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My Mum, Lilian Anderson, was born in Poplar in 1934 and she said she had a large family but sadly her Mum (Ethel Roberts nee Anderson) was killed in 1941. She lived in Morant Street, Poplar. This happened when my Mum was evacuated. She was then sent home and her Dad, George Roberts, took her away and she lost touch with her family, only seeing her brother and sister now and then. Her brother Ronald died when he was only about 21 and her Sister Christine moved to Scotland with her husband. My Mum and I looked in all sorts of records for information about her family in Poplar but we cold never find anything. My Nan is buried in Poplar graveyard and is on the Tower Hamlets Roll of Honour which made us very proud. My Mum has now passed away and I feel I would still like to know who my relatives were and if any of her cousins are still alive and could pass on any family history to me. Does anyone remember my family?

Jeanette Heffernan


I am looking for any information regarding my grandparents, Edward and Annie Donkin (nee Bragg) and their children, Edward, Phoebe and Doreen. They lived in Conway House, Cahir Street. My grandfather acted as an ARP during the Second world War. Can anyone help? Many thanks

Dane Hunt (granddaughter)

Tony Finch

Tony Finch was a recent visitor. He lived in Roffey House, East Ferry Road, from 1957 to 1972 and went to Glengall Road School from 1964 until 1968. He played football for the school and after leaving, for The George pub. He was also a member of Christ Church Youth Club. Tony remembers the Sapsfords, the Lews, the Horncastles and the Farams. He would love to hear from anyone who shares these memories, or who was one of the lads who, in advance of the demolition gang, helped to pull down the old Prince pub, at the back of Stewart Street, during one long summer holiday in the late ’60s.

Stamp Family

Sister and brother Lynette and Richard Stamp grew up in Plaistow. Their parents, Thomas and Ethel (nee Perrott) Stamp had moved there from Mile End during the Blitz. The family moved again, to Blackheath, in the mid-1960s. Thomas Stamp worked on the Island at Union Lighterage for many years from the 1940s until shortly before it closed down in 1970. Thomas Stamp’s uncles, George and Thomas Stamp, both lived on the Island, in Mellish Street and married, respectively, Caroline Floyd and Rosina Russell (both Island family names). George and Thomas had moved to the Island in the late 19th century from Poplar, having previously lived in Deptford. The Stamps originated in Monkwearmouth, Sundereland, and migrated to London in the early 19th century to work in the busy Thames shipyards, all the men being shipwrights and metalworkers. Lynette and Richard have strong memories of the Island, of visiting their father’s workplace and of family members. Richard himself taught at George Green School in the mid-1980s. They would love to hear from anyone who remembers them or with links to their family. They were delighted that during their visit to Island History, Eve could put them in touch with John and Buddie Penn. John worked at Union Lighterage for many years and knew their father, Thomas Stamp.

Lakey, Scudder, Rutter

Bob Lakey visited Island History in February to see what he could find about his Island roots. There were 20 photographs in the Collection with the name “Lakey” in the caption, so he found names and faces which he recognised. His family was also linked to the Island families of Scudder and Rutter and there were several of the latter in the Collection, though no-one he knew. Bob’s father was Ron (Ronald Walker) Lakey, a scaffolder. His grandfather was Walter Ernest Lakey. Walter’s name appears on the memorial for Council workers killed in the Blitz whilst on Civil Defence duties. Through back issues of the Newsletter, Bob was also able to locate a distant cousin and contact her through the Trust. She had grown up in Poplar. Just turned 60 and settled in Glasgow, Bob is keen to collect information about his family and their lives in the East End. He would love to hear from anyone who remembers the Lakeys or is related to him through them.

A Visit From Harry Brand

Harry Brand visited Island History twice in April. He was delighted to find a photograph of himself at St. Edmund’s School in 1948 with Con Driscoll and other boys of his age. Harry was born in 1938 at No.15 Gaverick Street. His parents were Charles and Mary (nee Clear) and he had a brother, Charlie, two years older than he. The two boys were evacuated to Pennygreige, near Tonypandy in Wales, where they were well cared for in a mining family. Eventually they returned to their parents and Gaverick Street. The house was condemned but they had to stay there as there was nowhere else to go until 1953, when they were re-housed in Poplar.

