History of London Yard

From 1898 - 1983


Forward to: History of London Yard from 1984

Back to: History of London Yard 1800 - 1897


In 1898 the property was taken over by the local shipbuilding firm of Yarrow & Company. Yarrows had been eager to move from their small Folly Wall Yard to larger premises, negotiating unsuccessfully with the Millwall Dock Company for a new site before moving to London Yard completely vacating the Folly Wall site. Redevelopment took place between 1898 and 1901. Some of the existing buildings on Manchester Road were retained and extended, but most of the yard was cleared for redevelopment. Dominating the new yard was a large group of four workshop units in a single building, over 200 ft by 360 ft, of brick and cast iron, with glazed roofs. They were built by Sir William; Arrol & Company, and housed the engineers’, boiler makers’ and shipbuilders’ departments.

In 1899 the Japanese Government placed a large order for ten torpedo-boats and eight (200ft) destroyers for the Imperial Japanese Navy. The photograph above shows the order under construction. The vessels were soon in active service, playing a major part in Japan's victory over Russia in the war of 1904-05.


In 1906, Edward VII and his party were guests of the Yarrow family on their motor yacht during Cowes Week. The vessel would have been built at London Yard. Yarrow’s did not remain long at London Yard, however.  Alfred Yarrow’s business had suffered badly during the engineers’ strike of  1897-8, and the high rates in London, coupled with the increasing costs of materials and labour, eventually made it impossible for him to compete with the firms on Clydeside and Tyneside. 

Between 1906 and 1908 the yard was gradually shut down and the firm moved to new premises at Scotstoun in Glasgow, accompanied by most of its machinery and 300 of the work-force.


In 1917 the freehold wharf was purchased by C. & E. Morton, of Millwall, manufacturers of soups, pickles and jams. Yarrow’s large warehouse unit was converted into a case-making plant, and the other buildings were used mainly for storage.  The site-plan shows the extensive railway system on the site crossing Manchester Road, at what is now the entrance to Friars Mead, which went across the present Asda site to Millwall docks. Samuda Wharf is shown to the north of London Yard.


Mortons decided to sell the wharf in 1936, and after the Second World War it was acquired by D. Badcock (Wharves) Ltd. of Greenwich, which had previously occupied part of the site as a tenant of Mortons. It was then known as London Wharf or, locally, as "Badcocks" or "Babcocks".

During WWII it is believed that parts of the Mulberry Harbour installations, used for the Normandy landings, were constructed at London Yard. Motor Torpedo boats were also repaired. London Yard survived the conflict relatively intact. Whereas the neighbouring Samuda Wharf was flattened by bombing. After the War the site was used to repair and paint barges.

Ted Johns, a Waterman and latterly Canary Wharf Harbour Master remembers;

"I recall London Yard from the dying days of the Second World War when I used to sail past, as a barge boy, aboard one of the Thames Sailing Barges which used to work the river and East Coast ports then. London Yard (or Badcock's as everyone called it) always appears to my mind to be shrouded in heavy river mists, or, wet, or a combination of these - always accompanied by a chill, biting wind. London Yard was obviously a place I did not like! Barges (or, properly, lighters) would be taken in from the "barge roads", great rafts of barges moored (twenty or thirty of them), in the river just by London Yard. On occasions, when it was slack time for us, the Guv'nor would send me down to Badcock's to check on the progress on one of the many barges he owned - I hated the job!"


By the early 1960s Badcocks had been joined by a variety of other firms, all of which made use of existing buildings. But, by the mid-sixties Badcocks had closed and London Yard ceased to be used, derelict and badly polluted by tar and other industrial materials. The photograph below shows an overgrown and abandoned London Yard in 1972.


By 1977 the site had been acquired by the Greater London Council for £312,000. A newspaper cutting, from the East London Advertiser of 1977, shows the cleared London Yard site and  expressed fears that the site was contaminated "with poisonous chemicals". 

In 1978 a group of local people, with the assistance of Ted Johns at the Island Resources Centre, undertook a feasibility study on how the site could be best used for the benefit of the local community. The study, using the catch-phrase "Bermuda in Samuda" proposed that the GLC should build flats on the site together with a water sports centre; a boat repair centre and a clubroom. A Tenants Hall to be shared with the Sumuda Estate was also proposed. The plan was supported by the GLC but, with the advent of the London Docklands Development Corporation, the GLC lost control of the site and the plan was not proceeded with.


Forward to: History of London Yard from 1984

Back to: History of London Yard 1800 - 1897