PortCities London

Royal Albert Dock (1880-1980)
London's 'Great Eastern' Dock

Main trade

Map of the Royal Victoria, Royal Albert and King George V Docks.
View full size imageThe Royal Docks. © NMM
When the Royal Albert Dock opened to shipping in 1880, it was considered to be the finest dock system in the world. It was originally planned as an extension of the Royal Victoria Dock, to cope with the successful meat and tobacco trade.

Frozen meat from New Zealand being discharged at the Royal Albert Dock, 1949.
View full size imageFrozen meat being discharged at the Royal Albert Dock, 1949. © NMM
The modern dock equipment installed at the Royal Albert Dock proved to be a success in the handling of large hogsheads (55 gallons) of tobacco from America. There were always coopers on hand to repair damaged casks and help with tobacco sampling. With the arrival of adequate refrigeration, the Royal Albert Dock began regularly to handle meat, fruit and vegetables from Spain and Italy.

Types of vessel used

Unloading barrels at the Royal Albert Dock
View full size imageThe Royal Albert Dock. © NMM
Built as a modern dock, the Royal Albert Dock was designed to accommodate the largest vessels afloat in 1880. This was increased after a second entrance was constructed, and the dock was able to handle vessels of up to 12,000 tons. Although the dock was built to berth sailing vessels, the presence of hydraulic cranes and steam winches enabled a smooth transition to the large steam vessels used to transport goods.

The Royal Albert Dock was also used as a terminus by passenger vessels. The Great Eastern railway ran a passenger service from Fenchurch Street to Gallions, adjacent to the dock basin.


Life Story

1874The London Dock Company begins construction of the Royal Albert Dock
June 1880The Duke of Connaught officially opens the dock
1935The North Quay is deepened and widened
1936West India Dock trade is transferred to Royal Docks
6 September 1940The Royal Albert Dock is one of the first targets for large scale bombing during the Second World War
25 September 1951The contract for the reconstruction of the Gallions Entrance Lock is awarded to John Mowlem & Co. Ltd
1 January 1952The Gallions Entrance Lock is closed to traffic
1956The Gallions Entrance Lock is reopened to shipping
1981The Royal Docks are closed
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.
5 November 1987The Queen officially opens City Airport.
1997The Royal Business Park is opened on the north side of the dock
1998University of East London’s Dockland Campus opens on the north side of the Albert Dock
2000Docklands Regatta Centre is officially opened

   Back to What is left of the old port: the East India Docks