|The opening of the St Katharine Docks was a great occasion. © NMM|
The St Katharine Docks were one of the smallest and most centrally located dock systems in London. The docks were renowned for handling the trade in luxury items and for the vast magnificent warehouses that lined the quays.
A huge range of items were imported, exported, sorted and packaged at St Katharine Docks, including:
|Entrance to St Katharine's Docks. © NMM|
One of the biggest commodities for the St Katharine Docks was wool. Together with the London Docks, about 40% of the country’s wool trade, worth around £8 million, passed through London every year. At the St Katharine Docks, around 32 acres of warehouse space was allotted to the wool trade alone, accommodating 500-600,000 bales of wool. Another major trade for the docks was tea. Approximately 32,000 tons of tea from China, India and Ceylon passed through the St Katharine Docks in a year. The tea was mixed, sorted and packaged at the docks, ready for transport.
|Warehouses at St Katharine Docks. © NMM|
The St Katharine Docks also dominated the shell and feather trades. Six times a year, dealers would visit the docks and purchase items such as tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, ostrich feathers and osprey plumes. It has been estimated that up to 5,000 tons of shell and £3 million worth of feathers were sold a year. The trades in these goods are reflected in the names of some of the warehouses in the docks, such as Ivory House, Indigo House and Marble Quay.
|The St Katharine Dock House. © NMM|
However, the increase in vessel size and the lack of railway access, saw a decline in the viability of the relatively small St Katharine Docks. As ships progressed from sail to steam and the size of the steam vessels grew, less trade could be handled at the St Katharine Docks. This changed the purpose of the docks into a centrally located storage facility for vessels unloading at other docks on the Thames.
|1823||The St Katharine Dock Company is formed to develop 25 acres of land, belonging to the Hospital of St Katharine, which had been founded in 1148|
|June 1824||The St Katharine Docks Act is passed to enable construction of the new St Katharine Docks|
|3 May 1827||The foundation stone is laid and construction of the docks begins|
|July 1827||Construction of the Western Dock warehouses begins|
|October 1827||An unusually high tide floods eight acres of the excavated land|
|1828||Construction of the Eastern Dock warehouses begin|
|25 October 1828||St Katharine Docks are opened. The 'Elizabeth', a 700-ton vessel passed from the lock into the Basin, to inaugurate the new docks.|
|1829||Construction of the warehouses is complete|
|1852||Construction of extra warehousing begins|
|1856||Hydraulic pumping station built|
|1864||The St Katharine Dock Company amalgamates with the London Dock Company. The London and St Katharine Docks Company was formed, and took over the Victoria Dock.|
|1889||Amalgamation to form the London and India Docks Joint Committee|
|1911||Improvements to the docks are planned|
|1940||The docks are extensively damaged during German air raids on the Port of London. Many warehouses around the Eastern Dock are destroyed. The Dock offices were also destroyed in the raid.|
|1957||The entrance lock is reconstructed|
|1968-69||London and St Katharine Docks are closed|
|1970||Redevelopment of the docks begins|