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Hidden History of London

London's Hidden History

Years ago, in the fourteenth century to be exact, kilns were established here to produce quick lime for building mortar. Then pottery-making began. Pepys visited a porcelain factory in 1660 in Narrow Street.

Forget cups and saucers made for the rich for this was once a serious poverty area and our hero here is Dr Barnardo. Come with us to the Ragged School - just follow the signs outside the station.

Down the steps to the towpath of the Regent's Canal. The canal was built in 1820 to join the Grand Junction Canal at Paddington so there was a water link to the industrial Midlands and North. Now how about this, at the same time a canal was built from Portsmouth to London, Rotherhithe, entrance to road tunnel outside of the station, to be exact.

Seemed like a good idea at the time but it proved a financial disaster so it was filled in and built over as a railway line. Past the lockgate and you will see the three Victorian gas holders in the distance - the oldest in London.

Now we can see the only remaining Victorian canal side warehouses, built in 1872, once used to store lime juice. Lime juice stopped scurvy amongst sailors, that's why the English were called 'Limeys'. In 1868 Thomas Barnardo started his first ragged school at Hope Place, Limehouse, a school dedicated to poor children.

In 1876 he rented two warehouses, now 46 Copperfield Road, and converted them into the now famous Ragged School. Here, poor local children received not only free education but free hot meals as well!

Now a museum, Ragged School Museum is a must visit. See it and thank the Lord that there but for the grace...

Dr Barnardo came from Dublin to London to train as a medical missionary at the London Hospital at Whitechapel but the sight of the Victorian street urchins made him forget plans of ministering in the Far East and concentrated his mind on the East End! He founded the "Home for Destitute Boys", the wonderful work still continues as many a "banana boy" will testify.

On the way back to Limehouse Station, beside Limehouse Basin, observe the railway viaduct. This is part of the original London and Blackwall Railway built in 1841 to carry workers in to the City. This stretch now carries the state of the art DLR trains. Do you think that the Victorian railway builders would have imagined that over 160 years in the future automatic electric trains would be gliding along their viaduct?

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