One of the oldest traditional Dockland boozers closes on January 7 ready to be transformed into a community sports and entertainment pub. 

Building work starts on January 8 on a £220,000 upgrade of the Lord Nelson at No 1 Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, reopening at the end of February on the opposite corner to the old Millwall fire station.

The new licensee is Cara Venn, originally from Bow, who has been general manager of several London pubs including most recently the Three Compasses in Hornsey.

Now the Nelson she is leasing from the Star Pubs and Bars company is her first pub of her own.
"It's a dream come true," she said.

"I live nearby so I know what the area needs. I know many people in the neighbourhood and plan to create a hub of the community."

Star Pubs and Bars, which also owns the building of the famous Waterman's Arms on the Isle of Dogs, believes there's a gap in the area for a "community local" that focuses on sports and entertainment, especially with the recent bonanza in housing development in Millwall and Cubitt Town.

Cara's plans also include regular bingo, weekly quizzes, live music and hosting darts and snooker teams just like traditional East End pubs.

The interior is being revamped to create an open space with a pool table and darts board, but also an up-to-date TV screen for sport, with striped wood flooring to retain its traditional character.

The exterior gets a complete makeover as well, repainted in olive green with gold signs highlighting the pub's "secret garden", with seating for 24 and lantern-style lighting.

The Lord Nelson originally had a statue of the admiral hero of the Battle of Trafalgar on the rooftop corner of East Ferry Road, but this has long since disappeared.

The pub was built in 1855 by wine merchant Henry Johnson, whose family ran an ironworks in Ferry Street.

It is a short walk from the oldest tavern on the Isle of Dogs, the Ferry House, which has been plying its trade since 1722 near the old ferry crossing to Greenwich.

There had been a ferry here since at least 1330, transporting workers, horses and cattle across the Thames.