Pictorial History of the West India Docks. Part 4: Post-World War II

Survey of London:

 After the war, the PLA undertook a massive programme of reconstruction using the £13 million of compensation received from the government. Changes in the nature of goods handling made like-for-like replacement of buildings inappropriate. The north quay warehouses, for example, were unsuited to mechanized operations. The principal new buildings constructed at the India and Millwall Docks in the early post-war period were two large shed-warehouses on the south quay of the Import Dock, built in 1950–4 and designed to accommodate fork-lift trucks and mobile cranes. They were used for fruit, which had become one of the principal commodities handled at the West India Docks. Sugar and hardwoods remained important, but the rum trade had shifted to the London Docks after the Blitz.

canary-wharf-15101969941

Canary Wharf

blue-bridge-7-14876969490

Ship departing from South West India Dock east entrance (site of later Blue Bridge)

west-india-dock-offices-1953-15223827627

West India Dock Offices, 1953

ledger-building-26816542465

Ledger Building, 1950s

west-india-docks-15368394618

west-india-docks-25422234170

wid-screenshot014-15067539561

west-india-docks-c1955-21019865521

c1955

wid-screenshot027-15067539161

Post-war mechanization transformed dock operations. Fork-lift trucks and palletized cargoes were introduced in the Port of London in 1946. Together with mobile cranes, these permitted better use of shed space, but, more crucially, they expedited dock work, improving shipping turn-round and reducing working costs. Full mechanization of berths became a prime objective, and it radically altered warehousing requirements. The mobile plant required single-storey buildings with large doorways, unobstructed floors and high ceilings. From 1956 to 1969 a number of constructionally innovative sheds were erected, some at the West India Docks, but more at the Millwall Docks.

aa001739-26164841046

1967-m-shed-south-quay-south-dock-14883661950

1967, M-Shed

 

west-india-docks-l-shed-26032021615

L-Shed

docks-steam-and-sail-london-west-india-docks-03-15070311735

Wood Wharf

screenshot059-14883746677

screenshot053-14883746787

screenshot056-14883660080

screenshot059-14883746677

west-inda-docks-c1980-23678611769

Prospects for the future of London’s up-river docks turned bleak in the mid-1960s. Increasing competition from other British ports, changes in the patterns of world trade, relative distance from the sea, and, above all, the container revolution in cargo handling all contributed to the change in fortunes. Container handling requires large clear quay spaces, deep water and large gantry cranes. Cargoes that had been carried in conventional form for centuries were containerized in a few years, and the up-river docks and wharves were left exposed.

wst-india-docks-15319812018

Fruit handling

west-india-docks-26075676633

west-india-docks-29686689606

wid-1963-locks-15047560036

wid-docks-29-14883860179

There was a rapid decline in traffic at the India and Millwall Docks and berths at the Import Dock north quay and the Wood Wharves had closed by 1971. Major redevelopment plans were suspended, though some new specialist facilities were provided. A Bulk Wine Terminal was established on the former East Wood Wharf in 1968– 70, and the east side of the Millwall Inner Dock was redeveloped in 1969 to handle conventional cargo in unitload form in two large sheds, for which Olsen Lines took responsibility.

west-india-docks-wine-store-15367908709

Bulk wine store

screenshot060-15070310725 westindiadocks-14883602779

1963-vlcsnap-00074-15047301976

Next article: “Part 5 – Closure”.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s