|Opening of the Millwall Docks. © NMM|
The increase in trade in the late 19th century led to more improvements to the port. The Millwall Docks on the Isle of Dogs opened in 1868.
The owners hoped to rent the quayside sites to industrial firms.
But eventually they were forced to rely on the traditional business of importing produce, chiefly grain and timber, from the Baltic.
|The Ponape at Millwall Docks. © NMM|
The Finnish barque Ponape (1903) was typical of the hundreds of sailing ships carrying Baltic grain and timber to the Millwall Docks.
The Millwall Dock Company's resident engineer, Frederick Duckham, invented the first pneumatic system for moving grain from ship to shore.
|L'Avenir moored at Millwall Docks with the McDougall's flour mill in the background. © NMM|
At first he used a barge and then a gigantic granary that could hold 24,000 tons. The McDougall's flour mill was built on the site of the original granary, which burnt down.
The need to expand
Meanwhile, the London and St Katharine Dock Companies had combined and bought the Royal Victoria Dock. In 1874 the new company decided to build the Royal Albert Dock in North Woolwich as an extension of the Victoria.
|Unloading barrels at the Royal Albert Dock in 1914. © NMM|
This was mainly because the Victoria dock was not deep enough and had too narrow an entrance for the largest steamships.
|The Duke and Duchess of Connaught opening the Royal Albert Dock. © NMM|
The Albert Dock was opened in 1880 and at the time was the largest dock in the world. It was designed to take vessels of up to 12,000 tons.
Three kilometres (1.75 miles) long, it contained more than 5000 metres (16,500 feet) of deep-water quays.
It was connected to the Royal Victoria Dock, to the east, by a lock and was entered from the Thames via a basin at Gallions Reach. The main cargoes handled at the Royal Albert Dock were tobacco, chilled and frozen meat, grain and general cargo.
|Loading coal lighters under arc lights in the Royal Albert Dock. © NMM|
There were single storey transit sheds rather than warehouses, to emphasise the fast turn around for ships. It was also the first London dock to be lit by electricity.
|Model of the Royal Albert Dock. © NMM|
|The view from the Gravesend side of the Thames, showing a ship entering the lock during the opening of Tilbury in 1886. © NMM|
The Royal Albert Dock was at first used at the expense of the other docks in the port. This provoked the East and West India Docks Company (the two amalgamated in 1833) to build the Tilbury Dock.
It was situated more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) downriver from London.
The company hoped that ship-owners would prefer to dock their vessels close to Gravesend, the well-established point of arrival for ships, as it would save them the time and expense of taking the ships further up the river.
|Tilbury Dock, c. 1890. © NMM|
The dock opened in 1886 but shipping was slow to transfer from the older docks. This was largely because of a boycott by London merchants, lightermen and wharfingers (wharf owners).