Survey of London: Volumes 43 and 44, Poplar, Blackwall and Isle of Dogs. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1994.
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Offices, Works and Housing
The Ledger Building (Dock Offices), North Quay, Import Dock.
Early plans for the West India Docks included a large office building in the centre of the north quay. This was useful warehouse space, however, and in 1802 it was intended to site the dock offices outside the boundary ditch. (fn. 4) Following further reconsideration, an office was built west of the North Quay Warehouses in the north-west quadrant corner of the inner perimeter wall. It was erected in 1803–4, by John Fentiman & Company to plans by the Gwilts. (fn. 5)
The single-storey office, which survives as the Ledger Building, is much more modest than that originally projected (Plate 53a, c; fig. III). It is disposed around a corridor linking north and south entrances. The interior has been altered several times, but has always contained a large east room with smaller rooms to the west, originally divided by two east-west passages. The basement retains timber posts on Bramley Fall stone bases, in the manner of the adjoining warehouses. The roof was covered with copper. Excepting its portico, the south facade echoes the adjoining ground-floor elevation of No. 1 Warehouse. The brick colour changes from plum to yellow between basement and ground floor, where work stopped for the winter. The west annexe was originally a single-storey shed for two fire-engines. (fn. 6) The outer elevations are formed by the perimeter wall, into which an entrance and windows were inserted.
The timber Greek Doric portico is a surprising outburst of architectural pomposity in an establishment where grandeur tended to be expressed through scale rather than through style. It may have been an addition or replacement of 1806, when Thomas Johnson was paid £100 for a Doric portico that is otherwise difficult to place, (fn. 7) or of 1812–13, when Milligan's statue was put up just to the south and the fire-engine shed was remade. If the portico was erected in 1803–4 or 1806 the Gwilts or Thomas Morris should be credited with its design; if in 1812–13, then it was John Rennie's responsibility. It is in keeping with Rennie's work elsewhere, as at Bridge House, and out of keeping with the dock architecture of the earlier dates. It may even date from 1827, when (Sir) John Rennie remodelled the building. Similarly, the Vitruvian door surround to the north entrance is unlikely, on stylistic grounds, to date from 1803–4. It may be part of the 1827 work, although the stone with the legend DOCK OFFICES was inserted later, probably in 1872. A double flight of iron-railed steps to this entrance may have been part of the original building (Plate 53b). (fn. 8)
The west annexe was made a police office in 1812, when the fire-engines were moved to the Limehouse Basin Guard House. Excepting the stucco dressings, the rather cramped three-bay ground-floor facade may be work carried out under John Rennie at that date. The Police Office was altered and enlarged in 1875, by Samuel Chafen & Company of Rotherhithe. (fn. 9) The work probably included the addition of the upper storey, as well as the stucco dressings and unusually glazed ground-floor sash windows. The police moved from here in 1914. (fn. 10)
The remodelling in 1827 brought the books of all the departments at the docks to the Ledger Building, which then included the General Office in a large east room, the Dock Superintendent's office in the small room west of the south entrance, the Board or Committee Room to its west, and a Stationery Office to the north-west. (fn. 11) The screen enclosing the south entrance lobby may date from 1827. The offices were unheated, to avoid the risk of stray chimney sparks so near to the warehouses. Staff persuaded the dock company that it needed to heat the building in some way, and in 1829–30 a hot-air centralheating system, designed by R. Howden, was fitted by Bloomfield & Company under George Rennie's direction. A stove was placed in a brick 'cockle' under the corridor near to the north entrance. The surviving chimney atop the perimeter wall pier marks the site (Plate 53b). (fn. 12) The system proved dangerous and unreliable and was replaced in 1848, when A. M. Perkins installed his patent hotwater system. A brick-arched 'air chamber', or vaulted tunnel, was formed in the basement under the corridor, with a brick furnace and under-floor waterpipes. The 'air chamber' survives, but the system was again replaced in 1872, and the chimney-stack was probably rebuilt then. (fn. 13)
The Ledger Building became overcrowded and unsuitable for changed office needs. Extensive alterations were carried out in 1872– 3 by Atherton & Latta, of Chrisp Street, Poplar, to plans probably by E. J. Leonard and George Richardson. The General Office was enlarged to the south, and clerks were installed behind desks fitted inside a circulation passage, to segregate them from the carmen and other visitors newly admitted to the north quay. The north end of the room was given a tall roundheaded window and flanking oculi, with earlier lights blocked up. The west side of the building remained offices and rooms for the Superintendent and Dockmaster, with a school and luncheon room for staff to the north-west. (fn. 14) A strongroom was built on the east side of the General Office in 1889, to secure the ledgers and other books that had been stored in the basement. (fn. 15) This survives, projecting into No. 1 Warehouse, with granite shelving and a John Tann 'Reliance Door'.
