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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.
Bonfire Night 1984 (photo Chris Hirst )
Recently, I was chatting with photographer Mike Seaborne who is well known for the photographs he took of the Island in the 1980s. We both said there was for various reasons, very few photographs of the Island in this important period survived when the docks had closed and redevelopment had not really began. This is why, I was delighted when Chris Hirst got in touch with some memories of his time on the Island in the 1980s and produced a number of fascinating photographs. Both give plenty of insights into a place which was lamenting the loss of the docks and was looking forward to an uncertain future. Chris takes up the story which I will publish in two parts.
My wife and I moved to the Island in the summer of 1981. Tower Hamlets were offering “hard to let” council housing to students, and friends of ours had a 3-bedroom flat in Skeggs House on Glengall Grove and wanted someone to share it. Cheap rent was the only thing Skeggs House had going for it!
The first picture shows the front of Skeggs House in 1981. Note there were no trees on Glengall Grove at that time. The old red telephone boxes are still there but would soon be replaced. The two people are on the balcony of our flat (number 7).
Skeggs House ( photo Chris Hirst )
Conditions in the flat were fairly primitive. The only heat source was a gas fire in the living room. The bedrooms were extremely cold in the winter (single-digit temperatures during a cold spell). The leaky windows let in all the street noise. The water heater was unreliable and exploded twice (once taking weeks to be repaired). The lifts never worked of course, but it was only two flights of stairs.
The following picture was taken from the other side of Skeggs House. It all looks very much the same today!
Skeggs Rear 1981. ( photo Chris Hirst )
Public transport on the Island was pretty much limited to the 277 bus, but we bicycled almost everywhere and only used the bus occasionally. At the time the 277 route ended at the south side of the Blue Bridge and the bus turned around on that little loop of Manchester Road. So it didn’t affect the bus if the bridge was up, as it was in this 1982 picture.
Blue Bridge Open 1982. ( photo Chris Hirst )
The next three pictures were all taken from or close to the Blue Bridge in 1982. The view towards South Dock was pretty barren, and nothing like it is today. I assume the three cranes near the middle of the picture are the same ones that now sit on the opposite side of the dock entrance.
Dock from Blue Bridge 1982. ( photo Chris Hirst )
Leslie’s Cafe was demolished when Preston’s Road was straightened. We never went inside, but cycled past that spot daily.
Leslie’s Cafe 1982 ( photo Chris Hirst )
The dock entrance had to be dredged periodically, and that required the bridge to be raised. The next shot was probably taken on the same day as the one above showing the bridge open.
Dredging 1982, ( photo Chris Hirst )
This was before the Asda was built so we did a lot of our shopping off the Island, although Castalia Square was useful for many things (including the launderette). In the following 1982 picture note the old red telephone boxes, which are gone in Mike Seaborne’s 1984 pictures.
Castalia Square 1982 ( photo Chris Hirst )
The Glass Bridge was still standing when we first moved there, although I think it was already closed and soon afterwards it was demolished. This picture was taken from the balcony of 7 Skeggs House in 1982.
Glass Bridge 1982 ( photo Chris Hirst )
Roffey and Cubitt Houses were also still there, although no longer occupied by 1982.
Roffey House 1982 ( photo Chris Hirst )
Things started to improve on the Island with the Asda opening in 1983, the Enterprise Zone and the red brick road with the new D1 bus, and the announcement of the DLR in 1984.
On November 5th 1984 there was a spectacular bonfire between Skeggs and Thorne Houses. This picture was taken from the balcony at the rear of Skeggs House.
Bonfire Night 1984. ( photo Chris Hirst )
Many thanks to Chris for his contribution and the use of his photographs.