Harry and Charlie both attended nearby St. Edmund’s School in Westferry Road. Changes brought about by the 1944 Education Act meant that they had to stay at school until they were 15. When Harry was 14, as part of the same changes, St. Edmund’s became a school for juniors only, so he finished h is education at Cardinal Griffin’s in Poplar – an entirely new school then and now gone. Harry went straight to work on leaving school, helping his father in the car-repair business which he ran under the arches at Stepney Station. Harry’s entire working life has been in the transport business – car repair, bus driving and haulage. He married and settled down in South London, where he still lives. He is retired now and happy to spend some time looking up his own history and finding old friends.


John Hubbard is researching his family roots on the Island. He wonders, is anyone else looking up the same name at around the same time?

The information he has is that his great-grandparents, George Hubbard, of Pier Terrace, and Sarah Jackson of Strattondale or Stebondale Street , were married on February 13th 1876, at Christ Church. George Hubbard was a bargeman. In 1881 they were living in Seysell Street and in 1891 at 40 Glengall Road. Their son Ernest, John’s grandfather, was born in 1889 in Cubitt Town. The 1911 census records him as working at the “Jam Factory” – presumably Morton’s. So far, John has not been able to connect “his” Hubbards with the extensive records of another family of that name, held in the Island History Collections. If you are also researching the Hubbards of Cubitt Town, John would like to hear from you.


“Is anyone else researching these names as part of their Isle of Dogs ancestry?” asks Nick Beard, from Australia. He writes:

My mother, Mabel Dorothy Unsworth, was born in 1917 and lived at 216 Westferry Road. Her mother, Mable Jean Monteath, had married my grandfather, John William Unsworth, at Christ Church in 1917. John died in 1920. By about 1927, it seems my grandmother and my mother had moved south of the river.


Hilda Bache is 91 now and has just discovered Island History. She bought one of the last remaining sets of the two-volume Brief History and is enjoying them. Some readers may remember her family.

Her connections with the Island go back to 1871, when her grandparents, Caroline and William Williams were living in Stebondale Street with Caroline’s parents, Henry and Sarah Pettigrew. William and Caroline had a large family of 16 children, of whom 10 survived. Two of them were still living on the Island, in Cahir Street, after the Second World War. They were Rosetta Mead, nee Williams, and William Henry Williams. Caroline herself lived on the Island, at 160 Manchester Road, until 1939 – nearly 70 years!

One of her daughters was Ada, who married William North and lived and at 195 Manchester Road, where Hilda and her brother Frederick were born. They moved to Kent in 1928.

In 1925 William North had started work at Barnfield’s Colour Works in Westferry Road. He continued in this job, returning daily from his home across the river, until 1941. From 1936 he was joined by Hilda on his daily journey, as she too worked at Barnfield’s. By 1938 three of them were commuting, as Frederick also started work on the Island at Quelf Casks, a job he kept until the late 1950s with a break for army service during the Second World War.

Constable Clark

Alan Clark, from Exmouth, volunteered for the Paralympics and this brought him to London with a bit of time to spare, so he called in at Island History. His mother was Ivy Bowler, of Ferry Street. His father was Douglas Clark, who lived at the Police House, because HIS father, Frank Clark, was Police Constable for the Island. Douglas and Ivy moved away in the early years of the Second World War, so Alan was not born on the Island. His grandfather, Frank, moved to Sussex to become a village constable and so they all lost contact with the area.

On their visit, Alan and his wife were thrilled to find photographs of the Police Station when it was in Manchester Road (now the site of George Green’s School). The Constable standing outside could be grandfather Frank!

Silcock and Pidgeon

Bernard Silcok was born in Birmingham in 1920 and he settled on the Island in the late 1930s. He married Louisa Pidgeon and they started married life at 25 Manchester Road, later moving into 21 Kingfield Street. They had three children – Bernard Frank, Anne and John Leonard.

Bernard Frank passed away in 2001. His son, Mark, visited the Island recently to explore his roots. He found Island History, where we were able to show him a rent book in the family’s name, as well as some photographs.

