Tag Archives: Isle of Dogs

Royal Victoria Docks, Old and New

I picked up East End and Docklands in the library on something of a whim, because the photographs are amazing, and show the docklands as I never knew them, though 1990 still doesn’t seem that far away. Until I count the decades. I am now eager to find Fishman’s Streets of East London.

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It’s been in my stack of books to read and evacuate from this room before I must, and the parallel of poverty and decay swept away before regeneration and a shiny but far less interesting wealth is not at all lost on me.

This bank holiday weekend facing a broken boiler, days behind and stretching miserably ahead without hot water, we decided to take up a deal and escape to a cheap hotel off of the old Royal Victoria Dock. I took this picture:

Reviewing the book before sending it back to the library I found this:

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Inside the Royal Victoria Dock, looking west. It opened for business in 1855 on land acquired at little more than the going agricultural rate. By 1860 it was leading double the tonnage of the London Docks: now grass and weeds grow in the crevices of the once thriving jetty (54).

Granted they are facing a different direction, but the differences are still clear. An astonishing transformation.

As we walked down along the old docks to the Ramada, we passed this grouping of buildings I was fascinated by, that also found parallels in these old pictures:

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

The old Spillers Millenium Mills Building, I can’t quite figure out the angles here, but this is the same building:

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They get more interesting as you walk:

Royal Victoria Docks

I quite love the armadillo.

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

A final pairing of pictures, though this one I took of Limehouse is from last year:


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The major employers today seem to be the miserable jobs in the hotels and the ExCel centre — which has created a most depressing and dead riverfront area with nowhere to sit, enjoy, discuss, daydream, stare at the river and think.

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

Funny that we call that regeneration, it was very reminiscent of the almost empty wasteland of the Olympic Park we had just left in Stratford. Except there the tiny handful of people on the grass did seem to be enjoying themselves and here they seemed more passed out really. Though I could be wrong.

The text in here gives a very good background to the docks and riverside, the development and decay and the struggle over their redevelopment. Of course it did not go uncontested, and who doesn’t love old protest posters:

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But they did not stop the cranes, this is one of the more extraordinary pictures I’ve seen I think. I would guess that today in the East End there are just as many of these bastards, but not with an unobstructed view like this.

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And to end on a happy note, a memory of the better days in Poplar. If only Ed Milliband had carved this message into stone and meant it.

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