Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1994.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.
The main elements of the West India Docks that were constructed between 1800 and 1806 were the Import and Export Docks, and the Blackwall and Limehouse basins, linked to each other and to the Thames by six locks. These features enclosed a total area of 62 acres of water. Some indication of the relative scale of the works can be gauged from the fact that in 1800 there were 78 acres of wet dock and basin accommodation in the whole of England, and that the wet docks at Liverpool, which contained a larger area than those at any other British port, covered only 28 acres. (fn. 6)
The principal addition to the West India complex was the City Canal, acquired in 1829 to be the South Dock, and reconstructed and enlarged in 1866–70. A small Junction Dock was added in 1853–5 and a dry dock in 1876–8, but the system was not otherwise upgraded until the Blackwall entrance lock was rebuilt in 1892–5. Broadly, the docks were well suited to shipping throughout the early nineteenth century, but became obsolescent in the late nineteenth century. Following the changing demands of shipping, further major improvements were carried out in the early twentieth century, particularly in the late 1920s, when passages were added to link the Import, Export and South Docks (Plate 45b).
The Import Dock is the northernmost rectangular wet dock across the Isle of Dogs. The hub of the original dock system, it was built in 1800–2 for the unloading of West India shipping. It originally measured 2,600ft by 510ft and impounded 30 acres of water to a depth of 23ft. At the time of its construction it was by far the biggest dock ever built. (fn. 7)
Ralph Walker's plans for the West India Docks prepared in late 1799 included a 'great Dock for unloading Inwards' of 2,508ft by 478ft to accommodate up to 300 ships at a time (fig. 90b). Walker estimated the cost of the dock and two entrance basins at £258,345. The final plans for the dock were settled by William Jessop with Walker in early 1800. Excavation contracts, for the Import Dock and Blackwall Basin together, were given in four lots of varying sizes, to John Holmes and William Bough of Poplar, John Clark and Thomas Thatcher from Wiltshire, Samuel Jones, and Richard Minton, on behalf of Bolton & Pixton. The digging started on 3 February 1800. Hundreds of men gradually shaped the great cavity, but only Holmes & Bough were able to progress at a rate that the dock company found satisfactory. Much of the spoil was used to build up ground level from about 6ft below high water (Trinity High Water) to quay level, about 6ft above high water. The deeper parts of the excavation were carried out by Holmes & Bough in 1801, with the aid of a pumping steam-engine (see page 326). (fn. 8)
Preparations for the building of the brick walls which line the dock began in late 1800. William Adam and Daniel and Alexander Robertson contracted to use excavated clay to make 24 million bricks and Jessop ordered 6,000 tons of Dorking limestone for the mortar. The Mylnes of Dundee supplied gritstone, cheaper than granite, for the copings. Jessop's specification for the walls was approved in January 1801, and Adam and the Robertsons undertook to build them. (fn. 9) The first brick was laid on 16 June 1801 and the walls went up with extraordinary speed. By September up to 100 bricklayers had laid all 2,600ft of the south wall to a height of 13ft 9in. Bricklaying continued at a rate of about one million bricks each week. The supply of bricks failed to keep up with this pace, and so some warehouse bricks were appropriated, and other bricks had to be bought (see page 255). (fn. 10)
The Import Dock was fully excavated by the end of 1801 (Plate 46a,b). Its walls were completed after the winter break, but the coping was still unfinished when water was introduced into the dock on 23 August 1802. (fn. 11) The final cost of the Import Dock and two entrance basins was £309,894; the problems of brick supply may have been the principal factor behind the increase in costs over the estimate made in 1799. (fn. 12)
The 1801–2 Import Dock walls survive, largely behind and below later alterations (figs 96a, 107). The upper parts of the west wall and the east end of the south wall remain exposed. The walls are of a type first used by Jessop in Dublin and Bristol in 1792–6, and widely adopted in later dock works. They are of brick, 28– 29ft high, with a curved, or 'banana', section, both for structural stability and to suit the shape of ships' hulls. They are 6ft thick and backed by 3ft-thick counterforts, or buttresses, at 10ft centres, to help prevent slippage. The counterforts are bound to the main walling by flattened iron hoops, the earliest known example of such reinforced brickwork. The foundations were not piled, because the gravel bed was considered, and has proved, sufficiently stable. Clay puddle backed the walls and covered the dock floor, to prevent water escaping through the gravel. (fn. 13) In the mid-nineteenth century the 'inefficient' gritstone copings were replaced by Aberdeen granite, and latticed timber fenders that had protected the upper portions of the walls from contact with shipping were removed. (fn. 14)
The Import Dock remained one of the roomiest docks in the Port throughout the nineteenth century, yet from mid-century its usefulness gradually declined, as no major improvements were made for 90 years. The curved walls prevented steamships of deep draught from mooring alongside, and the dock fell into disuse in the late nineteenth century. Better use of the Import Dock was an early priority of the London and India Docks Joint Committee, and in 1892 improvement of the north quay, with timber wharfing projecting into the dock, was proposed, in conjunction with the rebuilding of the Blackwall locks and the introduction of an impounding system to increase the depth of water (see pages 269 and 326). (fn. 15) H. F. Donaldson prepared 'ingenious' plans for an open, or 'false', quay, 20ft wide, to run 2,450ft along the north side of the dock. This was built by John Price of Westminster in 1894–5 and cost £17,779. It consisted of 492 creosoted pitch-pine piles (cheaper than iron), and an asphalt-paved concrete floor on rolled-steel girders and joists linked by wrought-iron arch plates (Plates 50c, 51a). (fn. 16) The 'false' quay was straight-sided, increasing the depth of water alongside from 16ft to 23ft 6in. It allowed dredging up to its edge, to further deepen the dock without undermining the walls, and created space for travelling quay cranes and transit handling. The Import Dock was given a new lease of life, with 15 berths for large steamers. The water depth was increased by 18in. when the impounding system came into operation and dredging further increased the depth to 28ft. (fn. 17)
The Import Dock east quay was similarly improved in 1897–8. This 'false' quay, 365ft by 20ft, was built by John Aird & Sons for £4,708, with steel girders, joists and arch plates supplied by the Blaenavon Company. (fn. 18) This structure survives, albeit in a damaged condition. In 1900–1 the west quay was equipped with a 'false' quay, 380ft by 19ft 6in., of similar construction, built with direct labour for £4,562. It was removed in 1964. (fn. 19)
The north quay was rebuilt again in 1912–15 as part of the PLA's first programme of improvements. Frederick Palmer replaced the 1890s structure with a Hennebique reinforced-concrete 'false' quay, 55ft 6in. wide and 2,456ft long, in part to support new transit sheds (Plate 49c; fig. 107). It was built, with the sheds, by A. Jackaman & Son, of Slough, with George Corderoy & Son as quantity surveyors, for an estimated £97,350. The quay, which survives, was novel in form, paralleled by contemporary work at the London Docks. It has three rows of 5ftdiameter cylinders, each encasing three 14in.-square piles and linked by precast braces. On the beam-and-slab decking there are contemporary cast-iron bollards. (fn. 20) The quay was strengthened by John Mowlem & Company in 1953 with additional 16in.-square concrete piles, two per bay, and precast-concrete beams. (fn. 21)
A 580ft-long 'false' quay was built at the west end of the Import Dock south quay in 1937 for the Canary Wharf berth leased to Fruit Lines Ltd. It was designed in Asa Binns's department and built by John Mowlem & Company, following a type used at the Royal Albert Dock in 1935. It was made 25ft wide to permit deepening of the dock to 29ft and was founded on a single row of columns of triple reinforced-concrete piles in precast cylindrical shells. There were precast decking slabs and granite-concrete coping. (fn. 22)
