Napier Ave, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3TD
In 1851 engineering wunderkind Isambard Kingdom Brunel (and I mean if you were given that name and didn’t accomplish something famous, what a waste!) sketched what would become the SS Great Eastern. It was designed to travel further without fuel stops and be larger than any other ship.
As an engineering feat, it is notable for it’s novel double-hull design. As a talking point, the cost, deaths of riveters working on the ship and lack of commercial success have marred it’s history.
31 January 1858 it is believed the SS Great Eastern was launched from this site in the Docklands. By 1888 it was resigned to scrap and was broken up in Mersey the following year.
However, what I like is the remaining evidence of the hard work and optimism of Victorian engineering and the reminder of the brutal conditions in which people were forced to realise others’ dreams.
Victoria Park east side, E9 7DD
It is second nature for us East Londoners to wander, run or sit in different parts of Victoria Park, but despite how well you may know it, it’s worth a second look at the imposing structure of the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Drinking Fountain.
In my opinion, it is not the fountain itself that is particularly unique but what it represents as evidence of the kindness of its namesake. Angela Burdett-Coutts (yes, of those Coutts’) was quite a trailblazer of philanthropic women. She campaigned for education and life skills to be taught to prostitutes, gave significant sums to the Royal Marsden and Brompton hospitals. She became known as the “Queen of the Poor.” She was well read, held an interest in the sciences and was very very wealthy by an inheritance from her grandfather.
She spent the equivalent of approximately half a million pounds to furnish Victoria Park with the fountain that now bears her name. The fountain was erected in 1862 and provided clean drinking water to the local poor. Originally called the Victoria Fountain, it was renamed after Burdett-Coutts’ death in 1906.
Things to look out for: on the very top of the structure is a mermaid which acts as a weathervane.
Best cafe nearby: the well-known Pavilion.
Best pub nearby: People’s Park Tavern.