Bernard and his wife Maggie hope to come to the October Open Days and would love to meet anyone who remembers the Silcock family.

Ernie Freeman

My father, Ernie Freeman, worked at the London Keg and Drum Company between 1921 and 1949, (excluding 1939-45) and I would like to find out about the time he worked there. My uncle, Harry Freeman, aka Charlie, also worked there. There was another brother, called Bill, and three sisters, Jen, Doll and Kate.

My father was born in Cahir Street in 1906 and later moved to Marsh Street, where his mother, Fanny Freeman, nee Clark, died in 1918 of the Spanish ‘flu. The family moved again to Exmouth House in Cahir Street. (This might have been after the LCC flats were built in Cahir Street, around 1935, Ed.)

My father was in the Dockland Settlement Gymnastic Team and I found a lovely photo of him in the Island History Collection. I also have a photograph of him in a smart dark doube-breasted jacket with light trousers, holding a tennis racquet, so I assume he played tennis for a team but I cannot make out the name on the badge on the jacket pocket. Perhaps someone knows about tennis playing on the Island?

He worked as a stevedore at the Surrey Docks and left just before the docks closed. During that time he married my mother, Sally Lowry, in 1951, amd moved into Manchester Road. Later, after me and my sister were born, we all moved to Bellingham in South London. He worked as a gardener for Lewisham Council, and died in September 1976.

From Joyce Mitton, nee Freeman

Reeves, Coe and Howell

My family connections on the Island were mainly with Reeves, Coe and Howell, and were centred around Stebondale Street in the 19th century. Charles William Coe and Joseph H. Howell were bridge builders working for Thursfield and Company of Southwark. They were killed on 7th July, 1912, when an express trainhit them while they were working on Pontefract Bridge in West Yorkshire. I’m told that their funeral on the Island was quite an event and the cortege included many Freemasons in full regalia. I know there used to be a masonic temple in the basement of The George pub in Glengall Grove. Maybe they were members there? Are there any details of the lodge that met there?

Paul Reeves

Bircham and Sillence

My mother Ruth Rhoda Bircham was an Islander from 1918 to 1941, she lived with her parents, George John Bircham and Ruth Bircham (nee Sillence) and her little sister Regina Maud, firstly in Mellish Street and then in Alpha Grove, from where she married my dad, Ernest William Willis, in the now sadly demolished St. Luke’s Church in Strafford Street, on 31st August 1940. After the war they moved to Bromley.

Dad’s works, Brown Lenox & Company, was in Westferry Road. Dad, who came from Lewisham, was a blacksmith and chainmaker. They closed down in 1980. He was promoted and moved to their works in West Bromwich.

Mum’s brother, Herbert Bircham, married Nellie (surname unknown) and they lived at St. Hubert’s House in Janet Street. Their children were Geoffrey, Rosemarie and Bernard. They all moved to Alberta, Canada and Herbert and Nellie joined them in about 1970.

I remember visiting them on the Island before they left, when the docks were still active. Last August my brother and I visited the Trust and met two charming gentlemen who had lived on the Island all their lives and were able to tell us more about what life used to be like before, first, the Luftwaffe and then, the modern planners. We know the docks couldn’t have stayed as they wee but I’m afraid we’re not huge fans of what’s there now.

But the Island lives on for us in my mum’s many memories and funny stories. I think she had a really rich and happy life there.

From Susan Willis, Birmingham

(We think Susan and her brother must have been entertained by Brian Smith and Albert Blackall, who can sometimes be found in the History Room at Saint John’s Community Centre.

Eric Kinnaird

Donald Kinnaird wrote to us from California to ask: “Did such a place as The Manchester Arms exist??”

baseball team Hot Dogs
The names on the photograph above are: R. Beaumont, A. Hann,J. McNeil, E. Ashmore and H. Hann. Centre row: R. Wilson, R. Barnes, J. Kirby, J. Griggs, J. Cross, E. Brown and E. Kinnaird.  In front: J. Stammers, one unknown, T. Squires and W. West.

