From fish market to red carpet: The evolution of London’s Docklands

By james read, guest blog author on 18 Sep 2015
An electric trolley carrying tobacco, 1925

A man with an electric trolley carrying tobacco, 1925

London’s Docklands have gone through huge change in the last 70 years – from being one of England’s primary ports, to falling into disuse as cargo ships outgrew the Thames. It has seen vast industries come and go – the same warehouse that once stored tonnes of tobacco is now a dance floor, and what was once a 900 year-old fish market now hosts film premieres.

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Wapping and the world’s biggest Victorian pet shop

By james read, guest blog author on 12 Aug 2015
baron rothschild zebra carriage

Lionel Walter Rothschild with his famed zebra carriage, which he frequently drove through London, 1895

The Ratcliff Highway, joining London’s Docklands to the City, was a wild place in the early 18th century. It was home to gin shops, shorebound sailors and Bengal tigers. The world’s biggest exotic pet shop, Jamrach’s Emporium, was located at number 164. The discerning collector could buy everything from lions for £100 to polar bears for just £25, and in the 1840s there was plenty of demand. Charles Darwin had just returned from his Galapagos-encompassing trip aboard HMS Beagle, the first touring circuses were travelling England, and advances in print technology meant zoological illustrations were the thing to have in one’s drawing room. It was the beginning of England’s great love of animals.

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The origins of Christmas pudding

By sarah madden, blog editor on 22 Dec 2014
© Simone Walsh via Flickr

© Simone Walsh via Flickr

Christmas pudding has long been a staple of Londoners’ festive tables. Traditionally incorporating dried fruits, spices, sugar and alcohol this festal favourite is a representation of extensive British trade – and of the exotic bounty brought through London’s docks at the peak of Empire. Read the full postRead the full post

Distant voices

By other museum staff on 4 Apr 2012

Following Hilary Young’s blog post Listening for a change last week, author Harriet Salisbury talks about the discoveries she made while delving into the Museum of London’s oral history collections for her new book, The War on our Doorstep. I am not an oral historian – or even a historian. Before I began researching material for The War on our Doorstep, my experience of oral history was limited to recording a few interviews in my student days. So for me, the Museum of London’s vast collection of tapes was a big step into the unknown. Luckily, in the case of the Port & River collection, there […]

More from the PLA Archive: hoovering history!

By other museum staff on 20 Jul 2011

Following on from our recent posts concerning the documenting of the PLA Archive we now move on to the conservation process. Have you ever seen such beautifully wrapped volumes?! If only all the archive could look so neat! This is the work of Rosalind Foley, a student who has just completed a year’s training in paper conservation at University of the Arts, Camberwell. She loves to make boxes and re-package and is currently volunteering with us one day a week, helping to clean and pack the Port of London Authority Archive. Working alongside her are Dominic Flook and Kate Barber. […]

Take a minute to discover more about the PLA Archive

By other museum staff on 14 Jul 2011

Following on from Marie-Claire’s earlier blog post on documenting the Port of London Authority Archive , Marie-Claire now moves on to cataloguing the archive of the longest-lived of the dock companies, the East and West India Dock Company (EWIDC). This is a very different challenge: not only are there far more documents, but their structure is far more disrupted. Having learnt from our previous cataloguing, we decided to vary our approach. While it is essential to list some material at item level, others fall into sub-groups which can be adequately listed more briefly at series level.  This approach has been […]

Documenting the Port of London Authority Archive…

By john joyce on 16 Jun 2011

What do sugar, bridge construction, the Temperance Movement and the discovery of a pre-historic skeleton have in common? Well, they are just some of the subjects documented in the archive of the Port of London Authority (PLA) housed at the Museum of London Docklands. Cataloguer, Marie-Claire Wyatt, explains more: A few months ago the project to document the PLA Archive entered an exciting new stage, with the start of formal cataloguing. As you can see from the examples above, the archive has a very broad range of contents. However, its primary purpose is to document the history of the docks […]

The last of Oscar's diary entries make their way to our website

By john joyce on 8 Jun 2010

Today we added the last of Oscar Kirk, our 15 year old Messenger Boy from 1919, diary entries to our website, timed to be go “live” on the corresponding day his diary relates to this year. The last of Oscar’s diary extracts is timed for 29 June, and over the last six months the team in Communications has got to know Oscar very well. Oscar had a very sweet tooth and included in his diary lists of the treats he had bought that day not only for himself but for members of his family such as his sister Marjorie: Saturday 22 February 1919 […]