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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Power and Transport
Early Steam Engines.
Steam power was little used in the early years of the docks because of the fire risk. However, two Boulton & Watt steam engines, of 20 and 28hp, were used in the building of the West India Docks from 1801. John Rennie supervised their acquisition and erection. The larger pumped water from the excavations from an engine house north of the Blackwall Basin; there was a small reservoir on its north side. The smaller ground lime mortar for bricklaying, and, with six lime kilns, was on the Limehouse site of Obadiah Reeves's ship-breaking yard. (fn. 2) Another steam engine pumped out the City Canal works from the site that became the Canal Dockyard. Both pumping-engines were used for the excavation of the Export Dock. (fn. 3) The Limehouse engine was sold in 1807, but replaced with a 10hp Boulton & Watt engine in 1809, at what came to be known as the Steam Engine Yard. (fn. 4) The Blackwall Basin steam-engine house was converted into a gatekeeper's house in 1808. (fn. 5)
Silting has been a constant problem at the West India Docks. Alternatives to dredging were not seriously explored until the late 1820s, when its huge cost prompted the dock company to act. An impounding system devised by (Sir) John Rennie was built in 1828–30 on the site that is now occupied by Poplar Dock (see page 336). It was designed to introduce clean water to the docks to maintain such a depth that there would be no inward rush of water and mud when the lock gates were opened at high tide. It comprised settling reservoirs and a steam pumping-engine. The system did not work well and was abandoned in 1843. Dredging again became a constant and largely unquestioned expense.
An impounding system was part of the programme of work related to the rebuilding of the Blackwall entrance lock in 1893–4. Pumps and culverts were placed north of the lock on the east side of Preston's Road, to transmit river water into the docks. This was not primarily intended to obviate dredging, but rather to raise and maintain the depth of water in the older docks, particularly the Import Dock, so that larger ships could be accommodated. The first designs for the system, by Robert Carr in 1892, were based on that at the Royal Albert Dock. (fn. 6) Because Carr suffered a stroke on a return trip from Liverpool, where he had inspected some new pumping machinery, it was H. F. Donaldson who, in 1893, prepared a specification for the machinery and plans for the pumping station and culverts. The builders were Lucas & Aird, and Easton, Anderson & Goolden, of Erith Iron Works, supplied the machinery. The system cost £17,325 and came into operation on 1 May 1895. (fn. 7) The plant consisted of four vertical-spindle centrifugal pumps, a horizontal compound condensing engine, and four 33ft-long Galloway boilers. There were 8ft-diameter suction and delivery culverts, with specially designed outlets at the bottom of the Blackwall Basin. The 760hp pumps could handle 7,500,000 gallons an hour, and when they were worked for four hours around high tide the water level in the docks was raised by approximately 1ft 6in. The impounding station comprised two 40ftwide chambers, the boiler-house and chimney stood on its north side, and to the south was the engine house (Plate 53d). (fn. 8)
The Blackwall impounding station was made redundant in 1930 by the introduction of impounding machinery at the South Dock. (fn. 9) In 1936 the building was leased to become part of Edwin Cooper & Company's Northumberland Wharf oil and grease factory. (fn. 10) From 1952 it was Raleana Works, the premises of the Thames Welding Company, a subsidiary of the London Graving Dock Company. (fn. 11) The building was demolished in 1986.
One of the improvements proposed by Frederick Palmer in 1910–11 was new pumping plant to impound a 2ft greater depth of water across the West India Docks. (fn. 12) In 1913 C. R. S. Kirkpatrick fixed the site for a new impounding station at the west end of the South Dock, on the east side of Bridge Road over the longdisused entrance lock, which was to be permanently dammed and used as a suction inlet. His revision of Palmer's scheme to include a passage linking the South Dock and the Millwall Docks meant that the impounding station would serve a much larger area of water, and so would require pumping plant of a greater capacity. A grandiloquently Baroque building was designed to house five pumps, and in January 1915 tenders were invited. (fn. 13) The work was not contracted, however, presumably because, as an inessential project, wartime austerity caused it to be abandoned.
The plans for the impounding station were modified in 1921, but firm progress had to await the revival of the large scheme of improvements. In 1926–9 Charles Brand & Son built a 15ft-wide mass-concrete dam across the east end of the South Dock west entrance lock and the impounding station, with pumping plant supplied by Worthington Simpson Limited, of Newark, and electric motors from the Lancashire Dynamo Motor Company, of Trafford Park, Manchester. The system cost £38,787, and came into use in April 1930. (fn. 14)
Kirkpatrick's plans had been considerably simplified under Asa Binns. The building was made smaller, as it had to house only three pumps, and the elevations were markedly less ornamental. Only a Portland stone cornice and end-gable oculi (one for a date plaque) survived as decorative features on a Leicestershire-red-brick block with a steel-trussed roof. The pumping machinery, on a sunken floor, and still in use, consists of three twinimpeller horizontal centrifugal pumps capable of discharging about 65 million gallons into the docks over a four-hour period around high tide (fig. 118). There are suction and discharge pipes of 6ft diameter. Hydraulic penstocks with greenheart paddles control the latter and two sluicing culverts. (fn. 15)
Hydraulic Pumping Stations and Accumulators.
