London Docks

Entrance West India Docks

The Docks .—As a relief to the river, and for other reasons, there are several very large Docks.  The lowest or most eastern are the Victoria Docks, in Essex, just beyond the river Lea.  They cover an area of 200 acres, and have been the means of introducing many improvements in the accommodation of shipping.  The hydraulic lift  at these docks, for raising and supporting ships during repair, is well worth looking at.  Next are the East India Docks, constructed in 1806; they consist of two docks and a basin, covering 32 acres.  Near these are the West India Docks, the entrances to which are at Blackwall and Limehouse; in these large depôts  of shipping connected with the West India and other trade may at all times be seen some hundreds of vessels, loading or unloading in connection with the warehouses around.  The largest of these docks is 24 feet deep, 510 feet long, and 498 wide; and, with a basin, they cover nearly 300 acres.  Farther up the river, and near the Tower, in the district called Wapping, are the London Docks  and St. Katharine's Docks.  The London Docks consist of one enclosure to the extent of 20 acres, another of smaller dimensions, a basin, and three entrances from the river.  These are surrounded by warehouses for the reception of bonded goods, and beneath the warehouses are vaults for bonded liquors.  The principal warehouse for the storing of tobacco in bond till it is purchased and the duties paid, is situated close beside a special dock called the Tobacco Dock.  The Tobacco Warehouse occupies no less than five acres of ground, and has accommodation for 24,000 hogsheads of tobacco.  The sight of this extraordinary warehouse, and of the Wine-Vaults, is not soon to be forgotten.  The vaults are arched with brick, and extend east and west to a great distance, with diverging lines also of great length, the whole being like the streets of an underground town.  Along the sides are ranged casks of wine to an amount apparently without limit.  There is accommodation for 65,000 pipes.  These cellars being dark, all who enter and go through them carry lights.  Admission may be had by procuring an order from a wine-merchant to taste and examine any pipes he may have in bond: a cooper accompanies the visitor to pierce the casks.  Besides this large vault, which principally contains port and sherry, there are other vaults for French wines, &c.  St. Katharine's Docks, between the Tower and the London Docks, were formed in 1828, on a site which required the removal of more than 1,200 houses and 13,000 inhabitants; the earth obtained by the excavation was employed in raising the site for some of the new streets and squares of Pimlico.  There are twelve acres of water area, and about as much of quays and warehouses.  On the south of the Thames are the Commercial  and the Grand Surrey Docks, the great centre of the timber trade.  The various docks are the property of joint-stock companies, who receive rents and dues of various kinds for their use.