The south 'false' quay was extended eastwards in 1950–2. Ever-larger ships had to be accommodated in the Import Dock, particularly as a third of the berths in the Port had been immobilized by bomb damage. W. P. Sheppard-Barron revived pre-war plans for two new deep-water berths and John Mowlem & Company built a 1,320ft length of 25ft-wide 'false' quay, similar to that of 1937. The dock was deepened to 30ft 6in., then, in 1958, to 31ft 6in., by dredging and impounding. (fn. 23)
The Import Dock ceased to be used for shipping in 1976, and infilling was considered before the dock was listed Grade I in 1983. (fn. 24) Stabilizing fill was deposited against the 'banana' walls on the south side of the Import Dock in 1986–7 prior to the construction of large decks out over the dock for the Canary Wharf development. (fn. 25)
The Export Dock was built to the south of the Import Dock in 1803–6 (fig. 90b). In 1799 Ralph Walker projected a 'Dock for light Ships and loading outwards' of 23 acres, with an estimated cost of £95,313, then, with Jessop, in early 1800 settled the dock's size at 24 acres, 2,600ft by 400ft. (fn. 26) The Export Dock was given no further attention until the Import Dock was open. Jessop prepared detailed plans in 1803, fixing the water depth at 23ft 3in., and Thomas Morris was taken on in December 1803 to superintend the building of the dock, under Jessop until late 1804. (fn. 27)
John Dyson, who was then working at the City Canal, started the excavations in late 1803. Extra pumping capacity was arranged by renting the Corporation's City Canal steam engine. (fn. 28) Dyson fell behind his schedule and, in April 1804, the dock company gave the main excavation contract to Webb, Richards & Halse, but they were discharged in July after the partners had fallen out, Webb having run off with their money. The contract was then taken up by William Bough and John Hughes, who introduced a steam engine for 'hauling upwards of 2000 tons of gravel daily, upon an inclined plane 40ft in height'. Excavation of the dock was completed in mid1805. (fn. 29)
The Export Dock walls, including the inner locks, required 21 million bricks, many of which were made on site by Fentiman & Company, and the remainder were supplied by the Trimmers and others. (fn. 30) The Mylnes again supplied Dundee gritstone for copings. The brickwork was carried out by Aslat, Collins, Gill & Steward, the masonry by Thomas and William Crawford. The bricklaying was under way by April 1804 and was completed by early 1806. The Export Dock walls follow the Import Dock walls closely in materials, form and dimensions, differing slightly at the toes (Plate 51b). (fn. 31)
The Export Dock opened to shipping on 12 July 1806 with a ceremony attended by thousands of onlookers. It had cost £197,738 to build. (fn. 32) Initially, it was heavily used, as all shipping bound for the West Indies was required to load at its north quay. With the loss of the monopoly on West India trade in 1823 the dock came to be used for other purposes. In 1825 four 9ft-wide granite slips for landing floated timber were built into its quays near the south-east corner. These slips were removed in 1874, but timber rafting in the dock went on into the 1930s. (fn. 33)
Timber jetties were put up in the Export Dock, four in 1846 and ten more in 1874–7, to provide berths for ships unable to moor alongside the curved walls (plan B). (fn. 34) They were set obliquely because of the dock's limited width. There were also floating iron jetties. By the 1890s the dock had come to be used largely for lyingup, and the jetties had all been removed by 1907. (fn. 35) Proposals for improving the Export Dock were rejected in 1881 and 1899, other works taking precedence. (fn. 36)
The western two-thirds of the Export Dock north quay (1,608ft) was improved as part of the PLA's first programme of works. A 20ft-wide Hennebique reinforced-concrete 'false' quay was designed by Frederick Palmer and built by A. Jackaman & Son in 1912 14 at an estimated cost of £21,950. It is a single row of cylinders, like those at the Import Dock north quay, with cross-braces and struts to the wall. Associated with this work was a programme of dredging and impounding to deepen the dock to 28ft. (fn. 37) The 'false' quay was extended eastwards to the Bellmouth Passage by John Mowlem & Company in 1938–9 and later was extensively repaired following wartime bomb damage. The coping on the south side of the dock was replaced in granite-concrete in post-war repairs. Surviving south quay bollards may be from that period, although they are of the type used from 1912 at the Import Dock. (fn. 38)
Plans for partial filling of the Export Dock in the 1960s and 1970s were not executed, and the dock was listed Grade I in 1983. (fn. 39) Much of the 1804–6 walling survives, little altered below the coping, though the north quay is hidden beneath the decks of Canary Wharf.
The Blackwall Basin was the first impounded, or nontidal, dock entrance basin ever built. In effect it served as an enormous entrance lock. A number of ships could be locked into the basin around high tide, remain afloat there when the tide receded, and then lock into the docks when convenient, without affecting the water level in the docks. Ralph Walker visited Liverpool in 1799 and noted the inadequacy of tidal entrance basins, reporting that 'I see nothing worthy of being copied from the Liverpool Docks'. (fn. 40) The basin was excavated by Holmes & Bough in 1800–1 to provide a depth of water of 23ft, to match the docks. It was not walled; the banked sides were simply puddled. (fn. 41) At six acres it was almost as large as the Queen's Dock at Liverpool of 1795, but in the context of the West India Docks it seems little more than a large pond. Its banks have been altered, but it remains close to its original irregular oval shape, which facilitated the towing in of ships.
Consideration was given to wharfing or quaying part or all of the north side of the basin in 1817, and again later in the nineteenth century. (fn. 42) A jetty was built in 1828, another was added sometime between 1841 and 1863, and, in the 1870s, the south-east corner of the basin was walled. Nothing else was done, despite the increasing risk of large vessels grounding, until more of the south bank was reclaimed and quayed c1890. The north side was walled in 1901 to serve as a barge berth, and the south-west bank was quayed in 1927 8. (fn. 43) The Blackwall Basin has remained virtually unused and unaltered since the 1960s.
Blackwall Entrance Lock
The entrance to the West India Docks from the river at Blackwall was the most critical point of the original dock system. The fortunes of the dock proprietors turned on its suitability for shipping. The original intention was to provide a gated entrance, but in late 1799 it was decided that a lock should be constructed, to provide greater control over water levels and to reduce silting. (fn. 44) Excavation of the lock pit began in 1800, before Jessop and Walker had settled the dimensions of what was to be the largest lock in England, at 45ft wide, 191ft 6in. long and 23ft 3in. deep at high water. (fn. 45)
The lock pit was ready for its timber foundations, contracted to John Bunn, in June 1801, but timber was then scarce. Great difficulty was experienced in getting beech transported from the Ashridge estate in Hertfordshire, and oak for the 28ft-tall lock gates had to be obtained from the Royal Dockyards and private shipbuilders. (fn. 46) The dock company pushed hard for progress, but the delays were such that Bunn's contract was transferred to Thomas Clark, of Woolwich. Adam and the Robertsons were responsible for the brickwork and Dundee gritstone masonry, and Allan MacFarlane carried out the ironwork. (fn. 47) In late 1801 William Bough and Thomas Clark built a coffer-dam, to allow Adam and the Robertsons to build the outer wing walls. It consisted of two sections, each about 120ft long, linked by the remains of a wharf. (fn. 48) Pressure to complete the works increased in 1802, and Jessop prematurely ordered dredging that may have led to the breach of the coffer-dam on 22 July which killed six men. This did not prevent the company from opening the lock on 27 August. (fn. 49)
The 1801–2 Blackwall entrance lock was founded on a timber platform and piles supporting the brickwork of a broad inverted arch, squared for the sills of the gates (Plate 46c; fig. 96b). This form of lock construction, in which the invert acts as a strut between the walls, had been established in late-eighteenth-century canal building and the detailed design was presumably by Jessop. The separately centred 'banana' side walls were strengthened by counterforts and their upper parts were faced with massive ashlar blocks. (fn. 50) The widely spaced wing walls, also of 'banana' section, were not stabilized by any platform or apron. They were probably faced with latticed timber fenders.
