PortCities London

Linking the port - ferries

The Woolwich Ferry from the 1920s

The new steamers

In the 1920s, the original paddle steamers were replaced by newer vessels of the same type. These were the Squires (1922), Gordon (1923), and the John Benn and Will Crooks, both built in 1930. They were all named after major figures on the London County Council.

The John Benn (1930)

The John Benn (1930).
View full size imageThe John Benn (1930) in 1962. © NMM

John Benn (1850-1922) served on the LCC from 1889 until his death. He had also been Member of Parliament for Wapping (1892-95) and Devonport (1904-10).

As Chairman of the LCC Highways Committee, he oversaw the introduction of electric trams to London. His son, William Wedgwood Benn (1877-1960) and grandson Tony Benn (born 1925) were both famous Labour politiicans. 

The Gordon (1923)

The Gordon (1923) in 1956 - Woolwich Ferry.
View full size imageThe Gordon (1923) in 1956. © NMM
The Gordon was the second of the ferry boats to be named after general Gordon, killed at Khartoum.






The Will Crooks (1930)

The Woolwich Ferry boat Will Crooks (1930).
View full size imageThe Woolwich Ferry boat Will Crooks (1930). © NMM
The Will Crooks followed in 1930. She was named after the great strike leader and politician. Born in Poplar, Crooks (1852-1921) had worked as a labourer in the East India Docks, and became one of the leaders of the 1889 Dock Strike. He served on the LCC and later became Member of Parliament for Woolwich.

The growth of vehicle traffic

Directing traffic on a Woolwich Ferry boat, 1956.
View full size imageDirecting traffic on a Woolwich Ferry boat, 1956. © NMM
At first, the ferries carried passengers, horse-drawn vehicles and only light motor traffic. Eventually, the growing volume of cars caused increasing problems for the paddle steamers.