Victorian London - Thames - Docks - St. Katherine's Dock

In clearing the ground for this magnificent speculation 1250 houses and tenements were purchased and pulled down - no less than 11,300 inhabitants having to seek accommodation elsewhere - thus improving estates previously lying waste in the eastern part of the Metropolis and give additional impetus to industry and enterprise among other capitalists, independent of the employment offered to an indefinite number of the humbler classes of society.

The Times [on the opening of St Katherine's Dock] 1828

St. Katherine's Docks are situated between the London Docks and the Tower, on the site of St. Katherine's Hospital, and were opened October 25 1828. They cover twenty- four acres; eleven and a half of which are devoted to wet docks, and the remainder to warehouses and quays. Time canal leading to the river is one hundred and ninety feet long and forty five feet broad; and by means of a steam engine of 100-horse power, can be filled or emptied, so that ships of seven hundred tons may be carried into the docks at any state of the tide. It is computed that the docks and basin will accommodate annually about one thousand four hundred merchant vessels.

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

KATHERINE'S (ST.) DOCKS, near the TOWER. First stone laid May 3rd, 1827, and the Docks publicly opened Oct. 25th 1828; 1250 houses, including the old Hospital of St. Katherine, were purchased and pulled down, and 11,300 inhabitants removed, in clearing the ground for this magnificent undertaking, of which Mr. Telford was the engineer, and Mr. Hardwick the architect. The total cost was 1,700,000l. The area of the Docks is about 24 acres, of which 11 acres form the Wet Docks. The lock is sunk so deep that ships of 700 tons burden may enter at any time of the tide. The warehouses, vaults, sheds, and covered ways will contain 110,000 tons of goods. The gross earnings of the Company in 1845 were 230,992l.15s 2s; expenses 122,717l. 7s 11d; balance 108,275l. 7s 3d. The gross earnings for 1846 were 229,814l.14s 10d; expenses 124,269l. 14s 7d; balance 105,545l. 0s 3d. The earth excavated at St. Katherine's when the Docks were formed was carried by water to Millbank, and employed to fill up the cuts or reservoirs of the Chelsea Waterworks Company, on which, under Mr. Cubitt's care, Eccleston-square, and much of the south side of Pimlico, has been since erected.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850 

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

see also London by Day and Night - click here

see also Charles Manby Smith in The Little World of London - click here

St. Katharine Docks, belonging to the same company as the London and Victoria Docks (which see), adjoin the east side of the Tower, from which they are separated only by Little Tower-hill, running from the Minories to Irongate Stairs. They are best reached from the west from Aldgate Station down the Minories to the entrance in Upper East Smithfield, or from the east by the Leman-street Station of the Blackwall Railway. They cover a space of 23 acres, 10 acres of which is water and 13 land. The water-space consists of two docks of rather irregular shape, and a basin rather larger in proportion than is usual. The west dock, which is shaped like a bishop's mitre, the apex being towards the entrance in the north-east corner, covers a space of four acres, and is surrounded for the greater part of its extent with lofty warehouses.
    In the middle of the side opposite the apex an entrance opens into the basin, a highly irregular hexagon two acres in extent, and communicating by another entrance with the east dock, an irregular pentagon of four acres. 
    From the basin an entrance of 180 feet in length and about 45 in width leads across St. Katharine-street to the river, the depth on the sill below Trinity high-water mark being 28 feet. 
    The St. Katharine Docks have a quay and jetty frontage of 4,450 feet, and the warehouses are furnished on an unusually elaborate scale with hydraulic machinery of the most modern description. The number of vessels using these docks has of late years tended rather to diminish, a considerable proportion of the ships formerly trading to them, and especially of those of large tonnage, having been drawn off to the larger docks of the same Company lower down the river (see VICTORIA DOCKS). It seems probable that the eastward impulse once given will extend, especially as the extreme facility of railway communication combines with the saving of time, risk, and expense, in the matter of river navigation, to enhance the advantages of the lower docks. It is far from impossible that before very long the St. Katharine Docks may be closed altogether, and the water space now occupied by them rendered available for warehouses or other buildings. The articles brought into these docks include every variety of produce, but the principal articles dealt with are tea, sugar, coffee, fruit, guano, hemp and other fibres, indigo, metals, molasses, oils, rice, spices, cubic nitre, silk, tobacco and cigars, grain, wines, spirits, and wool.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - St. Katherine's Dock

St. Katherine's Dock - photograph


One of the most interesting features of the Metropolis is the Docks, which are the glory of its port. St. Katharine's Dock occupies the site of the old St. Katharine's Hospital, and lies just east of the Tower. It is not large, comparatively speaking, for it covers only 24 acres, and cannot admit vessels of more than seven hundred tons burthen, but in its warehouses, some of which are shown above, more than a hundred thousand tons of goods can be stored. St. Katharine's Dock, which was built, by the bye, in 1828, belongs to the same company as the London and the Victoria and Albert Docks. It is at this Wharf that steamboat passengers from the Continent are generally landed.