New role for the captain's brothel

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Restoration has begun on of one of the finest buildings in Docklands, the Gallions Hotel, on the east side of the Royal Albert Dock in Newham.

The Gallions, a Grade II* listed building, is to benefit from a pounds 500,000 facelift from the London Docklands Development Corporation.

The cash will repair damage caused to the Victorian drinking house by vandals and timeAdditions which were not part of the original design also will be removed.

Ringed by a frieze of chesty plaster nymphs by the artist, Edwin Roscoe Mullins, and once known in the locality as 'the captain's brothel', the three-storey Gallions, now isolated in wasteland, overlooking Gallions Reach on the Thames, has lain vacant since 1972.

It was erected for the St Katharine's Dock Company in the 1880s to accommodate passengers joining P&O ships sailing from the adjacent dock. Crews also stayed there.

Built by an Ealing firm, Adamson & Sons, the Gallions was designed by George Vigers and Thomas Wagstaffe, an architect and surveyor.

When the Docklands Corporation acquired the Gallions six years ago from the Port of London Authority, tiles had been stripped from the roof, and the windows shuttered with rusting corrugated iron. Only the tall chimneys with their hand-cut mouldings and the dormers and gables for the overhanging top floor remained unscathed.

The port authority had tried to interest brewers, but without success due to the building's remoteness.

But with the new road network, the housing development at nearby Beckton and proposals for an exhibition centre at the Royal Victoria dock, prospects are brighter.

In its heyday, the Gallions featured in Kipling's The Light That Failed. Dick, about to start for Egypt, asks: 'Is it Tilbury and a tender, or Gallions and the docks?'

Built on timber piles with stables underneath, the Gallions had a tunnel by which guests could make their way to ships.

The Royal Albert Dock could then take the largest ships afloat, up to 12,000 tons. The Great Eastern Railway even ran a passenger service from Fenchurch Street to the hotel.

Comprising a ground floor, first floor, and attic, the Gallions had two entrances - a basement one for workers and another on the ground for passengers and captains.

The premises flourished into the 1930s.

In 1932, when the hotel was being run by Truman's Brewery, AG Linney wrote: 'The interior is solid and Victorian - built to defy time almost - and there is much mahogany in its fittings.'

Previous plans for the Gallions, which falls within the top 5 per cent of listed buildings, have included lifting it on to a low loader and setting it up elsewhere. A company was commissioned to carry out a three-month boring contract under the hotel, but the plans were abandoned.

Now swathed in plastic sheets and scaffolding, the

Gallions might have escaped notice. The current work will restore the building to its former glory.

Is anyone looking for a pub?

(Photograph omitted)