Transforming Britain

Not much treasure on this island…

In Victorian times Jacob’s Island was a particularly horrid, run-down part of London where poor people lived. The buildings were joined together with secret doors and passages making it easy for thieves to find hiding places. Below were smelly ditches (used for not so fresh water for drinking, washing, cooking and also as a toilet – yuck!)

It was a slum area, known as “The Venice of Drains” and “The Capital of Cholera” because of all the disease there.

Charles Dickens knew the area well; he often went on patrol with river police, and he set part of his books there. In fact; the baddie in Oliver Twist, Bill Sykes, came to a grizzly end in Folly Ditch, based on Jacob’s Island.

When is a pool not a pool?

When it’s actually a river! The Pool of London is the stretch of the River Thames from London Bridge to just below Tower Bridge. It helped London become one of the world’s major cities thanks to the thousand years of trading that took place on the river.

As Britain’s empire expanded the Pool became the busiest section of river in the world crammed not just with ships carrying exotic produce from foreign lands but boats full of people coming to London from other countries. There were also boats that brought oysters and fish from the Thames estuary and coal from the North of England.

London got busier and richer thanks to the Pool of London.