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|Royal Victoria Dock
|London's first steamship dock|
The Royal Victoria Dock, located at Plaistow Marshes, was well known for its meat trade, especially with South America. The dock housed a number of innovative cargo handling methods specifically designed for meat and other cold storage items. Apart from beef, the Royal Victoria Dock also captured a large portion of the American tobacco trade between 1920 and 1922. During the 1930s, Royal Victoria Dock also traded in fruit. Large storage sheds and berths were constructed for the fruit, including special orange and banana berths, and for tobacco.
|Building the Royal Victoria Docks. © NMM|
The Royal Victoria Dock was the first dock to be designed specifically for steamships. The entrance and area of the dock was larger than any of the other docks operating and also incorporated hydraulic machinery to handle the cargo. However the dock also accommodated the large sailing clipper ships that were still in use. The inaugural vessel Euterpe was 2000 tons, although the entrance lock could cope with vessels of up to 8000 tons.
|View of shipping at the Royal Victoria Dock from Silvertown Way. © NMM|
|The hydraulic lift at the Victoria Dock. © NMM|
The dock could accommodate most vessels until 1935 when repairs made to the western entrance lock resulted in a significant reduction in depth. After this, the dock was restricted to barge traffic until it was reconstructed in the 1960s.
- The original dock was constructed with five ‘finger’ jetties, each measuring 177 metres long and 42.7 metres wide. They provided nearly 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) of quays.
- The entrance lock measured 24.4 metres wide, 99 metres long and 8.5 metres deep.
- The dock had the latest hydraulic machinery to open the lock gates (it took 1.5 minutes) and operate the cranes on the quays.
- Royal Victoria Dock was the first dock to be brought into the national railway system. It had good connections at Shoreditch and Fenchurch Street Station, through the Eastern Counties Railway.
- A number of warehouses were built nearby, and were connected to industries in the Midlands via the Great Northern Railway.
- Large warehouses were built to house American hogsheads of tobacco, each weighing half a ton. They were stored five high using electric cranes. Warehouse M was 6 storeys high, and had 42,475 cubic metres of storage space. At any one time there would be 15,000 – 20,000 tons of tobacco in bond.
- The Orange Warehouse had 3,716 square metres of floor space, complete with covered platforms for transport.
- The Banana Berth housed mechanical bucket conveyors which could process 80,000 stems of bananas per day.
- When the dock was reconstructed, the main quay measured 366 metres in length, with a return quay to the pontoon dock measuring 171 metres.
|1850||Parliamentary Act is passed enabling the construction of a new dock|
|1853||Construction of Victoria Dock begins|
|1855||Victoria Dock is officially opened by Prince Albert|
|17 June 1855||Sections of the north and south walls of the entrance lock collapse|
|1917||Ammunition being loaded at Silvertown explodes destroying a number of transit sheds and timber quays|
|1918||5486 metres of railway sidings are laid near Custom House Station|
|1926||A special berth with meat-handling machinery is constructed for the Royal Mail|
|1927||Another meat-handling berth is built for the Blue Star Line|
|1928||The entrance lock is repaired and restricted to barge traffic|
|1934||The banana berth for Fyffes ships is constructed|
|1935||The orange warehouse is completed. Three new warehouses and three first class berths are built on the south side of the dock. The western entrance lock is repaired.|
|1936||Reconstruction of the main quay begins|
|January 1937||A new 'North Quay' replaces the 'finger' jetties. The dock is dredged to a depth of 9.5 metres.|
|1940||Enemy bombing destroys the marmalade warehouse|
|1946||Construction of five new warehouses begins|
|November 1957||The entrance lock is closed to traffic for reconstruction|
|23 September 1963||Reconstruction of the western entrance begins|
|13 April 1967||The western entrance is opened|
|1978||The Royal Victoria Dock is partially closed|
|1981||The Royal Docks are closed|
|1983||The PLA sells Royal Victoria Dock to the LDDC|
|2000||The ExCel Centre opens|
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