Riverside - north bank east of the Tower. Tilbury Docks

Riverside north bank east of the Tower. Tilbury Docks.

The main part of this extensive dock complex

Post to the west Tilbury Ness
Post to the east Tilbury Riverside
Post to the south Rosherville

Tilbury docks
Tilbury Docks were opened in 1886 by the East and West India Dock Company. Because of the distance into London they were designed for rail transit and there were no warehouses and, until 1939, few roads. Navigation was also difficult because of river conditions.  Construction was also difficult because of the strata of mud and clay and a resulting change of contractor and litigation increased costs and there was a difficulty in erecting heavy buildings. Warehousing facilities were provided in London at the Commercial Road Depot.  The docks consisted of the three branch docks set diagonally because of the line of the railway, there was also a tidal basin. The design of the basin was a mistake giving an entrance to the docks away from the tidal stream of the river. The Branch Docks were too narrow and could not be expanded. It was expected rail transport would provide advantages but the free water clause meant that more goods were transported by barge. An increase in road transport was achieved by a change in dock lay-out and after 1939 over a mile of road was laid, quays, loading banks, were widened, and outbuildings provided with parking spaces. The dock was not seriously damaged during the war and it maybe that the enemy intended to use it as a major pier head for invasion. In the 1960s as closure of upstream docks was considered the Port of London Authority extended Tilbury dock so a fourth branch dock, was built and the tidal basin was closed.  By the early 1980s Tilbury was the last set of enclosed docks under the Authority. A new container port was also built. In 1992 the port was privatised and is now part of Forth Ports. It handles a variety of bulk cargo, timber, cars and containers.
Centre Branch Dock. This is marked on some maps as ‘Cement Terminal and a cement company is based there for the area
Coaling Jetty. This was built at the same time as the original dock with hydraulic cranes for discharging steam colliers into barges or railway trucks.  It was constructed by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell and Co.
Dry docks. Originally two dry docks were built between the Tidal Basin and Main Dock. One of these is marked as ‘wet dock’ on some maps,
Dry dock. A new dry dock on the south side was built in 1928. At 750 feet long it was the largest in the port.
East Branch Dock. This is one of the branch docks and now marked as ‘metal terminal’.  Some berths in this and adjoining branches are operated by scrap metal merchants.
Hotel. This was built in 1886 for people using liners from Tilbury. It was meant to bring late-19th opulence here. It hotel closed after a year and was destroyed in bombing in 1944.It was on the riverside south east of the Tidal Basin.
Main Dock. Three berths here dealt with the largest vessels using the port.  After the Second World War the increase in the size of liners made it important to make changes. The berths were used by P. & 0. and Orient Lines and vessels on the Australia run. A new berth 842 feet long was built with a T-shaped transit shed
Rail links. The docks were intended to be based on rail freight and for goods to be taken to London for warehousing. There was an existing line to the area built in 1854 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway and junction were made with this line.  A line ran round the Tidal Basin as well as to a station to serve the hotel and landing stage.  There were tracks on the jetties which ran between the branch docks – for example between the Centre and East Branch Docks, there was no road, but five rail tracks. These links have all now been removed.
Tidal Basin. The original entrance to the docks was via a 19 acre tidal basin. It was however found that it was subject to silting and needed regular dredging.  From 1927 to 1932 a cross-Channel service. Tilbury to Dunkirk was run from here and a station was built to service it. The basin was eventually closed and filled in.
Tilbury Marine Station. This was situated at the south west side of the Tidal Basin at what became berth 29.  It had initially been for the hotel but later was refurbished in conjunction with London, Midland and Scottish railway for the Dunkirk service. After Tilbury Riverside opened in 1930 it was closed and he service to Dunkirk ceased in 1932.
West Branch Dock. On recent maps his is marked as ‘Aggregate terminal”

Bird. Geography of the Port of London
Disused Stations. Web site

Marden. London Dock Railways
Port Cites. Web site
Port of London Authority. Web site
Where Thames Smooth Water Glide. Web site
Wikipedia. Tilbury. Web site


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