Georgian Era Commerce – Part II: The West India Docks and the London Docks

This is the second part of a look at the commercial trades during the Georgian Era. If you missed part one, you will find it HERE

The cargo-handling docks of the early 1800s included the West India Dock, the London Dock, the Greenland Docks, the East India Docks, and later the St. Katherine’s Docks. 

Robert Milligan, a wealthy West Indies shipowner, was the spearhead behind the construction of the West India Docks. Milligan suffered numerous losses due to thefts and delays at London’s Thames wharves, and so he organized a group of like-minded businessmen, including George Hibbert, the chairman of the West India Merchants of London. Hibbert promoted the idea of a wet dock circled by a high wall. With Parliament’s permission, the group formed the West India Dock Company. In 1799, the West India Docks were authorized by Parliament (not by the municipality of London). 

West India Docks by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson (figures) from Rudolph Ackermann's Microcosm of London, or, London in Miniature (1808-11). Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers) - mechanical reproduction of 2D image West India Docks: This engraving was published as Plate 92 of Microcosm of London (1810) ~ Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/West_India_Docks

West India Docks by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson (figures) from Rudolph Ackermann’s Microcosm of London, or, London in Miniature (1808-11).
Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers) – mechanical reproduction of 2D image
West India Docks: This engraving was published as Plate 92 of Microcosm of London (1810) ~ Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org
/wiki/West_India_Docks

William Jessop  (23 January 1745 – 18 November 1814), an English civil engineer, best known for his work on canals, harbours and early railways in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, served as a consultant. Ralph Walker (1749 – 19 February 1824), a notable Scottish-born civil engineer in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly associated with harbour engineering works in London also served the project as resident engineer. Architect George Gwilt designed the warehouse block. There was an Import Dock and an Export Dock. A line of warehouses formed along the north side of the Import Dock. 

Map of the Isle of Dogs showing the docks from The Pocket Atlas and Guide to London, 1899 ~ Public Domain  https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/West_India_Docks

Map of the Isle of Dogs showing the docks from The Pocket Atlas and Guide to London, 1899 ~ Public Domain https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/West_India_Docks

According to English History Online, “The 1801–2 Import Dock walls survive, largely behind and below later alterations (figs 96a, 107). The upper parts of the west wall and the east end of the south wall remain exposed. The walls are of a type first used by Jessop in Dublin and Bristol in 1792–6, and widely adopted in later dock works. They are of brick, 28– 29ft high, with a curved, or ‘banana’, section, both for structural stability and to suit the shape of ships’ hulls. They are 6ft thick and backed by 3ft-thick counterforts, or buttresses, at 10ft centres, to help prevent slippage. The counterforts are bound to the main walling by flattened iron hoops, the earliest known example of such reinforced brickwork. The foundations were not piled, because the gravel bed was considered, and has proved, sufficiently stable. Clay puddle backed the walls and covered the dock floor, to prevent water escaping through the gravel. (fn. 13) [Report of the Committee on Housing in Greater London, p.12.] In the mid-nineteenth century the ‘inefficient’ gritstone copings were replaced by Aberdeen granite, and latticed timber fenders that had protected the upper portions of the walls from contact with shipping were removed.” [‘The West India Docks: The docks’, in Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs, ed. Hermione Hobhouse (London, 1994), pp. 268-281 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols43-4/pp268-281 [accessed 15 July 2015].

A map of the London Docks in 1831. Henry Robinson Palmer - This file comes from the Bodleian Libraries, a group of research libraries in Oxford University. ~ Public Domain  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ London_Docks#/media/  File:Plan_of_London_ Docks_by_Henry_Palmer_ 1831.JPG

A map of the London Docks in 1831.
Henry Robinson Palmer – This file comes from the Bodleian Libraries, a group of research libraries in Oxford University. ~ Public Domain en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
London_Docks#/media/
File:Plan_of_London_
Docks_by_Henry_Palmer_
1831.JPG

Daniel Asher Alexander was the architect for the London Docks at Wapping. These were the closest docks to London proper until St. Katherine’s Docks were built in the early 1820s. These docks cost in excess of £5½ million. “The London Docks occupied a total area of about 30 acres (120,000 m²), consisting of Western and Eastern docks linked by the short Tobacco Dock. The Western Dock was connected to the Thames by Hermitage Basin to the south west and Wapping Basin to the south. The Eastern Dock connected to the Thames via the Shadwell Basin to the east. The principal designers were the architects and engineers Daniel Asher Alexander and John Rennie. The docks specialised in high-value luxury commodities such as ivory, spices, coffee and cocoa as well as wine and wool, for which elegant warehouses and wine cellars were constructed. In 1864 they were amalgamated with St Katharine Docks. The system was never connected to the railway network. Together with the rest of the enclosed docks, the London Docks were taken over by the Port of London Authority in 1909.” (Wikipedia)

800px-commercial_dock_rotherhithe

The Commercial Docks. At the Commercial Dock, Rotherhithe, there were multi-storey warehouses designed to store grain and seeds. 1827 http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/conMediaFile.579/The-Commercial-Docks-by-G-Cooke.html

 Daniel Asher Alexander assumed the role of surveyor to the London Dock Company between 1796 and 1831. Alexander was considered a genius by many. He was the designer of both the Dartmoor and the Maidenstone goals. The “skin floor” he designed for the processing of tobacco has been preserved as a shopping centre. His use of iron stanchions branching out as if tree limbs provided an unusual design, but one which provided a large area of uninterrupted floor space. 

 

 

 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, commerce, Georgian England, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, Regency era and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Georgian Era Commerce – Part II: The West India Docks and the London Docks

  1. Pingback: Georgian Era Commerce, Part III: The Surrey Docks and the East India Docks | ReginaJeffers's Blog

  2. Pingback: Georgian Era Commerce ~ Part IV: The St Katherine Docks and the Custom House | ReginaJeffers's Blog

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