PortCities London

Joseph Conrad


Conrad's description of the new docks at Tilbury contains not only fine descriptions but also a prophetic understanding of Tilbury's future prospects.

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Tilbury Docks in 1886.
View full size imageTilbury Docks in 1886. © NMM
These are very modern, but their remoteness and isolation upon the Essex marsh, the days of failure attending their creation, invested them with a romantic air.

Tilbury, by W.L. Wyllie.
View full size imageTilbury, by W.L. Wyllie. © NMM
Nothing in those days could have been more striking than the vast, empty basins, surrounded by miles of bare quays and the ranges of cargo-sheds, where two or three ships seemed lost like bewitched children in a forest of gaunt, hydraulic cranes.  One received a wonderful impression of utter abandonment, of wasted efficiency.

Berths and dry docks, Tilbury.
View full size imageTilbury in the 1930s. © NMM
From the first the Tilbury Docks were very efficient and ready for their task, but they had come, perhaps, too soon into the field.  A great future lies before Tilbury Docks...  free of the trammels of the tide, easy of access, magnificent and desolate, they are already there, prepared to take and keep the biggest ships that float
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upon the sea.  They are worthy of the oldest river port in the world.

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