JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
First draft March 21.2014
Our families come from quite a few parts of the UK, but for a few years at the end of the nineteenth century the different families were drawn to London. So much of their lives overlapped that have set up this page covering all the branches of my family in what is now generally known as 'Docklands' .There are several names used for overlapping parts of this historically important and interesting area, so we need to get some kind of handle on the names used.
London grew up around the river Thames from Roman times, but as trade grew over the centuries the ships became more numerous and larger, and needed to unload further East. The Victorian docks were built in and around a boggy loop of the Thames about five miles (8km) East of central London, covering around a square mile. On the maps this is a 'U' shape, and we will refer to the 'U' to identify the locations of the various sections. UK television viewers can see it most nights of the week under the end credits of 'Eastenders' on BBC 1! The area suffered greatly during World War II and fell into disuse in the mid 20th century with the coming of large container vessels, only to be reborn with the formation of the London Dockland Development Corporation in 1981.
The Eastern side of London is very low lying, often below high water level, and throughout history has been characterised by protective walls on the river bank and therefore stairs to allow access. Area names along the river will often end in 'wall', and names such as 'Wapping Old Stairs' will be used instead of street names. 'Harbour' is also used.
The East London History Society has made available a really excellent set of maps of the area published between 1745 and 2000. They clearly show the huge changes that have taken place, and are well worth a look.
ISLE OF DOGS
The mundane and most likely reason is that the area was the nearest hunting land to Greenwich Palace, and Royalty enjoyed hunting with dogs. Because it was so boggy it wasn't uncommon for the dogs to drown in the mud.
A much more colourful explanation is that an evil ferryman carried a rich gentleman from Greenwich to Poplar Marshes on a hunting trip, where he murdered him for his money. The gentleman's dog wouldn't leave his master's side, but took to swimming across the Thames to find food before returning, and was befriended by ferrymen. This continued until one day the dog came across the murderer, recognised him, and launched a furious attack. One of the ferrymen followed the dog back across the river, and to the dead man. Thus the murderer was identified and punished.
The Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames was first opened as a single tunnel in 1893, catering for the road traffic of the time. A second tunnel was opened in 1967. It links Tower Hamlets to Greenwich and is still the most Easterly free crossing of the Thames. Our ancestor William Hatfield KELD, born 1825, lived at number 4, Naval Row, Brunswick place, Blackwall in 1861 when he worked as a ship's joiner - unfortunately where the house stood is now the Northern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel!.
Under the LCC Tower Hamlets was represented by seven Councillors representing Bow and Bromley, Limehouse, Mile End, Poplar, St. George's in the East, Stepney, and Whitechapel. The LCC records are in Wikipedia and show that my great-great uncle Dalby Williams was elected as Councillor for St. George's in the East in 1895. He represented the Moderate party, allied to the Conservatives. My mother recounted two stories about this, first that he was very proud to have knelt before King Edward VII and had a photograph of the event, and second that he stood and lost as a Conservative candidate against one of the Benn family, probably Sir John Benn (the grandfather of Tony Benn the well known 20th century politician) who records show was both an LCC Councillor and MP at about the right time. This is at least possible, though as yet unproven
© John and Sheila Hoare 2014
The British History Online web page for Blackwall and Coldharbour contains a large amount of well researched local history. It includes detailed coverage of numbers 1,3,5 and 7, including a contemporary map with house numbers, floor plans of numbers 5 and 7, and recent photographs. (seen 2013)
Wikipedia 'Coldharbour'(seen 2014)
Maps from The East London History Society (seen 2014)
Charles Dickens and The Isle of Dogs
Wikipedia London local Government (seen 2014)
Isle of Dogs History website with excellent maps and pictures (seen 2018)