Going to the Dogs…

November 8, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

CoverA couple of years or so ago, I was looking through one of the many second hand shops on the Walworth Road when I was working down in that neck of the woods, and came across a box of old magazines published in the early 1970’s by the Architectural Association, a highly regarded institution based here in London.

11One magazine in particular caught my attention as it contained an article about my own bit of London, The Isle of Dogs. So I handed over my 50p, read the article on my way home that evening, told And all about it, agreed that we should follow the route the first sunny Sunday that came along, and then promptly forgot all about it…

Until recently that is, when I was asked about my island life, and whether I thought the place was worth visiting. After I’d said yes of course, it’s a brilliant place, I remembered the magazine and scanned the article for this post.

Spread out over 10 pages was a fascinating walk through the Isle of Dogs. Written originally back in early 1972, it describes the island as I can only now imagine it, a fact brought home by the opening paragraph which reads..

“The Isle of Dogs shares with Tibet and Timbuctoo, the reputation for being one of the least inhabited parts of the habitable globe”..

Obviously the opinion of an architectural academic and not one of the local islanders, the writer (Hubert Murray) begins his introduction to the walk with reference to a recent Tower Hamlets Planning survey that recorded the most common complaints of the people who lived on the Island (poor bus services, poor shops, lack of schools and too many tower blocks being the most common) and ends it with the bombshell that nothing was likely to happen in the short term until a decision had been made about whether to build an urban motorway across the IoD, a drastic and disastrous sounding solution to relieve traffic problems in  Greenwich and Blackheath… Remember this is nearly 10 years before the LDDC was set up in 1981 to create the success/ wonder/ hell hole/ expensive/polarised/ integrated/ etc. etc. (delete as appropriate) place that the Island has become today…

The walk starts at the top of the island on the east side in Poplar at the recently completed Robin Hood Gardens (a big favorite of the architectural profession at that time), heads down to Island Gardens before heading up around the west to Limehouse. Sights and landmarks on the way include: The Gun, Kelson House, The Watermans Arms, Edies Cafe, various allotments and the Globe Ropeworks building (now sadly long gone).

It makes for interesting reading, describing an area that has, for better or worse, long since been polished up, and one day I’d like to think we really will get round to following the route, finding some of the locations of these photos and seeing what still remains 43 years later…. 14

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  1. November 8, 2015 at 17:35

    Thanks for that, I’m quite moved by the photos from time when I was a kid on the Island. I might need to borrow some of those images 🙂

    • November 8, 2015 at 18:38

      Hi Mick
      Borrow away no problem at all, they’re not mine after all…
      I wondered if you might see the photos. Even though we’ve lived here now for 15 years, the second longest time I’ve lived anywhere other than my home town, its all been post LDDC, and the island you grew up in must have been such a different place…
      If you do end up doing the walk and posting before me, I look forward to reading your thoughts. In fact it would probably be a better post from you, as you can fill in all the local history…
      JB

  2. November 9, 2015 at 00:37

    Oh drat! The article has come out all tiny and smudgy and I DID so want to read it – i helped design the refurb of the Watermans that brought it its glory days in the 1960s, and we did a lot of the planning at the Gun (in its definitely non-glory days) and in my aged years I would love to read the article and re-live my flaming youth . Did it mention the Good Friends ?

    • November 9, 2015 at 14:13

      Hi Bridget
      Sorry to hear that. I’ll try and create a better quality pdf and link it to the post. Hopefully that will print large enough for you to be able to read it.
      Interesting to hear about your involvement in the Island pubs, although I don’t recall mention of the Good Friends in the article.
      Thanks as always for taking the time to comment.
      JB

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