Silvertown developed into an important industrial area during the 19th century. It grew because of the Metropolitan Building Act of 1844, which limited harmful trades inside the boundaries of London. Silvertown was an ideal site for businesses of this kind because it was just outside these boundaries.
|Silvertown's location in East London. © NMM|
|A view of the Royal Docks from Silvertown Way. © NMM|
The area was originally marshland. It was named after Samuel Winkworth Silver who opened his India Rubber, Gutta Percha & Telegraph Cable Works there in 1852.
The area offered easy access for shipping and, eventually, easy access to a labour force which was being housed further and further away from the East End of London. In 1800 there were barely 6500 inhabitants, but by 1900 there were nearly 300,000 residents.
|Silvertown as viewed from Woolwich Reach, c. 1872. © NMM|
The muddy north bank of the Thames was not easy to build on, but it was possible to construct factories and refineries with their own dock facilities.
This soon sealed the fate of the declining sugar refining and chemical trades in Whitechapel and St George's. Companies in those lines of work moved down stream. This image is of the industrial skyline of Silvertown as seen from Woolwich Reach.
Brunner, Mond and Co.
|The Brunner Mond Works at Silvertown. © NMM|
In 1894 the firm Brunner, Mond & Co. opened their chemical works at Crescent Wharf in Silvertown. They began to make soda crystals and, in a smaller plant, caustic soda. Production of caustic soda ended in 1912 and the smaller plant closed.
|The Brunner Mond Works from the north west. © NMM|
When the First World War started in 1914 the government adapted the remaining chemical plant for the production of the explosive substance trinitrotoluene (TNT).
The Brunner-Mond management were not happy to do this, largely because the surrounding area was densely populated.
Eventually, under pressure from Lord Moulton at the Explosives Supply Department, they agreed to the government's demands. Production of high-grade TNT began in September 1915 and the plant was soon producing 9 tons of TNT per day.