During the 17th century, London's merchant adventurers continued to seek out new commercial opportunities.
In December 1606, three small ships - the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery - sailed from Blackwall with the backing of a Company of Merchant Adventurers. They founded the state of Virginia in North America.
That was 14 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set out from Plymouth. Here is a photograph of a replica of one of the ships, the Godspeed.
In 1609 the Virginia Company was established. The company traders exchanged woollens and weapons for furs with the Native Americans.
Virginia has a warm, fertile climate, perfect for growing tobacco. Sir Francis Drake (1540-96) introduced the tobacco leaf to England in 1585 and smoking became popular in England, especially among the wealthier classes.
By the 1640s the English colonists in Virginia dominated the Atlantic tobacco trade. They were sending huge quantities to London.
In June 1668, the ketches Nonsuch and Eaglet left the Thames to explore the territory around Hudson Bay in Canada. Only the Nonsuch reached her goal and returned four months later with a cargo of beaver furs.
Charles II realised that important results would follow from this first expedition. He sealed the Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. The flag alongside carries the company's coat-of-arms.