The building was remodelled again in 1927, by John Mowlem & Company, with the Superintendent's removal to the 'Dockmaster's House'. The offices on the west side of the building were adapted for the staff of Nos 1–4 and 11 Warehouses, and the partitions to the east-west passages were removed. The main corridor was reopened, and the fittings that had been inserted in 1872–3 were removed from the General Office. A doorway was made in the east bay of the south front, with steps and railings across the area. (fn. 16) It was converted back to a window c1984. Traces of steps outside the railed area indicate that there was formerly an entrance in the west bay. This may have been replaced by a window in 1927. The work may also have included the insertion of windows under concrete lintels to the north, as well as the removal of the west flight of stairs to the north entrance, to give access to the basement.
Customs Office and Excise Office, West India Dock Road.
The Customs and Excise officers at the West India Docks were initially accommodated in temporary offices, from 1803 just outside the Commercial (West India Dock) Road entrance. Although the condition of these offices was described as 'disgraceful', the Treasury was slow to make better arrangements. The dock company eventually was persuaded to give the land and, in 1805, to prepare plans for a Customs and Excise office. (fn. 17) The matter was not fully settled until 1807, when legislation allowed the company to use a loan from the Consolidated Fund to build twin offices. The formation of Garford Street freed space outside the main entrance, making it possible to provide separate buildings for Customs and Excise, facing each other across the Commercial Road. Thomas Morris revised the plans, and the offices were built in 1807–9 by Howkins & Company. The Excise Office, which survives on the west side of the road as 'Dockmaster's House', cost £4,918, and the Customs House £5,097. (fn. 18)
The Customs and Excise offices were substantial twostorey buildings, much larger than the dock company's own offices (Plate 52d; fig. 112). They were mirror images of each other, with identical facades, bowed south ends and the bays on the north fronts arranged in the ratio of 1:3:1. The centres of the entrance fronts projected slightly under shallow pediments with broad and ill-proportioned hexastyle Greek Doric porticoes of Portland stone. These had Customs and Excise inscribed in the friezes, and unfluted columns, paired to accommodate double entrances. There were awkward brick aprons below the stringcourses at first-floor sill level. Morris was an engineer, evidently lacking in architectural facility. There is some uncertainty regarding the original internal arrangements, although it seems likely that twin doors from the porticoes opened into spacious entrance halls with staircases to rear centre, large offices to the south, and smaller ones to the north. (fn. 19)
The Excise Office had ceased to be used as such by 1825. (fn. 20) It was refitted and used for Customs until 1830, when it was given up as surplus to requirements and its officers were accommodated in the basement of the Customs House and on the Rum Quay. (fn. 21) The dock company used the building to house its own staff, although excise permit writers returned in 1841, after construction of the London and Blackwall Railway viaduct had caused the north-east corner of the Customs House to be demolished. (fn. 22)
The former Excise Office was leased to Edmund Calvert in 1846 and converted into the Jamaica Tavern. (fn. 23) Alterations to the ground-floor interior, by Carden & Hack, included removal of the main staircase and insertion of a new stair in the south room. By 1851 Calvert and his tenant, Joseph Montague, a former dock company constable, had spent £578 on the building. (fn. 24) Occupancy of the tavern passed to Ninian John McKenzie, who, in 1876, took a new 34-year lease from the dock company. (fn. 25) McKenzie undertook to spend at least £1,500 on improvements, but he was unable to afford the extra storey which he had intended. Augustus Manning, the company's Engineer, approved James Harrison's plans, and Thomas Ennor, of Commercial Road, submitted the lowest tender, at £2,033. (fn. 26) Completed in 1877, the alterations included rusticated porches flanking the portico, to provide entrances to a private bar and to the staircase to the first-floor hotel accommodation. The work probably also included the stucco pedimented window surrounds and parapet and portico balustrades, although these dressings may have been part of the improvements made in the late 1840s. On the ground floor, the north rooms were opened up by the insertion of wrought-iron girders and a T-section iron post in the thickness of the north wall. A second rear stair was provided, and the building was extended to the north-west. (fn. 27)
The revival of dock business after the opening of the new Blackwall entrance in 1894 boosted the tavern's flagging fortunes. The tenancy was transferred to Thomas Harwood in 1896, and he immediately proposed alterations to 'raise the tone of the house', said to have 'disreputable portals', to make it fit for merchants. Harwood was granted a 35-year lease in 1897, undertaking to spend £1,000 on improvements. (fn. 28) Plans were prepared by Frederick Warman, of Highbury Corner, and the work was complete in 1899. It included iron porches with rusticated stuccoed dwarf gate piers and gates to the outer bays of the entrance front, and the reconstruction of the porches flanking the portico. The building came to appear to have entrances in all six bays of its facade. The portico columns were marbled, and HOTEL replaced Tavern in the pediment. Outbuildings were cleared to provide a larger and neater garden, with a fountain. (fn. 29)
The Jamaica Hotel's licence was not renewed in 1925–6. (fn. 30) Perhaps it had not greatly improved its reputation; it may be of relevance that the Metropolitan Police were making a concerted effort at the time to eradicate the local opium trade. (fn. 31) In 1926 the building was seriously damaged by fire. (fn. 32) The PLA subsequently adapted it to provide offices for the Dock Superintendent and his staff. The work was carried out by John Mowlem & Company for an estimated £3,200 and was completed in 1928. (fn. 33) It included the removal of the portico and front accretions, to 'improve both the internal lighting of the offices and the external appearance of the building', with new doors and sash windows on the ground floor, as well as an external fire-escape stair to the rear. A date plaque was placed in the pediment. The ground floor was cleared to make a large general office, with the Superintendent in the south room and the Assistant Superintendent to the north-west. Staff dining-rooms and a kitchen were provided on the first floor, now reached only by the narrow rear stair. The building remained a dock office until 1980. (fn. 34) It then came to be misleadingly called 'Dockmaster's House'. In 1988 it was refurbished as offices for the LDDC, then, in 1992, sold to D. J. Carroll for conversion to a restaurant. (fn. 35)
The Customs staff vacated the Customs House in 1883, following its compulsory purchase by the Midland Railway Company as part of a parcel of land acquired for sidings and a coal depot. (fn. 36) The building served as premises for a variety of commercial tenants until 1902–3, when it was occupied by the National Sailors', Firemen's, Cooks' and Stewards' Union of Great Britain and Ireland (later the National Union of Seamen), with other related tenants, and named Maritime Hall. It became a cafe in 1938, the Ow Ah Fook Chinese restaurant in 1943, and other restaurants thereafter. (fn. 37) The PLA bought the dilapidated but little-altered building in 1958, with a view to redeveloping the site. It was demolished in 1959, but the site remained empty thereafter. (fn. 38)
Customs and other Offices at the Export Dock and Rum Quay.