The consequences of the absence of steam power in the docks were mitigated by the application of hydraulic power to machinery at the West India Docks in the early 1850s, part of the rapid spread of technology developed by William Armstrong in the 1840s. (fn. 16) James Meadows Rendel raised the question of hydraulic power at the West India Docks in 1852. Rendel's reputation rested largely on his spectacular introduction of Armstrong hydraulic machinery at Grimsby's Royal Dock. His plans for the Junction Dock included hydraulic lock-gate machinery and two swing-bridges, made by Armstrong & Company in 1852–3. The lock-gate machinery comprised separate cylinders for closing and opening each of four pairs of gates, and the bridges had hydraulic lifting rams. Because of delays in building the Junction Dock, this machinery was not used until 1855. (fn. 17)
In the meantime hydraulic power had been more widely applied. George Collin, Simon Knight and Henry Martin, respectively the Secretary, Superintendent and Engineer of the East and West India Dock Company, travelled to Grimsby, Hull, Glasgow, and the Albert Dock, Liverpool, in March 1853 for 'the examination of any substitutes for manual labour in connection with Cranes or Hoisting Machinery'. At Grimsby they met Armstrong, and observed with relief that hydraulic accumulators (where water and its power to generate movement was stored away from the primary engine, in fixed cylinders with weighted rams) could be much smaller than the 200ft-high tower there. They concluded that 'moving power' would produce 'economy and dispatch' if substituted for manual power, and that hydraulics were its only safe and efficient mode. (fn. 18) Armstrong's proposals for hydraulic quay cranes and warehouse lifts at the north, east and west quays of the Import Dock were approved in 1854, with an expenditure of up to £30,000. (fn. 19) The machinery was installed in 1854–5 under the supervision of E. J. Leonard of Armstrong & Company. (fn. 20)
The hydraulic system at the Import Dock was powered by its own pumping station, built in 1854–5 on the east side of the works yard. The layout and fitting of the building were probably determined by Armstrong & Company, but the plan and elevations may have been designed by H. D. Martin, the dock company's engineer. The builder was G. J. Watts and the cost was £4,625 (fig. 119). (fn. 21) The pumping station followed the nearby smithery in its general lines. There were timber queenpost roof trusses and concrete foundations for two 60hp steam engines and four boilers. The accumulator tower, 16ft square internally and 37ft tall, continued 9ft 6in. below ground level. (fn. 22) Remote accumulator towers, each of which was about 37ft tall, were erected around the Import Dock, two on the north quay and one on the east quay (Plate 49c). (fn. 23)
Another hydraulic pumping station was built at the Junction Dock in 1855, by Brassey & McCormick to plans by Rendel, to serve the lock gates, bridges and cranes there. It was sited east of the dock, near to its south end, and was much smaller than that for the Import Dock. The Import Dock and Junction Dock systems were linked in 1856, allowing the Junction Dock engine to become a reserve. (fn. 24)
Hydraulic cranage was extended to the wood wharves south of the Import Dock in 1863–4, and the works yard pumping station was improved by the addition of two 30hp engines, all by Armstrong & Company, with the building work by Watts. The Rum Quay was given hydraulic power in 1871–2, with accumulator towers at each end of the Rum Quay Shed, like those on the north quay. (fn. 25) The rebuilding of the South Dock brought a further extension of the hydraulic system in 1869. Armstrong & Company supplied lock-gate, sluice and bridge machinery and capstans, as well as a remote accumulator of 10ft diameter, with a ram of 23ft 6in. stroke, for the east end of the South Dock warehouses (fig. 120). To cope with the expansion, the works yard station was extended on its east side. The building work was by Watts, and Armstrong supplied two steam engines of combined 150hp, four boilers, a 12,000-gallon tank, two lift pumps and a 55ft 6in.-tall accumulator. (fn. 26)
Further piecemeal extensions of hydraulic power were encouraged by strikes, which reinforced the determination to reduce dependence on manual labour, and competition, which made the fast turn-around of ships imperative. The East India Dock and West India Dock hydraulic systems were linked in 1872–3. (fn. 27) The works yard station was unable to cope with the increasing demand and so, in 1877–9, a South Dock hydraulic pumping station was built at the east end of the South Dock south quay, by J. Perry & Company, to plans by Augustus Manning. (fn. 28) It had a 100hp compound condensing engine made by Tannett, Walker & Company, of Hunslet, Leeds, and three boilers in a T-plan building, with a 50ft-tall accumulator tower at the base of the T. Its elevations were relieved by polychrome brickwork, the accumulator tower verging on the Italianate. (fn. 29) In 1898 the building was adapted by H. C. Baggallay to serve as an impounding station for the South Dock, with an extension for a new pair of engines and a boiler. (fn. 30) After 1930 it was used as a store. The chimney was demolished in 1950, the rest of the building c1969. (fn. 31)
The PLA linked the India and Millwall Docks hydraulic systems in 1913–14, then, from 1925, hydraulic power was supplied by the London Hydraulic Power Company. The works yard station closed and was demolished in 1928. (fn. 32) Crane operation had all but entirely gone over to electricity by the 1950s. Hydraulic lock entrance and bridge machinery remained in use into the 1970s. (fn. 33)
Electricity Generating Stations.
