of the name Isle of Dogs
How the Isle of
Dogs came by its name, has never been satisfactorily explained and still
remains a mystery today. Various suggestions have been made.
is that it is a corruption of the "Isle of Ducks." Another
theory is Henry VIII and Charles II when in residence at Greenwich, they
used to hunt in Essex, but kennelled their hounds over the river, in
order to save time and expense of ferrying them over when going hunting.
Hence the name "The Isle of Dogs." However the earliest
known record of this name is on a map from 1588.
simply have been a nickname of contempt, the writers Thomas Nashe and
Ben Johnson co- wrote a play in 1597 called The Isle of Dogs, Nashe
briefly took refuge in Great Yarmouth in the autumn of 1597 as the
uproar caused by the play led to a warrant being issued for his arrest.
The play is lost because it was instantly and ruthlessly suppressed, but
whatever was in it so enraged the Privy Council that all the London
theatres were closed in punishment, and Nashe forced to leave town so
suddenly he lost all his papers and notebooks, seized at his lodgings.
works were further suppressed by Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Bancroft
when they decreed that "all Nashe's books and Doctor Harvey's books
be taken wheresoever they may be found and that none of their books bee
ever printed hereafter."
suspiciously sentimental theory is made by Strype, an historian, who was
born in Stepney in 1643, and closely in touch with the life of the
He says a man was murdered on the island by some person
or persons unknown. A mystery it might have remained to the end of time
but for the dead man's dog.
dog refused to leave the
body except at such time as it was forced to swim across the river for
food. No one took much notice of this dog until one occasion, encountering a
the dog was noticed to take a violent dislike to him, snarling at him
whenever it saw him. This behaviour raising suspicion, the man
was arrested and brought to trial, whereupon he admitted his guilt, and
was duly and legally executed.
the Middle Ages, the Isle of Dogs was known as Stepney Marsh and came
within Stepney parish. In the middle of the marsh was a hamlet called
Pomfret which had fields, a windmill, manor house and chapel, first built in
the late 12th Century by William of Pontefract. For a short period from
1448, when 500 acres were drained by the Bishop, of London, to 1529,
when the embankment burst, the land was used for grazing.
This was one of two recorded
cases where Island was inundated. The 1529 flooding was said to be due
to neglect of some landowners to repair the embankment, the tide broke
through and a "thousand acres were drowned." The identical
spot is alleged to have been where Limehouse Basin now exists; the second
flood occurred about 1660, and Mr. Samuel Pepys records that "he
saw the great breach which the late high water made."
quays were established down stream from London Bridge from 1558 where
all foreign good had to be landed so that duties could be imposed. By
the 18th Century London had 1,400 feet of legal quays and a further
3,700 feet of sufferance wharves, mainly on the South Bank where lower
value imported goods could be landed.
late 18th Century, the Thames was so badly jammed up with ships that
unloading cargos could be delayed for weeks on end. In 1794, 3,663 ships
entered the pool of London from foreign waters with cargos to unload,
most of them in the short summer season.
handing led to piracy and pilfering from ships and quays, especially the
East and West India Companies cargos of sugar, rum, coffee and
trading docks were the solution to the chaos on the Thames. Liverpool
had developed the first such docks between 1710-1717 and by 1795 had
built up an extensive system.
The Merchant companies were
pressing for the development of enclosed docks on the Thames, but these
moves were being resisted by the City of London Corporation who were
keen to maintain their monopoly.
John Perry constructed the first Dock on the
north side of the Thames; this was opened in 1789 and known as the
Brunswick Dock; it was especially built for the reception of East
centre of the peninsula remained completely empty until the Millwall
Docks and its wharves, chiefly for grain and timber, took a huge slice
out of it in the 1860ís.
the end of the 19th Century the range of industries was immense, from
milling flour and oilseed and baking, to the iron and maritime trades
and wharfage. Chemicals and engineering became especially important, but
these declined after the Second World War. At the same time the
successful industries relocated to new industrial estates, leaving
mainly a rump of warehouses, depots and scrapyards, ill-favoured by
communications once road became more important than river.
inhabited almost entirely by dockers and industrial workers, crept over
the farmland only slowly and included both average London terraces and
mean rows of off-street cottages built by speculators.
