Cubitt Town
Riverside area: from Ferry Street to Johnson Street


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Hermione Hobhouse (General Editor)

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'Cubitt Town: Riverside area: from Ferry Street to Johnson Street', Survey of London: volumes 43 and 44: Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs (1994), pp. 514-518. URL: Date accessed: 19 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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The Riverside Area

The chronology of the occupation of the wharves was related to both availability - as the embankment of the riverfront was completed - and to demand from businesses which found this part of the Thames frontage attractive. Between the Potter's Ferry and the Folly House there was a frontage of 5,500ft. Cubitt made his first application to embank it in July 1842, but there was then some delay, and in the following spring he announced that his initial undertaking was to be the embanking of 700ft eastwards of the Potter's Ferry. This was approved, and the work had been completed by March 1846, when Cubitt obtained permission to embank the remainder, as far as the Folly House, within the following seven years. (ref. 310)

By 1850 leases had been granted of 531ft of embanked frontage, all except 75ft of which lay between Potter's and Johnson's Ferries. (ref. 311) In 1852 the Greenwich Hospital Commissioners took land with a frontage of 1,260ft immediately to the east of Johnson's Ferry, with a covenant that they should be responsible for embanking that section. (ref. 312) Another early development was the establishment of Cubitt & Company's own wharf, which had a river frontage of 536ft. (ref. 313) By 1855 a further 765ft were occupied, (ref. 314) but the real boom came in the following years, with 2,276ft of frontage taken by tenants between 1855 and 1865, leaving only one narrow wharf unlet (Plate 85a). (ref. 315) Much of the boom was attributable to demand from shipbuilders during those prosperous years for the Thames shipbuilding industry, for they accounted for almost three-quarters of the frontage that was let in the ten years to 1865. The vicinity of the Folly House, which came to be occupied by Yarrow's, and Stewart's and Westbrook's yards to the north, occupied a further 1,000ft of river frontage - as far as the northern limit of the Marsh Wall - which was embanked in the late 1840s and early 1850s. (ref. 316)

From Ferry Street to Johnson Street

Port of London Wharf

The Port of London Wharf, Nos 40–46 (even) Ferry Street, was the westernmost of those embanked by Cubitt & Company. It originally had a frontage of 133½ft, but by the early twentieth century this had been extended to 261ft by the absorption of the wharf to the east and the approach to the Potter's Ferry to the west. (ref. 317)

The wharf was acquired by the Corporation of London in 1850 as the principal station of its harbour service, replacing that at Rotherhithe, which had become inadequate. It was used for the storage and repair of mooring chains and buoys, and as a berth for its boats and lighters. (ref. 318) A lease was taken in 1855, from Midsummer 1852 for 89½ years at an annual rent of £130. (ref. 319)

Cubitt & Company had previously erected a shed and two small offices; the Corporation's Navigation Committee added a group that included a two-storey brick building - with committee and office rooms on the upper floor and storage space beneath - a house for the resident clerk, and workshops. These were planned by Charles Rowland, the Principal Harbour Master, and Stephen William Leach, the Committee's Engineer, and were erected in 1851–2 by Thomas Piper & Sons of Bishopsgate Street at a cost of £3,650. A crane with a capacity of 15 tons, supplied by Luke Embleton of Southwark, was also erected, but plans made in 1856 for a small dock were apparently not executed. (ref. 320)

By 1848 the wharf to the east was occupied by Grissell Brothers & Company, timber merchants, as yearly tenants. It had a rather narrow river-frontage of 70ft and was relatively undeveloped, containing only a modest workshop and a crane. The company had vacated it by 1870. (ref. 321)

Grissell's successors were Edwards & Symes, shipbuilders, who took possession c1874. They advertised that they built 'everything from 50 to 500 tons', but in practice did such specialized work as the 55-ft steam yacht Hermione, a 149-ton ferry boat for the Thames Steam Ferry Company's Wapping to Rotherhithe service and, for the government, an unusual vessel designed to carry two field guns and ten horses across rivers. (ref. 322)