An office for the Customs Searcher-the official responsible for supervising export business-was built in 1808–9 with some of the government funds borrowed the previous year. It controlled access to the Export Dock from its north-west corner. It was a singlestorey building, erected by Howkins & Company and Stewart & Company for £1,001. The plans were presumably by Thomas Morris. (fn. 39) In the 1840s it became the general wharfingers' office for the Export Dock. An upper storey was added in 1873 so that it could again be used by the Customs. (fn. 40) It later became the PLA's Divisional Police Office, but was destroyed in the Second World War. (fn. 41) There was a replacement Searcher's Office at the south-west corner of the Export Dock from 1846 to c1915. (fn. 42)
In 1875 the Rum and Wine Department was given an office building immediately to the south of No. 12 Warehouse, to replace a 'miserably cold office on the Quay . . . little better than a penal settlement'. Designed by Augustus Manning and built by Robert Abraham, it was a two-storey brick building with stone-dressed window heads (Plate 51b). (fn. 43) The ground floor was a largely open public office, with fittings similar to those installed in the Ledger Building in 1872–3, around a single iron column. (fn. 44) It was demolished in 1926–9.
When the West India Dock Road Customs House was compulsorily purchased, a new Customs Office especially for the rum trade was built on the north quay of the Export Dock. Designed by Manning and built by John Perry & Company in 1882, it closely resembled the Rum Quay offices in its elevations and planning, and accommodated two surveyors, eight clerks, one writer and three messengers (Plate 51b). (fn. 45) It was cleared in 1912. In the late 1920s a two-storey office was erected between A and B Sheds on the Export Dock north quay. This was a symmetrical five-bay block of domestic appearance. It was demolished in the early 1980s. (fn. 46)
Timber Department Offices.
From about 1830 there were scattered small offices for the timber trade at the East Wood Wharf, the Blackwall Basin and on the north bank of the South Dock. From 1849 brokers were provided with small rentable box offices on wheels, and a West Wood Wharf office was built in 1850–1. This 'mean structure of wood' was the centre of the Timber Department from 1867. (fn. 47)
The huge growth in hardwood imports and the remodelling and extension of accommodation at the East Wood Wharf made the West Wood Wharf office both inadequate and inconvenient. In 1874, dock company officers suggested building a new Wood Trade Office at the East Wood Wharf, to include lettable office rooms for timber brokers. The site of the Blackwall Basin Guard House was chosen because it was midway between existing mahogany sheds and those being built on the east quay of the Export Dock. Augustus Manning prepared sketch plans for a building to house a general wood office with clerks' desks and circulation space, eight lettable offices, and other dock company offices. The timber trade did not like the proposals, and Cornelius Leary, a broker who had already requested an office in the building, submitted a rough plan 'for a square building with the Offices in the centre, receiving their light from skylights'. The 'ingenuity' of Leary's plan was praised. The layout was, however, of an established type, possibly related to the similar arrangement of the Dock Office of 1848 at the Albert Dock, Liverpool. Manning revised his plans, using Leary's sketch as the basis, to provide extra brokers' offices, at the expense of space for dock company staff in a larger two-storey building. The builder was George James Watts, of Orchard Road and No. 375 East India Dock Road, Poplar, and the Wood Trade Office was completed in 1876 at an estimated cost of £4,000 (fig. 113). The plan was Leary's, but the elevations were characteristically Manning's, with polychrome brickwork, stone-dressed window-heads and a panelled brickwork frieze below the eaves. The east, or Wood Department, entrance led to the central general office, with the Principal Warehousekeeper's private office beyond. The general office was lit through an ornamental wroughtiron trussed roof. The 15 trade offices had separate access by a gabled north porch. Most were on the first floor, but leading firms were accommodated on the ground floor. A kitchen and refreshment room were provided on the first floor. (fn. 48)
Demand for office space for the staff concerned with the timber trade grew as timber imports increased, and so the Wood Trade Office was rearranged internally, with a small addition on its west side, in the 1890s. (fn. 49) It was demolished in 1987 to make way for the Canary Wharf development.
