Friday, May 29, 2020

London's Victorian Industry

I am fascinated by maps which provide a snapshot of my local neighborhood during different periods of history. Today I've been poring over an interactive map which shows London's industrial buildings at the end of the Nineteenth Century.

Up until the Dissolution of the Monasteries my neighborhood was encompassed within the grounds of an abbey. After the Dissolution not a lot changed locally for the next four hundred years. After the abbey was destroyed in the early 1500's the area remained very rural with a tiny population for a very long time. Then, in the late 18th century, a nearby river was canalised. This attracted industry and residential development. In the 1850's a railway line was built through the neighborhood and a train station was opened. And that was it. Within a few years of the railway opening the area was completely urbanized.

A signpost which now stands near where the gatehouse to the Stratford Langthorne Abbey once stood.

Because of my neighborhood's closeness to the Lee Navigation system and the railway during Victorian times there was a lot of local industry. This can be seen on the London Industry 1893-1895 interactive map. This map uses data taken from vintage Ordnance Survey maps of London to identify industrial buildings during the Victorian period.

The Leather Gardens Estate, built in the 1960's on the site of the Leather Cloth Works.

Nearly all the industrial sites shown on the map have long since disappeared. Around my area the map shows a cluster of chemical and leather works. All of which have now closed. The last of these local industries to go was the Leather Cloth Works, which survived the heavy bombing in the area during World War II, only to go out of business in the 1960's. The huge factory of the leather works was quickly demolished and the Leather Gardens Estate now consists of two ugly 1960's tower blocks and low level housing.

Three Mills at Bow

The London Industry Interactive map also shows that a number of mills seemed to be flourishing in my neighborhood in the 1890's. The only surviving mills in the area now are the ones at Three Mills. The present mills at Three Mills date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However there have been mills on this site since the 13th century when the mills belonged to Stratford Longthorne Abbey.

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