Ada Salter

Ada Salter’s Bermondsey: Beautifying a grimy industrial suburb

We’ve always had tourists in London but in the 1920s and 30s it wasn’t tourism that brought them here. Visitors travelled from across Europe and America to see Bermondsey Council’s pioneering work in providing residents with decent homes in pleasant surroundings.

The progressive local authority replaced unhealthy slums in this industrial district with well-built homes clad with colourful window boxes on tree-lined streets. It also improved the well being of residents thanks to investment in public health. “Bermondsey led the country in public health matters,” the British Medical Journal said of the area in the 1920s.

The pioneering Bermondsey Health Centre on Grange Road, which brought a range of surgeries and services together on one site, still stands.

Such was the extent of Bermondsey Council’s work that it outgrew a    former vestry building and so between 1928 and 1930 built the imposing Bermondsey Town Hall, which survives on Spa Road but is now apartments.

There were of course many people who delivered Bermondsey Council’s services, but there was one individual whose contribution particularly stood out. Ada Salter was one of London’s

  • first female councillors,
  • the first woman mayor in London and
  • the first Labour women mayor in the entire country.

Her vision and tireless work transformed Bermondsey for the benefit of its people.

Born in Northamptonshire, on 20th July 1866, Ada Brown moved to London to help the poor of Somers Town. But in 1897 she re-located south of the river Thames to Bermondsey and was based at the Bermondsey Settlement, which had been opened in 1892 by the Rev John Scott Lidgett, who – unusually for the settlement movement – was a Methodist.

Bermondsey was one of the poorest parts of London in the late 19th century and Bermondsey Settlement provided social, health and education services for the most needy. Designed by Elijah Hoole, the same architect behind Toynbee Hall, the vast building remained in use until 1967 (and was demolished two years later).

Bermondsey was a leather making area and workers toiled away in dirty conditions. Many more worked at the docks. Bermondsey was also an important food processing and packaging district with some 40% of jam and biscuits consumed in Britain made in the area’s factories. The likes of

  • Hartley’s Jam,
  • Sarson’s Vinegar
  • Peak Frean biscuit factory, and
  • Pearce Duff’s custard factory became major employers.

In a former pub (now demolished) called the George near the Bermondsey riverfront, Ada ran classes for poor girls living in the area. The group size was capped at 14 and she taught them everything from sewing to chess.

It was at the Bermondsey Settlement that Ada met her future husband, Dr Alfred Salter; they married in August 1900 and briefly lived together in the flat above Alfred’s GP surgery on nearby Jamaica Road (the building would have been roughly where Bermondsey Underground station is today), before moving into their new house. Alfred’s practice was a cooperative and poor people, who couldn’t pay the cost of treatment, were given reduced rates or didn’t have to pay anything. 

Ada was President of the local Women’s Liberal Party until 1906, leaving when she became unhappy that it hadn’t stuck to its commitment of granting women the vote.

She transferred to the Independent Labour Party (ILP), which had recently been established in the area with 14 members. And in 1909 Ada became not only the movement’s first councilor in Bermondsey, but also the first woman councilor in the borough.

Just as Ada supported the dockers’ strikes, she also backed the Bermondsey Uprising of 1911. Some 14,000 women at 21 factories went on strike within a day of each other in protest of terrible working conditions. “We are not white slaves. We are Pinks’ slaves,” was one of the slogans used to describe the treatment of staff at one jam-making factory company.

“We are striking for more pay, mister, and we won’t go in till we get it,” one female chocolate factory worker told the Bermondsey and Southwark Recorder. Non-unionised female factory workers were on strike for 12 weeks and Ada helped set up soup kitchens so they wouldn’t go without food, reputedly feeding some 50,000 people in the process.

There were however different accounts of the dispute.

But by the end of the strike 18 of the 21 factories where women had walked out the workers gained pay and there was a commitment to end piecework. And there was a union established at most of the workplaces concerned.

Ada was a committed Quaker and adamantly opposed war. She helped found the Women’s Independent League for Peace and Freedom and, with Alfred, supported the No Conscription Fellowship.

After being re-elected to Bermondsey Council in 1919, the following year Ada founded her Beautification Committee. Her position was strengthened when she was elected Mayor of Bermondsey in 1922 at the head of a Labour-run council (it had 38 out of 54 seats) and housing was put high up the agenda. In the same year Alfred was elected as MP for West Bermondsey.

The ILP had promised in its manifesto to “make Bermondsey a fit place to live” and “promote health, to lower the death rate, and to increase the well-being… of the 120,000 people who live here.” It pledged to “cleanse, repair, rebuild and beautify it, make it a city of which all citizens can be proud.”

In the late 1920s and early 30s Ada dreams were realised in the form of Wilson Grove Estate. Some 500 two-storey ‘utopian’ cottage homes, surrounded by trees and gardens, were built to replace slums.

But it became clear that building developments that were just two stories high and surrounded by private gardens were not sustainable across the whole of Bermondsey. Wilson Grove Estate, for example, accommodated less people then the slum it replaced.

The Arnold Estate, which was built in the 1930s, made better use of space. Homes were built four and five storeys high and more thought was given to communal gardens. At Arnold there remains today an enclosed football pitch in the centre of the development – an idea that Ada pioneered to allow parents to keep watch of their children from their homes.

Ada’s Beautification agenda went far beyond housing however. Her vision saw new playgrounds built – including the one in the graveyard of St James Bermondsey church. – and by 1930s she had arrange for some 7,000 trees to be planted.

The Salters’ home in Storks Road was bombed during the Second World War. Ada died in Balham Park Road; where her sisters were caring her for, in December 1942 and her funeral took place the Quakers’ Peckham Meeting House. Alfred passed away in 1945. Bermondsey Council was abolished in 1965 and it became part of Southwark.

On the riverfront in Bermondsey, where there were once wharves and in an area where mill people around to take in views of the Thames, there are bronze statues of Ada, Alfred and their daughter Joyce.

The scene is called ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’ whereby Alfred looks lovingly at his daughter playing. She had sadly died following a severe bout of scarlet fever, just after her eighth birthday. Unlike many of Bermondsey’s residents, the Salters had the means to leave the area and live somewhere with cleaner air and less diseases. But in choosing to stay and consequently suffering a very personal tragedy, they would help transform the lives of many.