South Dock Offices.
The South Dock was administered as a separate department from 1832, with its own offices in scattered small buildings. (fn. 50) In 1923 it was proposed that several dilapidated buildings should be replaced with a South Dock General Office, anticipating other South Dock improvements. (Sir) Edwin Cooper was brought in to prepare the plans and John Mowlem & Company built the offices in 1926–7 at a cost of £17,089. (fn. 51)
The South Dock General Office was a large twostorey brick building (fig. 114). It was plain and blocklike, but, like Cooper's other buildings in London's docks, dignified by refined neo-Georgian proportions and finely executed details. It was symmetrically planned around a central entrance which led to a foyer off which ran axial corridors to a variety of offices, and stairs to the first-floor rooms for Customs staff, an Assistant Superintendent, and staff dining facilities. The front elevation was relieved by an imposing Roman Doric portico below the PLA crest, all in Portland stone. At the ends, single-storey blocks linked over arches to provide upper balconies. (fn. 52) The building was demolished in the early 1980s.
From the early 1930s an iron-clad office stood at the north-west corner of the South Dock for the staff of F and G Sheds, with offices, workshops and stores for the Union Castle Steam Shipping Line. It was replaced in 1964 with a large two-storey building of reinforcedconcrete and brick. (fn. 53) From 1925 John Mowlem & Company had premises near the Byng Street entrance to the docks, held rent-free as part of their maintenance contract. Timber sheds were replaced with a reinforcedconcrete office in 1949–50. (fn. 54) Many other small offices and gear stores, either free-standing or in corners of sheds and warehouses, were let to shipping and stevedoring firms. There were, for example, eight shipping company offices around the West India Docks in 1935. (fn. 55) The number, sites and tenancies of the offices changed frequently
The lock pierheads had small huts, mainly of timber but some of brick, serving as offices for the dockmasters, cabins for the gatekeepers, and stores for rope and other materials needed at the locks. In the 1820s the Edinburgh Steam Packet Company built a passengers' waiting-room and a small warehouse on the south pierhead of the Blackwall entrance lock. These were converted by the dock company in 1835 as a dockmaster's office and rope store. (fn. 56) By 1863 there were similar buildings on the other river lock pierheads. (fn. 57)
When the South Dock east entrance lock was rebuilt in 1927–9, lockside buildings were erected as part of Sir Robert McAlpine's contract. Brick-built, with steeply pitched tiled roofs, these comprised a dockmaster's office, cabins for lockmen, oilers and barge searchers, and rope and gear stores. (fn. 58) The single-storey dockmaster's office on the south pierhead has a domestic neo-Georgian character, with brick quoining, a pedimented central entrance (with a date plaque) and architraved panelled doors. It retains its original use, latterly as offices for the LDDC Harbour Master.
Naval Store Office.
From 1897 the Admiralty had premises at the West India Docks in the Royal Naval Store Depot at No. 10 Warehouse (see page 293). An office for the depot was built in 1903–4, just outside the Harrow Lane (Millwall Junction) entrance to the docks, on the east side of the road; that is, on the site of the Military Guard House of 1807–8 (see above). It was a two-storey brick building with a six-bay south front. In 1938, the Navy having departed, the PLA designated the building the Air Raid Precautions Depot for the India and Millwall Docks, for training volunteers. (fn. 1) It was destroyed in the Blitz. (fn. 60)
Cannon Workshops (Cooperage, Workshops and Stores), with Works Yard Buildings.
From 1800 to 1980 the area west of the Import Dock, outside the former boundary ditch, was the West India Docks works yard, from which Cannon Workshops survive. At the beginning of dock construction the buildings here that had been part of John Lyney's ropeworks (see page 398) were adapted as an engineers' office and a carpenters' workshop. (fn. 61) A nearby house and stable were used by contractors until the docks opened, when they were converted to serve as a cooperage. This grew to form the hub of a large works establishment. A new cooperage was built in 1804, roughly on the site of the west range of Cannon Workshops. The carpenters' shop, part of which had come to be occupied by the engineers, stood to the south. (fn. 62)
In 1821 there was a strike of coopers at the docks. (fn. 63) The coopers did not achieve their aims, but they did bring the West India Dock Company unfavourable publicity at a time when its monopoly was being reviewed. In 1822 the company dismissed the Principal of Police, retired the Principal Cooper, and decided 'to entirely remodel the Cooperage Department'. (fn. 64) The only building work in the first phase of this remodelling was the construction of an 8ft-tall roadside wall from the Limehouse entrance lock to the dock constables' cottages in Garford Street, to enclose the north and west sides of the works yard. Elizabeth Broomfield was the contractor for the work, which was completed in 1823. (fn. 65) The wall was largely demolished in 1893–4.
