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King George V Dock (1921-1981)

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'London’s Frozen Dock'
Main trade
King George V and Royal Albert Docks.
View full size imageKing George V and Royal Albert Docks. © NMM
As the third of the 'Royal' docks, King George V Dock was built to enhance and extend the trade that was passing though the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks. As the newest of the docks, King George V was well equipped with electric cranes and mechanical devices to aid the dockers. There were also extensive refrigeration facilities on site. As a result the main goods traded through the docks where fruit and vegetables, frozen meat and later bulk grain.
Types of vessel used
The Surat in the King George V Dock.
View full size imageThe Surat in the King George V Dock. © NMM
The King George V Dock was designed with modern shipping in mind. Therefore the depth and size of the entrance locks were suitable for the large steam ships, container ships and passenger liners that frequented London in the mid-twentieth century. The Gallions Reach entrance of King George V Dock was large enough to accommodate the 35,655 ton liner Mauretania in 1939.
Map of the Royal Victoria, Royal Albert and King George V Docks.
View full size imageThe Royal Docks. © NMM
Royal Albert and King George V Docks.
View full size imageRoyal Albert and King George V Docks. © NMM
  • The site covered 64 acres of land.
  • The whole project cost about £4.5 million.
  • Over 900 men were employed to construct the dock, increasing to 1700 men from 1919 - 1920.
  • Excavations were carried out using ‘steam navvies’. In total nearly 4 million cubic metres of material were excavated from the site.
  • The material was transported using 17 miles (27 kilometres) of rail track, 16 steam locomotives and 620 wagons.
  • With the outbreak of war in 1914, only 250 men were able to carry on the project, and the original contract was terminated.
  • 12 men lost their lives during construction.
  • The dock was just over 1372 metres long and 11.6 metres deep. Its width varied from 152 metres to 213 metres. There was also a small dry dock at the west side of the dock.
  • The Gallions Reach entrance lock was 30.48 metres wide and 244 metres long.
  • King George V Dock had over three miles (five kilometres) of quays; all furnished with concrete-frame sheds, electric cranes and platform trucks.
  • The North Quay was designed to feed directly into rail and road transport to move goods from the docks.
  • The South Quay was built as a series of seven long jetties parallel to the wall and 9.8 metres away from it. Barges were intended to lie in-between the jetties and the wall, and the goods were unloaded and sorted in transit sheds on the jetties.
  • There were 5 railway lines available to the 14 warehouses.
Life Story
1911 AutumnThe design for the third of the ‘Royal’ Docks is finalised by Frederick Palmer
August 1912The contract for the new dock is sent out to tender and is awarded to S. Pearson & Son
1914World War I saw most of the construction force join the armed forces, leaving the project at a near standstill
1918New labour and materials are granted to complete the project
1919Workforce is increased to 1700 men under the direct labour system
12 January 1920Lord Davenport floods the dock with water for the first time
August 1920All the dock gates are tested
8 July 1921King George V officially opens the dock
May 1926Two Royal Navy submarines berth to ensure that a power supply is available during the General Strike
12 May 1926The General Strike ends
1939'Mauretania' docks
1981The Royal Docks close
1982Planning application for City Airport is filed. It is to be housed on a disused quay between the King George V Dock and the Royal Albert Dock.
May 1987The airport runway is complete
5 November 1987The Queen officially opens City Airport

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