When Diane Gorvin created the bronze statues in 1991, there was only Alfred – and no Ada. Given her considerable work in the local community, this angered many. The statues were stolen in 2011 (presumably so the bronze could be melted down and sold), but were replaced in 2014 thanks to raising £60,000 (an amount matched by Southwark Council) in crowd funding campaign.

This time Ada was, quite rightly, included. Depicted with a spade in her hand to allude to her love of gardening, we are left with a very visual reminder of the woman that did so much for the people of Bermondsey.

With grateful thanks to Mark Gee

photo Wiki


Butler’s Wharf

The regeneration of Butler’s Wharf is a huge success story and an exemplar of the rebirth of the former London docks after they fell into disuse in the 1970s. The area comprises 25 acres and the redevelopment included not just the vast river-facing warehouses but buildings in the labyrinth behind.  It was a small town in itself, in the past a network of imposing warehouses and small terraced houses away from the river, today a network of these same refurbished warehouses side by side with recently built blocks of apartments and offices.

Sadly, there is no record existing of Mr Butler’s first name but there is a record of a Mr Butler, who traded in grain, renting warehouses in 1794. Before this it was originally a chocolate biscuit factory.  It seems he had a partner, at least for a short while, for in November of that year, a classified advert appeared in The Times that invited interested customers to view goods at Holland and Butler’s Wharf, Horslydown. The goods formed part of the cargo aboard the ship the Countess de Galvert that had been stranded on its journey back from Jamaica and included rum, loose cotton, ginger, Nicaraguan wood, mahogany and fustic.

The large range of warehouse buildings fronting onto the river were built between 1871 and 1873 and included the much photographed high level iron foot-bridges over Shad Thames that linked the warehouses on the river front with those behind. The wharf dealt in many commodities including grain, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, rubber, tea and tapioca.  Especially tea and allegedly at one time it housed the largest tea warehouse in the world.  The wharf was originally financed by tea plantation agency houses in Mincing Lane. This made the tea as near as possible so brokers could inspect the tea being sold and buyers collect in the then horse drawn transport. It rose to become one of the most important wharfingers in the area, second only to Hay’s Wharf.

There was a bad fire in 1931 when the tea and rubber went up. It was freezing cold and 90 fire engines and 1,100 firemen were involved. The weather was so cold the water froze as it ran down the walls. The estimated damage was £250,000.

The Design Museum moved to a new home at Shad Thames as part of the renovation (now moved to a new home in Kensington) and for a while their neighbour was the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum (now in Southwark Street).  Other architects and developers converted further derelict warehouses nearby to the south and new blocks were erected.  The Courage Brewery, which had ceased brewing in 1982 and is located next door to Butler’s Wharf, was also renovated.

A hundred years after they were built, the warehouses fell silent when the Port of London closed in 1972 and artists including David Hockney, Andrew Logan and Derek Jarman moved into the empty buildings.  In 1981, Sir Terence Conran led a successful bid for a mixed use redevelopment. Butler’s Wharf near neighbour New Concordia Wharf at St Saviour’s Dock was already well into the process of a mixed use renovation.  The renovation of Butler’s Wharf was a 20 year project that involved renovating and developing six buildings:  the Butlers Wharf building itself, and the renamed Cardamom, Clove, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Coriander warehouses.   In 1984, Butler’s Wharf and the portion of Shad Thames running behind it featured prominently in the Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks.

Today, other than the sweep of the river and the literal bricks and mortar, the area bears no resemblance to how it was fifty years ago, transformed into a thriving neighbourhood of restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, flats and offices, a desirable place to live and a go-to tourist destination. Southwark Council loathed the idea of another Katharine Dock – “like a zoo where you come to gawp at the jet set” as a local councillor put it.


photo wiki


Norwegian Church and Seaman’s Mission

There are several long-established Nordic churches in London.

All seek to provide Lutheran Christian worship and pastoral care to their respective national communities in their own languages. Many of the churches also organise language classes and organise a wide range of social activities.

There has been a Norwegian church in London since the late 17th century. However the current church building was designed by John Love Seaton DAHL

The Norwegian government in exile regularly worshipped at the church during World War II, when the church was given the status of a pro-cathedral.   The church has been a Grade II listed building since 1949.

The ships that sailed from the Baltic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden to the Surrey Commercial Docks in the 19th century brought not just the sought after timber and deal but the men who sailed and worked on the boats.  Whilst the boats were in dock, which could be for several weeks, the seamen spent time on shore, and to cater for their needs, primarily with regard to their religious and moral welfare, the churches in the Scandinavian countries established seamen’s missions.  The first Baltic Church founded in London was in Wapping at the very end of the 17th century for Danish seamen but as the Surrey Commercial Docks grew in prominence, especially with regard to the import of timber, the Baltic churches opened Missions in Rotherhithe.

The Norwegian Mission Society opened a mission in Rotherhithe in 1868, originally in a temporary church until a permanent building, called the Ebenezer Church, was opened in July 1871.  To one side of the church there were community rooms that were used as reading rooms, for meeting with compatriots and for entertainment.  

The Church provided both a home from home for the Norwegian sailors to keep them away from temptations of the bars and brothels, and a parish church for Norwegians living in London.

The countries of Norway and Sweden had united in 1814 so the Ebenezer Church ministered to both Norwegian and Swedish sailors.  The Union between the two countries was dissolved in 1905 and a separate Swedish Seamen’s Mission founded.  The lease and later the freehold of the former library in Lower Road was acquired and converted into a place of worship with mission facilities.  These were altered and extended to provide a hall, refreshment bar and reading room with flats for permanent staff above and a new church and parsonage was built at the rear.  The building, having suffered bomb damage during World War II, was demolished in the mid 60s and a new church and mission built which is now Grade II listed.  Despite the closure of the Surrey Docks, the work of the Swedish Seamen’s Mission continued until 2011 when the decision was made to close the Mission.