Electric light was experimentally applied on the quays and in the warehouses of the West India Docks by Augustus Manning from 1877, but it was not systematically introduced until the 1890s. (fn. 34) An electricity generating station was formed in the disused Junction Dock hydraulic pumping station in 1893–4 for the electric travelling cranes in the wood sheds, with engines and dynamos supplied by the Gulcher (New) Electric Light & Power Company, of Battersea. (fn. 35) Another electricity station was built in 1895 on the Import Dock north quay, in part of the annexe north of the No. 5 Warehouse cold store. It housed dynamos supplied by Crompton & Company, and Belliss highspeed engines. (fn. 36) In 1897 the Junction Dock station machinery was transferred to the north quay and the building was then demolished. To handle increased use of electric lighting, additional engines and dynamos were obtained from Siemens Brothers for the north quay electricity station in 1898. (fn. 37) From 1906 the electricity supply to the docks came from Poplar Borough Council. (fn. 38)
Fixed quay cranes, some of timber, some of iron, were in use at the Import Dock from 1802. A Mr Hardie supplied 12 iron quay cranes in 1802, and other early quay cranes were acquired from a Mr Hawkes, Thomas Paton, John W. Stevens and Thomas & Rudge. (fn. 39) The hand-operated fixed cranes on the north quay were sited between the warehouses, in line with the loopholes of the link blocks. They were replaced with cast-iron cranes in 1821, following advice from John Rennie. (fn. 40) The foundations of the crane opposite the block between Nos 1 and 2 Warehouses comprised ashlar blocks immediately behind the dock wall, stepped down for 6ft to 8ft to a broad base. Wrought-iron rods ran through these stones from the foot of the crane, fixed by bolts at the base. A semi-conical brick-lined pit behind the crane footing allowed access for tightening the bolts.
John Rennie came to the West India Docks in 1809 and 'proposed various plans for working the Cranes by Vacuums, by condensed air, by levers worked by Steam Engines, and Water, all of which were abandoned on account of the supposed inconvenience compared with the common method'. (fn. 41) W. Brenton of Doncaster supplied some iron cranes in 1812, and others, for the Rum Quay, came from the Butterley Company in 1813. Aydon & Elwell, of the Shelf Iron Works, Bradford, supplied 10-ton iron cranes, with 20ft lifts and 22ft jibs, for the wood wharves in 1813 and 1817. Dupin described the West India Dock cranes of this period as simple and strong, and he admired their mechanisms for adjusting to differing loads. (fn. 42) From 1823 the Rennie workshops in Stamford Street, Southwark, made some of the cranes for the docks. (fn. 43) S. W. Wright supplied a 'Giraffe Crane' in 1829, to handle cotton at No. 12 Warehouse. (fn. 44) In 1840 a 15-ton crane from Lloyd & Easter was erected at the east end of the Export Dock north quay. (fn. 45)
Once hydraulic power became economical for dock cranage, the hand-operated cranes were rapidly replaced. Armstrong & Company supplied and erected two 10-ton hydraulic quay cranes at the Junction Dock in 1853–5, and 22 3-ton hydraulic cranes on the north, east and west quays of the Import Dock in 1854–5. The Import Dock cranes were in box-like timber housings with pyramidal roofs; initially covered in slate, they were reroofed with sheet-iron to prevent damage from ships' yards (Plate 50c). (fn. 46) Armstrong's box-type hydraulic quay cranes were also used at the South Dock from 1870, in preference to the pillar type of crane, as used at the Millwall Docks (see page 370). Armstrong's monopoly on the supply of hydraulic equipment at the West India Docks was broken in 1873–4 when Appleby Brothers made hydraulic cranes for the South Dock Wool Warehouses. (fn. 47)