The Cooperage Department was seen to need further reorganization to ensure 'efficient superintendence of the operatives', and in February 1824 (Sir) John Rennie recommended building entirely new premises. He produced plans for a cooperage surrounded by a quadrangle of 'proper Storehouses and other conveniences' and estimated the cost at £15,000 (fig. 116). Thomas Johnson & Son erected the buildings in 1824–5 for £19,662, including the cost of a smithery and all internal fittings. (fn. 66)
The first stage to be built was the cooperage and east range of the quadrangle, which were erected in late 1824, with brown stock bricks supplied by J. & J. Trimmer for £6,543. (fn. 67) The U-plan cooperage originally had three 15bay elevations; its east front has been much altered (fig. 115c). (fn. 2) There were eight 13ft-wide fireplaces, with chimneys rising 10ft above the roof. The doorway architraves, initially specified as Portland stone to the front and brick to the returns, were all built of granite. The small yard enclosed by the building was excavated for a water tank, equipped with a pump and hoses in case of a fire. From 1875 the tank was used for compulsory swimming lessons for boy labourers. (fn. 69)
The east or entrance range of the stores quadrangle was built as small offices flanking an entrance arch, with long outer wings for general stores (fig. 115a). Rennie sited the central carriage entrance on an axis with the Hibbert Gate, and his first plans included an octagonal bell-turret and dome over a Bath stone or stucco-faced archway. The turret was abandoned, and the centresection facing was built in fine pale-yellow bricks with Portland stone dressings. The offices are entered by doorways inside the archway, the roof of which rests on arched cast-iron ribs. The Engineer's Department moved into the south office in 1826 and remained there until 1980. (fn. 70) At the entrance there are wrought-iron gates and cast-iron grooved obelisk bollards marked WIDC, the latter possibly reset. The brown brick outer walls of the stores were originally blank, for security reasons. There were roof-lights, and the inner elevations had segmentalheaded doors and blind windows. (fn. 71)
The other ranges of the quadrangle were built, to revised plans, in mid-1825. (fn. 72) The central section of the south range was built as, and remains, a carpenters' shop (fig. 115b). Its outer elevation, to the carpenters' yard, is continuously glazed, for good working light, under a scarfed timber lintel 88ft long. The original chimney and fireplace also survive. Party-walls divide the carpenters' shop from the outer sections of the range; there were originally sawpits and carpenters' stores to the west, and a boat shed, painters' shop and store to the east. The sawpits and boat shed were behind the broad segmentalheaded doorways. As at the cooperage, the granite surrounds were initially specified as Bramley Fall or Portland stone. The outer stores originally had blind windows and skylights, and the inner side of the south range had blind windows, with no access to the coopers' yard.
The north range was originally a coopers' store. Its outer elevation is a plain brick wall. The inner elevation was originally 22 lugged cast-iron columns supporting oak rails and fir close-boarding with windows and folding doors (fig. 115d). The 6in.-diameter hollow-cylindrical columns were mounted on inverted-arched foundations. The cast-iron column-head brackets were supplied by Edward Boreham, the columns probably by either the Butterley or the Horseley company. The much rebuilt west stores range originally had similar cast-iron columns and close-boarding on both sides, with an open-fronted wheelwrights' shop to the south. (fn. 73)
The final stage of the 1824 scheme was a separate building for a smithery, millwrights' shop and waste furnace, sited adjacent to the south range of the quadrangle, in the north-west corner of the works yard. (fn. 74) It was built in 1825–6 to plans submitted by George Rennie. The building was divided into three sections, with the centre breaking forward (fig. 117). The central section was the smithery, which contained two paired forges with cast-iron framed hoods and a louvred ventilating lantern. The tall chimneys also served the flanking waste furnace and millwrights' shop. (fn. 75)
The east range of the quadrangle underwent a series of alterations later in the nineteenth century (fig. 115a). In 1838 and 1853 the offices were extended into the adjoining stores, and some of the inner blind windows were opened. The stores south of the Engineer's Offices were converted to a Baggage Warehouse in 1874, George James Watts inserting a few outer-wall windows, doors and a firewall. (fn. 76) The Baggage Warehouse was in turn converted to a Customs House in 1882, to replace the Customs House in West India Dock Road (see page 315). John Perry & Company, of Bow, carried out the work for £1,336, to Augustus Manning's plans. (fn. 77) The south end of the east range then took on something close to its present appearance, with carefully inserted gauged-brick-headed sash windows, chimneys and internal partitioning. There were offices for Examining Officers, Registrars, Surveyors and Appointers, as well as a laboratory, book room, dry goods room, kitchen and luncheon room. (fn. 78)
The yard between the stores quadrangle and the Limehouse Basin was largely open ground in the early nineteenth century. In 1839 a water store was erected at its south end, just west of the Guard House, housing patent filtering apparatus and a fresh-water tank to supply shipping. (fn. 79) The tank was enlarged in 1848, and the building was extended to the west in 1872 by the addition of a two-storey fitters' cottage. (fn. 80) By 1881 the water store had become a guard house. (fn. 81) It was demolished in 1981. (fn. 82)
The works yard was reorganized in the late 1870s to a scheme prepared by Augustus Manning. This was largely related to the introduction of steam machinery to reduce dependence on manual labour. The waste furnace, at the north end of the smithery, was converted to a sawmill with a long covered shed to the east for log carriages. The smithery was remodelled and extended into the millwrights' shop, and a fitters' shop was built abutting to the south. Near by was erected an iron and chain store with a chain-annealing furnace, later converted to a chaintesting shop. Other buildings in the yard by 1881 included a plumbers' shop and a brass foundry (plan B). The yard was wholly enclosed with fencing in 1881–2 to prevent the 'waste of time of men working in the yard through numerous loafers getting in and talking to them' and to 'preclude the possibility of any pilfering of small materials'. (fn. 83) The South Dock had its own smithery, cooperage and store sheds from the 1870s. (fn. 84)
Bridge Road (later part of Westferry Road) was widened by the LCC in 1893–4. This involved demolition of the roadside boundary wall, the south-west corner of the stores quadrangle and parts of the smithery and fitters' shop. The Docks Joint Committee rebuilt the wall, and the LCC paid £3,800 in compensation. (fn. 85) A part of the brick wall of 1893–4, in English bond, survives at varying heights up to about 15ft.
