This history of the Isle of docks, ermm, no, Dogs is the history of docks. Some even say the name was corrupted and Docks was spitefully replaced with Dogs. We can never know now. History annoyingly left with the true story. What we have now are nothing but speculative gestures. Let us critically look at the docks, shall we?
The Genesis of Docks
During the Roman and mediaeval times, ships arriving England through the Thames had nowhere to dock but on small quays which offered no shield against the elements and thieves. These quays also had the limitation of congestion. These challenges led to the construction of Howland Great Dock and expansion works from this, saw the building of the first Georgian Dock called the West India (1802). It is one of the three cluster of docks in the Isle.
The other two are East India Docks (1806) and Millwall Dock (1868). They were managed by competing private companies until they came under one umbrella when the Port of London Authority took control of the docks in 1909.
Kindly note that each dock served different purposes. While Millwall served as grain dock, St. Kathering took wool, rubber and sugar etc.
Types of Docks
There are two types of docks namely
Wet docks: these are docks where ships anchor for unloading or loading. They are usually very large.
Dry docks: these are usually smaller in size compared to the wet docks. They serve as repair workshop for ships.
The docks use casual workers mainly lighter men, quayside workers and deal portals. Lighter men are workers who use lighters (small barges) to carry loads between ships and quays. Quayside workers handle the goods once they come onshore and deal portals are workers who deal with timbers. Some of the workers were highly skilled.
Getting a daily job was a game of chance because the workers usually gather every morning at a specific location and foremen from ships randomly pick. To him who is picked for the day, belongs food. The unlucky ones go home hungry. This was what led to the revolt in the 19th century where workers demanded more and an end to casual working system. Have you ever heard of the London dock strike before? Yes, that one.
Dockyard and Docklands
Dockyards are workstations where they built ships and docklands are riverfronts with or without clusters of docks.
This is the story of the old dog and the docks. Even though, the Isle of Dogs has taken on a new developmental form and some of these ports have lost their glories, succour, fervour and flavour, their memories would continue to live on in the minds of generations yet unborn.
History never forgets…. (Daniel O. Emeseh)