Royal Docks

From Academic Kids

The Royal Docks comprise three docks in east London - the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock. The three docks collectively formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1 km²) and an overall estate of 1100 acres (4 km²). (This is equivalent to the whole of central London from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge.



The three docks were built between 1880 and 1921 on riverside marshes in the London borough of Newham. They were constructed to provide berths for large vessels that could not be accommodated further upriver. They were a great commercial success, becoming London's principal docks during the first half of the 20th century. They specialised particularly in the import and unloading of foodstuffs, with rows of giant granaries and refrigerated warehouses being sited alongside the quays. The docks' great size and indented shape gave them a collective span of over 12 miles (19 km) of quaysides, serving hundreds of cargo and passenger ships at a time.

The General Strike of 1926 hit the Royal Docks hard, with 750,000 frozen carcasses threatened by the docks' electrical supply being cut off. Fortunately for the dock owners, the Royal Navy was able to save the day by connecting the generators of two submarines to power the warehouses' refrigerators.

Although the Royal Docks suffered severe damage from German bombing in World War II, they recovered after the war but suffered a steady decline from the 1960s onwards, following the adoption of containerization. Nonetheless, they survived longer than any of the other London docks, finally closing to commercial traffic only in 1981. The docks' closure lead to high levels of unemployment and social deprivation in the surrounding communities of North Woolwich and Silvertown.


Because of their relative remoteness from central London and poor transport links, the redevelopment of London's Docklands has proceeded more slowly in the Royals than in the other former docks. The London Docklands Development Corporation undertook much work during the 1980s and 1990s to improve local transport and promote new residential and commercial developments in the area. Thousands of new homes were built at Beckton, just north of the Royal Docks, and an extension of the Docklands Light Railway was opened in 1994 to provide direct links to the City of London and Canary Wharf.

Several other major projects have been proposed or implemented since then: many more housing complexes have been built, notably at Gallion's Reach in the extreme east of the Royal Docks, and a series of major developments have seen the construction of a new university campus (for the University of East London) and the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, among much else. The Royal Docks have also seen the development of London City Airport (code LCA), opened in 1988 on the quay between the Royal Albert Dock and the King George V dock. While the docks themselves have been preserved largely intact, little remains of the old infrastructure, although some historic warehouses and cranes have been preserved.

Transport for London is continuing to develop the transport infrastructure of the Royal Docks with a further extension of the Dockland Light Railway to Woolwich via London City Airport and North Woolwich, as well as a proposed four-lane bridge providing a road link between the Royal Docks area and Thamesmead on the south bank. It is also proposed that a branch of the Crossrail trans-London line will pass through (or rather under) the Royal Docks.


Whilst the docks are now closed for commercial shipping, most of the water area of the docks still exists and is still navigable by craft of all sizes up to and including sizable ships. Whilst the principle usage is for watersports, the docks do see occasional visits by naval and merchant vessels, especially during the annual London Boat Show which is held at the ExCeL Exhubition Centre. The management of the water areas of the Royal Docks, including locks and bridges is now the responsibility of Royal Docks Management Authority Limited (RoDMA), which is owned and funded by the owners of the surrounding development land.

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