The PLA inherited an incoherent variety of store facilities from London's dock companies in 1909. Reorganization of the Port's stores was repeatedly deferred until 1920, when the redevelopment of the West India Dock works yard area as a Central Stores Depot for the whole Port was approved. C. R. S. Kirkpatrick and (Sir) Edwin Cooper prepared plans for a facility to accommodate stationery, clothing, cooperage, printers' and bookbinders' shops, engineers' stores, tarpaulins, oil, paint and building materials. The estimated cost was £69,000, however, and financial uncertainty caused the scheme to be suspended. In 1921 Harland & Wolff took a 99-year lease of the works yard south of the quadrangle, undertaking to spend £50,000 developing the site. The firm was establishing workshops throughout the Port in association with its mechanical engineering maintenance contract. (fn. 86) Kirkpatrick submitted a more modest plan for the conversion of the cooperage and stores quadrangle to form the Central Stores Depot. This was carried out in 1922–3 by Allen Fairhead & Sons, of Enfield, at a cost of £13,453. (fn. 87) The former cooperage became a store for clothing, stationery and general goods. The chimneys were demolished, the east front openings were altered, the tank was filled in, and a steel roof with a span of 59ft was erected over the inner yard to create extra storage space. The north end of the quadrangle's east range became the India and Millwall Police Sports Club, and windows were inserted in its previously blank outer wall. The north range was refitted to accommodate, from east to west, general stores, a small oil store segregated by brick firewalls, printing and bookbinding rooms, and a tarpaulin workshop. The west range became a tarpaulin drying shed, a cement store, a kitchen and a cooperage, all but the first enclosed with brick walls in place of the close-boarding, and brick piers around the cast-iron columns. (fn. 88) The south range was let to Harland & Wolff, who repeatedly postponed, and eventually abandoned, their workshop scheme, while retaining use of the yard. From 1928 John Mowlem & Company occupied premises attached to the inner side of the south range. (fn. 89)
The cooperage at the centre of the west range was destroyed by bombs in 1941 and was partly rebuilt in 1957. (fn. 90) Cooperage continued at the north-west corner of the Import Dock and C Shed until about 1970. (fn. 91) The office on the north side of the entrance arch was extended for the engineers in 1949 and the last blank section of the east front was fenestrated. (fn. 92) Harland & Wolff gave up the south-east part of the works yard in 1946, for the erection of prefabricated huts as a Divisional Police Office, and the south end of the site in 1964, to make space for a lorry— and car-park. Further south, on the site of the Limehouse Basin, in 1949 the PLA built a two-bay garage for the repair of mobile plant, extended with a third bay in 1954–5. (fn. 93)
The closure of the up-river docks made the Central Stores and works yard redundant. In 1980–1 the PLA set up a project for the refurbishment of the Central Stores, with clearance and redevelopment of the works yard, as an estate of rentable workshops for small businesses, designated 'Cannon Workshops' after a cannon that had stood inside the entrance arch since at least 1914. The development was a joint venture by the PLA and Midland Montague Industrial Leasing, and was organized outside the aegis of the LDDC as part of the PLA's effort to revitalize its redundant property, before there was a broader framework for docklands redevelopment. Regeneration Limited managed the project, the architects for which were Charles Lawrence and David Wrightson. Refurbishment of the old buildings as 72 units was completed by late 1982, and single-storey steel sheds to the south for 45 more units were completed in 1983. The units were let to such diverse tenants as printing firms, architects, barfitters, a jellied-eel producer, Greenpeace, and the Museum in Docklands Project Library and Archive. (fn. 94) The conversion of the quadrangle involved doubling the south range with a new inner block, and reconstruction of the bomb-damaged part of the west range. The new sections were given cast-iron columns similar to those surviving on the north range and at either end of the west range. The boarding and lugs were removed from the old columns, and 'loggias' were created in front of aluminium cladding. New doorways were made towards the ends of the south elevation. (fn. 95) The 1981–3 sheds in the former works yard were cleared in 1988 to make way for Westferry Circus. The former stores quadrangle and cooperage survive on the north side of this roundabout, dwarfed by their new neighbours.
