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130 Years Later

by Helen Wed Aug 2nd, 2017 at 12:57:26 PM EST

Poplar is near the centre of the old East End of London. Located just north of  the Isle of Dogs, that long lazy loop that the Thames takes as it begins its meander from London to the sea. There lie the East India docks, the most famous of the large docks of London.

Now shadowed by the towers of the Docklands financial district, you only have to cross the East India Dock Road, still one of the major arteries east of London, to enter into a timeless world of people who have always existed in the margins of society. They've been left behind by the fast flowing currents of global finance, but once the people of this area provided the numerous and anonymous labour for the shipping trade that powered the British Empire.


Once the old Great Wall of the docks, a 3 metres tall barrier of soot stained grimy red brick, ran for nearly a mile from Bow Creek to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Dark and forbidding, as impenetrable a wall as any imaginable, its very endurance a sign of the indomitable strength of the Empire upon which the Sun Never Set. Now in the 21st century, with the docks themselves "re-purposed" for the leisure industry,  the wall has been breached in so many places it is more archeological artefact than bulwark, this recent bulldozing a sign of the hubris of empires as true of the present as it ever was of Ozymandias.

And here, in this new victorian development, it was that on 2nd august 1887 John (aka Jack) Tribe married his sweetheart, Amy Ingledoo, at All Saints church. They went of to have a good life, with 13 children, some lost in WW1, but they carried on as people always will. One of those children, Amy, met and married Albert Hale. Fresh back from soldiering in The Empire he would later entertain his daughter Estella with his tales of East Africa and the North West frontier, occasionally hauling out the precious photo of himself guarding the entrance to the famed "Khyber Pass".

Albert and Amy still lived in Poplar where, during WW2, the ancient medieval walls of another church, All Hallows, saved their lives when a V2 rocket made a direct hit upon it, a mere 100 yeards from where their  house. The walls contained the blast, which would otherwise have flattened the entire area, killing hundreds; instead just the poor vicar caught at his devotions. Nothing can now be seen of the church, a small garden of rest is all that remains.

After the war, on 2nd august 1947, 60 years to that day in 1887, Estella Hale married James W___, himself back from service in the N African and Italian campaigns of WWII. Remarkably both John and Amy were there to celebrate with them.

And just today, 70 years later, Stella & Jim, again celebrate their anniversary.

Happy Platinum Anniversary Mum and Dad.

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Thanks for remembrance and best wishes!

I spend a week in an apartment on the Isle of Dogs on two separate occasions last fall. A good friend moved from Amsterdam to a new job and I helped her look for an International primary school and housing. Did a lot of searching from Limehouse to City Island and all in between. Thanks for your insight into the history of which I had just scant knowledge. Still lacking as of today. I felt astonished and amazed how the real estate developed North of the Isle of Dogs and how people are left behind. The whole infrastructure of roads and schools were below standards compared to continental Europe and The Netherlands. The city/district bureacracy hasn't changed a bit from thirty some years ago.

History of Poplar in London's East End

In the mid-1600s, Poplar had a population of around a thousand - a mere hamlet linking the much larger villages of Limehouse to the west and Blackwall to the east. These villagers lived along what is now Poplar High Street, but it was events next door, where the East India Company had just set up its shipyard, which were to change everything.

The company took over the little village. In 1628, it bought the land to the north of the high street, building its almshouses there. These were replaced by the new council offices, and then by the recreation ground (lying between Hale Street and Woodstock Terrace).

It also built Poplar Chapel, in Woodstock Street, for the workers. The bosses worshipped elsewhere - merchants and shipbuilders making their homes out in the Essex countryside (then only a mile or so to the east) or in the rich suburb of Limehouse.

...
Poplar now meant a lot more than the hamlet, and from 1817 the parish of Poplar covered the Isle of Dogs, Blackwall and, looking down from the high ground to the north, the village itself. With Millwall Docks joining the West and East India, Poplar could claim to be the hub of the greatest maritime trading centre in the world.

New buildings were raised, reflecting the new size and importance (if not affluence) of the village. Poplar Chapel was enlarged and became St Matthias, new District Board of Works offices were built next door and a town hall was erected next to All Saints.