Sir William Fairbairn supplied steam cranes to the docks in this period. A 40-ton, 36ft-lift wrought-iron crane, for handling heavy machinery, was erected in 1857–8, at the end of a railway siding on the Export Dock north quay, and a 10-ton 38ft-lift wrought-iron crane of a patented swan-neck form was placed near by in 1865–6 (Plate 51b). (fn. 48) The East Wood Wharf improvements of the 1870s included 10-ton travelling steam cranes from Appleby Brothers. Steam was cheaper than hydraulic power for machines like these, that were worked continuously. (fn. 49)
The West India Docks were slow to change to travelling quay cranes. They were introduced, by Armstrong & Company, on the north quay of the Export Dock in 1882. (fn. 50) The north quay of the Import Dock was reequipped in 1894, when the 'false' quay was built, with Tannett, Walker & Company, of Hunslet, Leeds, supplying ten 30-cwt 58ft-lift travelling hydraulic quay cranes (Plates 49b, 50c). These cranes and their drivers' cabins revolved on rail-borne undercarriages. (fn. 51)
Electric gantry cranes were introduced in the wood sheds in the 1890s, but hydraulic power remained in favour for quay cranes until much later. (fn. 52) Through Asa Binns, the PLA modernized India and Millwall Docks cranage in 1936–7, with 3-ton electric quay cranes from Stothert & Pitt, and the electrification of lifts, hoists and quays. (fn. 53) The replacement of hydraulic cranes with electric cranes continued after the Second World War, Stothert & Pitt supplying 46 3-ton 65ft-radius and four 5-ton 80ft-radius luffing cranes for the India and Millwall Docks in 1949, and further large numbers of tubularsteel-frame electric quay cranes into the 1960s. (fn. 54)
Plans made in 1976 to preserve trade at the India and Millwall Docks included the establishment of a container handling park on the south side of the South Dock. A COMBI berth (to handle containers carried with conventional cargo) was established in 1978, and a mobile crane from Nellen of Holland to handle 27-ton containers was acquired with the help of a government loan. (fn. 55)
Blackwall Entrance Lock (Preston's Road) Bridges.
The West India Docks and the City Canal made the Isle of Dogs truly an island, and so the bridges across the entrance locks were a vital link for residents and businesses south of the docks. They were operated by and, with some exceptions, built by the dock proprietors as part of the dock estate. In 1800 Ralph Walker designed a horizontal swing-bridge, double-turning and arched, the plans for which William Jessop used in 1801, in preference to his own designs, for a bridge over the Blackwall entrance lock. It was built by John Morris and Benjamin Paine of Greenwich in 1801–2, but it was of timber with iron fittings, rather than all of cast iron as Walker had intended. It spanned a lock 45ft wide, with each half turned by a rack-and-pinion movement on conical rollers and 12ft-diameter cast-iron rings. (fn. 56) From 1801 to 1809 cast-iron bridges of this type were mounted at Hull and at the London Docks by John Rennie, as well as at Liverpool, with Aydon & Elwell of Bradford as suppliers in each case. (fn. 57) Rennie saw to the replacement of the 'very rickety' Blackwall entrance bridge in 1811– 12, installing one of the same type, but of cast iron, from Aydon & Elwell. (fn. 58)
The Blackwall entrance was very busy, and so Rennie had a cast-iron footbridge, supplied by Aydon & Elwell, erected over the east side of the lock in 1813, to allow the road bridge to stay open, unless carriage passage was needed, without inconveniencing pedestrians. Based on a bridge at Ramsgate designed by Rennie, it was 54ft long and only 4ft 6in. wide at the centre. (fn. 59) The increasing numbers of workmen passing to and from the Isle of Dogs over this bridge necessitated a second footbridge in 1865, supplied by Westwood & Baillie. (fn. 60) This improvement was negated in 1871 when one of the footbridges was moved to a City warehouse. (fn. 61) The other was removed when the lock was rebuilt in 1893–4.