Edwards & Symes added an office building and an open timber shed in 1874. (ref. 323) In 1882 they attempted to sell their lease of the premises to the Thames Conservancy Board, which had succeeded the Corporation's Navigation Committee in 1857. That proposal was rejected, but Edwards & Symes had left the wharf by 1888, when the Board agreed to take it over at an annual rent of £100. (ref. 324)

In the early 1890s the Board replaced the original building with a two-storey carpenters' shop and pattern loft, and added a single-storey open shed and a small dry dock with an overall length of 90ft. (ref. 325) In 1904 the LCC bought the freehold of the approach to the Potter's Ferry and subsequently transferred it to the PLA, which replaced the Thames Conservancy in 1909. The land was incorporated into the wharf. (ref. 326)

In 1921–3 the wharf was occupied by Harland & Wolff as part of their takeover of the PLA's engineering. (ref. 327) Thereafter it was used chiefly for storage; by 1931 it had become superfluous and was closed in 1933. (ref. 328) In 1934 Messrs Gregson & Company of Felsted Road, Victoria Docks, shipjoiners and timber merchants, took a sublease at the yearly rent of £350. The company altered the name to Felsted Wharf, added two new buildings and adapted the existing ones, providing a sawmill, joiners' shop and boat-building sheds. (ref. 329)

There was some bomb damage in 1940. (ref. 330) Bradley Forge & Engineering Company (later Bradley Laminates) took over the wharf in 1941, agreeing to a new lease for 21 years at £100 per annum. It filled in the dry dock in 1952. (ref. 331) Gregson's, operating as insulation engineers, returned to share the wharf in the early 1960s. In 1969 the company erected a container repair-shop, 120ft long and 48ft wide, on that part of the wharf originally occupied by Grissell Brothers. (ref. 332) From the mid-1970s Peirson & Company, structural engineers, also occupied a part of the premises. (ref. 333)

The former Potter's Ferry slipway (Plate 85b), which became known as the Island Boatyard, was used by Dukerswim Ltd for barge repairing from 1963 until 1970 and was then occupied briefly by P. H. Honeyman, printing-trade finishers. (ref. 334) A scheme produced in 1971 to erect flats there did not mature. (ref. 335)

Victoria Stone Wharf

The wharf, later No. 48 Ferry Street, had a river frontage of 81ft. It was occupied from c1844 by John Husler of Headingley, Leeds, a stone merchant, and John Cleff, with Samuel Trickett as their agent. In 1850 Husler took a 92-year lease of the premises at an annual rent of £80. He died in 1853 and Trickett took over sole occupation of the wharf, acquiring the residue of the term from Husler's widow in 1856 for £500. Husler's lease had included a small plot on the north side of Wharf Road, opposite the wharf, and in 1865 Trickett took a larger block adjoining to it on a 76-year lease at £36 per annum. (ref. 336) He continued to use the wharf as a stone-yard, linking it to the land across Wharf Road with a tramway. The few buildings that were erected included a house and stables. (ref. 337)

In 1890 Trickett's heirs, Frank and Noel Trickett, assigned the leases to John Fraser & Son, who erected a number of buildings on both parts of the site during the early 1890s. (ref. 338) The wharf was all but covered by a substantial iron-roofed engineers' and fitters' workshop and a range of two- and three-storey brick buildings housing offices and stores, and an open brick tower. A boiler shop and smithy were erected on the north side of the road. (ref. 339)

By further acquisitions in 1895 and 1900 the company extended its ground on the north side of Wharf Road up to the rear wall of the houses in Ferry Street. (ref. 340) It erected a number of buildings there, providing a smithy and welding shop, with an hydraulic-press shop added in 1942. (ref. 341) A new lease of the premises was taken following the surrender of the existing ones in 1938. (ref. 342)

Frasers vacated the site c1970. The land on the north side of the street was subsequently developed as No. 35 Ferry Street (this section of Wharf Road was redesignated as part of Ferry Street in 1938).

