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The 20th-century port

Introduction
Edwardian port in crisis
Port of London Authority (PLA)
Boom and bust: the port, 1914-80
Regenerating Docklands for the 21st century
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Regenerating Docklands for the 21st century

London dominant

Lloyds at Leadenhall Street, City of London.
View full size imageLloyd's at Leadenhall Street in the City of London.
Although London is no longer a major cargo-handling port, it still dominates important aspects of 'invisible' trade and maritime services.

Being at the centre of world time, London benefits from trading with the other major financial markets of Tokyo and New York on the same day.

Multi-billion pound contributor

The financial and business services sector, concentrated in the City of London, contributed more than £20 billion to the United Kingdom's trade balance in 2000.

Maritime services such as ship broking and insurance accounted for almost £1 billion of this total and they employ more than 14,000 people in Britain.

Long-term plans

Water sports centre at Greenland Dock.
View full size imageThe new water sports centre at Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe.
When the Thames shipping business moved downstream to Tilbury more than 2000 hectares (5000 acres) of the port facilities were left derelict.

In 1971 the Conservative government, in the face of public outcry, rejected plans to convert the area to office and commercial purposes.

But ten years later the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up to ensure long-term social and economic regeneration.

The transformation of the former port

STOLport. Short take off and landing airport.
View full size imageLondon City Airport at the Royal Docks.
A programme of investment and redevelopment has now transformed the former port through the building of:

  • housing
  • offices
  • shops
  • leisure facilities
  • improved transport links, including the Docklands Light Railway and an airport on the site of the old Royal Docks.

The airport opened for passenger traffic in 1987. The 2200 hectares (8.5 square miles) of former docks have thus become the world's largest urban regeneration scheme.

Video File Regeneration
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Social impact

The regeneration of the former port districts, now rebranded as 'Docklands', had a great impact on the people who lived in the area. The attached video file describes how a member of the deaf community viewed the changes that took place at the Surrey Docks in Rotherhithe.

A world of ships, wharves, cranes and warehouses was replaced with new shops, leisure facilities, offices and homes.

The story in numbers

Canary Wharf.
View full size imageThe new face of Docklands. Canary Wharf in 2002.
By 1998 the LDDC had:

  • built over 20,000 homes
  • doubled the population from 40,000 to 77,000
  • spent £1.75 billion of public money.

The private sector:

  • invested more than £6 billion
  • constructed nearly 1.5 million square metres (15 million square feet) of office space
  • created over 40,000 new jobs at places like Canary Wharf.

The social amenities have also improved as:

  • eleven new primary schools were built
  • speciality stores were opened
  • over £100 million was spent on community programmes, health centres and other amenities.

In March 1998 the LDDC closed its offices and handed its responsibilities to the London Boroughs of Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

The other side of the story

Anti-LDDC graffiti at the London Docks.
View full size imageAnti-LDDC graffiti at the London Docks.
However, not everyone was delighted with the work of the LDDC. Many saw regeneration as favouring businesses and young professionals but offering little of real substance for local communities.

As locals felt their needs were being ignored, their hostilty to the LDDC and the whole concept of regeneration found many expressions. This graffiti from the 1980s survives to this day.

 

Useful links

 

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Glossary
Cargo
Dock
Port
Wharf

Find out more
StoriesThe port of London today
Into the 21st century
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StoriesDocklands and the Blitz
London in the firing line
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StoriesDefending the East End
Dealing with the Blitz
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StoriesTrinity House
Showing the way
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GalleriesLondon's docks: Past and Present
London's docks: Past and Present
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GalleriesVideoThe River Thames video gallery
A 1930s journey down the Thames from Tower Bridge to Tilbury.
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GalleriesVideoThe 20th-century port video gallery
From 1914 to the present day
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GalleriesGrowing up in the Blitz
Children in London during the second world war
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Fact fileWill Thorne
One of the first trade union activists
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Fact fileWinston Churchill
Wartime Prime Minister
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TrailGreenwich foot tunnel trail
Become a port explorer
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Related Resources
Related Images3 Images
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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