PortCities London

The 18th-century port

Ship broking and the Baltic Exchange

The Baltic connection

Shipping on the Thames off Deptford.
View full size imageShipping on the River Thames at Deptford. © NMM
The buying and selling of ships and their cargoes - ship broking - increased dramatically during the 18th century. The most important development was the establishment of the Baltic Exchange.

In the early Georgian period, tallow (used to make candles and soap) was an important commodity shipped from the Baltic, in northern Europe.

Cube of Portland Stone from the Baltic Exchange Building.
View full size imagePortland Stone from the Baltic Exchange Building. © NMM

Traders with goods to send to the Baltic met captains looking for cargoes for the return journey at the Virginia and Maryland Coffee House in Threadneedle Street.

In this way, the members of the Exchange aimed to match bulk ships with bulk cargoes.

From coffee house to Baltic Exchange

Shipping off Woolwich.
View full size imageThe Baltic Exchange dominated the ship broking industry. © NMM
By 1810 the coffee house had become too crowded and the dealers moved to the nearby Antwerp Tavern (also known as the Baltic Coffee House).

In 1823, as London's global trading connections expanded, the Baltic Club was founded. It was a formal association and it standardized trading regulations.

In 1900 the club merged with the London Shipping Company and formed the Baltic and Mercantile Shipping Exchange. The organisation then moved into new premises at Jeffrey Square in the City. Today the organisation is the world's main international shipping exchange.



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