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About maritime London
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The Tudor and Stuart port

Royal Dockyards and Trinity House
Trade and expansion in the 16th century
Trade and expansion in the 17th century
Improving the port
Coffee houses and insuring ships
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Section through a First Rate Warship, circa 1701.

View full size imageSection through a First Rate Warship, c. 1690. © NMM

Growth and prosperity

During the 16th and 17th centuries the city and port of London continued to grow and prosper. The Thames became:

  • an important merchant shipbuilding centre
  • a location for the construction of warships for the Royal Navy
  • a base for many trading companies. 

Gateway to the world

English merchants, adventurers and explorers sailed to the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. London became a gateway to the markets and products of the world. 

In the 17th century, 90 per cent of the country's commerce passed through London and the port evolved to cope with the increasing volume of trade. New institutions were created to meet the needs of London's maritime community.

Maritime London timeline 

  • 1500 - London handled two thirds of England's overseas trade
  • 1513 - Henry VIII established Royal Dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford
  • 1513 - Henry VIII founded Trinity House to oversee pilotage and collect dues on the Thames
  • 1558 - 'Legal quays' given the privilege of handling foreign trade in the Pool of London
  • 1570 - Thomas Gresham founded the Royal Exchange as a place for merchants to conduct business
  • late 1500s - London developed a major shipbuilding industry, and becomes one of Europe's leading financial and commercial centres
  • 1614 - East India Company founded a wet dock at Blackwall
  • 1651 - Hay's Wharf founded
  • 1665 - Great Plague
  • 1666 - Fire of London
  • 1680s - Edward Lloyd's coffee house became a vital meeting place for insurance deals and exchanging information; Lloyd launched his newsletter in 1692
  • 1696 - Howland Great Wet Dock authorised; the first major private dock

Britain and the world timeline

  • 1492 - Columbus reaches the Caribbean
  • 1498 - Vasco de Gama reaches India
  • 1509-47 - Reign of King Henry VIII
  • 1558-1603 - Reign of Queen Elizabeth I
  • 1588 - Defeat of the Spanish Armada
  • 1642-49 English Civil War
  • 1649-60 - Commonwealth (the form of government set up in England after the execution of King Charles I and the abolition of the monarchy) 

Companies of Merchant Adventurers founded to explore and trade:

  • 1555 - Russia Company
  • 1581 - Turkey Company
  • 1583 - Venice Company
  • 1600 - East India Company
  • 1609 - Virginia Company
  • 1670 - Hudson's Bay Company
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Find out more
StoriesTrinity House
Showing the way
StoriesDeptford and Woolwich: London's Royal Dockyards
The rise and decline of Henry VIII's Dockyards
Fact fileElizabeth I
Queen of England, 1558-1603
Fact fileSamuel Pepys
Diarist and Master of Trinity House
Fact fileSir Thomas Spert
The first and longest serving Master of Trinity House
Fact fileHenry VIII
The king who had six wives
Fact filePhineas Pett
Ship builder
Fact file'Golden Hind'
Sir Francis Drake's ship for circumnavigating the globe
GalleriesDeptford Royal Dockyard collection
GalleriesWoolwich Royal Dockyard collection
GalleriesVideoMaritime London video gallery
From Roman settlement to today's Docklands, explore the history of maritime London
National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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