Within months of the opening, John Rennie reported operating problems at the Blackwall entrance, as well as cracks in the south outer wing wall, (fn. 51) part of which collapsed in 1807. (fn. 52) To avoid disrupting business, it was not properly rebuilt. The lock required many more repairs, perhaps a reflection of the haste with which it was built. The stability and soundness of the entrance was indeed a constant worry, but nothing significant was done, chiefly because, as there was no other down-river access to the docks, closure for rebuilding was regarded as too costly in terms of lost business. (fn. 53) The lock gates were replaced in 1812, and again in 1864 by Westwood, Baillie & Company, presumably in iron. (fn. 54)
The pierheads were improved in 1824–5 to plans by (Sir) John and George Rennie. On the south side, a timber jetty was added, and a section of river wall, 137ft long, was rebuilt in brick. The north wing wall was extended and given new river stairs. (fn. 55) The Edinburgh Steam Packet Company used the south pierhead as a platform for steamboat passenger services until 1835, when the facility was superseded by Brunswick Wharf. (fn. 56)
The fabric of the Blackwall entrance was one problem; as ships grew larger its size became another. On 11 August 1851 the north outer wing wall collapsed, probably because of seepage from Poplar Dock. The dock company was forced to send some shipping round to Limehouse. (fn. 57) The directors were so alarmed by the vulnerability of their principal entrance that they sanctioned an immediate call to the eminent dock engineer James Meadows Rendel. Foreseeing both increasing competition and yet larger steamers, Rendel tried to persuade the company to build a wholly new entrance, 60ft wide. However, company officers, including Henry Martin, favoured the Junction Dock as a means of reducing dependence on the Blackwall entrance (see page 280). (fn. 58) Dockmasters believed that ships then docking at the East India Docks were 'larger than ever we shall see again'. (fn. 59) Rendel's proposal was rejected and, in 1852–4, both wing walls were repaired. On the south side, Rendel introduced campshedding reinforced with iron wales and tied back through the old wall to massive counterforts of concrete on ragstone footings. The counterforts were about 12ft to 15ft square. An open timber platform was used in lieu of walling on the north side. (fn. 60)
The primacy of the Blackwall entrance was ceded to the rebuilt South Dock east entrance in 1870. The Blackwall entrance lock fell into such bad repair that it could only be operated on a level tide. (fn. 61) The London and India Docks Joint Committee turned its attention to the problem in 1892. A larger lock was needed for the sake of the whole West India Dock system, for the South Dock east entrance was already out of date. The Blackwall entrance lock was rebuilt in 1892–4 as part of a larger scheme which included impounding to raise the level of water in the docks. (fn. 62)
Robert Carr consulted the dockmasters and worked up plans for an entrance lock 430ft by 60ft and 30ft deep at high water, with intermediate gates to give an outer lock 280ft long and an inner one 150ft long. This arrangement, later reversed, allowed the economical locking of small vessels. He estimated the costs at £88,434 for the lock and £155,814 for the whole project. On the basis that Lucas & Aird were 'the contractors best acquainted with Dock Work in the Port of London', they were given the main contract, for £80,000. No other tenders were invited, despite the objections of Carr and others within the dock company. (fn. 63) Work started in September 1892 and coffer-dams of clay puddle between lines of cast-iron sheet piling went up quickly. (fn. 64) Following representations from Donald Currie & Company, whose ships measured 450ft, the Joint Committee decided in 1893 to lengthen the lock to 480ft, divided as an inner lock 280ft long and an outer one 200ft long, at an extra cost of £8,700, pushing the pierhead further into the river. (fn. 65) The new lock walls were built outside the old walls, which were subsequently removed (Plate 46c). (fn. 66)
Robert Carr suffered a stroke in October 1892. He was retained as a consultant to see the Blackwall entrance works to completion, but Sir Alexander Meadows Rendel was brought in to design three pairs of lock gates, constructed and erected by the Thames Iron Works & Shipbuilding Company. (fn. 67) The lock's hydraulic machinery was supplied by Sir William Armstrong & Company. It comprised six direct-acting gate rams, of a type which was novel at the time, six sluice valves, four 5-ton capstans and 12 fairleads. (fn. 68) Many of these fittings survive, with cast-iron bollards, presumably contemporary and probably supplied by the Butterley Iron Company. (fn. 69) (fn. 1)
The rebuilt Blackwall entrance lock opened for business on 16 August 1894. (fn. 71) The final cost of £208,799 included £141,753 for the lock and related works by Lucas & Aird, £12,274 for the gates by Thames Iron Works, and £7,519 for Armstrong & Company's hydraulic machinery. (fn. 72)
The 1893–4 lock, which survives, is built of mass concrete with blue brick facings (Plate 46c; fig. 96g). The straight-sided walls are up to 36ft thick and the invert, 7ft thick at its centre, has 3ft of gault brick over the concrete. There are Cornish granite and Brigg stone dressings, and brick-lined culverts for scouring the outer gate floors and apron at low tides. Knuckles at the west end of the lock were intended to permit later extension. The semi-buoyant and double-skinned cellular gates have steel framing and wrought-iron casing and are divided horizontally into three compartments, the middle air chamber and upper section open to water on one side to prevent excess buoyancy. Each gate is 37ft 6in. tall and weighs approximately 80 tons. (fn. 73) To improve docking, a timber jetty, 140ft long, was built from the north pierhead in 1899–1900 by John Price for £2,560. It was rebuilt by Holloway Brothers in 1923–4. (fn. 74)
The Blackwall entrance became much less important after 1929, following the completion of a new South Dock east entrance and passages linking the Import, Export and South Docks. It was closed from 1940 to 1950, reopening only for barge traffic. In 1960–1 John Mowlem & Company repaired 270ft of the lock's south wall in reinforcedconcrete, re-using the granite coping. (fn. 75) The lock was last used in 1968. The LDDC removed the middle gates and permanently dammed the lock under a bridge in 1987, as part of improvements to Preston's Road.
The two-acre basin that was formerly at the west end of the West India Docks accommodated lighters and empty ships passing between the docks and up-river quays. It was not necessary for the opening of the docks and so was built slightly later than the Import Dock and Blackwall Basin. John Dyson and Holmes & Bough excavated it in 1801. Unlike the Blackwall Basin, it was given brick walls, of 'banana' section, built by Adam and the Robertsons in 1802. It was coped with Portland stone, as Dundee stone was in short supply. (fn. 76)
The Limehouse Basin was not completed until July 1803. largely because on 13 October 1802 a high tide passed over and behind the uncoped south wall and, though 4ft 6in. thick, part of it collapsed. Jessop blamed Walker, claiming that the walls had been laid 22in. lower than he had specified. John Rennie was called in to report on the incident, and in doing so he made extensive criticisms of the work. He stated that the wall should have been thicker and more markedly curved, and that stone bonding-courses should have been used. The dock company remained cautiously loyal to Jessop, but asked him to consult Rennie in future. (fn. 77)
The Limehouse Basin was 21ft deep at high water, and the walls rose 6ft higher. Rennie's advice may have been heeded, as the rebuilt south wall was about 5ft 8in. thick, with ashlar blocks, about 6in. by 18in. at the face, at 6ft intervals about 4ft below the coping. Jessop evidently declined to use continuous ashlar bondingcourses as employed by Rennie at the London Docks. The wall had counterforts, 3ft wide, at 9ft 6in. to 13ft 6in. centres, with reinforcing iron hoops. (fn. 78)
Enlargement of the Limehouse Basin was considered in the prosperous 1810s, and again in 1864, when congestion by lighters was a serious problem. (fn. 79) However, nothing was done, and after the Limehouse entrance lock closed in 1894 the basin was little used. It survived as a lay-by for barges and repair of boats, and as a cut between the Import and Export Docks. Sheds were built on its south side in 1901–2, bringing some use as wharfage. (fn. 80) The Limehouse Basin was filled in 1927–8, to save on maintenance and to increase storage ground, using material from the excavations for the Millwall Passage. (fn. 81)
Limehouse Entrance Lock
The Limehouse entrance lock was built principally for use by lighters and was therefore smaller than its Blackwall counterpart. It was only after the docks opened in August 1802 that attention turned to the secondary problem of access from Limehouse. Holmes & Bough excavated the pit, Thomas Clark built the timber foundations, and Adam and the Robertsons built the invert and walls. The outer wing walls were built without using a coffer-dam, on piled foundations at low-water level. (fn. 82) The lock was completed by mid-1803 and was 36ft wide, 155ft long and 22ft deep at high water, and followed the Blackwall lock in form and materials. (fn. 83)
The hurriedly built and inadequately founded outer wing walls were entirely rebuilt with a stabilizing stone apron in 1809–11, on John Rennie's advice. The estimated cost was £9,800. (fn. 84) William Bough contracted for the work, but a large part of his coffer-dam gave way because he had not driven his piles deeply enough. (fn. 85) The contract was transferred to William John Jolliffe and Edward Banks, who were described by Rennie as having 'much experience in the building of Bridges'. (fn. 86) (fn. 2) The rebuilding, including arbitration against Bough, finally cost £29,361. (fn. 88) Iron lock gates, an early example, were fitted at that time, and were not replaced until 1870. (fn. 89)
The Limehouse entrance lock closed in 1894, immediately following the opening of the rebuilt Blackwall entrance lock. Continued operation would have reduced the effectiveness of the new impounding system. (fn. 90) It remained closed despite Frederick Palmer's proposal in 1911 that it should be reopened. (fn. 91) The filling in of the Limehouse Basin in 1927–8 made it quite useless. It was dammed and filled in 1930 by J. J. Prior Ltd, who leased the site to be part of Bridge Wharf (see page 394).
