Passengers and the port
|Facilities for travellers|
From tenders to luxury
When most travellers used the wharves and the inner London docks, few facilities were provided for them. Most simply arrived at the landing point and got on.
For many new arrivals, things were even more basic. While some companies had their own wharves, many ships transferred their passengers to shore by boat. Most of the Jewish immigrants arriving in the 1880s landed this way.
These methods were no longer adequate once the Royal Albert and Tilbury Docks started to handle the large liners carrying greater numbers of passengers.
The Gallions Hotel
The Tilbury Hotel
The opening of the Tilbury Docks in 1886 also brought plush accommodation for the wealthy. The Tilbury Hotel was probably one of the most distinctive buildings on the shore of the lower Thames.
Whatever comfort it brought to travellers, it caused great discomfort to two of the finest writers in the English language.
Joseph Conrad, who passed it many times as a merchant seaman, deplored its 'monstrous ugliness', calling it a 'shapeless and desolate red edifice' and the 'heaviest building for miles around'.
George Orwell passed through Tilbury on his way back from France before writing Down and Out in Paris and London. He was even more unkind:
'Then the boat drew alongside Tilbury pier. The first building we saw on the waterside was one of those huge hotels, all stucco and pinnacles, which stare from the English coast like idiots staring over an asylum wall.'
The passengers must have been just as unenthusiastic about the Tilbury Hotel - it closed within a year. After a variety of uses, it was finally destroyed by enemy action during World War II.
Despite its hotel, Tilbury could offer little comfort to travellers actually getting on or off their ships. For many decades there was no proper landing stage, and small tenders were used to move passengers between ship and quay.
In Kipling's The light that failed, a character weighs up the options: 'Is it Tilbury and a tender, or Galleons and the docks?'
The Passenger Landing Stage at Tilbury
Passengers at Tilbury were regarded almost as incidental to the main business of handling cargo. In the late 1920s, the Port of London Authority finally opened the Passenger Landing Stage.
The Tilbury Passenger Terminal
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