PortCities London

The 19th-century port

Introduction
 

Workshop of the world

Launch of the HMS Albion.
View full size imageThe launch of the 1st Class battleship HMS Albion at the Thames Ironworks, Blackwall, on 21 June 1898.
By the start of the 19th century Britain was the world's leading industrial power and dominated international commerce. 

London was:

  • the world's largest port
  • the centre of international finance
  • the heart of the expanding British Empire. 

New technology

Trade grew throughout the century and a huge dock-building programme made the port more efficient. 

The building of large steamships meant that the port had to adapt to the changing technologies of the Victorian age.

By 1886 there were seven enclosed dock systems within the Port of London. The riverside communities of East London also saw new factories, power stations and shipyards spread along the banks of the Thames.

Maritime London timeline

  • 1801 - Grand Surrey Canal begun
  • 1802 - West India Dock opened
  • 1805 - London Dock opened
  • 1806 - East India Docks opened
  • 1807 - Commercial Dock Company buys Greenland Dock (formerly the Great Howland)
  • 1809 - Baltic Dock opened; first of the new Surrey docks
  • 1811 - East Country Dock opened
  • 1820 - Regent's Canal completed
  • 1828 - St Katharine's Dock opened 
  • 1855 - Victoria Dock opened
  • 1850s-60s - Many riverside wharves rebuilt as the docks' monopolies of handling imports ends
  • 1858 - Great Eastern built at Millwall
  • 1860 - HMS Warrior built at Blackwall
  • 1868 - Millwall Docks opened
  • 1869 - Woolwich and Deptford Dockyards close as the Royal Navy develops bigger yards elsewhere
  • 1880 - Royal Albert Dock opened
  • 1886 - Tilbury Docks opened
  • 1889 - Great dock strike; the first major victory for British dockworkers

Britain and the world timeline

  • 1805 - Battle of Trafalgar
  • 1815 - Final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo
  • 1837-1901 - Reign of Queen Victoria

Science and technology

  • 1807 - Comet, first steamship
  • 1825 - Stockton to Darlington railway opened
  • 1838 - Launch of Brunel's Great Western, the first steamship to routinely cross the Atlantic
  • 1843 - Launch of Brunel's Great Britain, the first screw-propellor-driven steamship to cross the Atlantic
  • 1851 - Great Exhibition
  • 1866 - First successful transatlantic cable; the technologies of communication – the telegraph and the telephone (1880s) revolutionise commerce
  • Hailed as 'the workshop of the world', Britain became the first economic superpower; as Britain dominated international trade, London was the biggest port in the world
  • 1877-81 - Refrigeration ships brought the first frozen meat to Britain from Argentina, Australia and New Zealand 




   Back to Millwall Docks and the Royal Albert Dock
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