By the 1920s it was felt the Ebenezer Church was a bit remote, not the least for those Norwegians resident in London permanently as some travelled to attend services there who lived in Blackheath and North London. A plot of land was purchased just next to the entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

The foundation stone was laid by Norwegian Crown Prince Olav in 1926 and the new church consecrated in June 1927.  This ceremony was also attended by Crown Prince Olav, together with prominent members of the Norwegian community in London and clergy from Danish, Finnish and Swedish churches in London. Before the service there was a procession from Rotherhithe Town Hall in Lower Road to the church which was headed by the clergy and followed by the officers and men of the Norwegian warship Tordenskjold and the cadets of the training ship Tordenskjold, both vessels visiting the Port of London at that time.

The church was dedicated to St Olav, the patron saint of Norway. This maintained the presence of the saint in the area as the Anglican church dedicated to St Olav next to London Bridge that dated back to before the Norman Conquest had been declared redundant and closed the previous year. There is a Norse longboat on top of the weather vane mounted on the steeple, perhaps this represents the longboat St Olav, helping Ethelred the Unready defeat the Vikings, is said to have tied to London Bridge and so pull the bridge down.

Since the closure of the Surrey Commercial Docks, St Olav’s has become the parish church to the Norwegian community living in London and the rest of the UK.  It is a centre for religious services, cultural and social events and celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2002 when a service was attended by the King and Queen of Norway. Every year, a Scandinavian Christmas Fair is held in Rotherhithe with St Olav’s and the neighbouring Finnish Church in Albion Street playing a leading role where stalls sell a wide variety of tempting Scandinavian arts and crafts and food.

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Christ’s Hospital

Christ’s Hospital was founded in 1552 after Edward VI wrote to the Lord Mayor, Sir Richard Dobbs, and asked him to help London’s poor. The Hospital started in buildings that had originally been occupied by the Grey Friars until the monastery was dissolved in 1538. Money was raised by the City of London, and the Church, businesses and householders were asked to contribute.
Its purpose was to supply food, clothing, lodging and learning for fatherless children and other poor men’s children and when it opened there were 380 pupils. This rose rapidly to 500 in the first year. Out of the first 380 pupils, 100 were infants and they were sent to wet nurses outside London. They attended local schools until they were 10 years old and were able to return to London to complete their education.
Girls were admitted from the beginning as well as boys. The girls became servants or worked in craft trades. The boys were taught writing, arithmetic and bookkeeping with most leaving to take up apprenticeships at the age of 15. A few stayed on to study classics for university entrance, and from 1673, the Royal Mathematical School was established to prepare students for a career at sea starting with a seven year apprenticeship.
Diet was important and in 1721 the Governors discovered that from Thursday to Sunday the boys were only having ‘Bread and Cheese, pease pudding with Water Gruell’ so changes were made and a boiled leg and loin of mutton with a hearty broth were added on Friday and Saturday.
Pupils lived in the school for the whole year. After 1785 a change was made and those who had been at the school for three years were allowed to go on a holiday to friends or parents in August.
Before that change, children could leave the school on day visits if they wore a ‘’Leave ticket’. This was metal pendant that hung from a coat button. If a child was found outside the grounds without a ‘Leave ticket’ they were punished and sometimes expelled for running away.
Christ’s Hospital was, and is, a Bluecoat school and the uniform dates from 1553. It was supplied by the school and still is – free of charge. Blue may have been chosen as the dye was inexpensive. The knee length stockings are yellow and the pupils used to wear a yellow body length garment under the coat in winter. The buttons show the head of King Edward VI. In 2011 students and alumni voted on whether the uniform should be updated and over 95% voted to keep the original uniform. It may well be the oldest school uniform in existence. On certain days in the year the Christ’s hospital school band leads a parade through the City. The band also leads a march into lunch every day except Sunday – weather permitting – and there is a march-past on Speech Day. Many traditions are still kept.
Apart from keeping the same uniform and many of the old traditions, the school has been through many changes. 32 children died of the plague in 1665.A large part of the Hospital was destroyed in the Great Fire of London but no children were hurt. The buildings were rebuilt. Girls were moved out to Hoddesdon and boys were moved to Ware. There were various changes after that but eventually the girls and boys were reunited at Horsham in 1985. There are now around 900 pupils with a 50:50 split between girls and boys. Around 830 are boarders and 70 are day pupils. The current fees are £11,480 per term for boarders and £7,470 (maximum per term for day pupils.
The real surprise is that 75% of the pupils receive financial support from the Foundation. This support comes from the school’s founding charter as a charitable school. Families on very low incomes may also be helped with the cost of pocket money, House Funds, travel and sportswear. Since 1552 over 65,000 pupils have been educated at Christ’s Hospital, and up to 1892 – when the Scheme of Administration changed – an estimated 45,000 were fed, clothed, housed and educated wholly from benefactions or from income derived from endowments given by benefactors.
Acknowledgement, this is adapted from an article written by Penny Gamez

The Daily Telegraph and Courier

was founded by Colonel Arthur B Sleigh in June 1855 to air a personal grievance against the future commander-in-chief of the British Army, Prince George Duke of Cambridge. Joseph Moses Levy, the owner of The Sunday Times, agreed to print the newspaper, and the first edition was published on 29 June 1855. The paper cost 2d and was four pages long. Nevertheless, the first edition stressed the quality and independence of its articles and journalists:- “We shall be guided by a high tone of independent action”.

However, the paper was not a success, and Sleigh was unable to pay Levy the printing bill. Levy took over the newspaper, his aim being to produce a cheaper newspaper than his main competitors in London, the Daily News and The Morning Post and to expand the size of the overall market. Levy appointed his son, Edward Levy-Lawson, and Thornton Leigh Hunt to edit the newspaper. The former re-launched the paper as The Daily Telegraph, with the slogan “the largest, best, and cheapest newspaper in the world”. In 1876, Jules Verne published his novel Michael Strogoff, whose plot takes place during a fictional uprising and war in Siberia. Verne included among the book’s characters a war correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, named Harry Blount—who is depicted as an exceptionally dedicated, resourceful and brave journalist, taking great personal risks to follow closely the ongoing war and bring accurate news of it to The Telegraph‘s readership, ahead of competing papers. Good publicity for the paper!

