> Read Craig’s review of St. Katherine Docks Check out my London blog for a full review, with photos
Docklands is the new name for the Pool of London – at one time the largest port in the world. It covers an area of 8½ square miles.
The name of the docks from east to west are: St Katherine Docks; London Docks; Regent’s Canal Dock (now Limehouse Basin); Surrey Commercial Docks (now Surrey Quays); West India and Millwall Docks (Isle of Dogs); East India Docks (Canning Town), and the Royal Docks (Royal Victoria Dock, Royal Albert Dock & King George V Dock).
Archaeological evidence suggests that the first dock in London was built during Roman times, and emanated from the base of Walbrook Stream. The earliest modern dock was built at Rotherhithe in 1696 (now Surrey Commercial Docks). This was followed a century later by the London, East India and St. Katherine Docks. The latest addition was the George V Dock in 1921.
The docks’ hey-day was in the pre-war years – when trade between the colonies reached fever pitch. At any one time you could expect to find two thousand ships loading and unloading their goods. World War II naturally led to a lull in traffic, and Hitler’s bombs levelled the area.
When containerization was introduced in the sixties, the Docklands was too small to accommodate the larger vessels, and trade moved 20 miles up the Thames to Tilbury and Felixstowe. By 1980 every single one of the docks had closed, and London was left with a prime site for redevelopment.
When Margaret Thatcher came to power in the 1980s, she decided to redevelop the docks as a second financial hub – a rival to the Square Mile. Faced with the largest urban redevelopment in Europe, a special body was formed to oversee the building – the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). They scrapped business taxes and introduced compulsory purchase orders to entice trade to the area.
By 1998 they had built eleven schools and 20,000 houses, and doubled the population from 40,000 to 77,000. The private sector pumped in a further £6 billion, creating 43,000 jobs.
The most obvious success is Canary Wharf – an area boasting Britain’s biggest building.