200-year history of comms tech displaying in London

Two centuries worth of communications innovation will be
exhibited in a new permanent gallery at London’s Science Museum
from 25 October.

Information Age: Six Networks That Changed Our World 
will feature 800 objects in the Museum’s largest exhibition space,
covering The Cable, The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast, The
Constellation, The Cell and finally, The Web. A team of
conservators has been busily pulling these objects or recordings
(including the first BBC radio broadcast) out of archives. In one
case, that meant collecting and scanning 350 telegrams for

While there will be objects of a grander scale — like the
six-metre-high aerial inductance coil that once made up one of the
most powerful radio transmitters in the world, the Rugby Radio
— the exhibit zooms in to personal stories. In one
case, that meant a telegram conversation between a husband and wife
that took place in 1902 after the former had been awarded a Nobel

“The most surprising thing I learned from the telegram
collecting project was that about 100 years ago people used
telegrams as we do use Email today: to let people know if they will
be late, to order things, to make sure you get picked up from a
train etc,” said the Science Museum’s Maja Neske. “It’s amazing how
special and dear the telegrams are to the people who own them
today, be it that they wrote or received them or inherited them,
telegrams are a little treasure to the owners.”


India to close world's last state telegram service on 14 July

The exhibit will cover breakthrough moments in history with
items on show including the Apple Macintosh, unveiled on January 24
1984, and tales from the telephone exchange operators — or “hello
girls” — interwoven into the displays.

Former operator, Jean Singleton, told the Science Museum team:
“I wasn’t a good telephone operator, I was a naughty telephone
operator! Well, first of all, you had to have a nice speaking
voice, you couldn’t go there if you were a Cockney, speaking in a
Cockney way, or a Northern way, you had to speak the Queens
English, or Kings English as it was then [...] You had to be
polite, and the customer sort of was always right, more or less,
you know, you didn’t swear back at somebody if they swore at you,
you weren’t allowed to do that sort of thing.”

It’s these personal touches, brought to us through interactive
media in the new gallery, that will bring the vast scope of the
subject matter back down to a human level, exploring how these
technologies have impacted our lives. Whether users, operators or
inventors, it’s the voices of these individuals that will tie the
gallery together. 


London the most influential city in the world according to Forbes

“Inertia and smart use of it is a key theme that emerged in our
evaluation of the top global cities,” it said.

“No city better exemplifies this than London, which after more than a
century of imperial decline still ranks No. 1 in our survey.

“The United Kingdom may now be a second-rate power, but the City’s
unparalleled legacy as a global financial capital still underpins its

Forbes based its city rankings on eight factors, including the level of
foreign direct investment, the number of corporate headquarters, the amount
of business types it dominates, ease of air travel to other global cities,
the strength of financial services, technology and media power, and racial

Using those factors, Forbes found London and New York held a “hegemony”
over the rest of the world, standing far ahead of their nearest rivals,
Paris and Tokyo.

Rising stars were named as Singapore, currently in fifth place, Dubai in
seventh and San Francisco, which is in equal 10th.

Cities which could leap into the top 10 in future include Soul, currently
number 16, Abu Dhabi, now in 20th, and Sao Paulo in 23rd.

Despite being among the world’s most populous cities, in countries which are
seen as being on the cusp of an economic breakthrough, cities elsewhere in
the developing world are considered lacking in influence.

Forbes said: “The Indian megacities Delhi and Mumbai rank in the low 30s
along with Johannesburg in South Africa.

“Until these areas can develop adequate infrastructure – from roads,
transit and bridges to relatively non-corrupt judicial systems – none can be
expected to crack the top 10, or even 20, for at least a decade.

“For the time being, the future of the global city belongs not to the
biggest or fastest growing but the most efficient and savvy, and those with
a strong historical pedigree. This raises the bar for all cities that wish
to break into this elite club.”

The world’s top 10 most influential cities:

1. London
A history and tradition which cannot be rivalled have left London with all the
economic benefits of the City of London, and a language, judiciary and legal
system which are models for the rest of the world.

