Victorian London - Thames - Docks - East India

Yesterday this ceremony, so auspicious to the increasing commerce and prosperity of the British Empire, took place according to previous announcement. Several thousand tickets had been distributed on the occasion to the India Stock proprietors and their friends by order of the directors, as well as to a very numerous circle of the nobility and gentry in town, who, aware of the splendour and vivacity which distinguish every exhibition connected with the naval prosperity of this country, were, of course extremely solicitous to obtain orders for admission to this scene. Shortly before two, the signal of the Royal Salute - was fired from six pieces of flying artillery, being the regimental guns of the Company's Volunteers, for the destined ships to enter at tide of flood; immediately upon which the elegant little yacht of the Trinity House, decked to her masthead in the naval finery of flags and streamers of all nations, led into the basin in a very elegant style, followed by the ' Admiral Gardner,' East Indiaman, - with the British anchor at her fore-topmasthead, the Royal Standard at her main, and the Union Flag at her mizen; and displaying from the lower rigging the colours of all nations, the French under all. As she passed in, she answered the salute of the Regimental Artillery by firing her minute guns, while the - company's band, on her quarter-deck played Rule Britannia' with full chorus from the ladies and gentlemen who crowded her decks. Among the accommodations prepared for the greater security and better convenience of their trade, through the medium of this dock, appeared 60 close covered carriages, or light wagons, each mounted on four wheels and capable of conveying 50 - chests of tea each from the landing to their stores at the India House, which will place the whole trade under the immediate care of their own servants.

The Globe [on opening of East India Docks], 1806

The East India Docks, situated at Blackwall, were completed in 1806. The principal of these was rendered capable of receiving twenty-eight East-Indiamen, and from fifty to sixty ships of smaller burden. Their extent, with the embankments and adjoining yards, is nearly thirty superficial acres. The dock for loading outwards is in length seven hundred and eighty feet; width, five hundred and twenty; and contains nine acres and a quarter. The dock for loading inwards is in length one thousand four hundred and ten feet; width, five hundred and sixty feet; - eighteen acres and one-eighth. With the expiration of the East India Company's Charter has terminated the existence of its naval establishment, and docks are no longer a necessary appurtenance to that great trading community; a vast alteration has, in consequence, been effected in the vicinity of the East India Docks. The principal of these is the erection of a noble quay, denominated Brunswick Wharf, with a baggage warehouse and other conveniences for the landing and embarking of passengers that arrive and depart by the larger class of steam vessels, principally Scotch, many of which proceed, on account of the great depth of water here, no higher up the river than Blackwall. At the western extremity of Brunswick Wharf- a lengthened and pleasant, but unpaved promenade-a beautiful edifice, bearing the name of the Brunswick Hotel, has been erected; it is a large and spacious structure, with numerous rooms adapted to the reception of large or small parties, and enjoys, as it deserves, from the excellence of its general arrangements, a large share of public favour. The situation is commanding, and the views -embracing the rising grounds of Charlton to the south, and reaches of the river east and west, the latter including Greenwich Hospital - are alike extensive and beautiful. At the eastern extremity of the ci-devant City Canal, a similar establishment, the West India Dock Tavern, has been formed. The building, admirably adapted to the purposes of an hotel, is a large and spacious structure; it occupies a situation eminently beautiful; and the rooms, well suited to the reception of the small and "social circle, or the more numerous and gay parties," are light and cheerful; while the views from the windows present to the beholder a prospect of vast extent, variety, and beauty. It would be injustice to Blackwall, long the resort of the lovers of white bait, if we omitted to state that, among the houses of entertainment that there skirt the river, accommodation most ample will be found for pleasure parties of every description.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

EAST INDIA DOCKS, BLACKWALL. Originally erected for the East India Company, but since the opening of the trade to India, the property of the West India Dock Company. The first stone was laid March 4th, 1805, and the docks opened for business Aug. 4th, 1806. The number of directors is thirteen, who must each hold twenty shares in the stock of the company, and four of them must be directors of the East India Company.  This forms the only connexion which the East India Company has with the Docks. The possession of five shares gives a right of voting. The Import Dock has an area of 19 acres, the Export Dock of 10 acres, and the Basin of 3, making a total surface of 32 acres. The gates are closed at 3 in the winter months, and at 4 in the summer months. The mode of admission for the visitors is much stricter than at any of the other Docks. This is the head-quarters of White Bait, which may be had in the neighbouring Brunswick Tavern.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see Henry Mayhew's Letter IV in Morning Chronicle - click here