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Published: 12 September 2020

By Andy Ross

Australia, Britannia and a trade union banner

The Museum of London is in two parts; one in the City and the other in Limehouse. 

On a fine autumn day we set out to walk to Limehouse, a four-and-a-half mile journey along the Thames, crossing at Tower Bridge and then walking east again to the old docks area. The walk took almost two hours because there is a lot to see along the way and we arrived just at the time our ticket was booked for: 10.30. The exhibition we had come to see was the Havering Hoard, a fascinating display of the largest Bronze Age collection ever discovered in the capital. It was fascinating with beautifully displayed item and lots of information. 

With no real idea of the size of the museum, we then headed up to the third floor to see the rest. Again, it was fascinating. The area where the museum is located was once a thriving port where trade and commerce took place, and the museum explores this in detail with lots of artefacts and information. It also does not shy away from the role that slavery played in the success of the city, with one area dedicated to the subject. More about this next week.

My favourite piece though was an enormous banner of the "Amalgamated Stevedores Labour Protection League. Branch No. 6". After the Great Dock Strike of 1889, the trade union was founded and this banner was created to commemorate the event. It shows a London stevedore shaking hands with an Australian dock worker, a 'Wharfie', in front of the figure of Britannia, and celebrates the financial support the Australians gave to their London counterparts during the Strike. 

Interestingly, in 2001, while the banner was being conserved, it was found that the back of the banner had originally been the front. The original panel showed the SS Montezuma, a ship launched in 1899 in Glasgow for the Elder Dempster Line, beginning her service from London in 1904. This may indicate the date of the repainting.