Traffic generated by the industries on the Isle of Dogs put enormous pressure on the single-lane cast-iron bridges across the West India Dock entrance locks. From the 1860s complaints multiplied, urging wider bridges and briefer openings. The sheer weight of some traffic (heavy goods were transported from some factories) required the use of strengthening props and notices warning against overloading. The dock company was loath to take more positive or more costly action, as building work at the locks would impede shipping. Blockages became a common occurrence, and in 1877 the Poplar District Board of Works began to campaign for the replacement of the 'very antiquated' bridges, but the company resisted. (fn. 62) The controversy came to a head in 1888 when S. Hodge & Sons, of Union Iron Works, Millwall, were refused permission to transport a 21-ton boiler over the Limehouse bridges. The Board of Works tried to obtain a mandamus to compel the improvement of the bridges, but it was ruled that the dock company could not be held responsible for changes in conditions since its bridges had been built. (fn. 63) The Board of Works referred the problem to the LCC in 1889, and it reluctantly accepted responsibility for improvement of the dock bridges on the Isle of Dogs. The Docks Joint Committee agreed in 1890 to the reconstruction, at public cost, of all four entrance lock bridges at the West India Docks. The bridges would be public thoroughfares, but the LCC conceded that the Joint Committee should maintain and work them, with the right to interrupt road traffic for dock business. (fn. 64) (Sir) Alexander R. Binnie, LCC Engineer, co-operated closely with Robert Carr in designing single-leaf hydraulic swing-bridges of wroughtiron plate-girder construction, with double carriageways and footpaths. The decision taken in 1892 to rebuild the Blackwall entrance lock caused the revision of the plans, and further delays resulted from Carr's stroke. The contract for building the four bridges went to the Thames Iron Works & Ship Building Company in October 1893. They were all in place by 1897, at a cost to the LCC of £68,216. (fn. 65)
The bridge over the Blackwall entrance lock was sited to the east of its predecessor, to allow the straightening of Preston's Road. It was opened in April 1895. Its foundations were built by Lucas & Aird, who were rebuilding the lock for the Joint Committee, as a quid pro quo for the longer bridge the LCC was obliged to construct (fig. 121b). Spanning 60ft, this was the largest of the LCC bridges, all of which were similar in form. It was 35ft wide, divided by three shaped longitudinal main girders into two carriageways, each with footways. To minimize inconvenience to traffic, quick-acting hydraulic machinery was used. The maximum load was 32 tons. The bridge was opened an average of eight times a day as late as 1966. (fn. 66) It was dismantled in 1988, when the LDDC built a causeway with five decorative arches, permanently damming the lock, to improve road access to the Isle of Dogs. A fixed lattice-steel footbridge was built over the west end of the Blackwall entrance lock by Wates Limited in 1984–5, as part of the Jamestown Harbour housing estate (see page 700).
Limehouse Entrance Lock Bridges.
The first bridge over the Limehouse entrance lock was a timber swingbridge of the type erected at Blackwall. It was built by Adam and the Robertsons in 1802. (fn. 67) As at Blackwall, the bridge proved faulty, and so in 1809 John Rennie ordered a 37ft-span cast-iron arched bridge of the Walker type from Aydon & Elwell. This was mounted in late 1810. (fn. 68)
The Limehouse entrance lock took the smallest of the LCC's 1890s hydraulic swing-bridges. It was 33ft wide, with a 36ft span, and was mounted in 1895–6, following the widening of the road to the north. (fn. 69) The bridge was rarely swung and lost its purpose when the Limehouse Basin was filled in 1927, but it was not removed until 1947–9. (fn. 70)
Limehouse Inner Lock Bridges.
Bridges over the Limehouse inner locks were maintained as part of a public way used for access to the West India Docks in their early years. Thomas Morris provided a passage across the Limehouse Import lock in 1805–6 with a timber swing-bridge built by Brimble & Company. (fn. 71) To serve the main road entrance to the Export Dock over the Limehouse Export lock, Morris designed another timber swing-bridge that was built in 1808–9. (fn. 72) John Rennie replaced the Limehouse Import lock bridge in 1813 with a cast-iron bridge that was of the Walker type, though flat. (fn. 73) The Limehouse Export lock bridge was replaced in 1818–19 with a comparable flat cast-iron bridge (Plate 50a). (fn. 74) In addition, a turning cast-iron footbridge, supplied by the Butterley Company, was mounted over the east part of the Limehouse Import lock in 1826. (fn. 75) The Limehouse inner lock bridges were removed in 1928 following the filling of the Limehouse Basin. (fn. 76)
Blackwall Inner Lock Bridges.
Carriage bridges were not built across the Blackwall inner locks in the early nineteenth century, as the locks separated parts of the docks that had no regular need for communication. A timber footbridge across the Blackwall Export lock, probably built in 1808, was taken down in 1832 and replaced by a floating stage. (fn. 77) A footbridge was erected over the Blackwall Import lock in 1823, for traffic from Harrow Lane, by Thomas Johnson to (Sir) John Rennie's specification, with cast iron supplied by the Butterley Company. It was made wide enough to allow a fireengine to cross. (fn. 78) When the East Wood Wharf was improved and extended in the 1870s, a bridge over the Blackwall Export lock was needed to link the two parts of the wharf. Davis & Jeavons supplied a wrought-iron lattice-girder hydraulic swing-bridge, mounted over the dock end of the lock in 1876. (fn. 79) This bridge was lengthened in 1893 and removed when the Blackwall Export passage was filled in 1928–9. (fn. 80)
South Dock West Entrance Lock (Westferry Road) Bridges.
