Silvertown sits in the heart of East London between Canary Wharf, The O2 and London City Airport and was named after the former rubber factory owned by Samuel Winkworth Silver that opened in 1852. Nowadays it is still home to the great sugar refinery, created by the merger in 1921 of two businesses owned by bitter rivals Henry Tate and Abram Lyle. Many would assume this is how this East London dockland town developed or at least got its name. But the area is secretly synonymous with a strange obsession with the Far East. From high society’s peculiar fashion trend of bringing pineapples to parties to escaped wildlife carrying off young children, Silvertown has an extraordinary and colourful history waiting to be discovered.
1500s – A mysterious obsession with the East
Consumerism is far from a 20th century phenomenon that started in the United States. It was alive and well as far back as wealth and the ability to transport foreign produce existed. Europe’s high society obsession with the mysterious East began in the 16th century, and by the 18th century the river ports saw a constant inflow of fine Chinese porcelain to satisfy the appetites of kings, princes and the emerging middle classes.
1700s party – Lipstick, handbag, pineapple – Check!
Other items traded through the ports included exotic fruits such as pineapples. Back in the day a curious, highly luxurious and costly item – the crown-like top and gem-like texture was seen as a symbol of taste and affluence. In fact, the fruit was so desirable and rare that consumers often rented a pineapple for the night to show off to fellow party-goers.
1857 – £60 fine for a dice with death
In this year, one Charles Jamrach, whose menagerie near the docks imported exotic creatures from all over the world for the amusement of Londoners, was fined by the magistrate for allowing a tiger to run loose and carry off a young boy in its maw. Unthinkable today, but not the fact that of the £300 fine, £240 went towards the lawyers’ cost!
2000s – Modern, Parisian-inspired architecture
The Thames Barrier Park was opened in 2000. The design is by landscape architect Allain Provost of Paris and architects Patel Taylor of London. The green trench running through the park was intended as a reminder of the site’s dockland heritage.
Traders’ Quarter at Royal Wharf
With over 50% now reserved at Cape House, Traders’ Quarter boasts high quality homes in the historic area of Silvertown. The development offers one and two bedroom homes with shares starting from £96,250 for a one bedroom home.