In 1908, Kaiser Wilhelm 11 gave a controversial interview to The Daily Telegraph that severely damaged Anglo-German relations and added to international tensions in the build-up to World War I. It included wild statements and diplomatically damaging remarks, the most infamous of which was “You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation?”

In 1928 the paper was sold to William Berry, 1st Viscount Camrose, in partnership with his others including his brother. In 1937, the newspaper absorbed The Morning Post, which traditionally espoused a conservative position and sold predominantly amongst the retired officer class. Originally Camrose, bought The Morning Post with the intention of publishing it alongside The Daily Telegraph, but poor sales of the former led him to merge the two. For some years the paper was retitled The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post before it reverted to just The Daily Telegraph. In the late 1930s Victor Gordon Lennox, The Telegraph‘s diplomatic editor, published an anti-appeasement private newspaper The Whitehall Letter that received much of its information from leaks from Sir Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office, and Rex Leeper, the Foreign Office’s Press Secretary As a result, Gordon Lennox was monitored by MI5. In 1939, The Telegraph published Clare Hollingsworth’s scoop that Germany was to invade Poland.

In November 1940, with Fleet Street subjected to almost daily bombing raids by the Luftwaffe, The Telegraph started printing in Manchester at Kemsley House (now The Printworks entertainment venue), which was run by Camrose’s brother Kemsley. Manchester quite often printed the entire run of The Telegraph when its Fleet Street offices were under threat. In 1986 printing of Northern editions of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph moved to Trafford Park and in 2008 to Newsprinters at Knowsley, Liverpool.

During the Second World War, The Daily Telegraph covertly helped in the recruitment of code-breakers for Bletchley Park. The ability to solve The Telegraph‘s crossword in under 12 minutes was considered to be a recruitment test. The newspaper was asked to organise a crossword competition, after which each of the successful participants was contacted and asked if they would be prepared to undertake “a particular type of work as a contribution to the war effort”. The competition itself was won by a man from Dagenham who finished the crossword in less than eight minutes.

Both the Camrose (Berry) and Burnham (Levy-Lawson) families remained involved in management until 1986. On the death of his father in 1954, Seymour Berry, 2nd Viscount Camrose assumed the chairmanship of the Daily Telegraph with his brother Michael as his editor-in-chief. During this period, the company saw the launch of sister paper The Sunday Telegraph in 1960.

Canadian businessman Conrad Black, through companies controlled by him, bought the Telegraph Group in 1986. He also had other publications such as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and The Spectator. On 18 January 2004, Black was dismissed as chairman of his holding company Hollinger International board over allegations of financial wrongdoing. Black was also sued by the company. Lawsuits flew and United States Judge Leo Strine blocked Black from selling his Hollinger Inc. shares to the Barclay brothers. On 7 March 2004, the Barclay twins announced that they were launching another bid, this time just for The Daily Telegraph and its Sunday sister paper rather than all of Hollinger Inc and succeded for around £665 million.

On 10 October 2005, The Daily Telegraph re-launched to incorporate a tabloid sports section and a new standalone business section. They got back Simon Heffer from the Mail, where he has become associate editor. In November 2005 the first regular podcast service by a newspaper in the UK was launched. Just before Christmas 2005, it was announced that The Telegraph titles would be moving from Canada Place in Canary Wharf, to Victoria Plaza near Victoria Station in central London.

In October 2006, with its relocation to Victoria, the company was renamed the Telegraph Media Group, repositioning itself as a multimedia company. On 2 September 2008, the Daily Telegraph was printed with colour on each page for the first time when it left Westferry for Newsprinters at Broxbourne. The paper is also printed in Liverpool and Glasgow. In June 2014, The Telegraph was criticised by Private Eye for its policy of replacing experienced journalists and news managers with less-experienced staff and search engine optimisers.

The Daily Telegraph has been politically conservative in modern times. The personal links between the paper’s editors and the leadership of the Conservative Party, along with the paper’s generally right-wing stance and influence over Conservative activists, have resulted in the paper commonly being referred to, especially in Private Eye, as the Torygraph. Even when Conservative support was shown to have slumped in the opinion polls and Labour gained the ascendant through Tony Blair the newspaper remained loyal to the Conservatives. This loyalty continued after Labour ousted the Conservatives from power in 1997.and continued with other election wins.

The Daily Telegraph‘s sister Sunday paper was founded in 1961. The writer Sir Peregrine Worsthorne is probably the best known journalist associated with the title (1961–97), eventually being editor for three years from 1986. In 1989 the Sunday title was briefly merged into a seven-day operation under Max Hastings’s overall control. In 2005 the paper was revamped, with Stella being added to the more traditional television and radio section.

In May 2009, The Daily Telegraph obtained a full copy of all the expenses claims of British M P’s. The Telegraph began publishing, in instalments from 8 May 2009, certain MPs’ expenses. The Telegraph justified the publication of the information because it contended that the official information due to be released would have omitted key information about re-designating of second-home nominations. This led to a number of high-profile resignations from both the ruling Labour administration and the Conservative opposition.

In September 2016 Telegraph reporters posing as businessmen filmed England manager Sam Allardyce, offering to give advice on how to get around on FA rules on player third party ownership and negotiating a £400,000 deal. The investigation saw Allardyce leave his job by mutual consent on 27 September and making the statement “entrapment has won”.

The Daily Telegraph has been named the National Newspaper of the Year in 2009, 1996 and 1993, while The Sunday Telegraph won the same award in 1999. In 1979, following a letter in The Daily Telegraph and a Government report highlighting the shortfall in care available for premature babies, Bliss, the special care baby charity, was founded. In 2009, as part of the Bliss 30th birthday celebrations, the charity was chosen as one of four beneficiaries of the newspaper’s Christmas Charity Appeal. In February 2010 a cheque was presented to Bliss for £120,000.

Notable editors have been Arthur Watson 1924-50,  Bill Deedes 1974-86, Max Hastings 1986-95, Charles Moore 1995- 2003. The current editor is Chris Evans. Notable journalists and columists have been Boris Johnson a former Brussels correspondent, William Hague, Auberon Waugh, Peter Simple, the pseudonym of Michael Wharton, who wrote a humorous column, “Way of the World”, from 1957 to 2006.