The super-rich have long been comfortable there, and its cultural, media and
advertising sectors are dominant.

Spared the regulation and red tape which ties up business in the US and
Europe, London’s time zones are manageable for business travellers commuting
east or west and it has the second best global air connections in the world
after Dubai.

London has the most start-up Internet firms in Europe and is host to 68 of the
world’s top 2,000 companies.

2. New York
Hard on the heels of London, New York only narrowly missed out to its British
rival in the Forbes list. The Big Apple is home to most of the world’s top
investment banks and hedge funds. Its stock market trade levels are 10 times
that of London and four times that of Tokyo. It is a global leader in media,
advertising and the music industry and dominates in the realms of fashion
and luxury. Visitors spend more money in New York than any city in the world
thanks, Forbes suggests, to its iconic landmarks.

3. Paris
A distant third, Paris claims its place only thanks to its domination of the
still-important French market with virtually all of the country’s home-grown
companies basing their headquarters there.

4. Singapore
The most influential city in Asia, Singapore has a population of just five
million but an infrastructure which is the envy of the world. With a
colonial legacy of British governance and law, it has been named as the best
place in the world to do business. As a result, it has the highest level of
foreign direct investment and is the top location for European companies
with an Asia-Pacific HQ.

5. Tokyo
Despite being the world’s largest city in terms of gross domestic product,
Tokyo has fallen behind Singapore as Asia’s most influential, according to
Forbes. Like Paris, the magazine said, it gains most of its ranking due to
its domination of its own domestic markets. But it will continue to suffer
thanks to an ageing population and declining birth rate, a lack of ethnic
diversity and stiff competition from regional rivals.

6. Hong Kong
More free than the rest of China, Hong Kong is the largest financial centre
in Asia and the third largest in the world. Most of the world’s banks, asset
managers and insurance companies have Asia-Pacific headquarters there.

7. Dubai
Dubai has put itself the centre of the world thanks to an airport which boasts
the largest terminal on the globe which makes it the most well-connected
city in terms of air travel.

Coupled with an environment described by Forbes as “business-friendly,”
it is the destination of choice for companies seeking a Middle East

It is also the most racially-diverse city on the list, with 83 per cent of
residents having been born elsewhere.

8. Beijing
As the capital of the emerging economic superpower that is China, Beijing is
growing importance all the time. As well as hosting the HQs of most of
China’s state-owned companies Forbes said it is “home to the country’s
elite educational institutions and its most innovative companies.”

= Sydney
Australia’s largest city is dominant in a country that has seen a
resources-fuelled boom in the last two decades.

10. San Francisco Bay Area
Has leapt from relatively obscurity to become hugely “necessary”
thanks largely to its domination of the tech field. Companies outside the
sector are now also seeing San Fran as the place to be, moving their
businesses there.

= Los Angeles
No longer the force it was when it sought to rival New York as America’s most
important city, LA’s position is just about secured thanks to Hollywood and
its domination of the entertainment industry. It remains the second-largest
city in the US, but it is losing influence in business terms, with several
major companies departing in recent years, and could soon trail its
neighbour San Francisco .

= Toronto
Gains its position as the economic capital of the rich and stable country that
is Canada. Nearly half of its population is foreign born.


Concerns Arise About Future of Important Warburg Art History Archive


The Warburg Institute (photo via Wikipedia)

One of London’s expansive resources of cultural and art history may face an uncertain future and is currently the center of controversy. Scholars and artists are rallying to save the Warburg Institute from its collection’s possible dispersal or its entire relocation overseas. The protests respond to legal proceedings taken last June by the University of London — the Institute’s trustee — to investigate the deed of trust it has held since 1944.

The Institute, whose archives focus on the Renaissance and has vast research material in the fields of philosophy, religion, science, history, and more, was originally an archive compiled by the German Jewish scholar Aby Warburg; smuggled out of Hamburg to London on a small steamer when Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, it was placed in the care of the University of London who signed the one-page, two-sided deed on November 28, 1944 in agreement with Eric Max Warburg (then a major of the US army), signing on behalf of his family. As specified in the deed through seemingly ironclad phrasing, the University is committed to “maintain and preserve the Warburg Library in perpetuity.”