Family lore has it that his grandfather owned such a pub in the 1930s. He went on to say that his parents, Eric and Winifred (nee Madigan) lived at 39 Glengall Road, where he himself was born in 1936. This may have been close to the pub, he thinks, as he was taken there as an infant to be played with and admired. Eric Kinnaird worked for the County of London Electricity Supply Company and Union Light Company, as a fitter, between 1930 and 1937. At some point he joined a group of other young men to form a baseball team, appropriately called the Hot Dogs.

This seemed to Donald to be a very odd thing to do at the time! But, he went on: “After the war my father satisfied his interest in America by emigrating to Seattle.”

In the Island History Photograph Collection we found an outing from The Manchester Arms, a rather run-down place, even before the Blitz, with an E.Kinnard named. Having seen the photograph Donald wrote again: “The man in the centre, wearing plus-four trousers, is most certainly my Grandfather, Benjamin Kinnaird. I’m sure the man fourth from his right, wearing an open collar, is my Father, Eric Kinnaird.Both moved to Romford after the war. I understand the pub was destroyed in 1941.”

In exchange Donald sent us the photograph on the right. If taken on the Island, which is most likely, it is either on Millwall Park, with Stebondale Street in the background; or in Locke’s Field, with East Ferry Road in the background, or (less likely perhaps) on land behind Glengall Road. Comments welcome on that point. The Hot Dogs team was not revived after the Blitz. Does anyone else remember hearing of them?

William Hill, Shipwright

I have just been browsing your website and found it so interesting. I have ancestors that lived on the Isle of Dogs and would like to know more. My great-great-grandfather, William Babage Hill, was born in Devonport in 1815. He appears on the 1841 Census, aged 25, as a shipwright. He spent all his life on the Island, and had seven sons. The 1881 Census shows him living at 376 Manchester Road, with two of his sons nearby, one at 380 and one at 402. Mr great-grandfather Frederick Caslake Hill was a master baker living for a time in Robin Hood Lane. There is a family story of a big house, with servants, which became a library. I have always assumed it is in some way connected with the family. Do you know of this family and can you help?

From Miss J.M.Armour, in Bournemouth.

The original William Hill was one of the many shipwrights who migrated to the Island from the West Country in the early nineteeenth century, to work and settle down with a family.The “big house that became a library” might have been Osborne House, in Island Gardens, which became the Island’s first public library in 1895 . There are a number of people named “Hill” in the Photograph Collection and several references in the Newsletter Index, but without more information, such as the maiden names of the wives of the seven sons, it’s hard to estabish any connections.

A personal visit for a lengthy browse in the archives is the best solution in a case like this.

Flynn, Stammers, Searle

My grandmother was born Dorothy Isabel Lucy Searls in 1895 at 376 Manchester Road. Her husband was Stephen Joseph Flynn, born in Ireland. They lived in Galbraith Street, where my mother and her siblings grew up and went to Glengall Road School. they were Dorothy, Norah, Isabel, Lucy, Maurice, William, Stephen and Betty Flynn.

My great-grandparents on my father’s side were Edward Searls, (1867 to 1963), he was a stevedore, and Fanny Susannah Searls, nee Stammers, (1871to 1953). In the 1881 Census they were living at 12, Stewart Street.

My grandparents lost everything when Galbraith Street was bombed one night in the Blitz. My mother and her siblings were evacuated to Eynsham, in Oxfordshire, with my grandmother. After the war they moved to Lancashire, where they settled and where I still live. As far as I k now my grandfather, who worked in the docks, remained in London.

My grandmother had a brother, Edward Charles Searls (known as Ted). My mother used to speak of Uncle Ted’s haulage company. I think he stayed in London and we lost touch.

I would be grateful for any information. My mother has died and I am trying to do our family tree but I find it very hard to fill in some of the gaps.

From Pat Hayhurst

At Island History we were able to find photographs of some of Pat’s aunts and uncles in Glengall Road School, as well as photographs of houses in Galbraith Street. We have also sent her accounts of school and daily life in the area between the wars. Searching the Newsletter Index, we found that Ted Searle was mentioned in passing by Alan Davison in connection with the history of local transport.

