PortCities London

Many hands: Trades of the Port of London, 1850-1980


Free water clause

London lighterman, circa 1910.
View full size imageLondon lighterman, c. 1910. © NMM

The Lightermen conveyed goods between the ships and the quayside. They took their name from this process of ‘lightening’ the ship.

Lightermen had worked from the wharves for centuries, but secured the ‘free water clause’ exempting them from charges in the enclosed docks that were built during the 19th century.