In 1614 the company constructed a wet dock at Blackwall for fitting out their vessels after launching from the nearby shipyards. The dock was not used for handling goods. Merchant ships continued to unload on the river.
It was the first dock on the Thames to be fitted with gates. The dock was later incorporated into the Brunswick Dock, which in turn became part of the East India Dock.
The small yards at Blackwall were privately owned. They produced coastal craft and merchant ships. Some also received contracts to build brigs and sloops for the Navy. This allowed the naval dockyards to concentrate on building larger ships. Before 1750, only ships of 50 guns or less were built for the Navy by private contract.
On the left of the picture, the ship shown side-on is probably the fifth-rate Adventure. The vessel nearby, flying the Union flag, is probably the Venerable. The first and third ships from the right, on the stocks, are two merchantmen.
In 1696 Royal Assent was given for the construction of a wet dock at Rotherhithe. It covered an area of 4 hectares (10 acres) and was called the Howland Great Wet Dock after the Streatham family who owned the land.
The dock was built as a harbour and fitting-out place for up to 50 ships. Trees were planted around the dock as a protection against the wind.
It became very popular after a great storm in 1703 wrecked several ships moored in the river. The Howland Dock was the centre of what became the Surrey Commercial Docks.