The City Canal entrance locks were equipped with 45ft-span timber bridges of the Walker type, erected in 1804–6 under Jessop's supervision. (fn. 81) In 1835 (Sir) John and George Rennie recommended replacing the South Dock west entrance bridge with a cast-iron version of the same type. (fn. 1) The Rennies themselves made the bridge, which was mounted in 1836–7 on foundations and abutments by Hugh McIntosh. It was 97ft long from tail to tail (spanning 47ft) and 13ft 6in. wide. (fn. 82)
The South Dock west entrance lock closed in 1891. None the less, the bridge, which had come to be known as the City Arms bridge, was replaced by the LCC in 1894–6 with a hydraulic swing-bridge, which was never swung. (fn. 83) The erection of an impounding station here in 1928–9 made the uselessness of the bridge manifest. The LCC replaced it with a fixed bridge in 1934–5, as part of a largely unexecuted Ministry of Transport unemployment relief scheme. As surviving, this bridge is a 42ft-wide reinforced-concrete platform spanning 47ft. At the ends of low brick side walls there are stone-capped piers. (fn. 84)
South Dock East Entrance Lock (Manchester Road) Bridges.
The 'Blue Bridge' over the South Dock east entrance lock is the sixth bridge in this position. The 1804–6 timber bridge survived until 1842–3, when it was replaced with a cast-iron swing-bridge supplied by the Butterley Company. This bridge was of the same dimensions as that mounted over the South Dock west entrance in 1836–7. Although flat, it was still closely based on the bridge invented by Walker in 1800 (fig. 121a). (fn. 85)
Widening of the South Dock east entrance lock in 1866–70 necessitated replacement of the 1842–3 bridge. Its successor was one of four single-leaf wrought-iron hydraulic swing-bridges supplied in 1868–9 by the Park Gate Iron Company of Rotherham, to plans by (Sir) John Hawkshaw. Fitted by George Wythes and opened to traffic in 1870, this bridge was 110ft long (spanning 55ft) and 14ft wide overall, with a maximum carrying weight of 40 tons. It had lattice-girder sides and pivoted on a single hydraulic ram. (fn. 86) What had come to be known as the Manchester Road bridge was replaced by the LCC with a wider 55ft-span hydraulic swing-bridge. This was the last of the four LCC bridges to be mounted; the Thames Iron Works Company carried out the work in 1896–7. (fn. 87)
The Manchester Road bridge had, once again, to be replaced when the South Dock east entrance lock was enlarged in 1927–9. Following representations from Poplar Borough Council, it was decided in 1927 that the new bridge would be positioned outside the outer lock gates, as bridges inside the gates had to remain open for long periods when large ships were locking. This meant the diversion of the road approaches, away from Glen Terrace on the south side. Frederick Palmer prepared plans, and in 1928 Robert McAlpine & Sons subcontracted to the Horseley Bridge & Engineering Company for the design, supply and erection of an electrically operated, double-rolling bascule bridge, of a type invented by William Scherzer in Chicago in the 1890s (fig. 121c). The steel lattice-girder bridge was in place by January 1929. It was 156ft long overall (spanning 80ft) and 46ft 4in. wide, taking a maximum load of 52 tons. (fn. 88)
Defects in the heavily used bascule bridge necessitated a series of repairs in the 1950s, but by 1965 deterioration of the steelwork was such that £100,000 had to be allocated for overhaul and modification, the need for which was compounded when a vessel collided with the upper leaf. (fn. 89) Because the tender from Horseley Bridge & Thomas Piggott was as high as £197,000 for the repairs, complete replacement was considered. After much deliberation, the PLA decided in 1967 that, as the bridge passed over the only operating entrance to the India and Millwall Docks and served as the only road access to the east side of the Isle of Dogs, the cost of a new bridge was justified. (fn. 90) Sir William Arrol & Company constructed the bridge at their works in Glasgow and assembled it at a crane-erection yard adjoining the South Dock entrance lock. The 'Blue Bridge' opened on 1 June 1969, having cost £274,500. (fn. 91) The bridge, based on traditional Dutch drawbridges, was then the largest single-leaf bascule bridge in Britain, spanning 110ft and 40ft wide (fig. 121e). The type was chosen for economy, but also for aesthetic reasons, in recognition of the dominating effect such a 'high' structure would have on the area. Oilhydraulic machinery with variable delivery pumps, supplied by MacTaggart, Scott & Company and based on that adopted for the Glengall Grove high-level footbridge (see page 371), raises or lowers the bridge in one minute, and is operated from an elevated control cabin. There are motors in the towers driving pinions. The road and cantilevered footways were surfaced in PVC tile sheeting that was replaced in the late 1980s. (fn. 92)
Other South Dock Bridges.
When the Timber Pond was built in 1832, Hugh McIntosh put a cast-iron bridge over the cut from the South Dock. (fn. 93) It was removed upon the rebuilding of the dock in 1866–70. A footbridge was mounted across the South Dock passage in 1880. This was a wrought-iron lattice-girder traversing hydraulic drawbridge, supplied by G. Butchard. Its opening mechanism was slow, and the bridge was removed in 1928–9. (fn. 94)
Junction Dock Bridges.