Aby Warburg (photo via Wikipedia)

Aby Warburg (photo via Wikipedia)

Although the University claims it was merely seeking clarification from the High Court of the details of the trust, academics find the legal action suspect and are concerned that the University is challenging the terms of the wartime deed, which have remained unquestioned until now, according to a Guardian op-ed. The trial currently awaits judgment, expected to arrive in the fall.

A little over a month ago, Friends of the Warburg launched a petition asking the University “to withdraw their legal action and keep the Warburg Institute just as it is.” So far, the petition has received over 20,000 signatures, only a little over 4,000 short of its goal. Among its signees are art historian Martin Kemp, who argued for the library’s survival in an article published in Royal Acadamy.

“The cost of losing the Institute as presently constituted cannot be calculated in pounds. The international disgrace cannot be estimated in cash,” Kemp wrote. “The current exhibition in the library is devoted to ‘Laughter’. The only way for this not to be followed by weeping is for the University and all interested parties to promote the establishing of a long-term endowment that will prevent the greatest act of vandalism in Western academia of my lifetime.”

Alongside Kemp’s signature is support from British archaeologist Martin Kipple, Harvard professor Jeffrey Hamburger, and one user identified as “Wei Wei,” who wrote, “Warburg Institute, not only being one of the most important sources of humanist studies, is also an intellectual legacy of great value, a symbol of a memorable history. London University has the duty to protect its Integrity.” Various publications including the Guardian have identified the user as dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Concern for the library’s preservation also stems from the fact that the Institute has been reporting substantial financial woes: its recent annual reports illustrate deficits reaching over £400,000 (~$667,000), and Kemp noted that the Institute consumes 60% of the University’s annual grant.

According to the Guardianmembers of the Warburg family have expressed approval of the collection’s return to Germany or of its relocation to the US. This would also signal a loss of the library’s “open shelves” arrangement that increases the collection’s accessibility as well as its “distinguished staff of scholars and scholar-librarians,” mentioned by Professors Anthony Grafton and Jeffrey Hamburger in an article chronicling arguments between the Institute and the University over the collection’s maintenance that reach as far back as 2007.

The University, however, rejects the library’s absorption by another establishment: in a letter to Times Higher Education, University Dean and Chief Executive Roger Kain wrote:

The University of London has at no point recommended that the Warburg Institute’s unique collection be absorbed into Senate House Library (“Library saved from Nazis awaits its fate”, News, 19 June).

Under the university’s management over the past 70 years, the Warburg collection has grown substantially from the original 80,000 volumes to the 350,000 in the collection today. The last thing that the university wants is for this exceptional cultural resource to be merged or absorbed elsewhere.

The university is not seeking to challenge the validity of the 1944 deed of trust but is simply seeking guidance as to its meaning. The attorney general has indicated that a court hearing is his preferred course of action to clarify the deed, and the university respects this view.

In the meantime, the issue has inevitably bred jokes about the British education system, such as this nugget of a lede from Bloomberg:

A great cultural foundation that was saved from the Nazis is now under threat from a different, more insidious menace: the bureaucratic policies of modern British higher education.

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic newsletter!


Discover the beautiful history of Harrow next month

Discover a world of history and culture on your doorstep next month, as Harrow opens its doors to the most beautiful and inspiring buildings within the borough.

From Thursday, September 11 until Sunday, September 14, fascinating buildings will open their doors for free as a part of the annual Heritage Open Days celebration, giving you the chance to discover secrets and surprises that you never knew about where you lived.


It all starts on September 11, when you can visit the stunning Bentley Priory, famous for its pivotal role as Headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain of World War Two.

Other buildings such as Headstone Manor, Harrow School, and St Anselm’s Church will make this a few days that you will not forget with their rich historical value.

But it is not just all looking around museums and old buildings.

If a bit of the outdoors is what you are looking for, then Harrow Hill Trust will be holding a Heroes of the Hill walk on Sunday, September 14 from 2.30pm, meeting outside Blues Restaurant 86 High Street, Harrow on the Hill.

