Colin Grainger

History club looking forward to the future – while reflecting on the past!

A history club in the Royal Docks area of Newham has celebrated its fourth birthday.

The Royal Docks History Club launched in January 2017 with support from the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre in North Woolwich.

The project was started by a group of friends who love history, who wanted to talk, learn more and research history and heritage.

The aim was to make learning history more accessible and fun – the friendly, informal meetings have always been followed by a community discussion and food prepared by the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre Community Café.

To make sure that there is always something for everyone, the meetings consist of two talks or presentations, one about local history and one about something different, often bringing guests speakers and experts in different fields, to help expand people’s interests and knowledge.

  * How the meetings are advertised by Marieta each month

One of the founders Marieta Evans said: “This meant that not only have the meetings been very popular among local residents but also attracted the interest of visitors who came and joined our events from other parts of London and  beyond, turning Royal Docks and North Woolwich into a destination of choice.

“A wide variety of topics and stories discussed have included the Woolwich Ferry, the Brunel Tunnel, Medieval Queens, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Royal Docks seamen’s memories, curiosities about the History of Food, the Ferry Festival, BAME Seafarers and East End Mysteries and Ghost Stories.”


  • A few of our past meetings

Covid-19 has temporarily brought the group’s “live” monthly meetings to a halt, but online activities, events and talks continue online on the History Club project Facebook Page and a short video presentation including photos of History Club events and memories from community members has also been put together to commemorate the Club’s birthday


  • A cake for our third year party

And the club’s activities are also being shared by a wide variety of social media groups, spreading the word and attracting hundreds of memories each month.

  • Ferry Festival – among the local subjects highlighted

The club is already working on plans for when meetings can resume. Historian Graham David Hill, who was the first speaker at their inaugural meeting in 2017, will re-launch the first meeting post-Covid when activities at the centre can resume. His talk about Roman gladiators will be followed by a special Royal Docks Memories discussion to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the completion of the Royal Docks.


  • Carrying on in a pandemic…online

Added Marieta: “The first post-Covid meeting will follow the same two-topics scheme to celebrate history and local history and will be followed by a big community dinner party – we can’t wait to meet residents, friends and History lovers as soon as events can be scheduled again. “

  • Where we meet in North Woolwich…the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre  in Albert Road.

The History Club organisers are very pleased and grateful for the great feedback from guests and friends of the projects, which show how popular and much-loved the meetings have become. Marieta said: “We consider this an indication that we reached our aims of celebrating and educating,  making history fun for all.”

This week those who have been part of the club’s growth had their say.

Colleen Sullivan, who grew up in Royal Docks, said: “I’ve enjoyed each and every one of the meetings and you always learn something new, historian Valery Alliez has a wealth of historic knowledge and I always enjoy her contributions. I particularly enjoyed the visit from Chris Ross, our East End poet, who entertained us with his wit and sincerity. Lovely evenings spent with dear friends.”


Denise Woodhouse, Royal Docks resident,said: “So many great talks to choose from. I have learnt so much about the history of this part of London. And who can forget Graham’s talk on The Great Stink!!?? Also, the presentation about Finland in the Second World War – proves that you can always discover more about even the most familiar topics.”

Colin Grainger,  journalist, former Newham Recorder Editor and Royal Docks Forgotten Stories author, said: “It shows that a special kind of community spirit and friendship has always and will always endure and exist in the ‘original’ island community in our part of East London. And going back in time has helped us escape for a while and exchange memories.”

* Though COVID has stopped us meeting physically… the snow didn’t stop us!

Melissa Ford  of Newham History Society said: “You hear the title of a talk and sometimes you think ‘Oh I know all about that,’ and then you attend the meeting and you come away with a bit more knowledge it could simple be one or two sentences that you heard. We have a great saying ‘you learn something new every day” and that is very true’ .”


Ruth Toomey, local resident said: “I enjoyed hearing all about Henry VIII and Eltham palace which would have been as important as Hampton Court palace – and the 20s Party when we were shown beautiful photos and learnt more about London in 1920s and we all dressed up like the roaring 20s, we all had so much fun!”.

Loraine Patterson, who has lived in the area all her life, commented: “All the meetings were very interesting, and we always learned something we didn’t know before. We particularly enjoyed the Tate & Lyle and the Christmas events, combining historical research on the origins of Christmas, the evolution of Christmas traditions and our Christmas memories”.

Glynis Webb, from North Woolwich said: “We enjoy our meetings, the warmth and friendliness. It is hard to say what was most memorable as there are so many. Thank you everyone for the hard work and time you give. Let’s hope we can all meet up soon.”

David Conroy, who lives in North Woolwich, added: “It would be remiss of me not to mention the magnificent food that has been provided by the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre after each presentation, or for that matter, Marieta and Gareth Evans for getting it off the ground and organising it all”.

Joy-Caron Carter (RDLAC Director): “Rose Geaney and Valery Alliez first mentioned to me their idea of having a History Club…and then when they met Marieta and Gareth Evans it was a match made in the Royal Docks”.

 In 2019, to commemorate the second anniversary, Rose and Valery were made Honorary Presidents.

That’s the club’s story so far. Looking forward to having more reflections of the past.


Pictures: Colin Grainger/ Marieta Evans / Gareth Evans / Rosie Murdoch

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This article was written on 09 Feb 2021, and is filed under North Woolwich, North Woolwich, Royal Docks, Silvertown.

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