Victorian London - Districts - Silvertown

On the edge of a marsh, in the dubious region between half fluid land and almost solid water, is the thriving colony of Silvertown. Overhead a brumous sky, underfoot artificial "terra" made "firma" by innumerable piles. Across the river, Woolwich, cheered by the presence of "the military". Near at hand, useful but odoriferous gasworks, the gardens ruled by the Napoleon of caterers, a shabby railway station, and a pretty church. Not an old ivy-grown edifice this last, but a brand new, spick and span, smart and trim modern building rejoicing in its youth - proud of having been born yesterday. Out of a chaos of mud and slime have sprung neat lines of cottages, a grim hostelry yclept "The Railway Hotel," huge wharves, and the seven acres of now solid ground which form the cause and explanation of the whole curious development. On these seven acres are packed great buildings, lofty chimneys, and frequent steam engines puffing and snorting in their usual self-asserting manner - bred of the conviction that they cannot be done without, and that their presence, repulsive though it be, must be endured for the sake of their power. There are endless contrivances here, for adapting abundant steam power to the use of man. Broad belts and mighty fly-wheels propel the minor engines, watched keenly by the craftsman's eye, or guided by the work-woman's cunning hand. For the productions of Silvertown are various: india-rubber sheeting, waterproof coats, valves and "washers" of vulcanised "rubber," sponge-bags, and those curious portable baths which Englishmen carry with them on their travels, to the amazement of less amphibious races; hard india-rubber "ebonite," as it is called, in buttons, bottles, cups and funnels; and last, but not least, ocean cables, and the wonderful telegraphic apparatus for working and testing them. To Silvertown come the "rubber" and the "percha" in their crude condition, as purchased from the noble savage; and by their literally internal evidence provoke curious ideas as to the guileless nature of untutored man, uncontaminated by civilisation, uncorrupted by arts and sciences.

All the Year Round, February 27, 1875