Royal Docks is an area and a ward in the London Borough of Newham in the London Docklands in East London. The area is named after three docks – the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock. They are more correctly called the Royal Group of Docks to distinguish them from the Royal Dockyards, Royal being due to their naming after royal personages rather than Crown ownership. The three docks collectively formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1.0 km2) and an overall estate of 1,100 acres (4.5 km2). This is equivalent to the whole of central London from Hyde Park to Tower Bridge. The area was designated a special enterprise zone in 2012.
The Royal Victoria Docks are 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) from London Bridge, and 36 kilometres (22 miles) from Gravesend, and were designed and engineered by George Parker Bidder. Although the structure was in place in the year 1850, it was opened in 1855 on a previously uninhabited area of the Plaistow Marshes, it was the first of the Royal Docks and the first London dock to be designed specifically to accommodate large steam ships. It was also the first to use hydraulic power to operate its machinery and the first to be connected to the national railway network via the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway section of what is now the North London Line. It was initially known as "Victoria Dock"; the prefix "Royal" was granted in 1880.
The dock was connected to the national rail network via a line which ran between Canning Town and North Woolwich. When the Royal Dock was first built the railway cut along the docks; to correct this a swingbridge over the entrance to the dock was built. This however slowed down journey time, and so a new line was built in 1855 to take the route around the north side of the dock to Silvertown, and a station at Custom House opened where it re-connected with the original line. The older southern line was kept to serve local factories, where it was known as the Silvertown Tramway.
The Royal Victoria Dock consisted of a main dock and a basin to the west, providing an entrance to the Thames on the western side of the complex. The dock was deeply indented with four solid piers, each 152 metres long by 43 metres wide, on which were constructed two-storey warehouses. Other warehouses, granaries, shed and storage buildings surrounded the dock, which had a total of 3.6 km of quays.
The Victoria Dock was an immediate commercial success, as it could easily accommodate all but the very largest steamships. By 1860, it was already taking over 850,000 tons of shipping a year – double that of the London Docks, four times that of St Katharine Docks and 70% more than the West India Dock and East India Docks combined. It was badly damaged by German bombing in World War II but experienced a resurgence in trade following the war. However, from the 1960s onwards, the Royal Victoria experienced a steady decline – as did all of London's other docks – as the shipping industry adopted containerisation, which effectively moved traffic downstream to Tilbury. It finally closed to commercial traffic along with the other Royal Docks in 1980.
The three docks were completed between 1855 and 1921 on riverside marshes in East Ham and West Ham (now the London Borough of Newham). The Victoria and Albert docks were constructed by the London & St Katharine Docks Company, to provide berths for large vessels that could not be accommodated further upriver. They were a great commercial success, becoming London's principal docks during the first half of the 20th century. They specialised particularly in the import and unloading of foodstuffs, with rows of giant granaries and refrigerated warehouses being sited alongside the quays. The docks' great size and provision of numerous finger quays gave them a collective span of over 12 miles (19.3 km) of quaysides, serving hundreds of cargo and passenger ships at a time.
Following the opening of the Royal Albert Dock in 1880, giving the Royals access to Gallions Reach, 11 miles (17.7 km) below London Bridge, the rival East & West India Docks Company responded with the construction of Tilbury Docks even further down river. The ruinous competition led eventually to all the enclosed docks being taken over by the Port of London Authority (PLA) in 1909. The PLA completed the King George V Dock in 1921 and reserved land to the north for a fourth dock, never built.
The General Strike of 1926 hit the Royal Docks hard, with 750,000 frozen carcasses threatened by the docks' electrical supply being cut off. Fortunately for the dock owners, the Royal Navy were able to save the day by connecting the generators of two submarines to power the warehouses' freezers.
Although the Royal Docks suffered severe damage from German bombing in World War II, they recovered after the war but suffered a steady decline from the 1960s onwards, following the adoption of containerization. Nonetheless, they survived longer than any of the other upstream docks, finally closing to commercial traffic only in 1981. The docks' closure led to high levels of unemployment and social deprivation in the surrounding communities of North Woolwich and Silvertown.
Because of their relative remoteness from central London and poor transport links, the redevelopment of London's Docklands has proceeded more slowly in the Royals than in the other former docks. The London Docklands Development Corporation undertook much work during the 1980s and 1990s to improve local transport and promote new residential and commercial developments in the area. Thousands of new homes were built at Beckton, just north of the Royal Docks.
An extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in 1994 to provide direct links to the City of London and Canary Wharf. This was later extended round the south side of the docks with the link to London City Airport opening in December 2006. The line was later extended to Woolwich. Crossrail will serve the area from 2018.