The first hydraulic bridges at the West India Docks, and amongst the earliest anywhere, were those supplied by Armstrong & Company in 1852–3 and mounted at either end of the Junction Dock in 1854–5. These wrought-iron swing-bridges were unlike earlier West India Dock bridges, not only in motive power and material, but also in being single— rather than double-leaved, to simplify hydraulic operation, which was by the lifting of a hydraulic press before swinging. They were 16ft wide and spanned 45ft, with solid girder sides. (fn. 95) The south Junction Dock bridge was removed in 1927–8, that on the north side survived until about 1950.
Millwall Passage and Bellmouth Passage Bridges.
Two of the water passages formed at the West India Docks in the late 1920s were bridged. The Horseley Bridge & Engineering Company supplied and erected a road and rail swing-bridge over the Millwall Passage and a raised swing-footbridge over the narrow part of the Bellmouth Passage in 1926–8. Both had 80ft-span steel lattice-girder frames, but in other respects they were quite different. The Millwall Passage bridge was an hydraulically operated single leaf, 29ft wide and 157ft long, with a maximum load of 46 tons (fig. 121d). The Bellmouth Passage footbridge was 8ft 6in. wide, with two 55ft-long cantilever leafs operated by electric winches. (fn. 96) The Bellmouth Passage bridge was removed c1970, and the Millwall Passage one was replaced by the LDDC in 1984–6, when the road was improved as Marsh Wall, with a hydraulic double-leaf steel bascule bridge. (fn. 97)
Quayside and Internal Railways.
Railways were a part of goods handling at the West India Docks from 1802, as the timber railways used in the construction of the Import Dock and north quay warehouses were retained for use in dock operations. From 1806 to 1811 about 1,000ft of iron railway was laid, under Thomas Morris's supervision, as truck runs on the quays of the Import Dock. (fn. 98) The rails proved to be an impediment and were replaced with Aberdeen granite paving in 1813–15, as was the original York stone paving of the Import Dock's north, east and west quays. (fn. 99) The north quay road surfaces were asphalted in the 1870s, with iron plates laid down to facilitate the trucking of sugar hogsheads. (fn. 100)
In its planning stages in the late 1830s the London and Blackwall Railway was welcomed by the dock proprietors as a means of improving links between the docks and the City. However, the line was not brought into the docks, as the dock company refused to pay any of the costs. (fn. 101) Rail links to the docks would have had limited value at that stage, before the country's rail networks were widely developed. The construction of the East and West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway in 1845 52, linking Poplar Dock to the London and Birmingham Railway, made railway sidings in the West India Docks worthwhile, as wide connections had by then become possible. In 1851 a siding was laid to the east of No. 10 Warehouse, with two 190ft-long galvanized-iron-roofed elevated passages for the transfer of north quay imports from the warehouse to the railway. (fn. 102) This siding was extended on to the north quay of the Export Dock in 1852, allowing exports to come to the docks by rail. It was not a success, as lighterage remained cheaper than use of the siding. (fn. 103) For the remainder of the nineteenth century, the railway companies avoided the dock company's railway rates by lightering goods from their depots into the docks. The possibility of laying rails all round the docks was rejected, partly because of the cost and partly because of the difficulties of transferring goods between ships and railway wagons. (fn. 104) A spur line was laid across Harrow Lane in 1859 to link the London and Blackwall Railway to the No. 10 Warehouse siding. With this line the London and Blackwall Railway Company built stables and a warehouse north of the boundary ditch and west of Harrow Lane. (fn. 105)
The rebuilding of the South Dock and construction of the Millwall Extension Railway allowed the dock company to extend sidings to the east ends of the South Dock quays in 1870–1. Augustus Manning introduced a network of 18in.-gauge rails for one-ton capacity trucks at the South Dock Basin, and further developed the sidings south of the South Dock in 1873–4. (fn. 106) An elaborate system of East Wood Wharf railways and turntables was also laid out in the 1870s. Until 1878 haulage was by horse, as locomotives were banned from the docks as a fire risk. In 1879 a brick engine house was built south of the South Dock Basin; it was rebuilt in 1928. (fn. 107) Sidings were laid from the Millwall Extension Railway along the road north of the north quay warehouses to beyond the cold store at No. 5 Warehouse in 1896. The line was extended to No. 1 Warehouse in 1899–1901. (fn. 108)