Livingstone's Wharf, No. 50 Ferry Street

The first occupier of the wharf, which originally had a frontage to the river of 80ft, was Anthony Nicholas Armani, who was recorded there from 1849. (ref. 343) He and his partner, trading as Orsi & Armani, were described as 'patent metallic lava, seysell asphalte, patent venetian stucco and patent stone marbling manufacturers'. (ref. 344) In 1859 Armani took a lease of the wharf for 50 years at a rent of £94 10s per annum, undertaking to bring the value of the buildings up to £1,000. A number of sheds and workshops already stood on the site. (ref. 345)

Armani went into partnership with Malcolm Stodart in the early 1870s, before apparently pulling out of the business, leaving Stodart & Company to continue trading from the wharf as 'asphalte contractors'. (ref. 346) Following that company's departure the wharf was briefly occupied in the mid-1870s by the Protector Fluid Company, which had been formed to develop the potential of a preservative process for metals, wood, stone 'and other substances or materials', that had been devised by Charles Weightman Harrison. (ref. 347) That company's stay on the wharf was a short one, as was that of its successor, Callender & Sons, which installed two open cauldrons for the extraction of bitumen from Trinidad pitch. The process had some environmentally unpleasant aspects, not least the black smoke and 'very offensive' smells given off, and objections were raised. The firm was instructed by the District Board of Works to modify its equipment to ameliorate the worst effects, or face a summons. Unable or unwilling to comply, the company left the wharf in the spring of 1880, only a little over a year after it had arrived there. (ref. 348)

The wharf was then incorporated into the premises to the east until 1906, when it was taken by James Livingstone & Son as a metal-wharf, known as the Millwall Iron Works, (fn. d) with a frontage of 78ft. The existing buildings were cleared and replaced by a two-storey brickand-slate office and two sheds, the major part remaining an open wharf. (ref. 349)

From c1931 to 1938 the wharf was occupied by G. J. Palmer, wharfingers and lightermen. (ref. 350) By 1939 it had been taken by a new company, Co-ordinated Wharfage Ltd, which used it for the reception and distribution of imported goods. A warehouse, 100ft by 25ft, was erected along the eastern edge of the site by A. Munson, builders, of East Ham. This was a brick building, with a steeltruss roof covered with asbestos and corrugated iron, fronted by a wooden loading-stage. (ref. 351) From 1943 it was occupied by the wharfage section of Co-ordinated Traffic Services, which described itself as 'carriers by road of every class of merchandise'. That firm remained there until c1971. (ref. 352)

Midland Oil Wharf, Nos 52–60 (even) Ferry Street

Messrs Johnson were among the earliest occupiers of the riverside at Cubitt Town, establishing the Victoria Iron Works in the mid-1840s on a wharf with a frontage of 225ft. Their lease of the wharf ran for 97 years from 25 December 1844 at an annual rental of £100. (ref. 353) The site was later numbered as Nos 52–60 (even) Ferry Street.

In January 1845 Cubitt & Company applied to erect a building of the first class, which was probably the house which is now Nos 58 and 60 Ferry Street (fig. 195). (ref. 354) It is a two-storey brick villa, with stucco and Portlandstone dressings. The south front has a large bay window rising through both storeys, now partly obscured by the raising of the adjoining garden level. The eastern bay on that front may be a slightly later addition.

In June 1845 Cubitt & Company applied to build an engine house. (ref. 355) Other structures followed, as Henry Johnson, a City wine merchant, and Augustus William Johnson, who managed the business at Cubitt Town, created their ironworks and rolling mills. They covered almost the whole wharf with buildings in the next few years, including an elegant furnace chimney 140ft high, designed by Roumieu & Gough (Plate 87a). (ref. 356) The company specialized in converting scrap from the naval dockyards into rods and bars. (ref. 357)

In 1853 the Johnsons added a strip 30ft wide to the west and in 1865 a further adjoining strip from Armani's wharf for £50 per annum. In 1864 they took a substantial plot on the opposite side of Wharf Road for £70 per annum, although they erected very little on it. (ref. 358)

The works closed c1873 and the wharf stood empty for the remainder of the decade. (ref. 359)

In 1881 the site was taken by the Horse Shoe Manufacturing Company and the United Horse Nail Company, both set up in that year, which merged in 1883 to form the United Horse Shoe & Nail Company. (ref. 360) They also occupied the adjoining Victoria Wharf, amalgamating the two premises.