But Poplar had already peaked. Although the population continued to grow until around 1900, little housing was built after 1870. The docks were already in decline, although it would be another 90 years or so before they would be shut altogether. In 1886, a new dock opened down the Thames at Tilbury, and Poplar's lifeblood was choked off. The shops on the high street closed and the little alleys off the once-bustling thoroughfare quickly declined into slums. [Clearing the Slums - 1935 (Pathé)]

The fisherman's dockland Hamlet of Bow Creek

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by Oui on Wed Aug 2nd, 2017 at 04:39:01 PM EST
No, tbh developers, who are the only people building any housing these days, are only interested in providing the most profitable warehousing they can. Pile it high, squeeze it tight and sell as expensively as the market can bear.

Facilities such as hospitals, schools and other stuff isn't their concern. Nor do central government seem to think such things are their responsiblity either.

Meanwhile local authorities are being starved of funds to provide statutory services, but the newly gentrified owner occupiers vote Tory, who are loathe to do anything, but then moan that there are no services.

We used to be a country that wanted services like France, but taxes like the US and kinda fell between stools Things were provided, but they just weren't very good. Nowadays, we don't even try; there's just a sense of hopeless resignation with central government having abdicated responsibility for just about anything except largesse for nuclear power.

I wish your friend well, but they should consider moving on to a more civilsed country. Being paid in sterling isn't going to be worth the candle very soon.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 2nd, 2017 at 08:34:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With the great gift of your parents still being alive, it would be great if you could use the opportunity to mine their memories to construct a more comprehensive history of their life and times!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 08:08:37 PM EST
I know my Mum's story quite well, it's had its moments. My Dad has never really talked about his past very much, it seems it was fairly non-eventful.

Even his service in WWII didn't really add up to much. Joined at 18 fresh from an engineering apprenticeship. Serviced aircraft in N Africa and Italy till demob, very pleased never to have fired a shot in anger. The only moment of note he ever mentioned was getting drunk in Cairo on his 21st birthday and climbing a lamppost. Apart from that....

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 08:20:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea but sometimes details he deems unimportant might still be illustrative of the lives and times of people of that era.  War isn't all about fighting, and much of the more "boring" stuff is more representative of what they are really like. He might think people won't be interested in the time he fixed a faulty fuel line with fuel and fire hazards spilling all over the place, but it's still the stuff of social history.  Perhaps he won't tell you about some of the tristes going on at the time though - men are funny like that - what happens in war stays with the war mates even after they're dead...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 08:31:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, you may be right, but I'm afraid my Dad is now ill and such memories are beyond him

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 08:59:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Long term memory is usually the last to go. But if there is pain...

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 4th, 2017 at 12:38:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My Mum was evacuated from London in '39 at the age of 12. First off to Oxford, but she didn't stay long as the woman who took her in objected to her not being catholic. Her two friends, sisters, stayed and were killed in an air-raid later in the war.

She saw the first air raids on london and was impressed by the large block formations of the enemy lanes. But with this change in the war after a few close shaves from close impacts, she was then sent to distant relatives in S Wales, up the valley from Swansea. A mining town in Welsh speaking wales. She had to learn welsh pretty quickly cos nobody had any patience with some english speaking kid.

She wa the youngest in the household and thus the skivvy. She had to carry through the ton of coal to the back when it was delivered and then sweep the coal dust up. And she had to be wary when the coalman was coming to lock the door cos the coalman used to dump it right outside the door and through the door if you weren't careful.

For reason I won't discuss here, my Mum returned to London in 44. In that time she was once overflown by a V1 at a height of 100 feet. And survived the V2 hit, losing only the apple pie she was making which was coated with glass blown in from the window.

The V1 was much more hated than the V2. The sound would stop everything, for minutes on end as everybody waited for the motor to cut out. Until then, they were frozen. But the V2, if you heard the bang, you were still alive. So, why worry about it?

My Mum was in Forest Gate roller skating rink when a V1 destroyed the Princess Alice pub a quarter mile away. She says that there were a load of green leather benches against the wall nearest the pub which moved halfway across the rink, knocking people over.

When my parents married in 47, despite rationing there was a 3 tier wedding cake. It was only later that we discovered how my gran had managed to afford to get all the sugar and fruit from the black market she as a money lender.

It was a hidden part of the world of women at that time. Women ran short of household money, either cos their husbands drank it or there was an emergency. But she apparently had taken over the business from another woman when she died, she inherited "the tally book". My mum had always wondered how it was that she'd always had money. It was a steady income if not particularly substantial.

But it faded away during the re-developments after the war, it only survived because of close knit communities of women and those community bonds were severed and scattered during the 50s.