Employment at the docks was precarious, and the working conditions were harsh. It was well into the nineteenth century before there was any attempt to provide dockworkers with even the most rudimentary comforts within the dock estate, at first in the form of simple shelter sheds, later with some provision for nourishment and hygiene. There were no substantial buildings devoted to the needs of dockworkers until shortly before the docks closed.
The number of men employed as dockworkers varied enormously with the vagaries of trade. Large numbers waited every day to be called for work. Although the work at the India Docks was as variable as elsewhere in the Port, Mayhew found the labourers there to be 'more civilized', with less 'scrambling and scuffling' than at the London Docks. (fn. 96) The East and West India Dock Company set up a Provident Society for its labourers in 1840. Even so, it was fear of disorder more than compassion that motivated the company's concern for its work-force when it built the Dock Cottages in 1849–50 (see page 78). Similarly, accommodation was provided for lascars (Asian seamen) to contain potential trouble. The shift of some of the East India trade to the West India Docks in the 1830s meant that lascars frequented those docks more than hitherto. Following a 'disturbance' in 1839, a Lascar House was built near the Blackwall Basin. The building was converted into an engine house for the Junction Dock building works in 1853 and was subsequently demolished. (fn. 97) (fn. 3)
Shelter or muster sheds for labourers waiting outside the dock gates were proposed in 1843 and 1847, but it is not clear that any were then built. By 1863 there was a crude timber shelter shed near the Limehouse Basin, to the west of No. 11 Warehouse; a second was built in 1871 against the boundary-ditch railings outside the Hibbert Gate. (fn. 99) Another shelter shed was put up at the Cuba Street gate in 1878, where a call-on was instituted to replace that at the City Arms, where drunkenness had become a problem. The Great Dock Strike of 1889 led directly and immediately to the erection of labourers' shelters throughout the docks. One for 250 men was built at the Import Dock, another for 300 men at the South Dock. (fn. 100) In 1944 the Ministry of Works erected a Dock Labour Control Point building on the site immediately south of Maritime Hall on West India Dock Road. This became the National Dock Labour Board's West India Dock headquarters. It was a single-storey brick structure, a large open room with small offices, raised a storey in 1952, and demolished in the late 1970s. (fn. 101)
From 1871 labourers could acquire food within the dock estate at a soup kitchen erected in the works yard. This was said to be superior to anything available in Poplar. The dock company hoped thereby to avoid the security risk of allowing labourers to leave the dock premises for sustenance during working hours. The building was wholly converted to works uses by 1891, and was demolished in 1922. (fn. 102) Privately held 'refreshment rooms' were set up within the dock estate in the late nineteenth century. In 1922 the PLA acceded to a request from the Transport and General Workers' Union by refitting a refreshment room on the south side of the South Dock as a canteen, staffed and managed by dockworkers. Another canteen was erected on the West Wood Wharf in 1926. (fn. 103) To meet government requirements for canteen facilities in the docks, a 'main industrial canteen' was opened in 1942 in a large prefabricated building on the site of No. 7 Teak Shed. Portable snack huts were introduced at the docks after the Second World War, and by 1952 there were two more canteens. (fn. 104)
The health, safety and hygiene of dockworkers were largely ignored inside the docks until a late date. In 1884 the Managers of the Metropolitan Asylums Board put up a temporary hospital south of the South Dock Basin, for cholera patients amongst dock labourers and sailors, and the St John Ambulance Association established a first-aid station on the East Wood Wharf c1900. A Port Medical Centre was established just south of the S Shed canteen in 1950–1, through the National Dock Labour Board. The provision of waterclosets and urinals at the docks was often complained of as poor; latrines for lascars were separately located. The PLA extensively modernized the sanitary conveniences in the India and Millwall Docks in 1936–7 and 1952. (fn. 105)
The PLA built seven 'amenity blocks' at the India and Millwall Docks in 1968–70, with others elsewhere in the Port, to provide lockers, dining, washing and recreation facilities for dockworkers. The first of these was a conversion of the ground floor of the west end of C Shed on the north quay. New two-storey blocks, each for 300 men, were built at the west end of the Export Dock and at A2 Shed at the Millwall Docks, and another, for 250 men, was built on the south quay of the South Dock. The four blocks cost over £300,000. Another 1,000 men were provided for in three more blocks, one near the main industrial canteen and the plywood sheds, and two at the Millwall Docks. (fn. 106)
The building of the West India Docks required local housing for senior works staff. This was provided in existing houses. (fn. 107) The dock company generally ceased housing its works staff once the major building works were complete. A later brief exception came in 1870 when the company decided that engineers should live on the premises, to be available to deal with the increasing number of mechanical appliances. Lawn House was converted to two dwellings for E. J. Leonard and his foreman (see page 604). (fn. 108)
