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The 20th-century port video gallery

The 20th century witnessed extraordinary changes in the port of London. Until the late 1950s, trade continued to grow, but by the 1960s, London faced increased competition from other ports as patterns of trade shifted. Huge container vessels replaced older ships and London's docks could no longer adapt. By 1981 they had all closed, leaving large areas derelict. New developments have now transformed the region.

Boom and bust: Docklands 1914 - 80.

Video File Boom and bust: Docklands 1914 - 80.
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During the 1920s and 1930s the port continued to handle an increasing amount of goods. This was to continue after the Second World War, once the docks had recovered from extensive bomb damage. In the 1960s the amount of goods handled in the Port of London reached record levels. After that containerisation and other technological changes led to a rapid decline.

Regenerating Maritime London 1980 - present.

Video File Regenerating Maritime London 1980 - present.
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By the early 1980s the docks had all closed. At the same time, much of the industry that had grown up along the Thames also declined, leaving large areas of docklands derelict. The region has since been transformed and regenerated by new office, housing and transport developments.


Find out more
StoriesThe 20th-century port
The changing fortunes of Docklands and the port
GalleriesVideoThe River Thames video gallery
A 1930s journey down the Thames from Tower Bridge to Tilbury.
StoriesThe port of London today
Into the 21st century
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
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