PortCities London

The 19th-century port

The hub of empire: Imperial trade

Trading giant

Unloading frozen meat from the Clan MacDougall in the Port of London
View full size imageUnloading frozen meat from the Clan MacDougall in the Port of London, 3 March 1877.
British industrial output continued to expand during the second half of the 19th century. This favoured the adoption of a free trade policy. Alongside the development of the resources of the British Empire, this brought an enormous increase in trade through the port of London.

As British manufactured goods were exported, cheap wool and food were imported from the colonies and elsewhere to clothe and feed the growing population.


Cold deliveries

Landing Frozen Meat from Sydney in the South West India Dock, Millwall, London, on board the Catania
View full size imageLanding Australian frozen meat from the Catania at the South West India Dock, 1881.
Refrigeration and freezing proved to be the best ways to keep meat fresh during long voyages. This picture shows frozen meat on the Catania arriving from Sydney.

The first frozen meat and butter from Australia came to the Thames in the Strathleven in 1880.

New Zealand's first shipment of frozen meat came into the port in the Dunedin in 1882. By the late 1920s more than 10 million carcasses of mutton and lamb were imported into London each year.

Colonial storehouse

Landing Oranges at Fresh Wharf, London Bridge, for Christmas
View full size imageLanding Oranges at Fresh Wharf, London Bridge, c. 1874.
Most of the meat and dairy produce of the Dominions, as well as fruit sent to Britain, was distributed from London.

Plums, currants, raisins, almonds, figs, oranges, lemons and spices came from all over the British Empire. The port therefore played an important part in the commercial development of the colonies.  


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