Dockmasters were given houses, to ensure constant supervision of the dock estate. It was particularly desirable that they should be accommodated near entrance locks. In 1803 Captain John Strover was appointed Principal Dockmaster and given a house at Blackwall which was largely rebuilt in 1809. The Deputy or Blackwall Dockmaster, Captain Powers, had a house at Blackwall that was replaced in 1809–10 with a new building on the east side of Preston's Road, just south of the lane leading to Coldharbour, built by Howkins & Company under Thomas Morris. The house was poorly constructed, and was taken down in 1824 to be replaced by Isle House (see page 611). (fn. 109) In 1812 a two-storey house of three bays was erected at the south-west corner of the works yard, under John Rennie, for Captain Scargill, the Limehouse and Export Dockmaster. Unusually, and presumably to reduce fire risk, it had an iron roof, supplied by Charles Norton. It was partly demolished when Westferry Road was widened in 1893–4, and wholly cleared in the early 1950s. (fn. 110) Another house was built in 1813, on the north-west side of Blackwall Causeway, to designs by William Pillgrem, for the Blackwall Gatekeeper, or lock foreman. Locking had to be carried on round the clock with the tide, and so gatekeepers needed to be housed near the locks. (fn. 111) A two-storey, three-bay house for the Limehouse Gatekeeper was built in 1815, on the west side of Westferry Road, just north of the entrance lock. (fn. 112) In 1930 it became part of Bridge Wharf (see page 394). The grandest of the dock houses was built in 1819, for Captain Charles Compton Parish, the Dock Superintendent, to replace the house that had been partly rebuilt in 1809. It survives on the north side of the Blackwall entrance lock as Bridge House (see page 628).
The dock company police force was housed near the docks, in order to be readily available in a crisis. Initially, the constables, like other staff, were housed in inherited buildings. The first houses to be built especially for policemen were 12 cottages on the east side of Harrow Lane, erected in 1813–14 with the conversion of the Harrow Lane Military Guard House for the Principal of Police (see page 88). More police cottages were soon needed. A group of five was built in Garford Street in 1819, and in 1821 an identical group was added in Preston's Road (see pages 402 and 628).
From about 1801 the West India Dock Company intended to build speculative housing on its surplus land north and west of the boundary ditch, but the idea was not seriously explored until the pace of dock building had slowed in 1804. Robert Mitchell rearranged an earlier scheme, proposing more than 300 houses in a layout that included a crescent opposite Hibbert Gate. Alternatives were prepared by William Pillgrem, John Shaw (a former pupil of the elder Gwilt) and Thomas Morris in 1805–7, but the project ran into opposition and remained unexecuted. (fn. 113) The empty fields were seen by some as important security buffers, and there were reservations as to the legality of any speculative development initiated by the dock company. (fn. 114) Indeed, a pair of houses built in 1806 on the company's land north of the boundary ditch, at the end of Dolphin Lane, was pulled down in 1812. (fn. 115) Speculative development of property on the east side of Preston's Road was initiated by the dock company in 1829 and carried out in 1830–3 (see page 630). There were no more speculative housing projects on the dock estate until the 1980s.
From the 1830s the company could no longer afford to build houses for staff it wished to accommodate at the docks. (fn. 116) However, the purchase of the City Canal in 1829 brought with it a number of houses considered 'eligible residences for Officers'. They included, at Limehouse, nine houses in Ord Street, with three more behind in Montague Place, and, at Blackwall, the former Canal Office and Superintendent's house in Coldharbour, and Lawn House (see page 604). The first South Dock Master was given a house in Montague Place, and cabins near both South Dock entrances were altered to house the South Dock gatekeepers. (fn. 117) In 1890 there were ten houses, excluding policemen's cottages, at the West India Docks that were occupied rent-free by dock staff, ranging from Bridge House to the gatekeepers' cottages. (fn. 118)
The Dolphin Lane Dock Cottages of 1849–50 were the only rentable houses for dock labourers built by the proprietors of the West India Docks (see page 78). Consideration was given to providing more labourers' cottages in the 1860s and 1870s, in view of the 'desirability of increasing the resident staff at the Docks, for service in case of fire or other emergency'. (fn. 119) The only result was four houses built in 1876 on the east side of Preston's Road north of the South Dock east entrance, and they were not used for labourers (see page 624).
In 1938 the housing available for dockmasters was reported to be insufficient; several of them were living far from the docks. Older buildings were set to be replaced by new houses of standard types, but the project was postponed because of the Second World War. In 1946–8, four pairs of semi-detached houses, for assistant dockmasters and high-ranking police officers, were built on the former Canal Dockyard site by J. Jarvis & Sons, to plans by W. P. Sheppard-Barron, for about £3,650 a pair (see page 607). (fn. 120) A detached dockmaster's house was added to the group in 1955, when Bridge House was converted into offices. Additionally, a block of four flats for PLA police was built on the corner of Manchester Road and Stebondale Street in Cubitt Town.