8 April 2024

From Wapping warehouses to Silvertown streets, it's all about me!

I went for a wander around Wapping this weekend. Every time I revisit, I find something new to me whether repurposed warehouses, wonderful wharf walls, cobbled streets or interesting air bricks, such as the ones at the base of what is now the Dockers Inn gastro pub at the corner of Wapping Lane and Prusom Street. At first I thought these letters were JHB, but a friend has pointed out that the J is a T because this was built as a Truman, Hanbury and Buxton pub, originally called The White Swan [and Cuckoo]

As I wandered about, I kept crossing paths with a local man so we walked together and had a chat over a beer in at Wapping Docklands Market adjacent to Shadwell Basin. We discussed local points of historical interest and I said I'd try to find out a few things for him. This has led me to revisit the 1901 Port of London docklands map by Edward Stanford, available via The British Library's Old Maps Online, a map I always enjoy looking at because it shows how this area has changed. 

As I scrolled within the map and headed northwards to Commercial Road, I recalled that there was a road called Jane Street. I zoomed in – you'll see it at the centre under 'ME' of Commericial, which is quite apt:

But there's barely anything left of that street today; just a short stretch of cobbles next to the Lloyds Bank, which itself surely not long for this world either, considering how many walk-in branches have closed in recent years: 

It's all about me! And then I was reminded of some street names I had noticed when I was wandering around the Silvertown and North Woolwich area last year, many of which link to my family and personal history. Here's a close up of that area from the 1901 map:

Albert Road runs along the northern side of railway line, today the Docklands Light Railway. I spent my formative years in Albert Road, Romford, which branches off Victoria Rd. This in itself isn't much of a coincidence seeing as there are many streets named after Victoria and Albert all across the Commonwealth. The southern side of the tracks here is shown as Green Lane which also a fairly common street name (today renamed Factory Road). My dad's upholstery business was in Green Lane, Goodmayes. 

But now it gets personal... here is a googlemap of the area today – North of Albert Road, there is Newland Road, echoing my mother's family name. Today it meets Leonard Street which was her father's, my granddad's, Christian name – wow! 

A few streets to the east/left is Parker Street. Bizarrely, this is my surname from my father's side and, further west, as shown on the 1901 map, there was Amelia Street which is my middle name. Which means I have the full set of Jane Street, Amelia Street and Parker Street. Amelia Street has disappeared along with all her siblings (for I suspect these are names linked to the developer of this plot) but GradeII* listed St Mark's church is still standing lonely and forlorn adjacent to a trading estate and the DLR line.

The name Amelia intrigues me. It was my nanna's name (my father's mother), yet she never used it, preferring to be called Min. I can only think of Amelia Earhart, Henry Fielding's novel and Enid Blyton's Naughty Amelia Jane books. The name was barely used for many decades, indeed my junior school friends thought it was a made up name. Then a sudden revival about 20 years ago brought it back into favour, I know not why, and it sat at or near the top of the list of popular baby names for girls for a decade. 

As to why the name Amelia was not popular in the post-war years, I am sure I read somewhere that 'an Amelia' was a dismissive name applied to a dodgy sort of female. Perhaps it was associations Fielding's character or with Blyton's naughty little girl? I could understand the latter had Nanna been a teenager in 1939 when those books were first published, but she was a married adult with two children and another on the way by that time. It may be that there was a famous person by that name who did something bad and people did not want to be associated with her....? 

I'll leave it there. I think that's enough about me, for now!

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Thanks, Jane