The Telegraph building was designed for the newspaper of that name by Elcock and Sutcliffe with Thomas Tait and built in 1927–8. It has a very bold, ultra-imposing facade with a row of giant fluted columns topped by carved Egyptian capitals. Bands of abstract carved ornament run along cornices and over window lintels. The whole thing is designed to make a big mark, to overwhelm the passer-by

Further decorative touches make a big difference. The clock, itself enormous, lends colour to this stony frontage. Its design is full of the diamonds, jagged edges, chevrons, and radiating, sunburst-like motifs that Art Deco artists loved. The relief above the doorway, by, Alfred Oakley, is another such feature. With its sun-rays, compass rose, Britain at the centre of its hemisphere, and the two caduceus-bearing messenger figures racing out across the empire with news, it symbolises the newspaper’s business of communication, and sets it, and Britain, at a pivotal place in the world that would not have seemed inappropriate in 1927.


About us the Telegraph


Thomas Rainsborough

(6 July 1610 – 29 October 1648), or Rainborowe, was born on 6th July in Wapping a prominent figure in the English Civil War and the leading spokesman for the Levellers in the Putney Debates.

He was the son of William Rainsborough, a captain and Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy who had previous marriage links to Massachusetts. He was raised in Wapping and before the war traded in currants with the Turkey Company and invested money in Ireland.Thomas Rainsborough was devout in his religious beliefs and was a Fifth Monarchist. (The Fifth Monarchists or Fifth Monarchy Men were an extreme Puritan sect particularly active from 1649 to 1660 during the Interregnum and took their name from a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that four ancient monarchies (Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman) would precede the kingdom of Christ). On his father’s death he inherited some property in Southwark and a £1,000 so he was a well to do gentlemen.

Rainsborough served in the Parliamentary forces during both the first and second English Civil Wars. Originally a naval officer he commanded the Swallow, the Lion and other English naval vessels during the first civil war. By May 1645, he was a Colonel in the New Model Army having raised an infantry regiment. Rainsborough took an active part in the battles at Naseby and Langport. In 1645 he captured the symbolic stronghold of Berkeley Castle for Parliament before moving to the siege of Oxford, which surrendered the following June. Later in 1646, he helped conclude the Siege of Worcester and was made the city’s governor.

In January 1647, Rainsborough became an M.P. for Droitwich. He was part of the delegation that presented the armies “Heads of Proposals” to Charles 1. He left early and went back to his troops spreading the words of the King’s instrangence. Rainsborough was the most senior member of the Army Council to support the Leveller proposals. (The Levellers were committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance). During the Putney Debates his arguments for universal suffrage were called ‘anarchy’ by Henry Ireton, who spoke for the Army Grandees. Rainsborough was at loggerheads with Cromwell and led him to thunder about both of them “one of them must not live”. Cromwell thought Rainsborough would do nothing but by the sword and Rainsborough could not understand Cromwell’s persistence in negotiating with the King!

In 1648 Rainsborough was moved from the army and given,( by Parliament but only on a 88-66 vote with the support of Cromwell), command of the navy,(getting him out of the way), holding the rank of Vice-Admiral. His appointment was unpopular with both officers and sailors, resulting in a mutiny (and declaration for the King) of six ships on 27 May 1648. In the same year he briefly replaced the Royalist sympathiser William Batten as Captain of Deal Castle, but was dismissed when the castle also declared for the King. Despite his previous experience, Rainsborough was viewed by the navy as being too radical and having been imposed on them by the army. As a result of the mutiny the Earl of Warwick was appointed Lord High Admiral, with Rainsborough returning to the army. On his return to the army, Rainsborough led the siege and victory at Colchester.

In October 1648, Rainsborough was sent by his commander, Sir Thomas Fairfax, to the siege at Pontefract Castle. Whilst he was in nearby Doncaster, he was killed by four Royalists during a bungled kidnap attempt. They broke in with the view to ransoming him for a senior Royalist, they had forged orders from Cromwell, but he broke free, dashed out into the street drawing his sword and in the ensuing fight was run through. The site is still marked today by a plaque outside of the House of Fraser. As Rainsborough was under Cromwell’s disfavour and there were tensions between Rainsborough and the commander he was displacing, Henry Cholmely, who later defected to the Royalists, many at the time wondered whether there was some Parliamentary complicity in his death, as do historians today, as Rainsborough had been one of the first to call for the trial of the King . However Royalist Propaganda may also have played a part in all the rumours. Cromwell certainly took pains to track down and punish the offenders

His funeral was the occasion for a large Leveller-led demonstration in London. 3,000 mourners wearing the Levellers’ ribbons of sea-green and bunches of rosemary for remembrance in their hats marched through the City to Wapping. He was buried in St John’s Churchyard, beside his father

He married Margaret and they had a son William and another unidentified child. Little is known of her but on his death Parliament paid his arrears of pay and granted her a pension and some land in the west country. Rainsborough is the most prominent of the Leveller martyrs. In May 2013 a plaque was unveiled by Clr Rania Khan, John Rees, a writer and left wing political activist) and Tony Benn (former MP) in memory of Rainsborough at St John’s, Wapping


(Wikipedia, Spartacus Educational, D.N.B, Antonia Fraser)

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Formerly it was believed that the name Wapping recorded an Anglo-Saxon settlement linked to a personal name Waeppa (as if to say “the settlement of Waeppa’s people”) More recent scholarship discounts that theory: the area was marshland, where early settlement was unlikely, and no such personal name has ever been found. It is now thought that the name may derive from wapol, a marsh

The settlement developed later, along the embankment of the Thames, hemmed in by the river to the south and the now-drained; by Dutchman Cornelius Vanderdelft; Wapping Marsh to the north. This gave it a peculiarly narrow and constricted shape, consisting of little more than the axis of Wapping High Street and some north–south side streets.John Stow, the 16th-century historian, described it as a “continual street, or a filthy strait passage, with alleys of small tenements or cottages, built, inhabited by sailors’ victuallers” A chapel to St John the Baptist was built in 1617 and Wapping was constituted as a parish in 1694

Its proximity to the river gave it a strong maritime character for centuries, well into the 20th century. It was inhabited by sailors, mastmakers, boat-builders, blockmakers, instrument-makers, victuallers and representatives of all the other trades that supported the seafarer. Many of the seamen of Charles 11’s navy lived in Wapping and Pepys often described the disturbances they made.