The inner lock from the Blackwall Basin to the Import Dock (Blackwall Import lock) was built in 1801–2 by Adam and the Robertsons, on timber foundations by Job Leader. It was originally 37ft 3in. wide, 162ft long and 24ft 3in. deep at high water. It differed from the river entrances in having an elliptically arched invert. (fn. 92) Its gates were replaced by Henry Jeffrey in 1815, and gritstone copings were replaced with Aberdeen granite in 1823. (fn. 93)
The Limehouse Import lock was built in 1801–3 by Adam and the Robertsons, on timber foundations by Thomas Clark. It measured 150ft 3in. long, 36ft wide, and 22ft deep at high water. (fn. 94) New gates were provided in 1819. (fn. 95)
The Export Dock inner locks were built with the Export Dock in 1804–6, to Jessop's specifications. Thomas Clark built the timber foundations and cofferdams. Aslat, Collins, Gill & Steward carried out the brickwork, and Thomas and William Crawford the masonry, using Cornish granite. The Blackwall Export lock was 38ft wide, 160ft long and 21ft 9in. deep at high water; the Limehouse Export lock was 36ft wide, 151ft long and only 18ft deep at high water. (fn. 96)
Widening of the Blackwall Import lock to allow larger ships into the Import Dock soon came under consideration. Part of the lock coping was trimmed off in 1837 to facilitate the docking of larger ships. (fn. 97) After a ship had stuck in the lock in 1884, eight inches of stone and brick were chipped away below water level on each side, a practice said to have come from Liverpool. (fn. 98) The works carried out in 1892–4 for improving access to the Import and Export Docks included the enlargement of the Blackwall Import and Export locks as open passages. The introduction of impounding left no reason for locking between the Blackwall Basin and the docks. Solid inverts were unnecessary, and so it was proposed that the south side of the Import passage and the north side of the Export passage be reconstructed in timber wharfing, leaving the opposite sides unaltered. (fn. 99) These plans were recast by H. F. Donaldson in 1893 to use concrete, following difficulties, perhaps with pile-driving, encountered by Lucas & Aird, contractors for the work. The cuts, completed in 1894, were 60ft wide and 27ft deep, with inverts where railway bridges crossed. Castiron mooring bollards were supplied by the Butterley Iron Company. The cost was £33,805, more than double the original estimate. (fn. 100) The mass-concrete walls are 4ft 6in. thick at the top and 15ft at the bottom. They have battered and curved sides, and Cornish granite coping. (fn. 101)
The Blackwall Export passage was rendered superfluous when the Bellmouth Passage was made in 1927–9, and so was filled in. (fn. 102) The Blackwall Import passage survives. The Limehouse Export lock was filled in 1927, and the Import lock survived as a dead-end passage until 1964. (fn. 103)
West India Dock Graving Dock
The prohibition on shipbuilding and repair within the West India Docks was no longer justified once the Victoria Dock, in the 1850s, and then the Millwall Docks, in the 1860s, were allowed integral ship-repair facilities. Shipowners found it convenient to use dry docks within wet docks, and so those without such a facility were likely to suffer in an increasingly competitive port. Donald Johnson & Company, shipbuilders at the Regent Dry Dock (see page 418), approached the East and West India Dock Company in 1872 with an offer to build and lease dry docks on the south side of the Blackwall Basin. The dock company thought the site unsuitable and considered making the dry docks itself. (fn. 104) Indeed, in 1874 it obtained an Act empowering it to build and maintain its own dry docks, (fn. 105) although it subsequently invited others to make and lease them. Johnson & Company first submitted plans for a dry dock east of the Junction Dock off the South Dock Basin, but the dock company decided to retain this site for wood storage and so Johnsons proposed a single large dry dock off the Blackwall Basin. This was approved in August 1875, and Johnsons were granted a lease of an irregular site, including the east end of the Saltpetre Warehouse, and a frontage of 415ft on to Preston's Road south of Longley Place. The lease was for 99 years from one year after the opening of the dry dock, and the annual rent was £1,292. (fn. 106)
Johnson & Company began work on the dry dock in early 1876 with a capital of £70,000. Donald S. Baynes was the engineer and Merritt & Ashby the building contractors. Augustus Manning, for the dock company, objected to the proposed depth of only 19ft 9in. and, following advice from Charles Hampden Wigram, a dock company director and shipbuilder, it was revised to 23ft. The West India Dock Graving Dock opened on 6 March 1878. (fn. 107) It was 452ft long and 63ft wide at the top of its entrance. Its internal width was 80ft at the bottom and 94ft at the top, so that it was broad enough to accommodate two large steamers at once. It was one of the largest dry docks in the country, and only the Thames Ironworks had a larger dry dock in London (figs 96f, 97). (fn. 108) The dock was largely mass concrete, with 11ftthick foundations on a timber floor, sides up to 13ft thick, faced in brick with York stone altars, teak coping and granite quoining. It had a chambered wrought-iron 'ship' caisson, flat on the dock side with a vessel-like section to the basin. A culvert, 600ft long and 5ft high, ran from the dockhead to the South Dock pierhead. Further drainage was by means of a large centrifugal pump, made by Gwynne of Hammersmith, placed in a small pump-house east of the dock. There were hand capstans and mooring posts on the quays. Otherwise the site had only simple timber sheds and a small steam crane. (fn. 109)
Johnson's earlier partners were succeeded by John Denison Pender and Frank Gooch in 1877–8. The company was soon in financial trouble. The dock company refused to buy the dry dock, and in 1879 the lease was mortgaged to Pender, James Rankin, and Sir Daniel Gooch, for £74,200, then assigned to Pender alone in 1880. Pender reconstituted his ownership under the West India Graving Dock Company, registered in 1883. (fn. 110) He was one of the founding directors of the Dry Docks Corporation of London, formed in 1886 to amalgamate 28 London graving docks and thereby create a monopoly. The lease of the West India Dock Graving Dock was transferred to the new company for £40,000. Business was then slack, however, and the Dry Docks Corporation was voluntarily wound up in 1888. (fn. 111)
In 1890 the lease of the West India Dock Graving Dock was assigned to A. Chivas Adam, a shipowner, who formed and became first chairman of the London Graving Dock Company, to which the property was reassigned. (fn. 112) The company also leased additional property along Preston's Road, including four of the Longley Place cottages, from the dock company. The area around the dry dock was developed with new buildings and plant in 1891. The southern pair of cottages was demolished and a brick machine- and fitting-shop was built backing on to the road; to its south was an earlier long low ironsmiths' shop (fig. 97). The central pair of cottages became offices and a caretaker's flat, with a new two-storey joiners' shop immediately to its west. In 1893 Gwynne pumping machinery, a boiler-house, and a 75ft-high chimney were erected on the east side of the dry dock, with a new culvert to discharge into the Blackwall Basin. (fn. 113)
The London Graving Dock Company extended its West India Dock premises westwards in 1917, at the request of the Admiralty, with a berth at Blackwall Basin and the remains of the bomb-damaged former Saltpetre Warehouse, repaired and refitted as a platers' shop in 1918–19 (fig. 97). (fn. 114) A 15-ton electric travelling crane supplied by Sir William Arrol & Company was erected alongside the dry dock in 1933. (fn. 115) The site suffered heavy bomb damage in 1940–1. By 1943 new offices and a fitting shop had been built, and the remaining Longley Place cottages cleared to accommodate an access road and a smiths' shop. (fn. 116) In 1945 the London Graving Dock Company, needing more space, took a lease of No. 1 Teak Shed, west of the dry dock. It was rebuilt in steel and occupied by two subsidiary companies. More steel shedding was erected on the Saltpetre Warehouse site, for a platers' shop, and further west for a sawmill and timber store. (fn. 117) The damaged dry dock remained in use, though it was itself in need of repair. It was reconstructed in 1948–9, when the works were supervised by F. W. Davis and executed by George Wimpey & Company for £24,000. The splay end wall was moved closer to the road to increase working space. (fn. 118) The premises were extended further across the former teak ground in 1951. (fn. 119)
When the ship-repair industry was nationalized in 1977, the London Graving Dock Company was acquired by British Shipbuilders and made part of River Thames Shiprepairers. However, continued use of the West India Dock Graving Dock depended on continued use of the wet docks. With their business declining dramatically, operations were wound up and the lease of the dry dock was surrendered in 1979. (fn. 120) The caisson was removed and the workshops were demolished in 1985–6. (fn. 121) A permanent bridge was erected across the graving dock in 1988, the premises having been redeveloped for housing.
