Posts Tagged ‘slave trade’

West India – North Dock 1988

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

The Ledger Building,  Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52-positive_2400
The Ledger Building, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52

The Offices of the West India Docks an Hertsmere Rd at the west corner of what was the Import Dock of the West India Docks and were Grade I listed in 1950 together with the adjoining warehouses. They were built in 1803 , architect George Gwilt and converted to hold the dock ledgers by John Rennie, who added the portico in 1827.

In 2000 it was converted into a Wetherspoon pub, the Ledger Office and can be visited during normal opening hours and displays some information about the history of the docks which can be read while drinking a cheap pint.

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53

These listed warehouses are now converted for various uses including the Museum of London Docklands which has both permanent and temporary displays on the history of the River Thames, the growth of Port of London and the docks historical link to the Atlantic slave trade, in which this building, a sugar warehouse, played an important role. Temporary exhibitions there have included some of my pictures including in the show ‘Estuary‘ celebrating the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2013

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55

The area has been opened up by the removal of the dockside sheds and is now a popular tourist venue, though it has lost most of its previous allure. But it’s still an interesting area, both for the old and the new buildings.

Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44-positive_2400
Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44

Two dockside cranes remain on the side of the dock, close to West India Quay DLR station, perhaps left there to divert attention from a rather hideous hotel building to their north.

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400

This picture taken I think from more or less underneath the DLR which goes across the North (Import) Dock gives some impression of the scale of the West India Docks , which I think when constructed in 1800-1806 were I think the largest enclosed high-security docks in the world – and a model for later docks elsewhere.

This dock now looks considerably smaller, with around half of its width taken up by a strange building on top of a new Crossrail station, looking to me rather like a woodlouse. Nothing in this picture remains except the listed dock wall at bottom left (and possibly the bollard on it.)

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400

I think this bridge, built from what looks suspiciously like Meccano, was the Great Wharf Road Bridge, later replaced by what was intended as a more permanent structure as the Upper Bank Street Bridge. I can find no information about it on-line, but it appears to have a central lifting section with heavy counterweights in those four towers. That more permanent bridge was removed for the construction of the Crossrail station in 2012 and a new, much shorter bridge was built in five sections in Belgium by Hollandia and welded together in situ in, opening in 2020.

Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32-positive_2400
Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32

It was time to leave Docklands for home, and together with my two young assistants we got on the DLR, sitting right at the front of the train. This view from the front window as the train had just left Poplar Station and about to cross Aspen Way shows dockland cranes at left and St Anne’s Limehouse at right. Then DLR trains were single two-carriage units like the Stratford service in this picture.

This is the final part of posts here about my pictures from my walk around the docks on the Isle of Dogs in June 1988.

Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the album. The pictures there are largely ordered by my negative reference numbers, which do not in detail reflect the order in which the pictures were taken used in the posts here.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.

Afrikan Emancipation Day Call for Reparations

Sunday, August 1st, 2021


Seven years ago on August 1st 2014, the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, I photographed Rastafarians meeting in Windrush Square for speeches and ceremonies before a march to Parliament demanding reparations for the descendants of those taken from Africa by the Atlantic Slave Trade.


August 1 was chosen as the founding date for the UNIA and for the Madison Square meeting and this protest as it was the 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire.


Since then, similar events have taken place each year in Brixton each Afrikan Emancipation Day – August 1st – with the event growing in support each year. Last year the organisers changed the format of the event, as the supporters of the event felt it was having little impact and their demand to the UK Government to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice (APPCITARJ) and to commit to holistic reparations taking into consideration various proposals for reparations in accordance with the United Nations Framework on a Right to a Remedy and Reparation was being ignored.


The decided to hold a series of events in Brixton, blocking local roads to do so, an Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations Rebellion Groundings event. This gained far more attention in the media and the Stop The Maangamizi Campaign and the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March Committee have decided to hold a similar rebellion on Sunday 1st August 2021.


With some help from Extinction Rebellion who have supported previous events they intend to lock-down Brixton Road for the day, and to establish a series of ‘Grounding spaces’ for public action and learning on various aspects of the struggle under the general theme of ‘Uniting to Stop the Maangamizi for Our Very Survival: Planet Repairs Now’.


Maangammizi is a Swahili word annihilation, used to describe the genocide and ecocide which has taken place over centuries and is still causing huge damage across the planet. Climate change disproportionately effects Africa and the Global South.


The UK Government continues to turn a deaf ear to the demand for reparations, writing in response to a petition in 2018 “we do not believe reparations are the answer” and that they “should focus on challenges that face our countries in the 21st century” rather than historic events such as the Transatlantic slave trade. Unfortunately it hasn’t been doing well on those challenges as a recent deliberately misleading report on racial disparity and our current rise in average temperatures demonstrate.

More at:
Rastafari demand reparations for slave trade
Afrikans demand reparations

Afrikans demand reparations

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Time for a little more colour on >Re:PHOTO, and looking back to warmer and sunnier weather at the start of August last year.

The Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March has been an annual event in London since 2014, which was the centenary of the foundation by Marcus Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. Garvey had spent the previous two years working as a journalist and studying in London and founded the UNIA as as a means of uniting all of Africa and its diaspora into “one grand racial hierarchy.” The organisers of that first march intended it as a one-off event, but others took over insisting it should be annual. This was the first time I’d managed to cover it since 2014.

Garvey chose the date as 1 August 1834 was Emancipation day, following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, when slavery was ended in the British Empire. Claims for reparations for descendants of those enslaved by the Atlantic Slave Trade came to the fore in 1999 when the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission called for a payment of $777 trillion to Africa within 5 years, and in 2004 a case was brought and lost against Lloyds of London and Jamaican Rastafarians made a claim for £72,5bn for Europe to resettle of 500,000 Jamaicans back in Africa which was rejected. Other claims have been lodged on behalf of Guyana, Antigua, Barbuda and Barbados.

I felt a little apprehensive at photographing this event, and just a few people have shown a little hostility towards me, though many more have been welcoming. Anyone who has grown up white in the UK has obviously benefited from the historic proceeds of slavery (as so do those of any other origin living here) but I’m fairly sure that my ancestors were not among those carrying out and profiting from the trade. They will have been being exploited by that same class that was enslaving Africans; some thrown off their lands by the Highland Clearances to make way for sheep. Others will I think have been at the heart of the emancipation movement. They will have received nothing of the huge financial compensation that was paid to the enslaving class, which created a debt which members of the British public were paying off through taxation until 2015.

This year the march was divided into 9 blocs, although in practice there was a great deal of overlap. One of these was the Ubuntu – Non-Afrikan Allies Bloc which included Extinction Rebellion XR Connecting Communities.

While I think there is a firm moral case for reparations, I think the demands are unlikely to impress European or American governments, certainly not on the scale being claimed. And I wonder if the demand actually deflects from a more important need for decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean as well as other areas of the majority world, reclaiming national assets from the various multi-nationals that are now continuing the exploitation of the continent.

I left the march as it made its way through Brixton towards Parliament where there was to be another protest rally in Parliament Square.

Afrikans demand reparations

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