Several other major projects have been proposed or implemented since then. Many residential complexes have been built; most notably the architecturally progressive Eastern Quay on the south side of Royal Victoria Dock, Capital East on the north side of the dock and the large complex of Gallion's Reach in the extreme east of the Royal Docks. A series of major developments have seen the construction of a new university campus (for the University of East London) and the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, among much else.
The Royal Docks have also seen the development of London City Airport (code LCY), opened in 1988 on the quay between the Royal Albert Dock and the King George V dock. While the docks themselves have been preserved largely intact, little remains of the old infrastructure, although some historic warehouses and cranes have been preserved. In 2011 the one hundred and twenty five hectares of the Royal Docks were granted Enterprise Zone status to help attract jobs and businesses to the area.
In 2014, Singapore listed Oxley Holdings together with leading developer Ballymore UK have a Joint-Venture to set up a new waterfront township of Royal Wharf, with 3,385 new homes housing over 10,000. This will be a mixed-use development comprising shops, restaurants and even office complexes. The final phase is known as Mariner's Quarter which has the tallest building standing at 19 storeys, overseeing the river Thames and Canary Wharf.
The Emirates Air Line is a cable car offering breathtaking 360 degree views of London as you cross the River Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. Cabins arrive every 30 seconds and flights last around 10 minutes each way. Reaching heights of 90 metres, it’s a perfect way to take in the sights of London on a sunny day or watch the sunset on a warm summer evening. Cabins hold up to eight people so it’s a great experience for a family or group of friends.
From Saturday 28 March, the Emirates Air Line will offer a new ‘Night Flight’ buy phentermine weight loss experience with later opening times, a longer flight time and complementary music and video entertainment in cabins and at the terminals will ensure customers can sit back, relax and enjoy the unique aerial views of fantastic sunsets or spectacular lights and colours of London after dark, throughout the summer. From Sunday to Thursday, passengers will be able to fly until 10pm and on Friday and Saturday nights the Emirates Air Line will close at 11pm.
A world-class sculpture trail called The Line, featuring artworks from a host of distinguished contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Martin Creed, Gary Hume and Eduardo Paolozzi, opened in May 2015 and several artworks are situated at London’s Royal Docks. The Line links The O2 and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with the aim of bringing high-quality artworks out of warehouses and into the public realm so they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Visitors are able to join The Line at any point along the route to explore the three miles of waterways.
The sculptures in the Royal Docks include works by Martin Creed, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sterling Ruby and James Balmforth. The Line was set up by contemporary art dealer Megan Piper and the late urban regeneration expert Clive Dutton OBE, with support from award-winning architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. For more information on The Line click here.
The Crystal is a building on Royal Victoria Dock in east London that contains a permanent exhibition about sustainable development. It is owned and operated by Siemens. It is part of the Green Enterprise District policy that covers much of East London. The site is 18,000 square metres in size at the west end of the dock. Using solar power and ground source heat pumps to generate its own energy, it has set a high benchmark for sustainability. The building is the first to achieve the highest sustainable building accolades from the world's two leading accreditation bodies, LEED and BREEAM, Platinum and Outstanding respectively. It is the most sustainable building in London.
The building was designed by Perkins+Will (Fit-Out, design leader) and Wilkinson Eyre Architects(shell and core) with Arup Group Limited who were the building and civil engineers, and Townshend Landscape Architects who designed the public realm. Event Communications were the Exhibition Designers responsible for the interpretive planning, exhibition design and creative direction, graphic design, media direction and construction management for the exhibition spaces.
The surrounding landscape was designed to be a sustainable urban landscape to help encourage a shift in the broader social ideology, making ‘sustainability’ more attractive and allowing people to participate in social activities within the site, which includes local food programmes and community gardens to help foster this principle. The landscape is public open space and is managed by the London Borough of Newham.
The building is a showcase for sustainable building technologies. At the heart of this are the Building management system and KNX infrastructure. The building control devices, such as lighting, windows, blinds and heating, are connected using the KNX protocol. The building has over 2,500 KNX connected devices, which makes it one of the largest deployments of KNX in a single building.
The centre is a dedicated watersports facility that provides the opportunity to get involved in a wide variety of paddle sports or sailing activities. The main feature is a 2,000 metre rowing course with seven racing lanes and towpath access to the full course. There’s also a large boathouse, rowing tank, gymnasium and restaurant. Sports include rowing, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, bell boating and raft building. Sessions suitable for beginners through to advanced. The centre hosts a huge variety of sporting events to participate in or watch throughout the year. Prices vary. Visit website.
