|The West India Docks in January 1810. © NMM|
They wanted to ensure that 'West India produce might be effectually secure from loss by theft or other causes and the public revenue greatly benefitted'.
The West India merchants and the Corporation of London promoted the bill.
|Robert Milligan (c.1746-1809). © NMM|
It was largely due to him that the West India Dock Company was granted a monopoly for 21 years to unload all West India produce brought into London.
All exports to the West Indies had to be loaded in their docks too. Milligan eventually served as both Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the West India Dock Company.
|The West India Docks during construction in March 1802. © NMM|
The site consisted of two docks:
They had space for more than 600 large ships.
|An elevated view of the West India Docks, c. 1802. © NMM|
Locks were also constructed in the cuts joining the docks with the basins. Ships entered the Blackwall-side basin and lighters went in at the Limehouse end. Several five-storey warehouses were also built.
|The West India Docks. © NMM|
To increase security even more, the West India Docks Company organised a force of 100 men equipped with muskets, swords and pistols. A second body of 100 special constables reinforced them.
|Shipping in the West India Import Dock, 1817. © NMM|
This became known as the 'free water clause'. It was kept in all successive legislation relating to dock building. The clause was to effect greatly the operating of the port during the following years.
|A sperm whale caught by whalers from the Greenland Dock, c. 1762. © NMM|
The blubber was delivered in strips known as 'blanket pieces'. These were then cut into small blocks and melted in iron pots.
|English whalers amongst the Greenland pack ice. © NMM|
Whale oil lit many homes and factories until the early 19th century. Whalebone was widely used in corsets and other products.
The Howland's name was changed to Greenland Dock in 1763. Whaling continued to be an important activity at the Surrey Docks until the early 1900s.