We also found this paragraph in the Newsletter for March 1987: “It seems that in a period from about 1890 to 1920 there was a group of families – Becker, Gross, Standfield, Stammers, Kanaley, Searle, McCafferty, Robinson, Bradshaw and Wragg – whose lives were closely related and most of them (possibly all of them) lived on the Island and many lived in Cubitt Town. The Stammers lived in Morant Street, Poplar and later in Stewart Street, or Stewart’s Terrace, in Cubitt Town. ‘Granny Stammers’ lived there until she died, aged 94, in 1930.”

This was part of an article written by Mr A. W. Becker, also researching his family history. His grandmother had been a Stammers, just possibly (judging by the dates) a sister to the Fanny Susannah Stammers, mentioned above.

This is like tracing one particular thread through a tapestry!

French and Mumford

I had no idea that I had ancestors in Tower Hamlets until I found them in the 1901 census, living at the Lord Nelson in Manchester Road. My great-grandmother, having three daughters, married Herbert French in 1893 and they are all shown with the surname French in the census. They are not there in 1911. One daughter, Alice Parker, moved to 48 Plevna Street and in 1903 she married John Edward Mumford, a stevedore, of 269 Westferry Road. Their first child, also Alice, was born in Millwall in 1904, their son John in Canning Town and Cyril was born in Plaistow. I would be interested to know if any readers have any information about this family.

Making Clay Pipes

In carrying out some family history, I’ve found that my ancestors had a business of pipe-clay importing at Duggan’s Wharf round about the beginning of the 19th century. I know it was on the Isle of Dogs as that is the address on the Sun Fire Insurance policy, which I found out about from the London Metropolitan Archives.

Is there any information regarding this wharf, or the Duggan family, that you know of? I can’t find anything, except that there is quite a bit of information about the pipes themselves, which are now very collectable and have turned up in Native American territories in the USA. The wharf owners moved their operations over to Bermondsey,where Duggan’s Wharf was on the exact site of the present London Bridge Hospital. It was then called Chamberlain’s Wharf.

From Deidre Long

There’s nothing in Island History archives about Duggan’s Wharf, only Dudgeon’s Wharf, in Saunders Ness Road – could they be one and the same?

Challis Family History

My father, who is 84, grew up in Westferry Road. His gran (name of Grey) had a little dairy, and a horse and cart for deliveries, in the 1920s and ’30s. His dad, Big Jim Challis, was killed in an accident in the docks in 1935. I wonder if anyone remembers the family? My mother came from Silvertown, she was a Barnes. Her great uncle was Billy Barnes, of West Ham United and Sheffield United, who scored the winning goal int he 1902 Cup Final.

From Gary Challis

Previous Enquiries below

Grey rooftops

This photograph, probably 1950s, shows parts of Manchester Road, Seysell Street with bomb-damaged houses, and Kingfield Street, which ran straight into Manchester Road. Since then, blocks of maisonettes have been built on the cleared ground. In the foreground, prefabs line the road in front of what was then Cubitt Town School (destroyed by a bomb, see Wartime Memories and now St.Luke’s School). Where the prefabs stood is now the school garden and the site of the learner swimming pool built in the 1980s.

The photograph helps to answer a question posed by Sue Goddard in a recent Newsletter: Where Was Our Prefab? Sue wrote: We went to the prefabs in Manchester Road because my grandparents, Thomas and Alice Butler, lost their home in Alpha Road when it was destroyed by a bomb. My father was in a reserved occupation, working for Shell on PLUTO (Pipe Line Under the Ocean) and on secret underground storage facilities. When the war ended and he returned to London, he was homeless. Alice needed a carer and so my parents moved in with Alice and Thomas in the two bed-prefab, and I shared my parents’ room. I have an exact plan of the lay-out of the pre-fabs inside my head, but I wonder if anyone can confirm their precise location? We were at 200 Manchester Road, on the east side of the road, and there was a school right behind us.

Sue adds: The Butlers’ occupations were all concerned with the docks and the sea. My grandfather Thomas was chief engineer on ocean-going s hips and spent much of his life on the South China seas, although his apprenticeship was at the Glengall Ironworks in Regents Dry Dock on the Island. During the First World War he worked at Woolwich Arsenal. My father, Austin Frederick Butler, attended Millwall Central School and then the School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar. He served his apprenticeship at Harland and Wolff’s before going to sea for a couple of years as an engineer, returning just before the War in 1939.

