JOHNS&CO Offices
sunset at the thames barrier

Digging Into The Maritime Past of Royal Wharf

It’s undeniable that a lot of hard work has taken place here over the centuries. Dock work, factory work, engineering work, shipbuilding work. The commercial life of the docks is well documented, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries and boy, does it look tough.

With our head office now located in Royal Wharf , we really wanted to find out more about the history of this area and about the lives of the people who came before us – working, playing, having children, going to the pub and more.

In fact, for centuries there were hardly any people, as the land to the east of the city, including Royal Wharf, was still largely countryside, with small, scattered communities. Riverside villages outside the city wall survived by ship building and repairing and the area was isolated until at least the 16th century.

The site was riverside marshes, with areas of pasture maintained in a low-lying flood plain, but this was to change dramatically when it became part of the world’s biggest port.

the old royal dock

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, what we now know as Royal Wharf (formerly Minoco Wharf ), became part of the massive Royal Docks regeneration area. By the 1880s the area had become a major centre of industry, attracting people from all over Britain to work in the factories and docks.

On into the early part of the 20th century, when the still busy and thriving industrial area experienced a massive explosion on 19th January 1917: 50 tons of TNT blew up in the Brunner Mond works in neighbouring Crescent Wharf, which had been given over to making munitions for the First World War. The noise of the greatest explosion in London’s history could be heard as far as Cambridge and Norwich. 70,000 buildings were damaged and tragically 73 people were killed.

River traffic through the Royal Docks reached its peak in the 1950s and early 1960s, but following the development of containerisation, trade rapidly declined and the Royal Docks were closed for general cargo handling at the end of 1981. In recent decades the entire area has seen a massive regeneration, with the construction of London City Airport, the Thames Barrier, and ExCeL exhibition centre, the Thames Barrier Park, and of course Royal Wharf.

It’s a sad fact that history doesn’t go in much for describing the sort of fun that people have had through the decades. We like to think that along with all the hard work, people had fun. And we’re pretty sure that what makes us happy now is what has always made people happy.

So, we go forward determined to contribute to making the next phase of Royal Wharf’s life a happy, healthy history-making one for all of its residents.

historic royal dock

If you want to make Royal Wharf your new home (and why wouldn’t you?!) Then contact us now to find out our current list of sales and rental homes.  We’re sure you’ll love the incredible facilities, landscaped gardens, friendly atmosphere, bars, cafes and restaurants.