She lent my Dad the money for his first car, £80. And when my Mum's wedding veil was torn, she paid for it to be invisibly mended, 30 shillings (£1:50) but a weeks wages.

But there were no houses in the early 50s. With a young child and another on the way and living with her mother in law, my Mum would walk (!) miles from town hall to town hall through the east end begging for a chance to get a council flat. But was told that there was nothing unless the children had a serious lung disease.

So, she resolved to buy a house, soemthing that was then almost unimaginable. It took my parents nearly two years to save £100 for a deposit, my Dad left a job he loved (print engineer at Reynolds News, which eventually became the Sun) to join another paper, the Sunday Citizen for a vital 30 shillings more a week.

And then they bought a house.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 08:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another thing was that my Mum's accent changed.

When she went to Wales she was an East end kid from Stepney, which was amongst the roughest of the rough. Occasionally, when she reminisces she can slip back into that accent and it's very broad.

But when she went to Wales she learned the Welsh lilt, which meant that her english became much closer to BBC approved received pronunciation.

So much so that she says that her family couldn't understand her when she came home. She remembers talking for 5 minutes before her mother joked that she was still spekaing welsh and they couldn't understand a word.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 4th, 2017 at 06:51:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The V1 story reminds me of an anecdote told by sf author Christopher Priest (at a convention my daughter organised). Memory and its unreliability is a thread which runs through his work. He describes a vivid wartime memory of his, being in his mother's arms under a staircase, and hearing a V1's engine stop, and her look of terror as they waited for the blast, etc. But for objective reasons the memory must be entirely fabricated (his age, the fact that they were in Manchester(?) outside the range of V1s all the time...) Fascinating theme.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 7th, 2017 at 08:31:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A little discussed aspect of the post war period is the amount of PTSD there was. Most notably amongst the survivors of japanese prison camps.

Those men were very damaged, many of them died early from drink or suicide. But while they were alive nobody would bother them, if they went into a pub and tried to start fights, someobdy who knew woud tap whoever was being goaded, "no forget about it, he was in a jap camp". that was enough. The police would sweep them up and take them home. They were cared for in the community.

But so many fathers were wrecked. You only have to listen to the tales of remote fathers who'd been through the war, and their fathers before them in WW1. Two generations scarred by traumas.

My Dad was lucky, my sister suggests he'd connived to get an easy war, but I think that's unfair. He was already studying to be a proper engineering mechanic before the war started. The RAF was an obvious step, especially for a man who loved flying but whose hearing had already been damaged too much to fly in combat, even as crew.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 3rd, 2017 at 09:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Helen for the memories (history) and congrats to your family for the 70 year anniversary...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 4th, 2017 at 07:01:56 PM EST
Magnificent diary.
A real treat.
It conveys so much about the times also my grandfather lived in.
He was a war hero in WW1, MC and bar for his trench service in France, witnessed the Xmas truce in No Man's land (the only war story he ever told me) and came back to inter-war civvy street as a Standard Oil salesman, failing to make a decent living supplying rural garages with a few pints of oil a week.
So he signed up again for WW2 and worked as Quartermaster in the Army. He spotted some illegal black marketing of Army wares, reported it and was sent to India for his pains.
After 2 wars he was a walking case of shell shock, spending hours building ships in bottles, pottering in the garden and helping my grandmother run a small boarding house in Wimbledon. He spoke rarely, but had a dry wit, especially in extremis.
After 16 heart attacks he'did been given Extreme Unction so many times and seen his family gathered around his deathbed, he apologised for keeping everyone waiting!
A devoted patriot, he would have jumped off a cliff if his King has asked it of him.
'Ours not to reason why'.
He was nice to me, gentle and soft-spoken, but I could see the pain in his eyes.
He used to say I had to 'learn the value of money', which became a truly meaningless phrase even back in the day of three penny bits and farthings.
Just as with the salaries and house prices you mention Helen, the value of money was something as different from 20 years later as chalk and cheese.
He grew up in an 'Angela's Ashes' scenario, children barefoot on the street he lived in Muswell Hill as a kid.
This diary has a doughty melancholy and a proud resilience coming through between the lines.
Congratulations to your parents and to you for having penned this excellent tribute to their lives.    

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Aug 5th, 2017 at 12:47:10 AM EST
Lovely piece, Helen. Channelling Jan Morris?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 7th, 2017 at 08:21:43 AM EST
No, she was a travel writer. If I'd discussed her stay in Wales in greater detail, it would have been more Frank McCourt.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Aug 7th, 2017 at 05:55:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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