South Dock (formerly the City Canal)
The South Dock is the southernmost of the three principal docks in the system. It originated as the ship canal built across the Isle of Dogs by the Corporation of London in 1800 5 (fig. 91). The construction of the City Canal was managed by George Dance for the City's Committee for Improving the Port of London. The engineer for the works was William Jessop, with John Foulds as his assistant, succeeded by Daniel Vaux from 1803. (fn. 122)
Preliminary excavation of the canal started in 1800, by John Clark and Thomas Thatcher, from Wiltshire, and some direct labour. The main excavation and embankment work was contracted to John Dyson, of Bawtry, Yorkshire. He was not able to begin until 1801, because of delays with the installation, supervised by John Rennie, of a Boulton & Watt steam pumping-engine on the site that later became the Canal Dockyard. (fn. 123) The City did not match the zeal and assiduity of the West India Dock Company. Because of the need for further funding through Parliament, and for additional pumping power, work on the canal's entrance locks did not even commence until 1803. The main excavation was completed in 1804, and the locks were approaching completion in July 1805 when the coffer-dam and preventer dam at the east end failed, causing a great wave to rush through the canal. Extensive repairs were needed and the opening had to be postponed until 9 December 1805. (fn. 124) The canal was 3,711ft long between the lock gates, 176ft wide at the surface of the water and 23ft deep at its centre, dug only 17ft down, with the spoil used to build up the banks. It cost £133,850 to build, and £34,963 was spent acquiring the land. (fn. 125) (fn. 3) James Mountague, one of Dance's clerks, took up the post of Surveyor and Superintendent of the Canal, with a house over the Canal Office in Coldharbour. (fn. 127) He became a prominent and influential local inhabitant, remaining Superintendent of the canal until 1828. (fn. 128)
The City Canal was not a success, for it was not adopted as a worthwhile short cut. Its potential had probably been overestimated, and London's growing number of wet docks and the arrival of steamers in the river further reduced its usefulness. From 1811 it became primarily a 'receptacle for dismantled ships'. (fn. 129) In 1812 13 the north-east pierhead was made a wharf with a crane, for the deposit of anchors, mooring chains and stones, as part of the City's general duties in the Port. Harbour-master's offices resembling small gate lodges were erected on other pierheads. (fn. 130)
From 1806 the City attempted to increase revenue by selling and letting surplus property near each end of the canal. In 1816 it began to let plots on the north bank of the canal itself, despite the West India Dock Company's objections respecting security and fire risks (only 100ft separated the canal from the Export Dock). (fn. 131) The plots, generally about 100ft by 50ft, were let as boatbuilding, cooperage, timber, coal and stone yards, with sheds, warehouses and workshops built upon them. (fn. 132) The canal continued to be used for some transit and for the layingup of ships, particularly whalers, but the provision of water frontage for these small wharves seems to have been its principal function in the 1820s. (fn. 133)
The City's Port Committee was keen to dispose of the canal altogether. In 1809 the Treasury was persuaded that a sale would limit losses, and two groups of merchants offered to buy it for conversion into a wet dock. However, the Society of Ship Owners of Great Britain wanted the canal, however little used, to remain for transit and blocked the sale. (fn. 134) The West India Dock Company became interested in the canal in 1815, with an eye to a convenient bargain as well as to its need for extra accommodation for its export business. John Rennie prepared plans for linking the canal and the Export Dock, but negotiations with the Treasury foundered on the company's proposition that its purchase of the canal be tied to a renewal of its monopoly charter. (fn. 135)
The situation was transformed in 1823, when the company's monopoly expired. The canal, as the basis for a new dock, represented a threat to the company and an opportunity for competitors. The company was by then in urgent need of more space for export business, and in 1824 it asked the Treasury for permission to annex the canal. This was refused, as there were other interests in the field, in the shape of schemes for collier docks. (fn. 136) The rapid growth in sea-coal traffic during the early nineteenth century brought increasing congestion to the river's collier pool. It was estimated that the number of colliers in the river had increased from 3,452 to 7,117 in the 30 years to 1824. (fn. 137) The precedent for the dedication of docks to particular trades made collier docks a possibility. Promoters of a collier dock scheme had offered to buy the City Canal in 1812 and had introduced a Bill, which included a 'compulsory clause', into Parliament, but the City had combined with the coal-buyers to defeat it. (fn. 138)
Collier dock schemes, most of them calling for the appropriation and adaptation of the City Canal, were given more serious consideration in 1824–5. (fn. 139) The five competing proposals were reduced to one, prepared by a consortium of owners and occupiers of land in the Isle of Dogs who were anxious not to be deprived of profits to be made from their property. This group was led by George Byng, William Mellish and Thomas Tooke, with George Rennie employed to design and ambitious scheme that proposed the largest dock system in London across the northern half of the Isle of Dogs, south of the City Canal. There was to be space not only for the coal trade, but also for some timber and other foreign trade, gleaned from the expiring monopolies of the existing dock companies. Rennie proposed two parallel rectangular docks with surrounding warehouses, east and west basins, and two river entrances on each side. The canal was to be retained for transit, with two communicating cuts. (fn. 140)
The scheme was vigorously opposed in Parliament, resistance coming from the coal trade, particularly the Newcastle Coal Vend, and shipowners, who objected to a 'compulsory clause'. The City opposed the Bill, ostensibly because of the effect collier docks would have on the price of coal, but also because it wanted to auction the canal. (fn. 141) The West India Dock Company also opposed the scheme, fearing the competition. Nevertheless, an Act for the Collier Dock Company was passed in June 1825, but without the 'compulsory clause'. (fn. 142) The start of work was conditional on the raising of the full capital of £600,000, 80 per cent of which had been subscribed prior to the suppression of the 'compulsory clause'. However, without the power to compel use of the dock, and in a difficult economic climate, the balance could not be raised, and the Collier Dock Company collapsed in 1827. (fn. 143)
The City then considered letting the canal to Charles Moore, as docks and yards for the softwood trade, but by 1829 the Treasury had decided that sale of the canal was preferable. Moore and William Mellish both offered £110,000, and the City even considered paying the Treasury £120,000 for it. (fn. 144) The dock company then sprang into defensive action, nervous of the possible fire risks, as well as the commercial consequences of such a sale. (Sir) John Rennie advised the company that the canal was 'worth more to You than to any person else' and revived his father's suggestion that a link could be made to the Export Dock, recommending that the canal become a depot for Baltic timber and laid-up shipping. (fn. 145) In a state of high anxiety, the dock company sent the Treasury a blind tender for £120,000, and, as no other tenders were submitted, in March 1829 it acquired the canal. (fn. 146) The Act for the sale included provision for the company to borrow £500,000 for improvements. (fn. 147)
The canal was renamed the South Dock immediately the dock company took possession in August 1829. Transit passage was stopped, and the tenants of the banks and their sheds were removed. The intention to make the canal an extension of the Export Dock via a connecting cut remained. However, Charles Moore approached the company with a scheme for adapting the south bank for the storage of bonded softwood. He was rebuffed, but his idea was not. (fn. 148) By 1831 the South Dock was full of floated timber and, under Thomas Shadrake, up to 20 jetties had been built along the length of the north bank, some with fixed cranes. (fn. 149)
