Surrey Commercial Docks

Surrey Commercial Docks

The Surrey Commercial Docks were a large group of docks in Rotherhithe on the south bank (the Surrey side) of the Thames in South East London. The docks operated in one form or another from 1696 to 1969. Most were subsequently filled in and redeveloped for residential housing, and the area is now known as Surrey Quays, although the name Surrey Docks is retained for the electoral ward.


The sparsely populated Rotherhithe peninsula was originally wet marshland alongside the river. It was unsuitable for farming, but its riverside location just downstream from the City of London made it an ideal site for docks. The area had long been associated with maritime activities: the Pilgrim Fathers had departed from Rotherhithe in 1620 aboard the "Mayflower", and a major Royal Navy dockyard was located just down the river at Deptford. In 1696, Howland Great Wet Dock (named after the family who owned the land) was dug out to form the largest dock of its time, able to accommodate 120 sailing ships.

By the mid-18th century the dock had become a base for Arctic whalers and was renamed Greenland Dock. However, by the 19th century an influx of commercial traffic from Scandinavia and the Baltic (principally tinder) and Canada (foodstuffs for London's population) led to Greenland Dock being greatly expanded and other docks being dug to accommodate the increasing number of vessels. Eventually, 85% of the peninsula, an area of 460 acres (1.9 km²), was covered by a system of nine docks, six timber ponds and a canal. Several of the docks were named after the origins of their customers' cargos, hence Canada Dock, Quebec Pond, Norway Dock and Russia Dock. The Grand Surrey Canal was opened in 1807 to link the docks with inland destinations, but proved a commercial failure and only 3½ miles of it were ever built.

The docks evolved a distinctive working culture, quite different from that of the Isle of Dogs across the river. A characteristic sight of the docks were the "deal porters", dockers who specialised in carrying huge baulks of deal (timber) across their shoulders and wore special headgear to protect their heads from the rough wood.

The decline of the docks set in after World War II, when they suffered massive damage from German air raids. The South Dock was pumped dry and used for construction of some of the concrete caissons which made up the Mulberry Harbours used on D-Day. When the shipping industry adopted the container system of cargo transportation, the docks were unable to accommodate the much larger vessels needed by containerization. They finally closed for lack of custom in 1969. The Grand Surrey Canal was closed in 1971 and was subsequently drained and filled in. [ [ Bridges of the Grand Surrey Canal ] ]

The area remained derelict for over a decade, with much of the warehousing demolished and over 90% of the docks filled in. The only surviving areas of open water were Greenland Dock, South Dock, remnants of Canada Dock (renamed Canada Water) and Norway Dock, and a basin renamed Surrey Water. In 1981, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher established the London Docklands Development Corporation to redevelop the former dockyard areas east of the City of London, including the Surrey Docks.

The area today

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Surrey Docks were extensively redeveloped, and renamed Surrey Quays. Over 5,500 new homes were built, ranging from individual detached housing to large apartment complexes. South Dock was converted into a marina - now the largest in London - and a watersports centre was constructed on Greenland Dock. Canada Water and the infilled Russia Dock became wildlife reserves, with a woodland planted on the latter site. Leisure facilities and a number of light industrial plants were also built, notably a new printing works for Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the London Evening Standard and the Daily Mail.

In October 1988, the Surrey Quays shopping centre was opened as the centrepiece of the redevelopment (and rebranding) of the area. The nearby London Underground station was renamed as Surrey Quays a few months later. Fisher Athletic calls Surrey Docks home.

ee also

* Canada Water
* Greenland Dock
* Russia Dock Park
* South Dock

Links and references

* [ LDDC Completion Booklet - Surrey Docks]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Surrey Commercial Docks — …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Surrey Quays tube station — Surrey Quays was a London Underground station in Rotherhithe near Surrey Quays Shopping Centre and Southwark Park. It is in zone 2, on the East London Line. The next station to the north is Canada Water, and to the south it splits into branches… …   Wikipedia

  • Commercial Dock railway station — was in Rotherhithe on the Greenwich Line of the South Eastern Railway on approximately the same site as the later Southwark Park railway station. It was opened in 1856 and closed in 1867,[1] though an alternative source quotes 1859 for the… …   Wikipedia

  • Surrey Quays (métro de Londres) — Surrey Quays L entrée de la station en 2010 Localisation District de Londres Southwark Quartier …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Surrey Quays Shopping Centre — is a shopping centre in Rotherhithe, South East London. It was built as part of the regeneration of the Surrey Commercial Docks area by the London Docklands Development Corporation.The shopping centre is accessible by bus (various routes stop… …   Wikipedia

  • Surrey Quays — infobox UK place country = England map type = Greater London latitude=51.492 longitude= 0.0445 region= London population= official name= Surrey Quays london borough= Southwark constituency westminster= post town= LONDON postcode area= SE postcode …   Wikipedia

  • Docks de Londres — Docklands Docklands ou London Docklands est le nom d un quartier de l est de Londres, au Royaume Uni, comprenant une partie des districts de Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Newham et Greenwich. Les docks du même nom faisaient anciennement partie du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Surrey Quays (London Underground) — Stationsgebäude Surrey Quays ist eine unterirdische Station der London Underground im Stadtbezirk London Borough of Southwark. Sie liegt in der Travelcard Tarifzone 2 an der Kreuzung von Lower Road und Redriff Road. Im Jahr 2007 nutzten 2,456… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bahnhof Surrey Quays — Bahnhofsgebäude Surrey Quays ist ein unterirdischer Bahnhof der London Overground (bis 2007 London Underground) im Stadtbezirk London Borough of Southwark. Er liegt in der Travelcard Tarifzone 2 an der Kreuzung von Lower Road und Redriff Road. Im …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grand Surrey Canal — The Grand Surrey Canal was a canal constructed in south London during the early 19th century.Originally intended to extend from Rotherhithe to Mitcham in what was then Surrey, it was authorised by an 1801 Act of Parliament, though the project… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.