Wapping was also the site of ‘Execution Dock”’ where pirates and other water-borne criminals convicted faced execution by hanging from a gibbet constructed close to the low water mark. Their bodies would be left dangling until they had been submerged three times by the tide. The “Execution Dock” was used by the Admiralty for over 400 years (as late as 1830) to hang those sentenced to death by the Admiralty court. The Admiralty only had jurisdiction over crimes on the sea, so the dock was located within their jurisdiction by being located far enough offshore as to be beyond the low-tide mark. It was used to kill the notorious Scotish privateer Captain Kidd. Many prisoners would be executed together as a public event in front of a crowd of onlookers after being paraded from the Marshalsea Prison across London Bridge and past the Tower of London to the dock. Though Execution Dock is long gone, a gibbet is still maintained on the Thames foreshore by the Prospect of Whitby public house

The Bell Inn, by the execution dock, was run by Samuel Batts, whose daughter, Elizabeth, married James Cook at St Margaret’s Church, Barking, Essex on 21 December 1762, after the Royal Navy captain had stayed at the Inn. The couple initially settled in Shadwell, attending St Paul’s church, but later moved to Mile End. Although they had six children together, much of their married life was spent apart, with Cook absent on his voyages and, after his murder in 1779, she survived until 1835.

Said to be England’s first, the Marine Police Force was formed in 1798 by magistrate Patrick Colquhoun and a Master Mariner, John Harriott, to tackle theft and looting from ships anchored in the Pool of London and the lower reaches of the river. Its base was (and remains) in Wapping High Street and it is now known as the Marine Support Unit. The Thames Police Museum, dedicated to its history is currently housed within the headquarters of the Marine Support Unit, and is open to the public by appointment.

The area’s strong maritime associations changed radically in the 19th century when the London Docks were built to the north and west of the High Street. This made Wapping an island surrounded by high walls, with few exits and isolated from the rest of London, although some relief was provided by Brunel’s Thames Tunnel to Rotherhithe. Wapping’s population plummeted by nearly 60% during that century from 6,000 in 1801 with many houses destroyed by the construction of the docks and giant warehouses along the riverfront. The opening of Wapping tube station on the East London line in 1869 provided a direct rail link to the rest of London.

Wapping was devastated by bombing in WW 11 and by the post-war closure of the docks. It remained a run-down and derelict area into the 1980s, when the area was transferred to the management of the London Docklands Development Corporation, a government quango with the task of redeveloping the Docklands. The London Docks were largely filled in and redeveloped with a variety of commercial, light industrial and residential properties.

St John’s Church (1756) was located on what is now Scandrett Street. Only the tower and shell survived wartime bombing, and have now been converted to housing.

In 1986, Rupert Murdoch’s, News International built a new £80m printing and publishing works in the north of Wapping. This became the scene of violent protests after News International’s UK operation moved from Fleet Street to Wapping, with over 5,000 print workers being sacked when new technology was introduced.

The “Wapping dispute” or “Battle of Wapping” was, along with the miners’ strike of 1984-85, a significant turning point in the history of the trade union movement and of UK industrial relations. It started on 24 January 1986 when some 6,000 newspaper workers went on strike after protracted negotiation with their employer, News International (parent of Times Newspapers and News Group Newspapers, and chaired by Rupert Murdoch). News International had built and clandestinely equipped a new printing plant for all its titles in Wapping, and when the print unions announced a strike it activated this new plant with the assistance of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EETPU).

The plant was nicknamed “Fortress Wapping” when the sacked print workers effectively besieged it, mounting round-the-clock pickets and blockades in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to thwart the move. In 2005, News International announced the intention to move the print works to regional presses based in Broxbourne (the world’s largest printing plant, opened March 2008), Liverpool and Glasgow. The editorial staff were to remain, however, and there was talk of redeveloping the sizeable plot that makes up the printing works.

Perhaps Wapping’s greatest attraction is the Thames foreshore itself, and the venerable public houses that face onto it. A number of the ‘watermen’s stairs’, such as Wapping Old Stairs and Pelican Stairs (by the Prospect of Whitby) give public access to a littoral zone (for the Thames is tidal at this point) littered with flotsam, jetsam and fragments of old dock installations. The area is popular with amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters. This activity is known as mudlarking; the term for a shore scavenger in the 18th and 19th centuries was a mudlark.

St George in the East on Cannon Street Road is one of six Hawksmoor churches in London, built from 1714 to 1729, with funding from the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches. At the outbreak of the Second World War the crypt of the church was used as a public air raid shelter and was fully occupied when a bomb hit the church during the blitz). Incredibly everybody survived!

Three venerable public houses are located near the Stairs. By Pelican Stairs is the Prospect of Whitby, which has a much-disputed claim to be the oldest Thames-side public house still in existence. Be that as it may, there has been an inn on the site since the reign of Henry V111, and it is certainly one of the most famous public houses in London. The Town of Ramsgate near the site of a 16th-century inn located next to Wapping Old Stairs to the west of the current by Wapping Pier Head — the former local headquarters of the Customs and Excise. Situated halfway between these two pubs is the Captain Kidd, named after the Scottish privateer William Kidd who was hanged on the Wapping foreshore in 1701 after being found guilty of murder and piracy. Although the pub occupies a 17th-century building, it was established only in the 1980s.

Tobacco Dock is a Grade 1 listed warehouse, adjacent to The Highway. It was constructed in approximately 1811 and served primarily as a store for imported tobacco. In 1990 it was converted into a shopping centre at a development cost of £47 million with the intention to create the “Covent Garden of the East End”; the scheme was unsuccessful, though, and went into administration. Since the mid-1990s the building has been almost entirely unoccupied. It is now occasionally used for filming, and for large corporate and commercial events.