The prospect of growth in the softwood trade led to the building of a pond for floated timber on the south side of the South Dock. Shadrake put forward a proposal in 1831 to which (Sir) John Rennie added his own suggestions. A 19-acre pond was projected, the length limited by Joad & Curling's ropewalk, the width by the dock company's boundary. (fn. 150) Rennie looked at the timber ponds at the Commercial Docks, then, with his brother George, submitted detailed plans, with an estimated cost of £6,825. They designed a 16-acre pond, 2,030ft by 410ft, 8–10ft deep at high water, with sides banked at 30 degrees and a brick-lined and gated entrance, 31ft wide, from the centre of the South Dock. The building contract went to Hugh and David McIntosh, against the Rennies' recommendation. (fn. 151) (fn. 4) The work, supervised by Shadrake, was carried out in 1832–3. (fn. 153) After wind damage, and advice from (Sir) John Rennie, in 1835 the east bank of the pond was reinforced with Kentish ragstone paving. (fn. 154)
The banked south side of the South Dock remained unusable for wharfage. When guano sheds were built along the western half of the south bank in 1850, they were made accessible to shipping by the construction of 500ft of quay wall with Kentish ragstone re-used from the former settling reservoirs, at this date being rebuilt as Poplar Dock. Part of the north bank at the east end was campshedded in 1854–5, following the abandonment of more extensive improvements proposed by James Meadows Rendel in association with the building of the Junction Dock. (fn. 155)
The South Dock was entirely rebuilt in 1866–70, when the inadequacies of the whole dock system had become so manifest that investment in major improvements could no longer be deferred. In June 1864 it was proposed that the South Dock should be deepened, with basins and larger entrances for export business. It was agreed that this work should be undertaken 'sooner or later', with other improvements, including enlargement of the East India Docks and the Limehouse Basin. The Dock Superintendent, William Hickson, and other officers developed the scheme to include the widening of the South Dock at both ends. From December 1864 the company retained the services of Sir John Hawkshaw, for advice on the Millwall Extension Railway Bill and 'other matters of improvement'. His attention was largely directed to the South Dock. He prepared two plans for extending it to the south-east, without quay walling, and with or without a half-tidal basin. The company obtained an Act to improve its ability to raise money for large works, and formed a Special Committee on Dock Improvements. When Hawkshaw's and the company officers' plans for the South Dock, and another for improving the East India Docks, were considered in December 1865 no single scheme was approved, but a commitment was made to transfer export business from the East India Docks to an enlarged deep-water South Dock with a basin. This would accommodate large steamships, with space for the numerous lighters filling the docks, and quay room for much-needed warehouses. (fn. 156)
Hawkshaw's schemes required the acquisition of land, with consequent delay and expense, and in early 1866 they were heavily modified, if not wholly redesigned, by the company's officers. They had submitted a plan for the adaptation of the Timber Pond, which Hawkshaw adopted and worked up to a form close to what was eventually built. The former canal and the Timber Pond were to be replaced by a large walled dock with an eastern half-tidal basin, laid out so that the projected Millwall Extension Railway would run between the basin and the dock. The north side of the dock was to be equipped with 16 130ft-long timber jetties, comparable to those at the Royal Victoria Dock, and given over to export business. On the south quay there would be five warehouses for East India imports. Hawkshaw estimated the cost of the plan at £450,000, with an additional £100,000 for warehouses. The scheme was approved on 25 May 1866, a fortnight after the financial crash in the City, which appears not to have hampered the project at all. (fn. 157)
The contract for the South Dock rebuilding was given to George Wythes, of Bromley, in August 1866 for £338,000. (fn. 158) Work commenced in October 1866, with Leveson Francis Vernon-Harcourt as Hawkshaw's Resident Engineer. By the end of 1867 the dock company was complaining about the rate of progress. (fn. 159) Wythes responded robustly, accusing the directors of being 'excessively illiberal in their dealings with me, they do not try to assist me in anything connected with the progress of the Works, but suffer nevertheless like the man at sea, who having insured his life, was regardless of the fate of the Ship'. (fn. 160) Pumping the excavations was particularly difficult, with a large influx of water from the recently filled Millwall Docks. Further delay resulted from an accident on 7 September 1868, when 600ft of the new south quay wall slipped forward. This was attributed to water pressure from the Millwall Docks, but Wythes had to bear the expense. (fn. 161) Despite a second slip of about 100ft of south quay wall in March 1869, the South Dock was finished by August 1869, though not open to shipping until 5 March 1870, once the new east entrance lock was completed. The cost of the dock and lock works, including hydraulic machinery, was £512,353. The whole South Dock project, including warehouses, bridges and railways, cost £604,168. (fn. 162)
The rebuilt South Dock covered 26¾ acres, 2,650ft by 450ft, and was 29ft deep at high water, with a basin of 5½ acres, 600ft by 370ft. Hawkshaw's walls have slightly battered straight sides, better suited to contemporary shipping than the early nineteenth-century 'banana' section walls (fig. 96d). They are approximately 35ft high and 11ft 6in. thick at the top, and have an unusual constructional form. There are square brick pockets filled with mass concrete; the face is 3ft 6in. thick and the back 1ft 2in. thick, linked by counterforts or cross-walls, 2ft 4in. thick, at 10ft centres. The whole wall rests on massconcrete foundations, 3ft 6in. thick. (fn. 163) The rebuilding used 61 million stock bricks. (fn. 164) Bramley Fall stone copings were progressively replaced with granite from 1878. (fn. 165) The concrete pocket walls, although cheap to build, were not highly regarded. An alternative method of integrating concrete and brick was used at the Surrey Commercial South Dock (1851–5) and at the Millwall Docks (1865– 8) and was considered more successful (see page 354). Dock engineers and builders were, in any case, learning to eliminate brick from dock walls. (fn. 166)
Berths at the export jetties on the north quay of the South Dock, and at the South Dock Basin, were let to large shipping companies. To meet demand, more berths and longer jetties were needed, resulting in 'a neck-ornothing race between the urgent demands of the public for more accommodation and the efforts of the Company to supply it'. (fn. 167) The success of the South Dock was shortlived. Within a decade it was unable to accommodate the largest steamers on the river because of the length of its lock and the positioning of the jetties. Its business moved to the Royal Albert Dock from 1880, (fn. 168) and the jetties were removed between 1884 and 1915. (fn. 169)
The decline of the South Dock was slowed, but not stopped, by the enlargement of the east entrance lock in 1900–2. It remained a resort of the last of the large sailing vessels arriving in London, but by 1910 it was in 'practical disuse'. The PLA and Frederick Palmer then prepared plans for its revitalization, with a new entrance lock, a remodelled basin, a dry dock, and a new south quay. The work was deferred for lack of funds, redesigned by C. R. S. Kirkpatrick in 1914–15, but then, after the estimated costs had more than doubled, suspended altogether in 1920. (fn. 170)
The West India and Millwall Docks Improvements Scheme of 1924, prepared by D. J. Owen and Kirkpatrick, then revised by Palmer, set out to improve the dock system by the more modest means of an enlarged entrance lock and new passages between the docks. (fn. 171) The project went ahead in 1927–9. In connection with the rebuilding of the South Dock east entrance lock, the South Dock Basin was effaced. The walls that separated it from the South Dock were removed and new sections of massconcrete quay wall were built. Most of the quay copings and bollards around the dock were replaced in 1929–30, by A. Jackaman & Son. (fn. 172) Bomb-damaged sections of the quays were repaired in 1942–3 and 1946. The surviving quay bollards at the South Dock are the horn-shaped 'Bean' type (see page 354). Two variants are probably datable to 1929–30 and 1946, the more bulbous being the earlier. Dredging and impounding increased the depth of the South Dock to 30ft 6in. in 1953 and to 31ft 6in. in 1956. (fn. 173)
South Dock West Entrance (Impounding) Lock
The City Canal's entrance locks, presumably engineered by William Jessop, were very similar to those he designed for the West India Docks. The South Dock west entrance lock is the only survivor of the whole group. It is substantially unaltered, largely because it was never heavily used; it has not been used for shipping since 1891. Since 1929 it has provided an inlet for water to an impounding station that maintains the water level in the West India and Millwall Docks; it is therefore known as the Impounding Lock.
