During the 19th century, the explosion in overseas trade and the rapid development of the London docks, alongside the growth of the railways and industries of East London, meant that thousands of new jobs became available in a short time. People came to the capital from all over the country, looking for work. Others came from abroad.
This led to a huge growth in population. In 1851, for example, the population of West Ham borough was less than 19,000. But by 1901 this figure had risen to almost 270,000. By the beginning of the 20th century a huge labour force worked at the docks, warehouses and wharves of maritime London. This section describes what some of these occupations were like.