By Mark McConville
LONDONERS have been captured displaying that famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ attitude in post-war Wapping, that was heavily bombed in the Blitz.
The incredible images, as revealed on the website Retronaut, from 1948 show the people of Wapping getting on with their lives as their community has to be built up again from the rubble.
Striking pictures show dock workers pausing for a chat and a smoke with a backdrop of funnels and masts and wartime bomb damage, the construction of new buildings to replace those lost to the bombing and children looking after the flowers in the garden at St Peter’s Church.
Other stunning shots show children processing down Wapping High Street, East London, during the St Peter’s Day celebrations, a band of young boys are armed to the teeth with toy bows and arrows off to play ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’ and a family of three generations of East Londoners – a grandmother, her daughter and her small children, peering cheerfully through their window.
On the north bank of the Thames, at the heart of London’s Docklands, sits the ancient area of Wapping. The construction of docks at Wapping was completed in 1815, replacing many of the area’s houses and wharves.
The Blitz of WWII devastated Wapping including extensive damage to the church of St Peter. Father Fox, the parish priest, campaigned vigorously to have the church restored, and the work was completed within four years. Wapping’s children celebrated St Peter’s Day on June 29th, 1948, with a parade through the specially decorated streets.
Working on the docks was insecure and poorly paid for many. Although new modern housing was constructed to replace buildings lost in the War, poverty returned in the 1960s with the inexorable closure of the docks. The arrival of the global containerisation system relied on ships too large to navigate the Thames as far as Wapping.
A small number of physical features have survived both the 1815 redevelopment and the Blitz – the old steps down to the edge of the Thames, and the pub, ‘The Prospect of Whitby’, which backs onto the edge of the river. Today, the warehouses have become apartments.
For more information see www.retronaut.com