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Regent's Canal Dock (1812–1970s)

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The Port of London's link to the Midlands
Main trade

Regent's Canal Dock.
View full size imageRegent's Canal Dock. © NMM
The Regent’s Canal and Dock Company constructed the Regent’s Canal Dock, also known as the Limehouse Basin, to connect the industrial trade from the Midlands to the City of London. It was originally constructed as a barge basin to be linked to the Grand Union Canal.

Regent’s Canal Dock was one of the few dock systems to admit colliers and by 1820, the coal trade was firmly established. Coal was transported from the north-east of England and then transhipped in lighters around the City of London. Other commodities that were imported and exported through Regent’s Canal Dock included Baltic timber, rice, Scotch soda, salt, fruit and ice.

Types of vessel used

The City Basin, Regent's Canal.
View full size imageThe City Basin, Regent's Canal. © NMM
Dock gates for the Regent's Canal.
View full size imageDock gates for the Regent's Canal. © NMM
The Regent’s Canal Dock was built to assist the locking of barges between the canals and the Thames, and the transfer of goods between barge and ship. Therefore, smaller sea-going vessels frequented this dock system. It never really became a full trading dock, but was used as an ancillary dock to the larger dock systems that surrounded it.

The dock was frequented by a large number of colliers, lighters and narrow boats. This increased with the construction of ‘The New Ship Lock’, which allowed the larger steam colliers to enter the dock.

For a number of years, the British Waterway’s Board ran a passenger service from Birmingham through to Hamburg and other German and Norwegian ports using small coaster-type vessels. Today, the Limehouse Cut is used by rubbish barges going to refuse dumps in Essex.

  • The Regent’s Canal Dock covered an area of 10 acres.
  • The dock system consisted of a single basin. There were two entrance locks for sea-going vessels, ‘The Old Ship Lock’ and ‘The New Ship Lock’.
  • The dock had its own river quay situated just east of the entrance lock and a large warehouse, known as Victoria Wharf.
  • The site contained four jetties for the colliers and lighters, a number of warehouses and a granary. There were large coal-bunkers situated on the north-west and south-west quays.
  • The narrow west quay was used for Baltic timber cargoes. This was transferred to furniture makers in Shoreditch and many nearby timber yards.
  • A timber warehouse was situated over the eastern half of the basin, to be used by the Grand Junction Canal Company. This warehouse was also used to house rice and scotch soda before being demolished in the early 20th century.
Life Story
1812The Regent’s Canal Act is passed allowing construction of the canal and barge basin
1819The basin is enlarged to accommodate sea-going vessels
1820Construction of the canal and dock is complete
1829William Clay begins to use the dock for his salt cargo to avoid taxes at other docks
1836The dock is enlarged
1865The dock is enlarged eastwards
1868'The New Ship Lock' is built
1917The Regent’s Canal Basin entrance lock is overhauled
1924A large concrete jetty is constructed from the north-east quay
1968Old Limehouse Lock is filled in and a new connection is built between the Regent's Canal and the Limehouse Cut
1969The British Waterway’s Board ceases to trade
1969Regent’s Canal Dock closes
1970sThe entrance lock to the Limehouse Cut becomes unsafe and is filled in. Traffic is redirected into the Regent’s Canal Basin.
1994The Limehouse Link Tunnel is constructed under Limehouse Basin
1994An 80-berth service marina is constructed, now home of the Royal Cruising Association
1999Residential accommodation is built around the dock

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As trade continues to grow canals are constructed to improve the port infrastructure.
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