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The Parting Cheer, by Henry O'Neil.
View full size imageThe Parting Cheer, by Henry O'Neil. © NMM

London was a mighty port because of the cargoes that passed through its docks and wharves, but huge numbers of people also moved through the port.

Millions were emigrants or immigrants seeking a better life here or elsewhere. For them, long-distance travel by sea was the only option before air travel became common.

The Dominion Monarch (1938) in the King George V Dock.
View full size imageThe Dominion Monarch (1938) in the King George V Dock. © NMM

To cater for the movement of thousands of people, shipping companies built the great liners that became the best known ships afloat.

As the numbers of travellers grew, special facilities for them were created in the port.

However, by the late 1960s, airlines had captured the long-distance travel market. This brought an end to  the era of the great liners. More people now travel in and out of London than ever before, but very few do so by sea.

The cruise liner Seabourn Pride on the Thames.
View full size imageThe cruise liner Seabourn Pride on the Thames. © NMM
The hundreds of aircraft crossing the skies over London each day have replaced the huge liners that once sailed into the port. However, the market for pleasure cruises has grown considerably, and luxury cruise ships still occasionally visit London.


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Find out more
StoriesThe welfare of seamen
Making life secure and comfortable for visiting seamen in the port
Hot spotMove the red square to explore The Parting Cheer, by Henry Nelson O'Neil
The Parting Cheer is one of the key emigration paintings of the mid-nineteenth century. Between 1815 and 1914 nearly 23 million people emigrated from the British Isles – one of the world’s largest migrations. The Parting Cheer examines the reactions of those left on shore.
Related Resources
Related Images2 Images
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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