Cabot-Square

Couple on seat, Cabot Square, Canary Wharf. The much wondered at (who are the couple?; why do their heads have such odd shapes?) bronze sculpture is by Lynn Chadwick (2000).

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No, Canary Wharf is not so named because it was the centre of London’s lucrative trade in canaries.

Canary-WharfRather it received its name from the fact that it was at a quay here that ships from the Spanish Canary Islands and the Mediterranean landed laden with cargos of fruit.

The wharf, part of the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, was built in 1936 by Fruit Lines Limited and a warehouse the following year.

The area where the wharf was once located was redeveloped under a massive regeneration project starting in the late 1980s and is now one of London’s key financial districts, filled with modern, multi-storey office towers and home to the second-tallest tower in the UK, One Canada Square (seen above with the pyramid-shaped roof).

This Docklands pub – the site of which has hosted a public house for more than 250 years – is located in an area where iron foundries were once employed to produce cannons for the Royal Navy’s many ships of the line.

The-GunBut according to the pub’s website (and a plaque outside the building), the name comes from something much more specific – the cannon which was fired at celebrations surrounding the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802.

And that’s not only historical link this Grade II-listed pub (seen here from the Thames) has with the navy. Heroic naval figure Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who lived just up the road and was a frequent visitor to the docks, was apparently a regular at the pub where he was secretly meet with his mistress Lady Emma Hamilton (the room they met in is now called The River Room).

There’s also a history of smugglers operating out of the pub and a still present spyhole is said to have been used to watch for revenue officers.

In 2001 much of the interior of the pub was destroyed in a fire. It remained closed for three years before brothers Tom and Ed Martin bought the building and undertook a painstaking restoration in consultation with English Heritage, reopening the building’s doors in 2004.

As well as its historical associations, The Gun now boasts a couple of bars and dining rooms and  riverside terrace. During summer, the pub also opens a second terrace area under a Portuguese barbeque theme – A Grelha at the Gun.

For more on The Gun (located at 27 Coldharbour in the Docklands), see www.thegundocklands.com.

Now the UK’s largest inland fish market (and located in Poplar, east London), the history of Billingsgate Market goes back centuries.

Known originally by various spellings including Blynesgate and Byllynsgate, Billingsgate may have been named for watergate on the north bank of the Thames near where the market was originally established (an alternate theory is that it was named for a man named Biling or an mythological British king, Belin).

The right to collect tolls and customs at Billingsgate, along with Cheap and Smithfield, was granted by King Henry IV in 1400.

Billingsgate only became particularly associated with fish in the 1500s and in 1699, an Act of Parliament was passed making it “a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever” (this was with the exception of eels, restricted to being sold by Dutchmen from boats in the river – a reward for the help they provided after the Great Fire of 1666).

While for much of the market’s history, fish was sold for stalls and sheds around the ‘hythe’ or dock at the site known as Billingsgate, in 1850 the first purpose-built market building was constructed in Lower Thames Street.

Deemed inadequate for the task at hand, however, it was demolished after slightly more than 20 years of service. A new building, designed by then City Architect Sir Horace Jones and constructed by John Mowlem, was opened in on the same site in 1876. In the late 19th century, it is said to have been the largest fish market in the world. The heritage listed former fish market building in Lower Thames Street (pictured above) is now used as a venue for corporate events, catwalk shows, post premiere parties and concerts (see the website for more www.oldbillingsgate.co.uk).

In 1982, the market was relocated to a 13 acre site on the Isle of Dogs, just to the north-east of Canary Wharf. The building contains a trading floor with some 98 stands and 30 shops as well as an 800 tonne freezer store. An average of 25,000 tonnes of fish and fish products are sold through its merchants every year and the market has an annual turnover of around £200 million.

The role of the fish porter – who traditionally have been the only people licensed to move fish around the market – was opened up to anyone following a fiercely fought battle between the porters, traders and the City of London Corporation earlier this year.

The market is open to the general public and tours can be arranged – head to the website for details.

WHERE: Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, Poplar (nearest Tube Station is Canary Wharf); WHEN: 4am to 9.30am Tuesday to Saturday (children under 12 are not permitted on the market floor and non-slip shoes are advisable); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/wholesale-food-markets/billingsgate/Pages/default.aspx.

 

 

Skyline of Canary Wharf, Docklands, east London. Taken from a ferry on the Thames. Canary Wharf is one of the city’s main financial districts and is centred around One Canada Square (pictured with the pyramidal top), formerly the tallest building in the UK (it has been surpassed by The Shard).

Now one of the world’s largest long distance running events, the first London Marathon was held on 29th March, 1981, and saw some 6,255 people lead across the finish line by American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, who finished in a dead heat. The first woman to finish was the UK’s Joyce Smith.

The idea of holding such an event in London arose after John Disley and the late Chris Brasher (a former Olympian), both members of Richmond’s Raneleigh Harriers running club, decided to enter the New York Marathon in 1979. Returning to London exhilarated by their experience, they began investigating the possibly of holding such an event here and, meeting with a positive response from authorities, pushed ahead with it.

About 20,000 people applied to enter the first London Marathon but only 7,747 people were accepted to run. The course, which is still roughly the same, starts at various locations in Blackheath and passes through Charlton, Woolwich and Greenwich before crossing the Thames at Tower Bridge, looping around through the East End and Docklands before following the river into Westminster.

While the first race finished at Constitution Hill, between Green Park and Buckingham Palace, the race now finishes in The Mall (although for many years in between it finished on Westminster Bridge).

Such was the success of the first event – which was covered by the BBC – that the following year more than 90,000 people applied to run in the race from all around the world. Slightly more than 18,000 were accepted to run.

At the end of this year’s event – held on 22nd April (a runner from which is pictured) – more than 882,000 people have now completed the race. Now formally known as the Virgin London Marathon, a record high of 37,227 completed the run this year.

This year’s men’s race was won by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang who completed the race in  2:04:44 – the second fastest time over the London course – while the women’s was also won by a Kenyan – Mary Keitany – who, in taking back-to-back titles, completed the course in 2:18:37.

Since its inception, one of the key aspects of the race has been its fund-raising for a variety of charitable causes. Key among these is The London Marathon Charitable Trust which, established at the race’s outset, helps fund community sports facilities and develop recreational projects around the city.

For more on the Virgin London Marathon, see www.virginlondonmarathon.com.

PICTURE: © photocritical/istockphoto.com