Hackney Wick (1)

Waterden Rd, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32z-65_2400

Thinking about the New Year – or about the past one – simply makes me feel angry and depressed, and though I started to write something I couldn’t finish it. There is plenty of stuff already on the web and in print about it. So I decided to continue writing and posting pictures about my project from the 1980s on the Lea Valley. And so to Hackney Wick.

Eastway/Waterden Rd, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32z-66_2400

Not that Hackney Wick presented an encouraging face back in 1982. It had been an important industrial area in previous years, but now industry was in terminal decline, with Thatcher abandoning the idea of manufacturing in favour of services, accelerating its decay, driving to a post-industrial future.

Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32k-31_2400

There was a bleakness too in the Greater London Council’s Trowbridge Estate, with its seven 21 storey blocks completed between 1965 and 1969. It provided much-needed housing but by the 1980s was showing evidence of neglect, but there was still considerable local opposition to the series of demolitions which began in 1985 three years after I took this picture in 1982. By 1987 three blocks had been demolished, and they were all gone by 1996, with some spectacular pictures and video being taken of some of them being blown up – not always very effectively.

Hackney Stadium, Waterden Rd, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32z-52_2400

Hackney Greyhound Stadium only finally closed in 1997, but was struggling for some years. Going to the dogs had gone out of fashion. It had begun in the UK in the late 1920s, an import from the USA where it had started in California in 1919, and its heyday was in the 1930s, with the Hackney Wick Stadium having its first race meeting on April 8th 1932. Later the stadium was also used for Speedway and Midget Car racing. I never went to Hackney Stadium and my only visit to dog racing was by mistake at Wimbledon Stadium around 1960 where I went on several occasions with a friend who was a speedway fan, and one week he got the dates mixed. I didn’t enjoy it.

BRONCO, British Patent Perforated Paper Co, Atlas Works, Berkshire Road, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1982 32k-46_2400

Among the many products which previous generations relied on Hackney Wick for was toilet paper, which for many years was made at the Atlas Works by the British Patent Perforated Company, better known as Bronco. We now live in softer times and their less porous and more hygenic product went out of favour. This was first patented in the USA in 1870, but Hackney Wick can claim to be the source of many inventions.

Wallis Rd, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1983 36n-44_2400

Before Bronco, the Atlas Works were home to dyestuffs company Brooke Simpson Spiller who had taken over the company set up by the founder of the synthetic dyestuff industry William Henry Perkin. There they employed several of the leading organic chemists of the late 19th century who developed a number of new dyes. My own very brief and much less illustrious career as an industrial chemist also began (and very soon ended) in dyestuffs, but at a west London company – and the lab there was still using some samples signed on the bottle by Perkin himself.

Queens Yard, Whitepost Lane, Hackney Wick, Tower Hamlets, 1992 92-8d26_2400

It was in Hackney Wick that the first synthetic plastic, Parkesine was manufactured, and where oil distillers Carless, Capel & Leonard marketed the first product to be given the name Petrol, and also where dry-cleaning came to the UK thanks to Achille Serre. But the largest and best-known of the Wick’s industries was Clarnico (until 1946 Clarke, Nickolls,Coombs until 1946) who opened a jam factory here in 1879 and went on to produce many well-known sweets – a total of over 700 varieties – in what became the largest sugar confectionary factory in Britain, but closed in 1973. You can read about it at the Wick Curiousity Shop site, which also has a photograph of me and a few from my web site.

Kings Yard, Carpenters Road, Hackney Wick, Hackney, 1992 92-8d15_2400

Other products from the Wick you may have eaten include Fray Bentos pies, produced here by a part of the huge Vestey meat company from 1958. The pie business was sold on to Brooke Bond, acquired by Unilever and finally sold to Campbell’s Soup in 1993, when they promptly moved production away from Hackney.

More from Hackney Wick in another post.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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