By 1854 this polluted but
respectable district, almost as isolated as it had been a century
before, had a population of 5,000 at a density of about 10 per
house. By 1901 there were 21,000 people, but even this local population
did not supply sufficient workers for the docks and industries and many
commuted from adjacent communities. The opening of the Greenwich foot
tunnel in 1902 improved access to the Island from the South and drew
many South Londoners to work on the Island.
By 1801 London was on the
verge of a population explosion. The population of London had doubled in
the 100 years since 1700
view towards London from Greenwich by Jan Vorsterman circa 1680
from around 500,000 to 1,114,000. The next 100
years would see the population grow to over 7,000,000.
The fifty years up to 1800
had seen massive changes in industry, trade and agriculture. The
Industrial revolution combined with the trading opportunities of Empire
coincided with the creation of a large urban workforce due to the
depopulating effects on the countryside of the enclosure movement.
London from Medieval times until the advent of the industrial revolution
in many districts the poor lived cheek by jowl with the rich and often
their employment was dependant directly upon them.
Slowly the social fabric of London began to change.
business practices and the expansion of administration (both Government
and Commerce) created the lower middle classes of clerks and
book-keepers. Mechanisation in Industry led to de-skilling of the labour
force as craftsmen found themselves superseded by machines. At the same
time a new pool of skilled workers, Engineers, was created to maintained
the marsh was thoroughly drained in the 17th Century and grazing
resumed, the Island kept a melancholy reputation. Windmills were built
along the West flood bank, known from the late 18th Century as the Mill
Wall. The first mill appeared towards the North end of the Isle in 1679
and by the 1740s there were twelve, chiefly of postmill type and run by
millers from the South bank at Rotherhithe.
view of London, taken from One Tree Hill, Greenwich Park (Circa 1752),
shows, seven mills standing along the river bank at Millwall, and a copy
of this print can be seen in the Poplar Library
that date, there was inland only one farmhouse, Chapel House, perhaps
developed from the medieval chapel, another house by the ferry to
Greenwich, and a white-lead factory on the river close to Limehouse. A
mast house was built at the South West inlet known as Drunken Dock circa
1766 and, by the time the enclosed docks opened in 1806, there was a scattering
of industries along the river, including the Millwall Foundry.
|Below: The West India Dock and the City Canal and the unpopulated Isle of Dogs to the
was on the site of the present East
India (Export) Dock. Its success was immediate, proving the
practicability of enclosed docks for ships and cargoes.
The Thames pirates of those days were
notorious; regular organised bands existed, under various names, as the
Heavy Horsemen, the Night Plunderers, etc., and their robberies were
rampant. It is said that of 37,000 persons employed on the river Thames
at least 11,000 were thieves, and their annual booty amounted to half a
million sterling. Mr. Perry's idea, therefore, was hailed with
enthusiasm, and the West India Merchants subscribed £800,000 for a Dock
on the Isle of Dogs in two days.
Planning permission was problem and it was nine years later before
anything tangible was accomplished. In 1799 the Act authorising the
construction of the West India Docks passed a cynical House of Commons.
project had been held up while the House of Commons considered rival
schemes including the one by Willey Reveley in 1796 to straighten the
Thames and use the old curves as docks. It was finally rejected on the
grounds that it would have been to difficult an engineering feat.
is perhaps fortunate that Willey Reveley scheme was rejected or Millwall
Football may never have been formed.
newly enlarged workforce was more affluent than the previous generation
and were mass producing affordable consumer goods. The links
between manufacturer and customer became impersonal and indirect.
