Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Revisit to Wildcorner Beacon, Isle of Dogs
I first discovered this special corner back in 2007. Since then i have asked around and searched on the net for information about the beacon but to with no joy.
The tower stands tall above the thick weeds arounds it. Ivy crawls up its sides and it rules the corner with a silent majesty. From the street the sealed off corner looks like a fortified other world and the beacon, a relic from this other place and time. Perhaps it is a lighthouse of the wild, signalling at night to the underground, to the spirits that can read its code. Or perhaps it holds some kind of mysterious unknown function or posses an ancient magic.
After a recent failed attempt at finding the corner again, I went back home and put my thinking cap on. Thanks to some detective work, I got a rough idea of where it was. Then I searched the area on good ol' 'street view' and to my delight I found it. I was excited to see the land was still wild and the beacon still standing. Was this still the case though? The google camera car could of passed there years ago for all I knew.
So i was equally amazed to find the corner on a field trip over the river a few days later, still fenced off and untouched.
Well .. apart from one thing.
Sadly the lantern at the top was not insight. I found the remains of it underneath thick Brambles and Knot Weed as I searched around the base.
It could of been the Buddleia gradually prised it up and then the strong winds finally dislodged it.
Or was it the work of human hands?
Once i got home that evening I searched on the net again for the beacon. Now I knew what to look for I soon came across a blog by a local guy who was asking for information about it.
He had consulted old maps of the area and pointed out the beacon is 100 mtrs away from the water edge. He found the corner would of been at the edge of an area known as 'Popular Dry Dock' which was used approx up until the 1950's and then in the 1970's renamed Empire Wharf. His theory was that the beacon would of been used to guide ships into dock.
This though a well thought out theory, looks like it was just a theory as comments under his post suggest. It looks as though the area was once part of the Christ Church garden. When the police station was built sometime in the 80's the land was going to be turned into their car park, but a local man protested against this. This man was the legendary Ted John's the Island campaigner who was at the forefront of its unilateral declaration of independence in 1970. They say he campaigned with local residence for a community garden and won. The beacon apparently was a kind of folly in the garden in reference to the areas maritime history.
If this true, it is kind of disappointing that the little lighthouse isn't Victorian and was never used as an actual beacon.
The tower still has its place in the history of the the area though and could be looked at in another way as a reminder from the past, standing as a beacon for people power and community spirit.