illustrations is the ill fated actress Jayne Mansfield serving a pint in the George, which is still with us but pubs like the Anchor and Hope are in a sorry state awaiting demolition.
Photo Anchor & Hope, (Peter Wright)
The book also offers some original photographs of well known Isle Of Dogs landmarks such as Mudchute.
Photo Mudchute, (Mick Lemmerman)
Mudchute (aka Muddy) The name derives from it being the former dumping ground for mud dredged from the Millwall Docks which had to be regularly dredged to prevent silting up. A novel, pneumatic device was employed which pumped the liquefied mud through a pipe over East Ferry Rd. (close to the George pub), dumping it on the other side.
However looking through the book it is noticeable that many of the streets on the Island have changed almost beyond recognition. Cuba Street being a prime example.
Photo Cuba St, (Peter Wright)
Cuba St. Name changed from Robert St. (after Robert Batson) in 1875. As with other streets in the area, it was named after places in the West Indies (a major source of sugar imports into the West India Docks).
This book would appeal to people who have lived in the area all their life and to the new residents who want to find out more about one of the most interesting parts of East London. It will also appeal to anyone with an interest in the area and the people and would like to find out more. Even those of us who think we know a bit about the Island will find in the book a number of genuine surprises.
Mick has provided a valuable resource to the many people and amateur historians interested in the Island. This together with the Island Trust books are invaluable for understanding the amazing history of the Island.
If you would know more about the book or would like to buy a copy in either print or eBook , visit the Amazon store here
Well, all the preparations have been completed, the barriers have been erected and the day of the race arrives.
From early morning , various supporters begin to stake their claim to a section of the course and wait in anticipation.
It is not often that the Isle of Dogs is the centre of a global event that is shown on television in more that 150 countries around the world.
Marcel Hug pipped GB’s David Weir to win in men’s wheelchair race.
The Elite Women with including winner Edna Kiplagat, Florence Kiplagat second, Tirunesh Dibaba 3rd
Elite Men with Wilson Kipsang who wins men’s London Marathon in new course record of 2:04.27.
Stanley Biwott, who finished second, while Tsegaye Kebede , last year’s winner, who comes out on top to cross the line third.
Lots of support for Olympic Champion Mo Farah who finished eighth in his first Marathon
Once the elite races are finished the streets are taken over by the vast amount of the runners who have their own challenges.
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.
This year there is even greater interest with Britain’s Mo Farah making his marathon debut and one of the greatest runners of all time Haile Gebrselassie acting as pacemaker.
Also running will be the world record holder Wilson Kipsang, the reigning London Marathon champion Tsegaye Kebede, the world and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, Priscah Jeptoo, the reigning women’s champion is back and David Weir Britain’s greatest ever wheelchair racers, is going for a record seventh win.
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 .
Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre
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.
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.
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 .
Kaskelot in South Dock
A short run down along Marsh Wall to South Quay DLR, (if you go into the South Dock you will find the tall ship Kaskelot) 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.
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 n 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 and bars, restaurants.
To make sure you are in the right place at the right time here is rough time guide .
The wheelchair race starts at 8.55am
The elite women’s field: 9.15am
Elite men and mass start: 10am
At Mile 17 (Mudchute )
Approximate times when pass Mudchute
Wheelchairs 9:53 (men), 10:06 (women);
Elite women from 10:45
Elite men from 11:21
The masses from 12:16.
Although I love living in the city, now and then I feel the need for a walk in the countryside. Well fortunately I don’t have to go very far , because if I want to enjoy nature I take short walk down the middle of the Isle of Dogs to Mudchute Park and Farm.
It is one of the largest inner City Farms anywhere in Europe, with a wonderful collection of over 100 animals and fowl on the farm.
In a previous post I went into the history of the Park and farm and showed it owes its existence in some ways to the mud dug out of Millwall Dock.
On a warm spring day ,the farm is alive with visitors especially families who enjoy all the animals on show.
There is a number of rare breeds on the farm including Dexter cattle and a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig.
The Farm has just planted a community orchard in partnership with the London Orchard Project and local schools.
When you are wandering around the farm it is hard to believe you are less than a mile from the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.
Run almost entirely by local volunteers, it is the Island’s hidden treasure. It is not just the animals there is always lots of events organised for adults and children.
If you feel the need for a rural retreat, head down to the farm and even sample the homemade meals at the Farm café.
Mudchute Park and Farm
Farm: Everyday 8am–4pm
Park: All day everyday
Other posts you may find interesting
For many people the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf symbolises high tower blocks and high density living, however this is a very recent phenomenon up to the mid 18th century the vast majority of the Island was uninhabited and used as pastures for animals. Even considering the Island was mostly pastures,the creation of Mudchute Farm is however tied into a by-product of the building of the docks.
The large open space where the Mudchute Farm and park now stands was once grazing land. However during the building of the Millwall Docks in 1865 much of this land was used for storing the bricks that were used to build the dock walls and buildings. During construction of the Millwall Docks in 1865–7 the land remained a brickfield, However after the docks opened in 1868 the land was once again used for grazing.
This changed in 1875 when The Dock company developed an innovative system of dredging its docks designed by the company’s engineer, Frederic E. Duckham. This involved the pneumatic transmission of mud, out of the dock into a pipe which ran under East Ferry Road to be deposited on the grazing land creating a mudfield. Over time the mud accumulated to create small hills and bumps, however towards the end of the 19th Century there was concerns when the Mudfield was considered a health hazard and steps were taken to close the pipe which was discontinued in 1910.
Gradually the hardened mudfield became known as the Mudchute and was later used for allotments . At the beginning of the war the land was used for gun placements.
An Ack- Ack gun in the farm to celebrate its role in WW2
After the war various schemes were put forward for the use of the land , however it was not until 1973 that the site was transferred to the GLC to be used for housing. However there then began a campaign by local residents and supporters called the Association of Island Communities who wished the land to be used as public open space , the success of this campaign led to the creation of an urban farm in 1977.
In 1977 the Mudchute Association was formed to preserve and develop the area which they have done by adding to the existing fauna and flora to provide a diverse environment that attracts all forms of wild life. It was somewhat ironic that the mud that had caused dismay to many people was full of nutrients that provided good growing conditions for many plants.
Farm animals have been introduced over the years to give visitors a variety of experience, there has always been an educational aspect to the Associations work and close ties have been developed with local schools and other community groups
Since its creation Mudchute Farm and Park has developed into one of the largest City Farm in Europe covering 32 acres and is maintained largely by local volunteers. It is also been supported by many firms based at Canary Wharf.
Stables and Cafe
It is a testament to the people who fought for the creation of the farm and the volunteers who have maintained it that it is now widely considered one of the finest City farms in Britain enjoyed by thousands every year.