Factories replaced workshops and cottage industries, the owners of
businesses were less likely to know their employees by name. Goods were
sold in shops rather than directly from the workshop as the first
consumer society was created.
the uncomprehending outside world the implication of fundamental changes
were not seen. Napoleon famously dismissed Britain as a National of Shop
Keepers, not understanding the growing industrial superpower across the
channel that could easily finance the Allies war efforts against the
French despite the French economic sanctions against Britain in the form
of the Continental System.
the rapidly expanding city new districts sprang up where the classes
became segregated, West End areas such as Mayfair, Bayswater and
Bloomsbury becoming the preserve of the rich.
in Georgian and Regency London, the great landed estates in the West end
control development by specifying what kinds of buildings could be
erected and how they were to be used, forbidding industrial and
commercial uses, and sometimes employing gatekeepers to regulate access
Docks: The Second Great Enclosure revolution.
affect of enclosure in agriculture is well documented, but the enclosure
of the docks was to lead to boom in trade which allowed large Urban
populations to be supported.
the building of the first stone bridge across the Thames at London
Bridge, completed in 1209, the Pool of London was divided into two
parts. Below the bridge, although there was deep water anchorage, but
only small craft could pass through the arches of the bridge.
is recorded that James I (James VII of Scotland) 1603 - 1625 most
parsimonious of the Stuarts, had threatened the people with new taxes
and imposts, and declared he would remove the court from London.
"May it please your Majesty," answered the Mayor, "there
is one consolation for the merchants of London: you cannot take the
Thames along with you." Tradition is silent as to what the King
said in reply.
weighed heavily on the merchants under the Stuarts; to Tonnage and
Poundage, James I added Impositions, a tax that aroused the
Commons to protest. Tonnage weighed grievously on the Thames wine
merchants, the tax being 1/6 to 3/- per ton, varying in the quality of
the vintage; poundage was 7d. to 1/- on goods sold by weight. But
notwithstanding these irksome taxes the East India wine merchants
amassed great wealth, and their successors in the century following
eagerly came forward to bear the cost of the proposed Docks.
In 1802 William Pitt inaugurated the
Import and Export Docks of the West India Docks; the cost was
approximately £17,000 per acre, and the area covered exceeds fifty-five
Millwall Dock is at the southern end of
the Isle of Dogs; it was opened in 1864; it cost about £7,000 per acre.
The building of West India Docks
transformed the North of the peninsula and development in a small way
followed their opening. But it was the building of the East and West
roads to the Greenwich ferry in 1812-15 (now East Ferry and Westferry
Roads) that encouraged development over the rest, at that time divided
between a number of landowners but two-thirds owned by William Mellish,
one of the promoters of the West India Docks.
was quickly established along the West bank of the peninsula. The large
south west sites were taken by shipbuilders, such as Sir William
Fairbairn (Burrell's Wharf), but shipyards thrived only until the late
1860s when economic depression took hold. The
other smaller sites were constantly changing as new proprietors
introduced new industries and amalgamated wharves. The East side was
developed more comprehensively by William Cubitt from 1842, on land
bought from Mellish's daughter. He masterminded the embankment of the
river, leasing the wharves, laying out the roads and encouraging
speculative builders; subsequently the same process of change and
amalgamation occurred along the river on the West.
Some landowners introduced forms of land use zoning:
along the northern edge of Mayfair, between Grosvenor Square end Oxford
Street, the Duke of Westminster promoted the construction of blocks of
working-class 'model dwellings' as a kind of cordon sanitaire dividing
the luxury houses in the heart of this estate and the commercial
disorder of Oxford Street.
of house building fluctuated much more than the rate of population
growth. In general, builders over reacted to economic booms and slumps.
In response to boom conditions they would build too many houses
too late, so that by the time the houses were ready for occupation,
demand was on the wane, leaving a glut of unsaleable properties. When
prosperity returned builders would react too slowly, and working-class
families would be forced to take in lodgers to help pay increasing
rents, or to double up with other families.
were always more middle-class dwellings built than there were families
to occupy them, hence to decline into seedy shabbiness of estates in
Notting Hill, North Paddington and south
of King's Cross. These large terraced houses were subdivided for
occupancy by several working-class or lower middle-class families.
new lower-middle-class of clerks, book-keepers and school teachers
mostly found homes in suburbs and like Holloway and Camberwell, linked
to the city by horse drawn trams and the new suburban
railways. These suburbs, were a cut above respectable
|Left: A Panorama of the River
Thames by Smith circa 1845. Below the Greenwich Railway Viaduct.
districts, which were located close to major industrial zones - around
the Great Eastern Railway works in Stratford for example of following
the line of the London and Greenwich railway through Bermondsey and
Deptford. London was not only developing into a large conurbation, but
its population was been distributed into distinctive social areas by
status and wealth.