"Its pulse and temper are deep and wayward. It drums barbarically to the rhythm of Alsatia. Here is a whiff of old untamed London". In the face of everyday struggle, illness, disadvantage and sheer tragedy, this proud shipbuilding community at Canning Town endured a harsh, almost uncivilised existence in the various trades associated with the Royal Docks. Yet the people maintained a sense of humanity characterised by dignity, pride and resilience that still resonates today.
A scene at the docks
From painters and porters to divers and drillers, all sorts of work were needed to maintain the war effort of the Great War. But with sporadic workloads doled out by a foreman, employment was harsh and scant for even the skilled shipbuilder. One eyewitness accounts:
"A foreman walks up and down with the air of a dealer in a cattle market, picking from a crowd of men, who in their eagerness to obtain employment, trample each other under foot and like beasts they fight for the chance of days work."
But the community persevered regardless. And whether building ships or transporting goods for delivery, the Canning Town community helped bring rare and exotic items to London as well as support the war effort during some dark times in Great Britain.
Today there is much to be positive about in East London. With first-time buyers central to area regeneration, a brand new town centre and numerous developments are shooting up near Canning Town underground station.
Currently being built and directly opposite Canning Town station will be Hallsville Quarter – a new town centre development of homes, retail and leisure facilities, including a cinema and gym, will sit alongside a mix of independent retailers and landscaped public spaces, making Rathbone Market an ideal location to live. This very well-connected area is also well-served by local bus routes and nearby Custom House will soon be home to Crossrail.
Want to hear more about living in Canning Town? Phase 3 of Rathbone Market is coming soon.
Image via Hidden Histories