Alternatively take a stroll around Pinner with the Pinner Local History Society on the same day from 2pm, starting from the corner of Chapel Lane and Bridge Street.

Here is what you can see over the weekend, when, and where:

  1. Bentley Priory, Mansion House Drive, Stanmore, HA7 3FB
    Thursday, September 11
    Free tours at 10am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2pm
    Booking is essential, and can be done on 0208 950 5526
  2. St Anselm’s Church, Clifton Road, Stanmore HA7 2HU
    Saturday, September 13 from 1pm to 5pm and Sunday, September 14 from 8am to 1pm
    West House Pinner, West End Lane, Pinner, HA5 1AE
    Saturday, September 13
    11am to 4.30pm with last entries at 4pm
  3. Pinner House, Church Lane, Pinner, HA5 3AA
    Saturday, September 13
    10am to 4pm
  4. The Zoroastrian Centre for Europe, 440-442 Alexandra Avenue, Harrow, HA2 9TL
    Saturday, September 13
    11am to 5pm
  5. St George’s Church Headstone, Pinner View, Harrow, HA1 4RJ
    Saturday, September 13
    10am to 5pm
  6. St Lawrence’s Church, Little Stanmore, Whitchurch Lane, Edgware, London, HA8 6RB
    Saturday and Sunday September 13 and 14, both from 2pm to 5pm
  7. Harrow School, Church Hill, Harrow on the Hill, HA1 3HP
    Sunday, September 14
    Fourth Form Room: 2pm to 5pm
  8. The Old Speech Room Gallery: 2pm to 5pm
    St Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Harrow on the Hill, HA1 3HL
    Sunday, September 14
    2pm to 5.30pm
  9. Headstone Manor, Pinner View, Harrow, HA2 6PX
    All weekend Saturday and Sunday             

Harrow Council’s cabinet member for community, culture and resident engagement Sue Anderson (Labour) said: “We are lucky to have such rich history and heritage in the borough and we have some beautiful buildings which all have fascinating stories.

“The Heritage Open Days will give everyone an opportunity to explore and learn about the history of Harrow for free.”


When Sunday comes: Fulham and Millwall make history

It was a landmark day for football when Millwall and Fulham met on January 20, 1974.

The two London clubs will go head to head on Saturday in the Championship in what will be their first meeting since 1999.

But some 40 years ago the pair met for an historic clash at The Den, which would go on to change the face of football forever.

For it was the first time that a league match was played on a Sunday – something as common these days as enjoying a roast dinner.

The introduction of Sky in the 1990s means settling down to a watch a game on a Sunday is almost second nature, particularly for the younger generation.

But back in 1974 it was a different story.

Britain was in the grip of an energy crisis caused by Arab OPEC members refusing to provide oil to western nations who had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

At the beginning of 1974 the miners went on strike which exacerbated the situation even further.

With clubs looking to save on energy by not using floodlights, the call came forward for Sunday games to be played.


Part of history: Fans queue outside The Den for the game


So step forward Millwall and Fulham who kicked off at 11.30am, one of three Second Division matches played that day.

Brian Clarke scored the only goal of the game as the Lions won 1-0 against a Whites team which featured the likes of Barry Lloyd, Les Barrett, Alan Mullery, John Mitchell and Alan Slough – all of whom would go on to play in the Cottagers’ only ever FA Cup final appearance, against West Ham, a little over a year later.

As well as the energy crisis, there was an added problem. Law at that time prevented tickets being sold for a game on Sunday so admission was technically free.

Clubs got round this by making people buy a programme which got them entry into the ground.

And that was that – Sunday league football was born.

A week later the first Division One match was played on a Sunday with Chelsea meeting Stoke.

As for the rest of that 1973-74 season, Fulham went on to finish 13th in the table, one place behind the Lions.

Do you remember the game? Were you there? Tweet us @FulhamFcNews, email or comment below.