The company undertook a considerable amount of rebuilding to adapt the site to its needs, employing the builders Merritt & Ashby of London Wall. (ref. 361) In the early twentieth century its annual output was approximately 1,800 tons of horseshoes, but the increasing numbers of motor cars and motor omnibuses led to a decline in demand for its product and it was dealt a further blow in 1907 when the War Office, one of its major customers, placed an order for 100,000 pairs of horseshoes with an American firm. (ref. 362) The company went into liquidation in 1909. (ref. 363)

Its successor on the Victoria Iron Works site was Henry Clark & Sons, oil refiners, blenders and importers, who renamed it the Midland Oil Wharf. (ref. 364) Clarks occupied four adjoining brick sheds with corrugated-iron roofs and some smaller buildings. (ref. 365) Improvements carried out in 1929 involved closing in the open ends of one of the sheds. (ref. 366) The firm's business was based upon the production of lubricating oils and marine anti-fouling paints. It left the wharf c1974. (ref. 367)

Figure 195: W. Cubitt & Company, builders, c1845

The eastern part of the site was acquired in the mid1970s by Dr Michael and Mrs Jennifer Barraclough, whose plans for four houses were prepared in 1975 by Stout & Litchfield, of Winchester Street (Plate 92c). The plans were approved in 1976 and the construction of the houses, undertaken by the Barracloughs, took three years. Some materials from the previous buildings were incorporated in the houses. They stand on the riverfront; three are of four storeys and the other, which is of three, has a gallery and a large terrace above the ground floor, with a scissors roof. (ref. 368)

Horseshoe Yard

Much of the area north of Wharf Road was not taken by Clarks and continued to be referred to as Horseshoe Yard. It was occupied from c1915 by E. Turner & W. Brown, barge-breakers and timber dealers, who used a sawmill, a store and a small workshop on the site, the greatest part remaining open. (ref. 369) Bomb damage led to the clearance of the adjoining houses along the north and east sides of the yard and their sites were incorporated into it. From c1951 it was occupied by the Burdell Engineering Company, which added a number of small buildings and a single-storey shed on the Manchester Road frontage. (ref. 370)

The strip of land, with two houses built by Francis McFarland, between Horseshoe Yard and Fraser's Iron Works was occupied from the late nineteenth century by John Lewis James, a maker of encaustic tiles, and Jonathan Reid & Company, tinplate workers. The latter remained until c1960, when the site was incorporated into that to the east, formerly held by Clark & Company, which was then occupied by William Shelton, oil contractors, as No. 45 Ferry Street. Sheltons erected a number of iron tanks and a two-storey office block. (ref. 371)

The occupiers of Horseshoe Yard were dependent for access to the river upon Johnson's drawdock and in the 1920s opposed moves to close it. (ref. 372) Nevertheless, it was eventually enclosed and used as a scrap-yard. In the 1970s attention was drawn to its 'appalling' condition. (ref. 373) It was subsequently cleared and access to the river there was restored.


d The inappropriate name is explained by the fact that Livingstones came from Millwall, where they occupied the Millwall Iron Works, and they transferred the name to their premises in Cubitt Town (see page 474).


