Throughout the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century, the Thames became an important industrial waterway. Not only was London Britain's largest port, it was also a major manufacturing centre.
Among the more important Thames-side industries were gas production and electricity generation. The rise and fall of these two industries reflect the changing fortunes of commerce and industry on the river.
By the end of the 19th century London needed a cheap and reliable gas and electricity supply. Gas and electricity were both produced from coal and used to power industry and transport, as well as lighting streets, factories and homes.
Many of the first gasworks and power stations were built in the eastern part of London where land was freely available and where steam colliers carrying cheap coal from the north of England could easily come up the Thames.