ON A DESERT SHORE

Historical Notes

A view of the West India Docks by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson (from Rudolph Ackermann's Microcosm of London, 1808-11). Constructed 1800-02 on the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London, these wet docks were essentially an armed fortress designed to prevent theft and safeguard the cargos of the ships trading between the sugar islands and London. A group of wealthy London merchants was responsible for the creation of the docks, among them George Hibbert. Hibbert has a lot in common with Hugo Garrod, my West India merchant, though they are by no means the same person. Garrod is influential in the West India Committee, a powerful lobbying group fighting to preserve slavery, and, like Hibbert, has a house with extensive gardens in Clapham, then a leafy suburb in south London.