East India Docks

William Daniell's 1808 view of East India Dock Initially the East India Company ships unloaded in the city of London between present day Tower Bridge and London Bridge with the City's other maritime traffic. Goods were taken to East India House or leased warehouse space nearby. But as the average size of East Indiamen increased in the second half of the eighteenth century to 1,000 tons or more the ships had to anchor in deeper water down river at Blackwall. There their cargoes were unloaded into lighters.

In 1793 the East India Dock Company was formed to build modern dock facilities to better accommodate the vast shipping needs of the Company. Tea had been the favorite English beverage since 1750. The tea trade alone was worth 30 million pounds a year. The British East India Company had been established under a Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I for 15 years for spice trading on 31st December 1600 AD with the capital of £ 70,000.

The new docks were opened with a gala celebration on August 4th 1806. "These docks consist of an entrance bason, of nearly three acres; a dock for inward bound Indiamen, of nearly 18 acres; a dock for loading outward-bound Indiamen, of nearly nine acres, making together about 30 acres; there is an entrance lock, and two communication locks, capable of admitting the largest Indiamen, and his majesty's ships of war, of 74 guns. The depth of water at ordinary spring tides, is 26 feet. The whole premises are surrounded by a boundary wall 21 feet high; the quays are very spacious, being no less than 240 feet wide." The docks were capable of berthing 250 ships at one time.

The busy area attracted other business. Pepper warehouses and spice-grinding operations sprang up in the area around the new docks. Pubs were started to cater to the workers and sailors needs.

The Cutler Street warehouses covered five acres at this time and employed 400 clerks and 4,000 warehousemen. When the tea monopoly ended in 1833 the company put thirty acres of warehouses up for auction.

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