The Peep Show of the Port of London by A.G Linney no date but c 1930. Sampson Low Marston & Co. Ltd.


The Peep Show of the Port of London by A.G Linney no date but c 1930. Sampson Low Marston & Co. Ltd.  Hardback book grey cloth binding, 9”x 6”, pp. 244, full page B&W frontispiece, 59 B&W half tone photos mainly by the author.  Many of the pictures are rather small but are nonetheless full of interest like the timber steamer at Surrey Entrance Lock,  Deal Porters at work and Acorn Pond.    


I have never seen a photo of Linney but from his style of writing I get a very clear mental picture. He is of medium height, dressed in a comfortable old tweed jacket and cap probably wearing trousers rather than plus two breeches and well-polished brown brogues. As he guides us around the Timber Ponds in the Surrey Commercial Docks, he strides out briskly swinging his ash-plant, this last possibly a relic of service in The Great War as an infantry officer. He is smoking a much-loved old briar pipe which is trailing whiffs of one of those faintly aromatic pipe tobaccos which seem to have gone off the market nowadays – possibly   “ Parson’s Pleasure”… There, that should put readers in the right frame of mind to enjoy this guided tour of the busy Port of London and the riverside communities between the wars.

Please do not let the rather twee title put you off – I think the publishers are the culprits here.

Linney has particularly good Chapters on Rotherhithe and the Surrey Docks contrasting the bustle and activity round Greenland and Canada Docks and the athletics of the Deal Porters at Russia and Albion, with the peace and quiet of the huge acreage of Timber Ponds with their rafts of baulks and logs kept wet to avoid becoming “shaken”. For over a century the water was held within earth embankments and the area was a kind of wild life reserve. At the time Linney was writing that was beginning to change with concrete replacing earth as the 20th century caught up with this peaceful haven, for which he seems to have had a particular affection.

However there were still a few visits by “Onkers” – battered old sailing vessels from  the Baltic probably only kept afloat by the buoyancy  of their timber deck cargo and the incessant windmill pumping water over the side, making the noise which gave them their name “onker-onker-onker”.

“Peep Show” has many odd facts and anecdotes which I have not seen elsewhere other than in some more recent publications which obviously got them from here. Highly recommended.



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