The Bell Family

roffey house
Roffey House children celebrating the 1953 Coronation

I am seeking information about the Bell family who lived on the ground floor in Roffey House between the 1940s and the 1970s. I know of a David Bell, born around 1946, and John Bell, a couple of years younger. There may also have been sisters Rosemary and Iris. It was a big family. One sister, a twin, died tragically when she drowned in a well. They all went to Cubitt Town and Glengall Road Schools. When David Bell left school, he worked at Klein’s, the rag factory on the Island. David Bell was my father and I never knew him. I would be grateful for any information

The Dunfords of Tooke Street

Tooke Street
Tooke Street, c.1900/1910

My maternal grandmother was Georgina May Dunford, daughter of George and Julia (nee Goddard) Dunford. She was their third daughter and was born in 1885 at 56 Tooke Street, on the Isle of Dogs. Her father was a dock labourer. Sadly, Julia died in 1886. One of the three sisters then went to live in Abbotsbury, Dorset, where the family originated and where their descendants still live.

Georgina went into service – I don’t know where. In 1915, at the age of 30, she emigrated to Australia, where I am now. In 1920 her other sister, Rosetta, joined her. Their father had married again, to Jane Broad.

I would love to know more about Tooke Street and life there in the 1880s. I wonder what school she attended?

I would love to hear from anyone who may have connections with these family names, or who had relatives living in Tooke Street at the same time.

From Stephany

George Edward Robinson the Hokey-Pokey Man

Photo from the Island History Trust Collection: Mr George Robinson, with his dog, outside his stall in East Ferry Road, next to the Dockland Settlement.

“George, my great-great-grandad, was born in 1884 and was one of 10 children – Annie, William, Louie, Sidney, Ernest, Edward, Ethel, Arthur and Hilda, born between 1879 and 1901. Their parents were Edward Newman Robinson and Jane Alice Peebles, who was born in Poplar. I believe George worked for the Post of London Authority and later in life he kept a stall in East Ferry Road. He was always referred to in the family as the Hokey-Pokey Man! My grandad and his mother got their love of ice-cream from George, I am sure. I would love to know more about him.”

From Louise Moon

Mr Robinson lived with his wife and family at No. 150 East Ferry Road, moving in when the house was built in 1921. Due to unemployment, he and his wife made hokey-pokey, a sort of ice-cream, at the house; he then loaded a barrow and walked the streets with the cry ‘Hokey- Pokey’. “ Robbo” became a familiar figure around the Island and the hokey-pokey was very popular. To maintain the income during the winter the barrow would be loaded with baked potatoes and hot soup for sale. Eventually he took over the stall. This was a small wooden hut which enabled him to enlarge his stock to include confectionery, cigarettes, groceries and general goods. He retired in 1950s and the stall was removed.

The Millwall Guides

Something has come to light about the photograph of Girl Guides published in the September/October Newsletter (right) – but not very much! It appears that the 7th Wells Guide Company may have been formed by evacuees from Millwall in November 1939, when they had settled in Wells. The Guide Captain was Lady Verdon-Smith.

Millwall Guides

They are referred to on several occasions in the Wells Journal: January 12th 1940: “The evacuees in Wells who belong to the Millwall company of Girl Guides were entertained to a party….”. In the same newspaper on May 17th, 1940: “The 7th Wells (Millwall) Girl Guides, a company formed since the girls were evacuated to Wells, invited parents and friends to a demonstration…” On May 30th 1941: “ the Evacuee Guide Company attended an Empire Day Parade…” and in July 1941, they attended an end-of-term service.

There was still mention of the 7th Wells Company in 1943 and 1944, but no mention was made of evacuees having returned home, though by then, some may have done.

Update: The girl fourth from left is Mary O’Neal (later Wright) whose son Phil has identified her and says: She was evacuated with her younger sisters Anne, Rose and Eileen, with strict instructions not to allow them to be split up. They were the last four there when the local headmaster and his wife, Mr and Mrs Lane, turned up and took them all. I took her back, 40 years later. She took me to the actual house, we knocked and Mr Lane answered! We went in and had a cuppa.