Fires in the port
|Fires in the port|
Fires at the wharves and warehouses
The port and the surrounding districts were especially vulnerable to fire. Many volatile and flammable cargoes were brought into the wharves and stored in the neighbouring warehouses.
Thomas Ripley's Custom House was destroyed by a fire in 1814, after a nearby gunpowder store erupted.
Not all the warehouse fires were so devastating, but they were very frequent. Here is a selection of 19th century fires at riverside wharves, as depicted by the Illustrated London News.
A huge fire at a warehouse at Brook's Wharf, Queenhithe, in June 1876.
Fires in the shipyards and riverside industries
The wharves and the warehouses were not the only dangerous parts of the port. The numerous shipyards, workshops and factories along the river increased the risk of fire. In November 1844, a boiler explosion at the Samuda Works in Blackwall killed three workmen and destroyed several buildings.
One of the most disastrous fires anywhere in the port occurred in September 1853. Part of John Scott Russell's shipbuilding yard on the Isle of Dogs - where the Great Eastern would soon be built - and the neighbouring Napier's Yard were destroyed.
The Rum Quay fire of 1933
One of the worst fires in the docks occurred at the Rum Quay, at the West India Docks. This started on 21 April 1933 and took four days to put out.
One of the main sheds and a vault were destroyed, along with 6,500 puncheons (3.1 million litres) of rum.
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