As an island nation, much of Britain's wealth depended on her merchant ships and the Royal Navy. The former carried goods and people between the various parts of her empire, while the navy protected this trade. So, British ships had to be amongst the best in the world and keep up with the latest advances in technology.
By 1880 over half the world's steamships flew the British flag. Between 1892 and 1894 British yards produced more than four-fifths of the world's commercial tonnage. Many of these ships were built at the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company Ltd at Blackwall.
The Thames Ironworks was the most important shipbuilding business on the Thames and one of the biggest private shipbuilders in the country.
The ironworks built several of the biggest and most famous vessels of the time. The ironworks was one of the largest employers in east London, and it survived until 1912 when it finally succumbed to competition from northern shipyards.
These rendered the Thames-side shipbuilding industry unprofitable under modern conditions.