Michael Faraday and Trinity Buoy Wharf
Did you know that the first ever practical use for power was developed in East London? Professor Frank James explains how.
Scientist Michael Faraday spent three decades as scientific advisor for the Corporation of Trinity House – the authority for lighthouses in England and Wales – during the mid-nineteenth century. It was at their depot at Trinity Buoy Wharf that he carried out pioneering tests on the electrification of lighthouses and on the use of Fresnel lenses, the former the first time that power had been used for a practical purpose.
Trinity Buoy Wharf: Then and Now
Since 1998 Trinity Buoy Wharf has become a centre for arts and culture in East London under the leadership of Urban Space Management. However, the site’s history goes back much further.
While today Trinity Buoy Wharf is filled with artists and other creative organisations, from 1803 until 1988 it was home to the Corporation of Trinity House – the authority for lighthouses in England and Wales. They were the ones who built many of the buildings that Urban Space Management have now repurposed for the arts. Find out about what they were used for and why they were built in this short film incorporating archive material dating back to Victorian times.
What is an American Diner – built in Massachusetts, USA in the 1950s – doing sat on the river Thames? Join John and Les to find out more.
Fatboy’s Diner, originally known as Georgetown Diner, has been at Trinity Buoy Wharf since 2003. However, its history goes back much further. Built in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1956, the diner found its home in nearby Georgetown where it was eventually renamed Randy’s Roast Beef, where it specialised in sandwiches and pizza. It was restored in the late 1980s before being brought to London in the 1990s to be part of a chain of diners. Eventually it found its way to Trinity Buoy Wharf. Find out how this happened and what the diner is like today in this short film.
The Ship Maker’s Hands
What is the legacy of the shipbuilding industry once so prominent in East London? Local poet Dauda Ladejobi wrote and performed a reflection on this history entitled ‘The Ship Maker’s Hands’.
This film was created on board the SS Robin, the oldest remaining fully intact steamship from the Victorian-era, launched in 1890 at Bow Creek by the Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Company.
Builders of some of the biggest warships the world had ever seen, the firm and its predecessors were one of the biggest employers around Bow Creek from 1838 until 1912. Their ships were vital to empires and navies across the world, but particularly to the British Empire and the Royal Navy. The firm also contributed to the building of structures including bridges and buildings and also built smaller commercial vessels such as the Robin.
As well as the Thames Ironworks, dozens of other firms were based nearby, having a huge impact on the development of the area and the local community. In his poem, Dauda reflects on this history, which linked a small patch of East London to the rest of the world.
Mudlarking at Trinity Buoy Wharf
Join mudlarker Nicola White on the foreshore at Trinity Buoy Wharf to learn the history of the area through found objects washed up by the Thames.
Trinity Buoy Wharf was set up by the Corporation of Trinity House as a depot for storing and testing chains and buoys in 1804. Lighthouse technology was tested and lighthouse keepers trained here. The East India Docks opened in 1806, with industries and eventually a community of people arriving in their wake. In this short film Nicola will explore the area’s relationship with scientific innovation, the manufacture of plate glass and Victorian London’s criminal underworld.
London’s Lost Village
A film made in collaboration with students at the Prince’s Foundation Diploma Year following several workshops in 2022 and 2023, using animation and charcoal to tell the tale of Orchard Place: London’s Lost Village.
The area began to develop significantly in the early nineteenth century following the building of the East India Docks in 1806 and the subsequent arrival of a variety of different industries. Around 100 terraced houses were also built. The community that grew there, surrounded by water on all sides, became cut off except for one long and lonely road. Unheard of even to some who lived nearby at Poplar, upon its eventual depopulation in 1936 the area was dubbed ‘London’s Lost Village’.
Students at the Prince’s Foundation learned of this history from the factories and docks to the people who worked in and lived alongside them. They then interpreted different elements of the area’s story using charcoal and stop-motion animation to create this film.
This was film was produced by Thames Festival Trust and edited by Josh Bilton at the Prince’s Foundation, with a voiceover performed by Yvonne D’Alpra. It was made with support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust.
Britain’s Invisible Empire
Join Dr. Georgie Wemyss on a walk around the former site of the East India Docks, to look at how the area’s connections with Britain’s imperial past are often invisible in the present day.
The East India Docks were completed in 1806, built by the East India Dock Company and supported by the East India Company who had begun the process of colonising land and people in east, south and south-east Asia centuries before. The docks were built to protect the profits of increased trade as a result of the company’s strengthening colonial grip. The company eventually demised, and their profits came more directly into the hands of the British Crown, with the East India Docks continuing to be used for trade up until 1967.
While the fact that the docks were once located here is referenced in a couple of places, there is virtually zero recognition of their ties to imperialism, and the profits that were made here off the back of the repression of millions of people across the globe.
These films were produced by Thames Festival Trust and filmed and edited by Fotis Begklis. They were made with support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Trinity Buoy Wharf Trust and the Royal Docks Team.
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