London’s National Gallery Surrenders to Selfies

London’s National Gallery has raised its white flag. The U.K.-based gallery known for its strict policy banning photography has changed its rules for the first time, allowing visitors to take photographs of the collection.

The decision came after staff realized it was impossible to stop guests from using mobile phones. It was partly the gallery’s own fault—it has free WiFi, and encourages visitors to research paintings on their phones. But staff quickly discovered they could not differentiate between those doing honest research and those snapping photos of the Van Goghs and Monets. 

The new policy was quietly introduced at the end of July, and art-lovers slowly noticed the change. Only when the Art History News blog published a letter from a reader on the policy did the gallery release the following statement:

As the use of Wi-Fi will significantly increase the use of tablets and mobile devices within the Gallery, it will become increasingly difficult for our Gallery Assistants to be able to distinguish between devices being used for engagement with the Collection, or those being used for photography.

It is for that reason we have decided to change our policy on photography within the main collection galleries and allow it by members of the public for personal, non-commercial purposes—provided that they respect the wishes of visitors and do not hinder the pleasure of others by obstructing their views of the paintings. This is very much in line with policies in other UK museums and galleries.

Many traditional art lovers are not happy with the relaxed policy. “I have to say, a bit of my soul died each time someone photographed a piece or even worse, took a selfie without actually looking at it with their own two eyes,” read the aforementioned Art History News letter.

Michael Savage, author of the Grumpy Art Historian blog, echoed the sentiment. “The last bastion of quiet contemplation is now to become selfie central, where noisy clicking smartphones and intense flashlights will prevail over any ‘eccentrics’ who want actually to look at art,” he wrote. “The gallery used to be a haven where looking at pictures was prioritised. Now it will all be about taking your own pictures.”

Selfies have certainly populated Instagrams taken at the gallery. Exhibit A, a couple posing in front of a Van Gogh:

Exhibit B, a lone guest posing in front of the same Van Gogh:

Yet, most photos appear to be stills of the paintings themselves. A photo from Wednesday morning taken by an Instagram user focused only on the Monet being admired:

Another, again of the popular Van Gogh, showed the swarm of guests gazing at the painting…

…while one took in the view of an entire hall:

Sure, it’s impossible to get a sense through these Instagrams of what it’s like to be surrounded by people taking photos of paintings instead of looking at them, but such photos are harmless, Bendor Grosvenor, an editor of Art History News, told The London Evening Standard.

“Much of the criticism seems to assume that galleries will now be bombarded with flash and ‘selfies,’” he said, “but these are public galleries, and the taxpayer who has shelled out to support them has a right to enjoy them however they please.”


Is Hamlet the fastest-selling London play in history?

Tickets finally went on general public sale (after priority booking for Barbican members) on August 12 for a new production of Hamlet that will play at the Barbican a full year away.

By 11.49am (BST) one tweeter reckoned the online queue stretched to over 27,500 hopefuls, while a colleague from the US found himself staring at the back of over 30,000 virtual heads a couple of hours later.

A report in the Evening Standard immediately dubbed it “the fastest-selling ticket in London theatre history with advance seats selling out in minutes almost a year before the curtain rises”. I’m not so sure that claim of selling out “in minutes” stands up if the Barbican still had people in their online queue several hours later – why wasn’t the queue dismissed in that case?

But a more worrying part of the story is the fact that a spokesperson for Viagogo also jumps in on the bandwagon, telling the Standard: “Cumberbatch’s Hamlet has stolen the title of the most in-demand theatre show of all time, with ticket searches going through the roof.”

They reported that these exceeded those for Beyonce and Jay Z’s On the Run tour. And presumably in shorter supply, too: the resale site currently has none available and in any case warns them: “Buyers of tickets for this event will be accompanied into the venue by the seller. Sellers of tickets for this event please note that you will be required to accompany the buyer into the venue.”

That’s because of the protocol put in place by the Barbican to deter resellers: photo IDs of the lead bookers will be checked at the venue. (This should create an interesting front-of-house dilemma to get the show up on time.)