Wapping has been used as the setting for a number of works of fiction, including The Long Good Friday; a Doctor Who episode the Ruby In The Smoke novel in the Sally Lockhart series by Phillip Pullman; the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, in which the central character, Alf Garnett, shares his name with Garnet Street and the brothel in The Threepenny Opera, in which Mack the Knife is betrayed by Jenny Diver. The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette is a compilation album by East End Group the Small Faces The plot of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much included the gangsters’ hideout which was set in Wapping.

Among the people born in Wapping are W.W. Jacobs, author of The Monkey’s Paw; John Newton the Anglican clergyman and author of many hymns including Amazing Grace and Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant. The American painter James McNeill Whistler, well known for his Thames views, painted Wapping (1860-1864) after returning to London from Paris in May, 1859. Whistler took lodgings in Wapping where he explored the Thames to the east of the City of London. The painting is permanently displayed at the national Gallery of Art Washington.

During the 1990s, Wapping was home to American entertainer Cher. TV presenter Graham Norton and Judy Dench lived and possibly still do at the Pierhead properties.


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Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow – The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company

The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company (IIDC) was a Victorian Model dwellings company founded in 1863 by the printer, philanthropist and later Lord Mayor of London Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow.

The company operated operating predominantly in Central London as a provider of block dwellings for the working classes, employing a strict selection and discipline regime amongst its tenants to ensure a healthy return on investment.

Starting with a capital of £50,000, the IIDC became one of the largest and most successful of the model dwellings companies, housing at its height around 30,000 individuals by 1900. Its rigorous selection procedure, rules and financial regulations meant that the IIDC was one of the more financially successful of these firms..

Waterlow worked directly with the builder Matthew Allen, choosing not to use an architect.

The company lasted until the 1960s by which point they owned around 6000 tenements in and around London.  However my recollection was that it was used as a temporary dwelling for the Hungarian refugees in the 1950’s

The IIDC operated on a Freemarket basis, although the profits were limited to 5%, the rest of the money being reinvesting into further properties and developments.

Waterlow also encouraged investment from others, unlike Peabody who seemed to fashion a legacy for himself as much as he wanted to help the poor.

Sir Sydney Hedley Waterlow, 1st Baronet, KCVO 

(1 November 1822 – 3 August 1906) was an English philanthropist and Liberal Party politician principally remembered for donating Waterlow Park to the public as “a garden for the gardenless”.

He was born in Finsbury  and brought up in Mile End Educated at St Saviour’s Grammar School, was apprenticed to a stationer and printer and worked in the family firm of Waterlow & Sons Ltd, a large printing company employing over two thousand people.

From that he moved into finance and became a director of the Union Bank of London.

He was a Commissioner at the Great Exhibition 1851 and a juror at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867 for which he was knighted.

He started his political career as a Councillor in 1857 (when he introduced telegraph links between police stations).

In 1863 he became an Alderman and began his philanthropic works. He was chairman of the philanthropic housing company

The IMPROVED INDUSTRIAL DWELLINGS COMPANY which built the Leopold Buildings,  amongst others. He also worked for many other charities. He was a Sheriff of the City of London in 1866 and Lord Mayor of London from 1872–1873.

In 1870, he bought large areas of land in Kent, including the village of Fairseat (near Stansted), a major portion of Stansted as well as other pieces of land extending from Wrotham to Meopham. The parts of the estate were linked by a small bridge bearing the family crest over Trottiscliffe Road (which is still in evidence today –

In 1887, he built Trosley Towers on the crest of the escarpment on the North Downs, to the east of Trottiscliffe Road.

In 1872 he gave Lauderdale House   (now in Waterlow Park) to St Bartholomew’s Hospital to be used as a convalescent home for the poor, staffed by nurses supplied by Florence Nightingale and in 1889 he gave the surrounding park to the London County Council.

He was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Dumfriessire from 1868–1869, when he was unseated on the grounds that he was a government contractor his firm having taken a contract without his knowledge. He then sat for Maidstone (1874–1880) and Gravesend (1880–1885).

Sir Sydney was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1902

His fourth son, David Sydney Waterlow, was Liberal MP for Islington North. The artist Ernest Albert Waterlow was his nephew.

When Sir Sidney died in 1906 at his Trosley Towers estate, Wrotham, it passed to his son Philip (who thereby became entitled Sir).

When Sir Philip died in 1931, the estate was sold off. Some of the houses (of the estate) were bought by tenants, one of these was Pilgrims House, with six acres of land, at the bottom of Trottiscliffe Road which went for £600. Trosley Towers and the woodlands around it, were sold to ‘Mr E. E. Shahmoon’ in 1935. In 1936, Mr Shahmoon had Trosley Towers demolished and had Hamilton Lodge built along with adjoining stables. One story suggests that the Lodge and stables were built to accommodate the Shah of Persia‘s racehorses on his visits to England.



Greenwich Foot Tunnel

is a pedestrian tunnel crossing beneath the River Thames and which underwent refurbishment in 2010/11. It was designed by civil engineer Sir Alexander Binnie and opened on 4 August 1902. It replaced an expensive and unreliable ferry service, that had been in existence since 1676, and was intended to allow workers living south of the Thames to reach West India docks and shipyards situated on the Isle of Dogs (currently where the tall buildings in Canary Wharf are located).

The entrance shafts are capped by glazed domes, with lifts and spiral staircases allowing pedestrians to reach the sloping, tile-lined tunnel at the bottom. The cast-iron tunnel itself is 370.2 m (1,217 ft) long, 15.2 m deep and has an internal diameter of about 11feet. In layman’s terms, it’s not that wide or tall. Its cast-iron rings are lined with concrete which has been surfaced with about 200,000 white glazed tiles. The northern end was damaged by bombs during World War II and the repairs include a thick steel and concrete inner lining that reduces the diameter substantially for a short distance. This is the ‘shonky’ part near the lift shaft where it’s even narrower.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel cost £127,000 to build (between 1897 and 1902) which would not buy one half of a small flat in Greenwich these days. There are approximately 100 steps at either end. If tunnel facts and figures are your thing, the nearby Blackwall Tunnel (road traffic) is interesting in several respects. It has wild kinks and doglegs running along its length, which were deliberately built into the design. This was to prevent the horses pulling the wagons and omnibuses from bolting for the exit. If they could see the exit, they’d make a run for it – but if it was obscured until the last minute, it calmed them. One of the ventilation shafts from the Blackwall Tunnel is inside the Millennium Dome and pokes through the outer skin. This is because its Grade 2 listed, and could not be altered when the Dome was built -so they simply built around it.

