London Docks

An elevated view of the new dock at Wapping.
View full size imageAn elevated view of the new dock at Wapping. © NMM
Half a mile downriver from St Katharine Docks lay the London Docks at Wapping. Opened in 1805, the entrance to the dock was from the Thames at Shadwell.

The facilities at Wapping took up an area of more than 35 hectares (nearly 90 acres). 14 hectares (35 acres) consisted of water, and there were almost 4km (about 2.5 miles) of quay and jetty frontage.

A high wall surrounded the whole site. The dock had room for more than 300 vessels, not counting lighters. There was warehouse space for over 200,000 tons of goods. The splendid warehouses of brick, with stone plinths carved with ammonites and sea patterns, were four storeys high.

Western Quay at London Docks
View full size imageWestern Quay at London Docks. © NMM
One of the warehouses was built to store 24,000 hogsheads of tobacco weighing 545kg (1200lb) each (the equivalent of about 30,000 tons). Short-sea traders carrying wine, port, dried fruit, ivory, wool, spices, tobacco and canned goods used the London Docks.

By the 1960s the London Docks were in decline. They closed in 1968 when containerisation and the development of larger cargo ships made purpose-built terminals, like those at Tilbury and Felixstowe, more viable.

 Find out more:
Fact fileLondon Docks
StoriesLondon Docks at Wapping
GamesMatch the commodity to the dock it came into