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Tobacco and London Docks

The London Docks handled tobacco destined not only for Britain, but for many other countries as well. At the massive New Tobacco Warehouse, built between 1811 and 1813, buyers came from all over the world to view the goods. This fine building still stands today.


Unknown, c. 1950
© Southwark Library collection.

London Docks

Catherine Nelson (artist): Matthews (engraver): John Harris (publisher), July 1815
© National Maritime Museum, London

Sugar and West India Docks

Sugar from the West Indies was the most valuable import into the early docks. The raw cane sugar was then taken to refineries to be turned into sugar for domestic and industrial use.


Unknown, c.1910
© Newham Archives and Local Studies Library collection.

West India Docks

Catharine Nelson (artist): Matthews (engraver): John Harris (publisher), 1 August 1815
© National Maritime Museum, London

Frozen meat and Royal Albert Dock

After the invention of refrigeration ships – which could keep meat frozen and fresh during a long voyage – large quantities of meat could be imported from the rich but faraway farmlands of Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Frozen meat

Unknown, 3 March 1877
© National Maritime Museum, London

Royal Albert Dock

Unknown, 1953
© National Maritime Museum, London

Timber and Surrey Docks

These docks handled timber imports from the huge forests of the Baltic countries and North America. Timber was stored in large sheds or floated on special ponds.


Unknown, 27 August 1970
© National Maritime Museum, London

Surrey Docks

Unknown, c.1960s
© National Maritime Museum, London

Tea and East India Docks

Tea from China was one of the main imports of the East India Docks. Tea would be transported from the docks to the great warehouse in Cutler Street, where it was sorted, blended and bought by merchants.


Davenport, 1957
© National Maritime Museum, London

East India Docks

Unknown, Late 19th Century
© National Maritime Museum, London

Grain and Millwall Dock

Millwall Dock specialised in large grain imports from the prairies of North America. The large McDougall Wheatsheaf flour mill alongside the dock turned the grain into flour, from which bread and cakes could be made.


Unknown, 13 June 1936
© National Maritime Museum, London

Millwall Dock

Unknown, c. 1970
© National Maritime Museum, London

National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund