The steamship first appeared on the Thames in 1815 when the Clyde-built paddle steamer Marjory (1814) started a passenger service between London and Gravesend.
Adoption of the new technology was slow and it was not until 1875 that the tonnage of steam vessels using the port was larger than that of sailing ships. In that year steam represented just over 5 million tons and sail less than 4 million tons.
The London shipbuilding industry had to adapt to the new conditions introduced by steam. The best-known steamship built in Thames-side yards was the Great Eastern.
Built at Millwall between 1853 and 1857, she was the largest ship in the world when she was launched. But the Great Eastern was a failure as a passenger liner and was only successfully used to lay cables.
Another famous steamship built in London was HMS Warrior, the Royal Navy's first ironclad warship. She was launched in 1860 at the Thames Ironworks at Blackwall.
The Thunderer, launched in 1912 at the ironworks, was the Thames's last contribution to the Royal Navy. The Clydeside, Merseyside and Belfast shipyards took over that role, being closer to sources of coal and iron.