Colin Grainger

The sweet smells and tastes of Newham’s Royal Docks community…

The Royal Docks area has a rich history in every sense – literally.
We’ll often think back to the events of our manor and the sights we have seen. But the smells and tastes also leave memories captured forever in our brains. And in the second part of our look back, we tackle the more pleasant history.

When it comes to the nicer side of life, many locals can still taste and smell the fruit that was brought into local homes by their dock-working parents, relatives and friends.

“We hadn’t had apples, oranges, melons, strawberries and such luxuries for many years, so it was a real joy when ships delivering those goods made it to our shores,” recalls Bill Grainger, aged 90. “Many of them were acquired, how shall we say, a little irregularly. But we made the most of them.

Apple pies cooking in the kitchen. I can still taste them now.

“The smell of molasses from Lyle’s Plaistow Wharf factory in West Silvertown was pleasant. And of course, everyone remembers their first beer. But when we lived in a prefab, there was a baker on the corner of our street and Albert Road. The smell of the bread from Haas Bakers was something else. They had to have police protection during the war because they were German, but the smell of that bread was magical.”


One smell that came from households rather than factories or shops was that of traditional bread pudding! That waft got a thumbs-up from everyone. And, of course, the sweet smell of sugar still permeates the air today at the Tate & Lyle factory in Silvertown.

Bill has a lifetime addiction to Toblerone chocolate. That came from his mother Emily working in the Keiller’s chocolate, sweets and marmalade factory.

“She used to bring them home for me and the smell was heavenly and the taste wonderful as a child. And I still eat them today. Some things never leave you.”

But one locally produced item still stands loud and proud as a winner of the good smell and taste category. The ice-cream produced by Dellamura in Parker Street, Silvertown.

Joan Plant, 91, says: “My sense of smell went early in my life. I nearly killed us all when I went to sleep having left the gas on. I feel asleep. Goodness knows what would have happened if I my mother had not come home and smelt it, or if someone had come in smoking. But that ice cream from Dellamura was the best. Lemon ice like you have never tasted before or since.” Joan says: “The family have kept the recipe secret for generations!”

Joan says there was one member of the family Julie, who was still alive and living in Silvertown.

It is a personal favourite of mine, and has been my first request when it comes to deciding sweet in a night out for the last 50-odd years!

The factory was a massive part of the Royal Docks story for many years until the site was compulsory purchased by the Government as the redevelopment of the area began. Joe Dellamura the owner was known for wearing an ankle length black overcoat and a homburg hat. I have traced the business history back to 1923, but it probably existed before that,

Locals loved how the ice-cream man went house- to-house selling their wares.

Jean Pudney-Timke, who now lives in Essex, says: “I used to love the lemon ice that had bits of lemon actually chopped up in it. My dad used to like to have an ice cream tub. And I can still remember the Sputnik lollies. They were round. And also the spearmint lollies from them. They were lovely…happy days!”

Kathleen Langdale Bearsell says: “Thinking of it now makes my mouth water.”

Janet Batty says it was a Sunday afternoon treat for her and her dog!

“We would get a bowl of Dellamura ice cream and dad added cream soda to it. What lovely memories!”

Steven Lewis told me: “ My early memories in the East End were of Dellamura and Rossi ice cream shops. Dellamura especially, because they had their factory in Silvertown and also had an ice cream ‘cart’ at the Green Gate, Plaistow. The lemon ice had great big chunks of lemon in it that would make you wink when you chewed on it. I used to love a mixed tub which was half ice cream and half lemon ice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.”

But there’s a rival for the sweetest smell and taste to Dellamura – Murkoff’s ice cream!

Stan Dyson from Silvertown, who now lives in Essex, takes up the story.

“Murkoff’s vanilla ice was my favourite ice cream. We all gorged on it throughout the 50s and 60s especially. You could not have picked a better location for their shop in the Barking Road, Canning Town, at the busy end of Rathbone Market.”

The business was run by Hymie Murkoff and his two brothers in its heyday, and closed in the late 90s.

Teresa Johnson described it as the “best ice cream ever made” and Lesley Quirk from Canning Town remembers: “Nothing measured up to it. Dellamura’s was a close second but Murkoff had a taste of its own.”

Stephen Taylor, 62, says: “It has a kind of salty taste and was the best bit about going to Rathbone Market on a Saturday.”

Maureen Gannon says: “Surely Tesco can get the recipe. They would make us all happy, I can still taste it now.”


All the stories in this series can be found at London’s Royal Docks website.

Pictures:  Colin Grainger, Stan Dyson, Newham Archives


  1. Eddie Scotting
    April 19, 2020

    Great memories, I was born and brought up in North Woolwich from 1945 to 1958 when we moved “over the water” to plumstead. I lived at 230 Woodman Street my nan and grandad lived next door at 232. I went to Story Street school. One of my teachers, for a short time was John Junkin who later became famous script writer. My dad and grandad worked in Henleys and my mum and nan worked for Standard Telephone Cables. I remember all the good times, playing on the bomb sites, Victoria Gardens, playing on the shore and walking down the side of Harland and Woolfe and crossing over the lock gates to “Sandy Bay” which brought you out to the Gallions Hotel which was all bombed out and we thought it was haunted. Im 75 now but can still remember loads of good and happy memories of my childhood in North Woolwich.

    • Lorraine Paciullo (Australia)
      July 3, 2021

      Hi, My name is Lorraine and I live in Australia, I am very interested in being able to contact Eddie Scotting as my grandfather also worked at Henleys and my father and some of his siblings worked at STC. They lived in Barge House Road on the side where the houses have been rebuilt. (that used to back onto Harland and Woolfe I have been doing a large project on the Cable Companies on the Thames and have a particular interest in Henleys and Eddies memories and stories of it. I have been trying to find out what Unions people may have been part of that worked at Henleys around 1928-1932 and have only been able to come up with the Workers Union which amalgamated with the TGWU but any more knowledge would be awesome. My grandfather was sacked in about 1926-27 and had a breakdown when he lost his job but later went back to work at North Woolwich. I would love to be able to contact with Eddie and hear some of his recollections if that is possible? I have no one alive in my family who can recount anything from that time. I am also trying to find a picture of the houses on that side of Barge House Road before they were demolished and replaced if anyone has any ideas that would be great. I believe the wharf at the end of Barge House Road was called Sankey’s Wharf. Apparently my dad and his brother used to play on the barges tied up there. The family lived in one of the houses that was originally part of Victoria Gardens on 125 Albert Street, near where the tennis courts are now and also lived at Woolwich Manor way and before they were redeveloped at Elizabeth, Claremont and High Streets. The family name is Sharp.

      • Les.wright
        March 14, 2023

        Also trying to find out what happened to g/parents 1923 25bargehouse rd.Mark wright &Mary wright lodger Robert Sullivan on the left side towards Thames

  2. Les.wright
    March 14, 2023

    Also trying to find out what happened to g/parents 1923 25bargehouse rd.Mark wright &Mary wright lodger Robert Sullivan on the left side towards Thames

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This article was written on 01 Mar 2018, and is filed under Dellamura, London's Royal Docks, Murkoff, Newham, Royal Docks, Silvertown.

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