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'Why were the docks built in London during the 19th century?'


The old wharves were no longer able to cope with the volume of traffic.

  • By the end of the 18th century, London was the victim of its own success.
  • The expansion of trade meant congestion, with too many ships using the wharves. Some vessels had to wait weeks before they could unload.
  • Some perishable cargoes were ruined by the delays, and many valuable goods were stolen from the ships.
  • For the port to grow, new facilities for loading and unloading goods had to be built.
Black Eagle Wharf with the schooner Express of Alnmouth.
Black Eagle Wharf with the schooner Express of Alnmouth.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H0042
Description: The Black Eagle Wharf at Wapping in the late 1850s. Lighters, a sailing barge, coasters and watermen's skiffs are lying off the wharf. The ship alongside the wharf is the schooner 'Express of Alnmouth'. On the quayside, dockers stand under umbrella cranes. In the 18th and 19th centuries Wapping was a centre for mast making and boat building. Housing now occupies this site.
Creator: Unknown
Date: c. 1856-1860
Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
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