It is of course not Hamlet that has sold out in advance, but Benedict Cumberbatch

But as much as I’m thrilled by this sudden interest in a live theatre event, and a Shakespeare one at that, it is of course not Hamlet that has sold out in advance, but Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. The rest of the production hasn’t even been cast yet, and is a long way from being rehearsed.

Here is good old-fashioned star power in action. But who knew that Cumberbatch had indeed become such a big star? Pardon my naivety, but having observed him come through the ranks in plays at the Royal Court like The City and Rhinoceros, at the Almeida in The Lady from the Sea and Hedda Gabler, and at the National in After the Dance and Frankenstein (pictured), I’d not realised how high his star has risen beyond the stage.

That’s a common problem for me living in my theatre bubble: I often don’t spot how big people become beyond it. I was a little surprised when I heard that Martin Freeman was headlining Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios – was he a big enough star to warrant it? It took a friend to tell me that he was now one of the biggest stars of television and film.

Read more Mark Shenton columns from The Stage


Silent Sandy key character of London Hunt history

With the C.P. Women’s Open set to tee off at London Hunt and Country Club August 18-24, the world once again focuses on the Forest City and our golf heritage, which rivals that of any other Canadian city.

When you look closely at the history of London Hunt, one name continues to rise to the surface: London’s own C. Ross (Sandy) Somerville.

The great Bobby Jones once said of Somerville, “If there is anything connected with golf which he cannot do well, I do not know what it is.” Jones invited Somerville to the first Masters Tournament in 1934, and the Londoner recorded the tournament’s first hole-in-one.

Somerville earned the nickname “Silent Sandy” while competing at the 1933 British Amateur, thanks to his quiet, business-like approach to the game of golf. His play spoke volumes, though – especially during his victory at the U.S. Amateur event which was then considered one of golf’s Major tournaments.

Somerville dominated the Canadian Amateur golf ranks in the 1920s and ‘30s, with six titles (1926, ’28, ’30-’31, ’35, ’37), and four runner-up finishes (1924-25, ’34 and ’38). But his win at the 1932 U.S. Amateur tournament (he was the first Canadian to win the event) not only gave him international recognition, but also put London on the golf map.

Born in London in 1903, Somerville was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1971, and the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame in 2000. He died in 1991 at age 88.

A member of London Hunt for more than 70 years, Somerville was an all-around athletic star. A member of the Canadian Amateur Athletic Hall of Fame, the University of Toronto Hall of Fame and the London Sports Hall of Fame, Somerville also claimed four Ontario Amateur golf titles, and two Canadian Senior titles.

Off the links, “Silent Sandy” turned down offers from both the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto Maple Leafs. But following graduation from U. of T., he decided upon golf, and in 1950 was named Canadian Golfer of the Half-Century in a Golf Canada poll. He served as the association’s president in 1957 – the post now held by London’s Doug Alexander.

London’s George “Mooney” Gibson was voted the Canada’s Baseball Player of the Half-Century 1900-1950, giving London bragging rights on the diamond and the golf course.

With apologies to Canada’s 2003 Masters champion, Somerville was the Mike Weir of his day. In fact, London lawyer David Nash, son of another Canadian golf legend – Jack Nash – once quipped of Somerville’s golf skills that he “was the Tiger Woods of his time. When Sandy won the U.S. Amateur, it was a Major.”

Another famous London HCC member, super senior Ed Ervasti, said of his friend Somerville, “He was such a marvellous gentleman. You don’t see gentlemen golfers like him today. And that’s what made it so nice playing with him, he always observed the rules and etiquette of the game.”

Weir is certainly Canada’s greatest golfer of all. You can make the argument for George Knudson, too. Moe Norman was an incredible ball striker.

One this is for certain: no one’s game spoke louder than that of “Silent Sandy” – a key character in the history of London Hunt and Country Club, once again showcasing London’s golf heritage to the world.



Royal Docks’ rich history to be brought to life with education pack

Early trials of container cargoes at No.4 berth, Royal Victoria Dock in 1964 Picture: PLA Collection/Museum of London

Kay Atwal, Chief Reporter
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10:52 AM

London has been the centre of trade and commerce since its foundation by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.