Until 1799 the plans for the canal provided for gated entrances, but locks were eventually chosen, possibly following advice from Trinity House that the entrances should be 45ft wide. (fn. 174) The west entrance lock was built by John Dyson in 1803–5. Early plans directed it upriver, but it was built in line with the canal. Earth excavated from the canal site was used by David Gardener, of Islington, to make two million bricks for the locks, and one million more were supplied by Henry Stevens, James Butt and John Capel Hanbury, of Mile End. Portland stone dressings for both locks were supplied and fitted by William Brown, of Smithfield. William Stewart, of Poplar, built the external and internal wing walls at both locks, his work continuing into 1806. The coffer-dams were made by James Spedding, of Poplar. (fn. 175)
The lock was originally 192ft long between the gates and 23ft 5in. deep at high water; it was, and remains, 44ft 10in. wide, large enough for the biggest ships on the river in 1805. (fn. 176) In section the lock has a segmentally arched invert and separately centred 'banana' side walls, 6ft thick, bonded to counterforts with iron hoops (compare fig. 96b). The invert is supported on a timber platform and piles. The original gates, their paths and sills were all of oak, with the heel-posts turned in castiron sockets. (fn. 177) The upper 12ft or so of the lock chamber walls are ashlar faced, with Bramley Fall mixed with other stones, re-coped in granite. Next to the hollow quoins of the outer gate recesses there are tide markers in Roman numerals, outside which are chain-tunnels, with vertical grooves beyond for the preventer dam (the temporary wooden wall used to back up the coffer-dam during construction and repair). The outer wing walls are not tied to the lock walls; there is stone quoining at the junctions. The wing walls are of 'banana' section with counterforts. Each was built in two lengths, with shallower foundations to the outer sections, built outside the coffer-dam on timber piles with heads at low-water level. The construction is comparable to that of contemporary wing walls at the Limehouse entrance to the docks, and at the London Docks. (fn. 178) Within the wing walls there are horizontal timbers, 15in. square; there is also exposed timber lacing to which lattice fendering was originally attached. Adjacent to the quoined return end of the south wing wall there are stone river stairs, probably built in 1809 with the wharf walling to the Canal Iron Works (Cascades) site.
In 1856, when the outer gates of the lock had been removed for repair, the inner gates gave way at low tide and the South Dock suddenly emptied, scattering shipping. New inner gates were supplied by Hack & Son. The outer gates were replaced in 1863, by Westwood, Baillie & Company, presumably in iron. (fn. 179) The dock company considered rebuilding the lock in 1877-82, but did not do so, perhaps because this was the least important entrance at the West India Docks. (fn. 180) Its closure was determined in 1887, but it remained open until 1891. (fn. 181)
The PLA's improvement scheme of 1911 included the erection of an impounding station astride the South Dock west entrance lock. The project was deferred for want of finance, but was revived in 1925. The lock was permanently closed in 1926–8 when Charles Brand & Son formed a mass-concrete dam, 15ft thick, between the gates, containing three pump-discharge pipes and two sluicing-culverts. The outer gates were removed. (fn. 182) The lock has been a vital water inlet since then. In 1989–90 it was repaired and stabilized by the LDDC, with Trevor Crocker & Partners as engineers. The work included the formation of a permanent concrete floor several feet above the base of the invert, and a dam between the wing walls.
South Dock East Entrance Lock
The lock at the east end of the South Dock is the only remaining working lock in the India and Millwall Docks. The present lock is the third rebuilding of that constructed in 1803–5 by John Fentiman, which was 192ft long, 45ft 3in. wide and 23ft deep. (fn. 183) The first enlargement, to 300ft by 55ft and 27ft deep, came in 1869–70, after the rejection of Sir John Hawkshaw's proposal for a wholly new 60ft-wide entrance through the Canal Dockyard site. The enlargement was no cheaper than a new lock, but it was easier in terms of land and engineering. George Wythes rebuilt the lock, to Hawkshaw's plans, for £101,960. (fn. 184) The old north wall was retained behind a new brick facing, 9ft thick (fig. 96e). The south wall was rebuilt, using brick and concrete in the same manner as in the South Dock quay walls. The brick invert was 3ft thick and rested on a concrete foundation, and the gate floors and outer aprons were made of Bramley Fall ashlar. There were hydraulically operated cellular wrought-iron gates, 35ft high, manufactured by Eastons, Amos & Anderson to Hawkshaw's design. The contemporary passage between the South Dock and its basin - which was 176ft by 55ft - had two pairs of similar gates, fitted as reverse-sweep. (fn. 185)
Steamships became ever bigger and the lock soon proved to have been insufficiently enlarged. The South Dock was, excepting Tilbury, the deepest dock in the Port in the late nineteenth century, but access was restricted by the length of its entrance lock. Use of the South Dock fell markedly after the opening of the rebuilt Blackwall entrance in 1894. Its berths were too valuable to be left idle, however, and in 1897 H. F. Donaldson proposed a cut from the Export Dock as a means of reviving it. However, Captain Charles Ayerst, a dockmaster, objected that two berths would be destroyed and that, in any case, the Blackwall entrance was already used to its limit. He suggested the reconstruction of the South Dock entrance, to deepen it and provide a uniform width. Inverted-arched bottoms had become inconvenient because ships of squarish section reduced the effective depth of the lock to that measured at the sides. The question remained unresolved until 1899, when the Joint Committee Chairman, Charles James Cater Scott, intervened decisively in favour of enlarging the lock. Henry Charles Baggallay prepared plans, and Charles Hay Walker & Company, who had recently built docks at Buenos Aires, carried out the work in 1900–2 for £54,833. (fn. 186) The lock was made 29ft deep with a squared concrete bottom, and lengthened from 300ft to 480ft in mass concrete with granite dressings. The lengthening amounted to the addition of an 180ft-long inner chamber in the South Dock Basin, giving long and short locks to permit the locking of small craft without serious water loss, following the examples of the Millwall Dock and Blackwall entrance locks. One of the little-used pairs of gates in the passage between the South Dock and its basin was repositioned. (fn. 187)
Once again this was too little too late. Only two years after the lock reopened the Glen Line moved from the South Dock to the Royal Albert Dock, as the depth of water in the lock was insufficient. (fn. 188) Another rebuilding of the South Dock entrance was a central part of Frederick Palmer's scheme of 1910 for improving the West India Docks. His first plan envisaged a wholly new lock, 575ft long, 80ft wide and 40ft deep, directed up-river across the Canal Dockyard site. This was revised in 1911 in favour of a short lock leading to a basin, to admit vessels 650ft long. C. R. S. Kirkpatrick altered the plan in 1914– 17, reverting to a lock directed up-river, 650ft long, 100ft wide and 45ft deep, but there was no money for the work. (fn. 189)
Plans to rebuild the South Dock entrance were revived in 1925 as the central feature of the West India and Millwall Docks Improvement Scheme. The proposal for a new lock was abandoned in favour of enlarging the existing one, which, with new cuts or passages, would serve the entire West India and Millwall system. Palmer and F. W. D. Davis recast Kirkpatrick's plans and proposed a lock 550ft long, which was thought to be large enough for any shipping likely to navigate so far upstream. (fn. 190) However, T. & J. Harrison applied for a berth in the South Dock and, to suit their vessels, Palmer altered the plans in 1926–7 to make the lock 590ft long. The building contract went to Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, then at work on a PLA lock at Tilbury, and work commenced in September 1927. (fn. 191)
