Image: British Land’s Freddie Broadhurst addresses the striking dockers
The spirit of 19th-century radicalism was alive and well at Redriff Primary School this month.
The school, on Salter Road, held a “Docklands Week”. Over five days, the children took part in various activities to celebrate the history of Surrey Commercial Docks, which dominated the Rotherhithe Peninsula from the end of the 17th century to the late 1960s. The week culminated in a re-enactment of the Great Dock Strike of 1889, with the children all dressed for the occasion in Victorian costume.
British Land’s Freddie Broadhurst and Canada Water Connect’s Kita Berman Van Heerden were in attendance, after being invited by Lucy Rowe, the school’s Humanities and Outdoor Learning Lead. Freddie gave the children a short speech on how British Land is celebrating the history of the local area through the Canada Water development, taking in the restoration of Canada Dock, the repurposing of the original Dock Offices, the refurbishment of the Deal Porters Statue and more.
Freddie said: “The passion of local young people for the history of their area at Primary School’s re-enactment of the 1889 Dockers’ Strike was a sight to behold. Thank you, Redriff, for the invitation!
“At Canada Water, we can find the stories of the past all around us. Local history is something British Land cares deeply about and wants to help to preserve for future generations to enjoy.”
Charlotte Heath, Co-Headteacher at Redriff Primary School, added: "Dockland Pride is our school’s motto, and every year we celebrate aspects of the local history and future regeneration during our Docklands Week. Re-enacting the Great March of 1889 was all the more relevant this year in the context of the numerous unionised strikes of 2023, including schools. A huge thank you to British Land for joining us once again in our celebrations.”
The Great Dock Strike of 1889 saw thousands of men march around the docks in protest at poor pay and working conditions that meant injuries were common and led to deaths from malnutrition among workers families. By the end of that summer London's overseas trade was completely paralysed. In the end, all the workers' pay and time demands were met, and the contract system that left workers with no security was abolished.*
The strike was a seminal moment in the development of the British labour movement and drew public attention to the issue of poverty in Victorian Britain. It’s just one of many nationally important stories that have shaped our area over the centuries. British Land is proud to help keep the area's rich history alive and we look forward to getting involved in more such initiatives as the development takes shape.