West India Docks

An elevated view of the new docks and warehouses now constructing on the Isle of Dogs.
View full size imageThe West India Docks. © NMM
Eastwards of Rotherhithe, lay the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, opened in 1802-06. William Jessop designed what became London’s first enclosed trading dock. The site consisted of an import dock of 12 hectares (30 acres) of water and an export dock of about 10 hectares (24 acres). They had space for more than 600 large ships.

At each end of the docks was a basin connecting them to the river. It had locks to control the flow of water between the docks and the Thames. Locks were also constructed in the cuts joining the docks with the basins. Ships entered the Blackwall-side basin and lighters went in at the Limehouse end.

West India Docks and Blackwall Basin.
View full size imageWest India Docks and Blackwall Basin. © NMM
Several five-storey warehouses were also built. Initially built for the West India trade, the docks later handled general cargoes right up until their closure in 1980. South of the import and export dock was the South Dock, which was opened in 1870. This dock was formerly the City Canal (opened in 1805), which was built so that vessels could avoid sailing around the Isle of Dogs. The canal was, however, a financial loss and it was subsequently converted into the South Dock. In 1926 it was connected to the two northern docks and to the adjacent Millwall Docks.

In recent years, the West India Docks have been transformed with new offices and leisure facilities. The area is now dominated by the huge Canary Wharf Tower, the tallest building in Britain.

 Find out more:
Fact fileWest India Docks
StoriesGoing for growth: The West India and the Greenland Docks
TrailWest India Docks family trail
GamesMatch the commodity to the dock it came into