A wander around the Isle of Dogs will show just how much the area has changed in the last two decades or so but some of the old
Isle does survive. From Island Gardens DLR station you can pick up the Thames Path and head eastwards. A five or ten minute stroll brings you to Newcastle Drawdock.
Built as part of Cubitt’s initial development of the riverside in the 1840s, this drawdock is constructed of brick, with wooden buttressing to the south-west wall and rendered buttressing to the north-east one. The dock has a Grade II listing, as have the four original bollards at the dock entrance on Saunders Ness Road.
Immediately behind the dock is The Waterman’s Arms.
This is described by britishlistedbuuildings.co.uk as,
“Mid C19. Exterior now rendered and painted red, tiled ground floor, roof not visible. Blocking course has Waterman’s Arms in large letters. Painted signboard at corner. Facade to Glenaffric Avenue, 3 storeys, 3 windows, those of 1st floor, French casements with labels, centre with triangular pediment. Cast iron balcony to each window. Above, band, sash windows (one blank) with glazing bars and architraves 1 storey portion at western side.
Facade to Saunders Ness Road similar but no blank on 2nd floor and continuous cast iron balcony on scrolled brackets to 1st floor windows.”
All of which does sum up the building accurately, if rather uninspiringly, but misses out a significant chunk of its modern history. The pub was the Newcastle Arms until it was bought by the writer and broadcaster, Daniel Farson, in the early 1960s. Not understanding that it had been named after the drawdock, he renamed it The Waterman’s Arms and turned it into a famous live music venue. Having lost vast amounts of money on the project he then sold it and moved to Devon. He did, however, write a fascinating book entitled Limehouse Days, all about his time at the pub and his life in the East End.
Just beyond the pub on Manchester Road lies Christ Church.
Built by William Cubitt in 1852, it is a grand example of good, solid Pugin-esque Gothic. The interior shows the how impressive this kind of building can be. And it has one of the great organ-lofts!
This grouping of drawdock, pub and church represents possibly the last example of the three bedrocks of the old Isle of Dogs – work, recreation and salvation.
Meanwhile back on Portwey…