A watery grave

In what must be the most ostentatious property hereabouts, clad in what can only be described as large white Lego bricks, the Marine River Force headquarters, its museum displays everything a copper needs . . . . . . . . . .

Exclusively for Patrons, here is List 9: Run 138 the next ‘run’ from my travelogue Pootling around London: Manor House to Gibson Square, again I hope you find it both amusing and informative.

Thank You again for your support.

Wapping Lane E1 to Canning Town Station E16

Bobbies, Peelers, you’ve got to hand it to Sir Robert Peel, he certainly knew how to promote himself. Starting what many think to be the world’s first police force, except it isn’t. Over 30 years in 1798, before Sir Bob came up with a brainwave to reduce crime (where have we heard that before?), the Marine River Force was formed to reduce pilfering on London’s docks.

Patrick Colquhoun, a Scot from Dumbarton on the Clyde on coming to London in 1789 was asked by West Indian merchants to stop pilfering, if that is the rights term, as they considered themselves fortunate if only half their cargo saw the inside of a warehouse.

At the time 37,000 men were employed on the Thames, 11,000 were estimated to be either thieves or robbers. By employing old sailors and watermen, Colquhoun had, within a year, broken up the gangs using long-oared gigs armed with cutlasses and blunderbusses. But in reality, it was only the advent of the container that really stopped serious crime on the docks.

In what must be the most ostentatious property hereabouts, clad in what can only be described as large white Lego bricks, the Marine River Force headquarters, its museum displays everything a copper needs from handcuffs to cutlasses and is open by appointment.

Not far from the Marine Police Force in Wapping High Street is the Captain Kidd public-house close to the site of Execution Dock. One of the attractions of this riverside hostelry must be that as you enjoy your pint, you can look out across the foreshore, much like 18th-century drinkers could as they watched pirates meeting a very grizzly end.

The pub’s name gives a nod to the demise of England’s most famous pirate. A pirate’s punishment was to be hanged with a short rope, avoiding having their neck broken and thus strangled to death. Cut down, their bodies were hung in an iron cage which was placed in the River where it had to remain until three tides had washed over the remains.

For Kidd his suffering was extended as the first rope used was old and as The Newgate Calendar account put it ‘there can be no plea for not providing a rope of sufficient strength’.

I’m feeling some of the anxiety that Captain Kidd must have felt, for most of this run will be on one of London’s fastest moving roads. Turning east into The Highway, a road that neatly divides Wapping and Shadwell, I’m reminded that in the early 19th century this road was called the Radcliffe Highway, the name Radcliffe was expunged from London’s lexicon after the events of 1811. Decades before the infamous Jack-the-Ripper, at 29 Radcliffe Highway, Timothy Marr, his wife and 3-month old son, along with a living-in shop assistant were found dead. A fifth member of the household, Margaret Jewell returning after buying oysters raised the alarm.

With no suspect or lack of motivation, fear gripped the East End. This panic was not unfounded, for 11 days later publican John Williamson, his wife and servant were also found murdered in the King’s Arms a little further east along the Radcliffe Highway.

A few days later, John Williams, a shady character was arrested on some very dubious evidence. Incarcerated in Cold Bath Fields Prison he would be found hanged in his cell a few days later. His body was paraded through East London’s streets and was deposited in a hole at the junction of what is now Cable Street and Cannon Street Road, with a stake driven through his heart to ensure he didn’t return.

Enough talk of death, I’m now heading towards the Limehouse Link tunnel. It was built at a cost of £293 million, the most expensive road scheme in Britain, working out at over £60,000 per foot at 2018 prices.

After surviving the ordeal of riding through the tunnel, sitting on a small bike, while the traffic roars past at double my speed, the rest of the journey is pretty unremarkable.

All the time travelling parallel to the River we pass East India Dock, Poplar Dock, West India Dock and skirt the River Lea. London’s industrial past was centred on these abandoned docks, much of it now a wasteland awaiting redevelopment.

Approaching Canning Town Station I ride down Peto Street. A curious name, could this be the same Peto who developed Peto Place near Regents Park? Sir Samuel Morton Peto was a builder and politician, his company, Grissell and Peto constructed that most iconic symbol of our maritime history Nelsons Column.

If so he could have been a member of the party that before the 17ft statue of Nelson was erected on top of the Trafalgar Square column in 1842, fourteen members of the memorial committee who had commissioned the work, held a steak meal dinner party on top of the 170ft-high plinth, health and safety wasn’t a familiar term then . . .

The myths of the Knowledge
Gents, you are not obliged to wear a suit and tie, the rules say you should dress in a smart, professional, manner. As I found out, ignore this protocol as your peril, your examiners feel the need to maintain tradition, and they expect that of you too.

Examiners can ask what they like, although your first Appearance will be based on the Blue Book. After that, you can pretty much be asked anything within the six-mile limit.

Should you feel reckless and think your examiner has made a mistake, politely point it out. I’ve yet to find a cabbie that’s had the temerity to take this step, but you are entitled to speak to the manager, your query will be taken seriously and it won’t go against you.

Contrary to urban myth, there are no quotas, examiners don’t have to pass or fail a certain number of people in any given period. Nor is there overt racism or sexism, just look at the ethnic mix of cabbies, ladies don’t get the favourable treatment they just might be treated with a little more civility.

Examiners sometimes ask obscure Points that are unlikely to be asked by a cab customer. This is to see if you have really ‘got on your bike’ and not just stared at a computer screen or been told the Point by a fellow student. Don’t guess, you’ll get found out.

Unlike in my day Examiners don’t say bad things about you on your file, any apparent weakness and inappropriate attitude are kept within the Examiner’s office. Only comments on your performance are made on your Appearance sheet, but these are brief and strictly factual.

You are not expected to complete the Knowledge within a certain time. This means you are not going to be held back or fast-tracked if it is expeditious to the Carriage Office. You either have The Knowledge or you don’t know London.

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