310. CLNC Mins, QQ, pp.306–7, 377, 405; RR, pp.44–5, 94–5, 101–2, 112–13, 169, 192–3, 207; VV, pp.117–18, 331–3, 425–6, 953.
311. RB:TH 4448, 4452, 4456, 4459, 4505.
312. GLRO, Acc.2636/127/6.
313. RB: TH 4325.
314. RB: TH 4238, 4265, 4454, 4460, 4509.
315. RB: TH 4253, 4351, 4462, 4464–6, 4468–9, 4471, 4473: GLRO, Acc.2636/124/1.
316. CLNC Mins, WW, pp.455–6, 696–7, 748–9, 773; AD, pp.373–4, 464.
317. MiD, PLA contracts, 14, ff.374–7.
318. CLNC Mins, YY, pp.155–9, 179, 267–8, 270–1, 351, 381–2, 549.
319. GLRO, Acc.2636/92/7.
320. CLNC Mins, YY, pp.610, 705, 721, 743, 755, 773–4; Mins, ZZ, pp.121–2, 168–9, 171–2. 235, 265, 412; Mins, AB, pp.337–8, 640–2, 653–5, 666; Mins, AC, pp.38–40; Mins, AG, pp.385–6; Mins, AH, pp.172–3: DSR 1851/198–9, 343–4: OS 1867.
321. RB: TH 4326, 4445, 4504.
322. POD: Engineering, vol.20, 1875, p.115; 22, 1876, p.319.
323. DSR 1874/269, 361: MBW Mins, 1874, ii, pp.31, 637.
324. TC Mins, vol.S, pp.487, 500, 529, 543; 1, pp.233, 482; 2, pp.345, 519; 3, p.68.
325. DSR 1893/175: DA 7369: TC Mins, vol.10, p.489: OS 1896: VFB, 1935, No.56, p.5.
326. LCC Mins, 1903, pp.402–3; 1904, ii, p.2080.
327. PLA Mins, xiii, p.196; xiv, p.465.
328. PLA Mins, xxiii, p.216; xxv, p.77.
329. PLA Mins, xxvi, p.98; xxvii, p.142: DA 11,420: DSR 1936/936, 1937/929.
330. PLA Mins, xxxiii, p.63: VFB, No.127B.
331. PLA Mins, xxxii, p.223; xliv, p.78.
332. DA S/046909.
333. PLA Mins, lii, p.202; liv, p.162: POD.
334. PLA Mins, lv, p.217: POD.
335. ILEA, PT/DC/05/20218.
336. GLRO, Acc.2636/92/19.
337. RB: POD: TH 4452: GLRO, Acc.2636/92/1–4.
338. MDR 1890/24/663.
339. DSR 1890/212, 1891/107, 130, 1892/40: DA 7247: PRO, IR58/84630/1553: Goad, 1927 series, vol.G, p.22.
340. GLRO, Acc.2636/92/19.
341. Goad, 1927 series, vol.G, p.22: DA 11,891, 11,929.
342. GLRO, Acc.2636/92/18–19.
343. RB.
344. POD.
345. TH 4339.
346. POD.
347. PRO, BT31/2273/10905.
348. Pop.790, pp.216–18, 232, 254, 283: EEN, 3 Feb 1880, p.2; 10 Feb 1880, p.3.
349. DSR 1906/143, 230: GLRO, Acc.2636/92/10: VFB, folio series, No.1, p.52.
350. POD.
351. DA 11,784: GL, MS 14,944/40, pp.111–13.
352. POD.
353. MDR 1845/10/818.
354. DSR 1845/1/5.
355. DSR 1845/156.
356. RB: OS 1867: MBO, plan no.21.
357. B.H.Cowper, A Descriptive and Statistical Account of Millwall, commonly called The Isle of Dogs, p.72.
358. MDR 1865/8/327: GLRO, Acc.2636/92/5: TH 4303.
359. POD: EEN, 3 Feb 1880, p.2.
360. MDR 1881/13/496: PRO, BT 31/2762/15045; /2790/15247; /3182/18485.
361. DSR 1881/368, 477, 609–11; 1882/202–3; 1885/267; 1887/63.
362. The Parliamentary Debates, fourth series, vol.182, 27 Aug 1907, co.395: Daily Graphic, 13 Sept 1907, p.8.
363. PRO, BT31/3182/18485.
364. PRO, BT31/7380/52394: POD.
365. Goad, 1927 series, vol.G, p.22.
366. GLRO, Acc.2636/92/10–17.
367. POD.
368. DA S/055005–13: Property and Investment, Aug 1987, p.33.
369. POD: Goad, 1927 series, vol.G, p.22.
370. POD: DA 12,626.
371. POD: Goad, 1963 series, vol.G, p.22.
372. PLA Mins, xvii, p.149; xx, p.174: PBC Mins, 1923–4, p.83; 1924–5, p.289; 1927–8, p.213.
373. Thames Topics, March 1975.