Now you no longer have to travel to Southend, Margate or Barbados. For a day by the sea (or at least the tidal river) you can visit the Urban London Beach. The Urban Beach is a stretch of sandy beach that provides a great day out with family and friends. Lazing in a deckchair, building a sandcastle, relaxing with the Sunday papers or eating ice cream on London’s Beach! Prices are free (but not the ice cream). Assistance dogs are welcome. The beach is wheelchair accessible and the beach is Open from 17th July – 31st August 2017 (longer from 2018, dates to be announced). Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am - 8pm
ExCel London is London’s premier international conference and convention centre. Royal Victoria Dock is home to London’s premier exhibition centre the site of a host of amazing exhibitions and events throughout the year. Whether it is the sexy superyachts at the London Boat Show, the world on show at the World Travel Market or you want to meet your favourite character at ComicCom there is something for everyone all year round at ExCeL plus a great range of eateries and bars across the venue. Prices - See the ExCeL London website for more details. Visit website.
London City Airport is the UK’s leading business airport serving over 40 destinations across the UK, Europe and the USA, with connections to the rest of the world through the major European hubs. Plans to expand London City Airport have been given the go-ahead clearing the way for a £200 million investment. The investment will enable the airport to operate up to online 111,000 annual flights.
The plans include developing existing infrastructure to increase runway capacity, to allow more take-offs and landings at peak times and accommodate the next generation of quieter, more fuel efficient aircraft. These aircraft have longer ranges and will open up new markets not currently served from London City Airport.
London’s Royal Docks, one of the most scenic open water venues in the world, is now providing a unique opportunity to experience open water swimming. Onsite safety, including a safety tagging system for each swimmer, is in place ensuring a safe and enjoyable swim, with water tested fortnightly. Opening times are Monday closed, Tuesday 17:00-20:00, Wednesday 17:00–20:00, Thursday 06:00–09:00, Friday 17:00-20:00, Saturday 08:00–12:00, and Sunday 08:00-12:00.
Casual Swimming : Casual swimming is offered in a separate marked area for those who want to try open water swimming for the first time, or simply enjoy swimming without the pressure of training or competing. Courses for complete beginners are available, starting at level 1 through to level 3.
Competitive Swimming : For competitive training, whether for a triathlon or a ‘Great Swim’, the open space has three standard race distances marked; 400 meters – the distance used in the Super Sprint triathlons, 750 meters – set for Sprint distance triathlons and 1500 meters – the course used for Olympic Triathlons. For further information on all courses and exactly what is available please contact Rick Kiddle on 07770 391 966 or email email@example.com.
Aside from local bus routes, the area is primarily served by the DLR which goes from Canning Town (services west to Canary Wharf and Central London, and North to Stratford) along the north of the dock to Beckton, and along the south of the dock to North Woolwich and under the Thames to Woolwich Arsenal. Transport for London plan to extend the Beckton branch to Dagenham but this is dependent on funding. The DLR replaced the North London Line services that previously served the area from Canning Town to North Woolwich via Custom House and the 600 m Connaught tunnel beneath the docks.
From 2018 a branch of the Crossrail line will pass beneath the Royal Docks between Canning Town and Woolwich, serving Custom House station (and future provision for a station at Silvertown. Crossrail reuses the southern part of the former North London Line alignment from Custom House to North Woolwich (including the Connaught tunnel built in 1878).
The Royal Docks is also home to London City Airport, between the northern and southern docks. It was opened in 1988 to serve the Canary Wharf development. It is closer to central London than Heathrow, and is served by a dedicated DLR station. In 2010, London City was the fifth busiest airport in terms of passengers and aircraft movements.
Although the docks are now closed for commercial shipping, most of the water area of the docks still exists and is still navigable by craft of all sizes up to and including sizeable ships. The docks' principal use is now water sports, but they do see occasional visits by naval and merchant vessels, especially during the annual London Boat Show and the biannual DSEi arms fair, both of which are held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Cruise ships including Fred Olsen Lines' Braemar (24,300 GT) were moored there during the London 2012 Olympics.
The management of the water areas of the Royal Docks, including locks and bridges, is now the responsibility of Royal Docks Management Authority Limited (RoDMA), which is owned and funded by the owners of the surrounding development land.
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Location : Royal Albert, Royal Victoria, King George V Dock, Newham, London
Transport: Royal Albert (DLR), Royal Victoria (DLR), King George V (DLR), London City Airport (DLR), Custom House (DLR) for Excel Centre. London Buses routes 147 and 241 for Royal Victoria; 300 and 376 for Royal Albert; 473 and 474 for King George V.
Opening Times: Generally always, see venues for opening times.
Tickets : Free, see venues for ticket prices.
Tel: 0207 511 5086