The 18th-century port
|Too many ships? Problems of the trade boom|
Commerce and consumer demand expanded enormously at the end of the century as people felt the effects of the industrial revolution.
Richer and richer
In 1792 imports into England were worth almost £18 million and exports nearly £24 million. London's share of that value was nearly 65%.
The greatest increases in imported commodities were sugar, rum, dyewoods, ginger and pimento from the West Indies.
A congested Thames
During the 1750s, nearly 1800 vessels were allowed to moor at the same time in the Upper Pool in a space intended for not many more than 500.
The increase in the volume of trade had led to the building of many more small ships. The situation was made worse by the large number of craft - about 3500 - used to carry cargoes from the ships to the wharves.
The quays or wharves on which goods were landed were also inadequate. This model shows the Pool of London before the introduction of the enclosed dock system.
One estimate put the merchants' losses at £500,000 a year, including 2% of all sugar imported. The thieves were engaged in an ongoing battle with the revenue officers.
Among the gangs that operated in the port were the River Pirates, Night Plunderers, Light Horsemen, Heavy Horsemen, Scuffle-Hunters and Mud Larks.
Plans for expansion
In 1796 a Parliamentary committee was appointed to 'enquire into the best mode of providing sufficient accommodation for the increased trade and shipping of the Port'. The committee looked at several schemes, including Mr Ogle's plan for mooring vessels in the River Thames, which is shown here.
Mr Wyatt's scheme
Wyatt also suggested that the Wapping dock be connected to the Thames at Blackwall by a canal. This would reduce the time it took ships to sail up river.
Although his scheme was not adopted, docks were eventually built at the sites he suggested.
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