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is a convenient link between Greenwich town centre on the southern side and the entrance is close to the tea clipper Cutty Sark.
The tunnel is classed as a public highway and therefore by law is kept open 24 hours a day. However, the attendant-operated lift service was only open from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays, 10am-5.30pm on Sundays, with no service on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Since the refurbishment a few years ago the lifts are now automatic.


SS Great Eastern Launch Site

During the first half of the 19th century steam driven iron hulled ships began to provide a freight and passenger service across the Atlantic. The traditional 4 masted tea clippers which could manage up to 400 miles a day still dominated the Southern ocean routes around the Cape of Good Hope. Their supremacy was assured as no steamship could carry sufficient coal on board to complete the voyage without spending valuable time in port refuelling. Isambard Kingdome Brunel had had success with the SS great Western and the SS Great Britain which was launched from Bristol in 1843. Brunel had designed a screw propeller which removed the need for the traditional paddle wheels.

Brunel proposed plans to the Eastern Steam Navigation Company plans to build the largest steam ship ever built. A large ship would be able to carry enough coal for the entire voyage and up to 4,000 passengers in luxury and it would outrun the clippers.

This was no small undertaking. Brunel’s estimate of the cost was £500,000 but the Eastern Steam Navigation Company decided it was a risk worth taking. The job was put out to tender and the company accepted John Scott Russell’s suspiciously low tender of £377,000 believing it had struck a bargain. In fact it was to prove the undoing of the company. Nevertheless, work began at Scott Russell’s yard at Millwall in February 1854. News of the ambitious project filled the newspapers and crowds of sightseers converged on the shipyard to watch the largest ship in the world being built. The British public dubbed the new ship `The Great Eastern’.

The ship took five years to build, had a displacement of 22,500 tons, a length of 211 metres (693 ft), a width of 37 metres (120 ft), and a depth of hull of 18 metres (58 ft).The iron hull had both screw and paddle wheel propulsion, with auxiliary power from 5435 square metres (6500 sq. yd.) of sail on six masts. The masts were named after the days of the week (Monday, Tuesday.)The ship had five funnels, each 100 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. The two paddle wheels were 58 feet in diameter, and the propeller 24 feet. Until the Lusitania was built in 1906 this was the biggest ship in the world.

There was no dry dock large enough in which to build a vessel the size of the Great Eastern so it was built on the shore of the Thames, parallel to the river. It would not have been possible to launch the ship in the normal way as the stern would have run aground. A sideways launch would avoid this problem but it was a method that had not been used before. The launch date was set for November 11th, 1857 and a crowd of 10,000 assembled to witness the event. Two workers died; and the crowd screamed as huge chains snapped and the noise of grinding iron filed the air but the ship resolutely declined to move so much as one millimetre. There were further embarrassingly futile attempts which provided the Press with an excuse to destroy Brunel’s reputation. It was not until the end of January of the following year that the huge vessel was persuaded to enter the water, and then only with the aid of massive hydraulic rams. The cost so far was £732,000, almost twice Scott Russell’s original estimate, and the project had swallowed up much of Brunel’s personal fortune.

After fitting out, the Great Eastern was ready to begin sea trials in August 1858. Brunel visited the ship just before it sailed but suffered a stroke and was, fortunately as it turned out, unable to stay aboard for the trials. When the ship was just off Hastings a massive explosion occurred ripping through the paddle engine room and the grand saloon. Brunel’s innovative construction methods – dividing the ship up into compartments with watertight bulkheads – restricted the extent of the damage. After repairs, the ship finally made its maiden voyage in June 1860. By this time the company was on the verge of bankruptcy and could no longer afford to use the Great Eastern on the Australia run. Instead it was decided to trial the ship on the transatlantic run. But the Great Eastern was quite unsuitable for this route – it was too slow to be able to compete with the smaller, faster vessels which dominated the Atlantic.

Meanwhile the construction of the Suez Canal was about to deal the Great Eastern another serious blow. The Canal promised to cut the journey time to the Far East and Australia drastically. However, it could not accommodate a ship the size of the Great Eastern. It was a ship without a use. In the early 1860s the Great Eastern made a futile attempt to compete on the transatlantic run. In 1861, after leaving Liverpool for New York the ship was caught in a severe storm which left it helpless for three days and nights. Seven days later it limped back to Cork where it became clear that Brunel’s superb design had saved the Great Eastern from a storm which would have sunk any other vessel. Two years later a rock tore an eighty-five foot hole in its hull, but the ship remained afloat due to its inner steel skin. Two expensive repairs and the subsequent loss of earnings convinced the owners to give up the transatlantic run in 1864 and lay the ship up. The following year the company was declared bankrupt.

But fate, which had so often dealt the Great Eastern cruel blows, now came to its aid. The ship was chartered for yet another attempt to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable. The luxury passenger accommodation was ripped out and three huge cable holds constructed. Cunard seconded its most experienced captain, James Anderson, to command the Great Eastern – an indication of the significance of the venture. The ship laid the first commercial Trans Atlantic Cable in 1866. After two years’ of laying cables the Great Eastern was refitted and chartered by the French Government to carry the anticipated large number of visitors to the Paris Exposition of 1867. Of the 4000 berths available only 191 were filled with paying passengers. The ship was laid up again until 1869 when it returned to cable laying duties which it continued to do until 1872 when a purpose-built cable-laying ship was brought into service. The Great Eastern spent the next twelve years laid up at Milford Haven. In 1885 the ship was leased for a year by a Mr Lewis, a draper of Liverpool. The Great Eastern steamed to Liverpool where it was moored and opened to the public as a floating amusement park complete with restaurants, funfair and music hall.

The ship was sold for scrap in 1888. The Great Eastern was to have the last laugh, though. The firm which had acquired the ship at a knock-down price foresaw no problems. The task of breaking up the largest ship in the world went on 24 hours a day for two years, consuming a total of 3.5 million man-hours.