Marieta Evans: Let's champion the Royal Docks as a key heritage destination and get its rightful place on the UK heritage map

Art & Culture

Marieta Evans: Let's champion the Royal Docks as a key heritage destination and get its rightful place on the UK heritage map

Marieta Evans is a talented storyteller, television presenter, journalist, and content creator. She specialises in a unique mix of motorsport, history, and heritage. Her passion for history led her to work with the local community as a Project Producer, to being commissioned by the Royal Docks team to create heritage information boards about the local area. Marieta tells us about the exciting Royal Docks project.

I lived in North Woolwich for five years. During that time, I immediately fell in love with the Royal Docks. Royal Victoria Gardens is the most beautiful riverside park in London. Another gem is the riverside path that runs from the Woolwich Ferry past Galleon’s Reach around King George V Lock. On a sunny day, it has a lovely seaside vibe.

I felt a strong connection with the area, especially its Thames maritime history and the endearing links to the heritage - the cranes, warehouses and the water. This led my husband, our neighbours Rose Geaney and Valery Alliez, and me to co-found the Royal Docks History Club.

The club was open to everyone and consisted of monthly history talks at the Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre (RDLAC). The events covered local history and Royal Docks maritime, plus broader British and world history themes, ranging from Roman Empire stories to recent social history. The interesting community conversations were followed by drinks and a delicious dinner from the RDLAC Community Café.

The Royal Docks Team commissioned me to create online heritage information boards, a resource that tells the story of the amazing history of the Royal Docks. I worked with the history club members and led the project to produce a series of ten information boards highlighting the area’s rich heritage. The Royal Docks Team funded the project as part of Our People and Stories, a stand of the Royal Docks Cultural Placemaking programme. The programme provides exciting commissions and opportunities for artists and the community to engage with stories of the area’s past, present and future.

It was an amazing team effort. We invited the community to get involved and hosted further history club meetings. Several local historians, writers, researchers, and residents gave talks and took part in discussions.

We also recruited more enthusiastic volunteers to help with the research at the meetings. We discussed the themes and ideas for the boards and the best approach to gathering information and historical photographs. This led to a list of potential heritage landmarks and places. From the shortlist, we created an online poll for people to choose their favourites.

L: Rose Geaney and Valery Alliez, co-founders and Honorary Presidents of the Royal Docks History Club
R: Royal Docks History Club meeting

The ten selected landmarks that were used for the heritage boards were Royal Victoria Dock, Royal Albert Dock, King George the V Dock, North Woolwich Station, Royal Victoria Gardens, the old site of Harland and Wolff (now Galleons Point residential), Woolwich Ferry, Brunner Mond Factory (the site of the Silvertown explosion), Tate Institute and St Mark’s Church (now Brick Lane Music Hall).

We spoke with residents to capture valuable local knowledge and did research visits to Newham Archive at Stratford Library, Silvertown and North Woolwich Library, and Museum of London Docklands. The Royal Docks was once the biggest system of enclosed docks and the most important port in the world. It was the beating heart of the Port of London, bringing people, precious cargo, and even exotic animals from around the globe. The docks helped to shape our city geographically, economically, and culturally.

During the research, I also collaborated with East London Radio to produce four podcasts about the history of the Docks. These podcasts feature untold stories from residents in their own words and interviews covering Docklands’ history and London and dockers’ memories. We explored the history of Roman London and delved into the topic of the Beckton Alps, an artificial ski slope that operated in Beckton until 2001. We also interviewed Angela Young, the author of 'Cyprus on Thames', a book set in the 19th Century about the communities and families of dockers and gas workers residing between Royal Albert Dock and Beckton.

Through the podcast and the heritage boards, we aim to ignite a fascination about the area’s history and provide a legacy that can be used as a reference tool. People travel to Portsmouth for its maritime heritage and Southampton because of the Titanic story. We want to establish the Royal Docks as a key heritage destination for visitors who love history and exploring historic sites. We see an opportunity in the Royal Docks to widen participation by improving access to historic buildings, sites and heritage resources. These information heritage boards are a further step towards making Royal Docks history more engaging, informative, and accessible. I would love to see more information positioned around the Royal Docks explaining the history of the area and the different landmarks. Let's champion the Royal Docks as a key heritage destination and get its rightful place on the UK heritage map.

The Royal Docks heritage boards and podcasts are available to enjoy online. The Royal Docks History Club has now evolved into online discussions via social media. To join the community conversation, visit the Facebook page. Marieta helps to keep the History Club Facebook page up to date. To share details of relevant Royal Docks heritage, history, projects and events email