RMS Rangitiki is seen berthed at Number 29 Shed, Royal Albert Dock, circa.1955 Picture:PLA/Musuem of London

They chose the site, where the River Thames narrows, as a suitable crossing point for their armies. Soon the river became a vital part of the development of the city as a port.

Now, when children who live and study in the area around the Royal Docks (and further afield) return to school after their summer holidays, they will be learning about both the ancient and the more recent history of the Royal Docks,

They will be using an education pack called Your Royal Docks that has been specially designed for the Key Stage 2 part of the curriculum with the aim of bringing the area’s rich history to life.

The pack has been developed by the Museum of London Docklands in partnership with London City Airport and features cross-curricular links with geography, art, design and technology. Teachers will also be able to cover literacy, numeracy and ICT through some of the activities.

The staves of a hogshead of tobacco being removed before it is weighed at the Royal Victoria Dock, the heart of the Port’s tobacco trade in 1930 Picture: PLA/Museum of London

In addition to photographs, the pack also includes a timeline. It charts the history of the Royal Docks from 1855 when Royal Victoria Dock was built by the London and St Katharine Dock Company. It was for vessels that were too large to use the upriver docks near the Tower of London. The timeline goes right up to the present, as the Silvertown Partnership announces plans to regenerate Silvertown Quays into a waterfront destination with global brands and a residential zone.

As well as background on the development of the area there are suggestions for pupils to learn more about its history.

Kirsty Sullivan, from the ­Museum of London Docklands, said: “I think the history of the Royal Docks is a key part of the new development and focuses people’s minds on the area as an important part of east London, as well as helping people understand why it is still so important to London’s economy even though the commercial docks have closed.

“The Royal Docks are the last great opportunity for ­inner London regeneration; we know this massive area is ripe for ­redevelopment.

Royal Docks historian Kirsty Sullivan at the museum of London, Docklands

“It is the last great space in east London that is open enough to become as regenerated as ­Canary Wharf or Stratford – it’s the gateway to the River [Thames] and from there to the rest of the world.

“It can be a place for Asian businesses to establish key ­import and export bases, and the proposed new housing will be a forerunner in the drive ­towards sustainable cities, especially with the development of the super sewer along the river and improvements in local ­waterways like the Lea. Thinking about the environment is key to what will be happening in London in the future.

“In the post war years, regeneration meant total destruction and building skywards rather than focusing on traditional communities, and these ­experiments in modern building weren’t always a success… and a lot of the past was lost.

“People are a lot more sensitive to the past now so the original character of the area is being included as part of the ­redevelopment – for example, we have the ExCeL centre which is very modern but the cranes are still there alongside it. The Millennium Mills are still there and the beautiful old warehousing is a feature of the destination with bars and restaurants.

Damage caused by a V1 rocket which hit Royal Victoria Dock in 1944 Picture: PLA/Museum of London

“The past has been assimilated into the present incarnation of the Royals and, quite rightly, there is a recognition that the history and development of this part of east London has come out of the Docks.”

The Docks opened in the mid-19th century and the population of east London boomed.

Sailors came from Australia, India, Africa and Canada – from all over the British Empire, crewing ships into what was known as the ‘warehouse of the world’.

East London as we know it today did not develop until the Docks were built.

Mrs Sullivan added: “On the Isle of Dogs and where the Royal Docks are now there was nothing but marshes.

“There was a single man, George P Bidder who built a railway – people called it Bidder’s Folly! People thought he was mad to build the railway in a marsh but he bought up the land around it and made his profits selling it to people like Tate Lyle and the London and St Katharine Dock company.

“The sailors from Pakistan and India formed part of the large population in the mid-1800s and they settled in the Docks, marrying local women in the early days and spreading through the area – the Docks are the reason the area is so diverse, as it was an entry post for people from all over the world. There was also a huge Irish community working on the canals and the railways when they were being built, then they worked on the building of the Docks and finally became dockers.

“As someone who is involved with the past, present and future of the area, I think it is incredibly important that schools and local communities are taught how their population has developed.”