The three pairs of lock gates were supplied by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, of Darlington, for £48,252. Other contracts went to Carrick & Wardale for two 5-ton and four 11-ton hydraulic capstans, Glenfield & Kennedy for hydraulic and hand-operated penstocks for the filling culverts, and the East Ferry Road Engineering Works Company for direct-acting hydraulic rams for the lock gates. (fn. 192) Large 'Bean' and other bollards were also fitted. The lock was completed more than a year ahead of schedule, opening on 5 September 1929 at a final cost of £627,470 (Plate 46d). (fn. 193)
The lock, 955ft long overall, has a 450ft inner and 140ft outer chamber, is 80ft wide and 35ft deep (fig. 96j). It followed the slightly earlier and much larger lock at Tilbury in most of its particulars. The walls and invert were built of mass concrete, the walls in steel sheet-piled trenches. The hollow quoins and sills are of granite, with granite concrete used for other dressings, including precast coping-blocks. The steel gates, each 45ft 6in. by 38ft and weighing 158 tons, are water-borne with air chambers for buoyancy, obviating rollers. Steel sheetpiled coffer-dams were used, and timber pierhead jetties were built from the wing walls, 70ft long to the north, 170ft long to the south, both 25ft wide. The south pierhead was rebuilt in 1950, and was partially rebuilt again in 1962 (fn. 194) The water area on the south side of the west end of the lock was used as a barge berth. (fn. 195)
The lock was repaired in 1959–60 by John Mowlem & Company, by the removal of the coping and facing wall east of the middle gates to a depth of about 6ft, and rebuilding in brick-faced monolithic concrete, reinforced with a lattice of rails anchored to the main walling. (fn. 196)
The Junction Dock was built in 1853–5 to link the South Dock to other parts of the West India Docks. Such a cut had been desired for many years. In 1819 John Rennie had put forward a proposal for a locked passage between the Blackwall Basin and the City Canal. The principal recommendation for such a cut was that the canal's east entrance might double as an entrance to the docks, permitting rebuilding of the troublesome Blackwall entrance lock. (fn. 197) In 1820 Rennie developed the idea as a grand proposal for a nine-acre dock south of the Blackwall Basin with a new river entrance. The estimated cost of £289,247 was too high to gain approval while the dock company's charter was under review, and the scheme was not executed. (fn. 198)
The matter remained unresolved until 1851, when the dock company was forced into action by the collapse of the Blackwall entrance north wing wall. (fn. 199) The docks did not have to close, but they might well have done. James Meadows Rendel, brought in to advise on the wing wall repair, suggested building a linking cut from the South Dock to the Blackwall Basin, and Henry Martin, J. S. Adams and senior dockmasters concurred. Martin and Adams prepared plans for a rectangular 'junction dock', and Rendel designed an irregularly shaped basin capable of conversion into a new entrance lock. The company's officers and Money Wigram, a director, thought a new entrance unnecessary and favoured Martin and Adams's proposal. Their scheme was less forward-looking than was Rendel's, but was more practical in terms of immediate requirements. Rendel revised the plans to suit the dock officers: a dock 400ft by 340ft, with entrances 50ft wide and 26ft deep at high water, had to be scaled down to one 150ft by 320ft, with entrances 45ft wide and 25ft deep, to reduce the estimate from £103,000 to £65,000. The plan was further amended to include timber slips with cranes, to serve adjoining wood-piling grounds, before it was approved in April 1852. (fn. 200)
Excavation of the Junction Dock by Thomas Brassey and William McCormick commenced in early 1853, and progressed slowly, as pumping proved difficult. Rendel and his Resident Engineer, A. T. Andrews, had great trouble bringing Brassey's attention to delays. Brassey (1805–70), the great railway contractor, who was generally in Paris, was accused of not giving the work the attention he had promised and, after further exhortations to him to push the works ahead had failed, Rendel concluded with exasperation that Brassey had 'compromised himself as a man of business'. Completion had been projected for March 1854, but the dock was not open to shipping until November 1855. The final cost was £82,797. (fn. 201)
The Junction Dock was built with Kentish-rag-faced concrete footings to brick walls with slightly battered sides (fig. 96c). The entrance passages were straightsided with inverted-arched bottoms and timber reversesweep gates. Only one granite-faced timber slip was built. (fn. 202)
The Junction Dock was never much used other than as berths for exports and timber imports (Plate 50b). (fn. 203) The rebuilding of the Blackwall entrance for which it had, in part, been conceived was not carried out until the 1890s, by which time it was too small for much shipping. The PLA's early improvement schemes envisaged the entire displacement of the Junction Dock. It survived, however, with its south entrance filled in 1927–9 for the rebuilding of the South Dock east entrance lock. The Junction Dock was filled in by the PLA in 1979–80 as part of an agreement for the lease of the site to Teltscher Brothers Limited. (fn. 204)
The Bellmouth, Export and Millwall Passages
Water communication between the various parts of the West India Dock system was improved by the Junction Dock, but only to a limited degree. Palmer's scheme of 1910 proposed a large 'communicating' basin, abandoned in favour of keeping the South Dock distinct. In 1914 Kirkpatrick revived the idea of opening up the system, with a plan that included open water at the east ends of the Import, Export and South Docks, and a passage to the Millwall Inner Dock. (fn. 205) Financial constraints prevented action until 1924, when alternative proposals were submitted by Kirkpatrick and D. J. Owen. Palmer and F. W. D. Davis took over the engineering of the scheme in 1925. It included three 29ft-deep passages to link the docks and to ease mobility for the large ships that the rebuilt South Dock entrance would admit. Kirkpatrick's cut to link the South Dock and the Millwall Inner Dock was retained as the Millwall Passage, 480ft long and 80ft wide. The plans also included a passage, 180ft long and 550ft wide, between the Export and South Docks and another, 332ft by 80ft, between the Export and Import Docks, positioned to align with the Millwall Passage. Palmer suggested that the passage linking the Import Dock and the Export Dock should have a uniform width of 300ft, but it was given a 'bellmouth' on its north side, to admit large ships into the Import Dock while allowing its south end to be spanned by a bridge. Another of Palmer's suggestions, that the Middle Cut or Export Passage be reduced to 350ft wide, was approved. (fn. 206)
The three passages were made part of a large contract given to Charles Brand & Son in February 1926, with George Corderoy & Company as quantity surveyors. The Export Passage was made quickly and opened to shipping in 1927, to allow the South Dock to be used after closure of its entrance lock. The Millwall Passage and the Bellmouth Passage were completed in 1928 (fig. 96i). (fn. 207) The passages have mass-concrete walls, 16ft 6in. thick at their bases, with granite coping and Portland stone dressings for the water-depth indicators, 'Bean' bollards and fairleads. The walls were built in trenches, 40ft deep, before the old quay walls at the Export and Bellmouth Passages were removed. The Millwall Passage was excavated in the dry. (fn. 208)
In 1994, much of the West India Docks enclosed water system survives. The Import Dock and Export Dock are to the north and south of Canary Wharf and, though apparently reduced in size, they retain most of their brick walling of 1800–6 under recent decks, and, at the north quay, behind the 'false' quay of 1912 15. The Blackwall Basin is still approximately its original size, with secondary quay walls. The Blackwall Entrance Lock is as rebuilt in 1893–4, though it has recently been permanently dammed. Of the early interconnections, only that between the Blackwall Basin and the Import Dock survives, as a passage of 1892 4. The West India Dock Graving Dock of 1876–8, reconstructed in 1948–9, is permanently filled, but does still exist. The South Dock is of 1866–70, as enlarged and altered in 1929–30. Remarkably, the City Canal west entrance lock of 1803 5 survives, used since 1930 as an inlet for impounding water. The South Dock East Entrance Lock, repeatedly rebuilt, is of 1927–9, and the Bellmouth, Export and Millwall Passages of 1926–8 have all survived.