A remodelling of the West India Dock internal railways was an objective of early PLA improvement schemes. The shipping entrances to the docks were on the east side, and it had long been recognized that it was inconvenient to have several railway bridges between the entrance locks and the docks. A re-routing of the railways to the west side of the docks had been suggested by H. C. Baggallay in 1900. Frederick Palmer picked this up in 1910, proposing the diversion of the Millwall Extension Railway passenger line, but the disruption was considered unacceptable and the idea was abandoned. (fn. 109) Railway proposals were revived in the 1920s. The lines south of the South Dock were remodelled in 1926–7 and closure of the Millwall Extension Railway in 1926 made possible the re-routing of all West India Dock railway goods traffic to the west side of the docks. This was done in 1928–9, by Charles Brand & Son to plans by Frederick Palmer, so that lines and sidings ran west from Millwall Junction along the north quay road, then south approximately along the line of Marsh Wall, with branch lines on to the quays between the docks. At the same time a road was formed running roughly parallel with this railway, from the Limehouse Basin to the South Dock south quay. This was a long route, but it reduced dependence on bridges, and kept road and rail traffic away from river and dock traffic. (fn. 110)
Road access became increasingly important. The road round the west side of the docks was reconstructed by John Mowlem & Company in 1937, when Cuba Street was diverted. (fn. 111) Road access to the south quay was further improved in 1963 by altering the railways south and west of the South Dock. Car parks for private cars were introduced at the docks in 1965. (fn. 112) Use of the India and Millwall Docks railway system declined and so, as it was losing money, it was closed in 1970. The rails were lifted soon afterwards to improve road circulation and provide vehicle hard standings. (fn. 113)
The first railway bridge at the West India Docks was that built over the Blackwall Import lock in 1852 for the Export Dock siding. It was a castiron turning bridge provided by C. J. Mare & Company. (fn. 114) The Millwall Extension Railway, as approved in 1865, necessitated bridges across the Blackwall Export lock and the intended South Dock passage, with a wider bridge over the Blackwall Import lock. The dock company deferred building the bridges until notice was served for the carrying out of the railway work in late 1868. The three railway bridges were then included in the contract for the road bridge for the South Dock east entrance lock. (Sir) John Hawkshaw designed the bridges, and they were supplied and fixed by the Park Gate Iron Company of Rotherham in 1869. They were single-leaf, hydraulic, iron swing-bridges with lattice-girder sides. The Export lock bridge, the largest, was 125ft 6in. long and 27ft 4in. wide. (fn. 115) The widening of the Blackwall Import and Export locks in 1893–4 necessitated the lengthening of the railway bridges, which was carried out by Sir William Arrol & Company. (fn. 116) The Blackwall Export passage and South Dock passage railway bridges were removed in 1928–9 when their passages ceased to exist, the Millwall Extension Railway having closed.
The Blackwall Import passage railway bridge remained useful for rail access to the East Wood Wharf. It was replaced in 1935–6 with another single-leaf swing-bridge, supplied by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, of Darlington. This hydraulic lattice-girder steel bridge was about 125ft long and 25ft 6in. wide. (fn. 117) It remained in position until 1988–9.
Few of the many structures erected at the West India Docks survive in 1994. Nos 1 and 2 Warehouses and the link blocks to the west of each, all of 1800–3, still stand on the north quay of the Import Dock, but these notable survivals are an exception. All the other warehouses have been swept away. Much the same is true of the sheds. At the east end of the north quay of the Import Dock the former E (36) Shed of 1912–17 survives, heavily adapted in 1980–2 to form the core of Billingsgate Market, as do the former hardboard sheds of 1957–8 and 1961 (Nos 4 and 5), on the west side of Preston's Road, as converted to bulk wine storage in 1974–5 and 1979–80.
Fragments of the security system survive near the north end of Marsh Wall. The barriers built in 1802 are reflected in the north elevations of the Ledger Building and the link blocks west of Nos 1 and 2 Warehouses, formed as parts of the inner perimeter wall, as well as in the railed dwarf wall on the south side of the garden to Dockmaster's House, a reminder of the outer boundary ditch. At the south end of the West India Dock Road two stone piers survive from the 1809 entrance to the docks. The northern round house, built as an armoury in 1804–5, still stands, as do the PLA Police Offices of 1914.
The Ledger Building (Dock Offices) of 1803–4 adjoins the North Quay Warehouses. Dockmaster's House (the Excise Office of 1807–9 and later the Jamaica Tavern) stands at the south end of West India Dock Road. At the South Dock east entrance lock there are the dockmaster's office and cabins of 1927–9. Cannon Workshops (the cooperage, workshops and stores of 1824–5) are to the west of the Import Dock. West India Dock Company housing has a high survival rate, represented by Bridge House, Isle House and Nos 10–16 Garford Street.
The impounding station of 1926–9 over the South Dock west entrance lock is in continuing use. Quay cranes are readily moved, but two Stothert & Pitt tubularsteel electric luffing cranes still stand on the north quay. There are other quay cranes near the south-west corner of the South Dock. The 'Blue Bridge' of 1967–9 presides over the South Dock east entrance lock. In the place of earlier bridges are the 1988 causeway over the Blackwall entrance lock and the 1934–5 fixed bridge over the South Dock west entrance lock. The Millwall Passage bridge dates from 1984–6.