Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,423 pages of information and 245,908 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

St. Katharine's Dock

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St. Katharine's Dock took its name from the former hospital of St Katharine's by the Tower, built in the 12th century, which stood on the site.

An intensely built-up 23 acre site was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825, with construction commencing in May 1827. Some 1,250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital of St. Katharine. Around 11,300 inhabitants, mostly port workers crammed into insanitary slums, lost their homes; only property owners received compensation.

The scheme was designed by engineer Thomas Telford and was his only major project in London. To create as much quayside as possible, the docks were designed in the form of two linked basins (East and West), both accessed via an entrance lock from the Thames. Steam engines designed by Boulton and Watt kept the water level in the basins about four feet above that of the tidal river.

Telford aimed to minimise the amount of quayside activity and specified that the dock's warehouses (designed by the architect Philip Hardwick) be built right on the quayside so that goods could be unloaded directly into them.

Resident engineer was Peter Logan, followed by John Hall who died shortly after the opening.

1828 October 25th. The docks were officially opened.

1828 '..... The first stone was laid on the 3d of May, 1827, and upwards of 2,500 men have since been employed, from day to day. The canal leading from the river is the first point of attraction. This is 190 feet long and 45 broad. It is crossed by a swing bridge 23 feet wide, and supposed to be the largest of the kind yet executed. This constitutes the main thoroughfare along the side of the river, from Burr-street, at the back of the warehouses towards Iron-gate. It was designed by Mr. Telford, and furnished by Mr. Steward. The great advantage of the canal is, that it is sunk so deep that ships of 700 tons burthen may enter at any time of the tide — a desideratum long wished, and, for the first time, accomplished by the St. Katharine Dock Company. There are three gates in the canal — the first next the river, one in the centre, and the third leading to the basin, the machinery of which was manufactured by Mr. Bramah. On the right of the canal, and immediately within the dock walls, is seen the engine-house, in which there is a steam-engine of 100-horse-power, by means of which the canal may be filled or emptied as occasion may require, the water being drawn from or expelled into the river at pleasure. The ship having entered the basin, it may then be moved to its destination, the west or east dock, with perfect facility, and placed close to the warehouse in which its cargo is to be deposited, or from whence it is to receive its freight, and this brings us to the warehouses finished and marked A, B, C. These warehouses are upon the most extensive scale, and seem calculated to defy improvement. They are five stories high above the ground ia the fronts facing the docks, and six in those facing the streets; the former half of the ground-floor being 18 feet high, open, and supported by pillars, for the accommodation of vessels discharging ; and the latter being divided into two stories by means of a mezzanine, and devoted to the warehousing of goods ; and there are commodious vaults under the whole.
There is a liberal supply of powerful cranes below ; and, over the wells or shafts, which reach from top to bottom of the building, is machinery for raising goods to the height required. Each crane has an umbrella-shaped covering to protect the apparatus from the weather, and a bell by which to announce to those above when the tackle is made secure. The columns supporting the walls of the warehouses next the dock are three feet nine inches in diameter, with Doric capitals, and of most admirable workmanship. They are of cast iron, two inches thick, and were supplied by the Milton foundry in Yorkshire. The pillars supporting the floors are also of cast iron, three inches[!] in diameter, and so furnished with flaunches as to give their section the appearance of St. George's cross. The stairs are wholly of granite, and the pavement of the quays, in the neighbourhood of the cranes, of cast iron. .....'[1]

Thomas Rhodes, who had been reporting to Logan and then Hall, took over as resident engineer.

1830 The dock was completed.

Although well used, the dock was not a great commercial success and was unable to accommodate large ships.

1864 The St Katharine Dock was amalgamated with the neighbouring London Docks and Victoria Docks as London and St. Katharine Docks Co

1909 The Port of London Authority took over the management of almost all of the Thames docks, including the St Katharine.

Swing Bridge

Thomas Telford constructed a large twin-leaf swing bridge over the dock's entrance lock. It was of mainly cast iron construction, but the handrails were wrought iron, and there were about 10 tons of pig iron ballast. The bridge had two carriageways and two walkways, all separated by kerbs. Treads were provided foe horses in the middle of the carriageways. The span of the arch was 45 ft.[2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. London Evening Standard - Monday 27 October 1828
  2. Drawing in 'A History of Cast Iron in Architecture' by John Gloag and Derek Bridgwater: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1948