Royal Victoria

Royal Victoria Dock, Newham

A former commercial dock situated south-east of Canning Town, presently undergoing radical regeneration

RVD Floating Village

The Vic­to­ria Dock was pro­mot­ed by rail­way con­trac­tors and con­struct­ed on a flood plain that was pur­chased for lit­tle more than its agri­cul­tur­al val­ue. Opened in 1855, the dock could take the largest steamships and had the lat­est hydraulic engines to open its gates. It was tak­en over in 1864 by the Lon­don and St Katharine’s Dock Com­pa­ny, which need­ed larg­er facil­i­ties and it became the Roy­al Vic­to­ria Dock when the com­pa­ny added the Roy­al Albert Dock in 1880. The accom­pa­ny­ing rail sid­ings of the Roy­al Vic­to­ria Exchange were the largest of their kind in the coun­try.

The dock han­dled frozen meats, fruit, but­ter and tobac­co, as well as gen­er­al goods. Ships were ini­tial­ly unloaded at jet­ties but a sys­tem of ‘sim­ple lin­eal quayage’ lat­er proved more suit­able for the increas­ing­ly large ves­sels. The dock con­tin­ued to adapt to chang­ing cir­cum­stances and in the 1930s and ear­ly 1940s grain silos were erect­ed at Pon­toon Dock and a new north quay was built. At the same time, the west­ern entrance was closed, allow­ing the con­struc­tion of Sil­ver­town Way. Very long tran­sit sheds were rent­ed by ship­ping lines spe­cial­is­ing in trade with spe­cif­ic coun­tries, such as Argenti­na, Cana­da, the USA, Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

Roy­al Vic­to­ria Dock, seen in 2005

The Roy­al Vic­to­ria Dock closed in the ear­ly 1980s and most of its build­ings were soon demol­ished. Sur­viv­ing ware­hous­es have been con­vert­ed to flats. The ExCel exhi­bi­tion and con­fer­ence cen­tre dom­i­nates the much of the north quay, while chain hotels have been built to its east.

Shown in the pho­to­graph on the right, a high-lev­el pedes­tri­an bridge was con­struct­ed across the dock in 1999 to pro­vide access to the DLR sta­tions for res­i­dents of the new hous­ing devel­op­ments of West Sil­ver­town.

Since June 2012 a cable car sys­tem has linked the Green­wich Penin­su­la (and the O2 Are­na) with the Roy­al Docks (and the ExCel). In a ten-year spon­sor­ship deal worth £36 mil­lion, the ser­vice is brand­ed the Emi­rates Air Line – but it has been unglam­ourous­ly nick­named ‘the dan­gle­way’. The cars have the capac­i­ty to car­ry up to 2,500 pas­sen­gers per hour in each direc­tion across the riv­er but have failed to achieve any­thing close to that usage except on spe­cial occa­sions.

Direct­ly to the east of the cable car ter­mi­nus, 15 acres of the dock may become a water­borne com­mu­ni­ty with float­ing homes, restau­rants, cafes and bars, shown in the devel­op­ers’ CGI image at the top of the page. As well as 50 res­i­dences for the lucky few, there would be a mul­ti-pur­pose events space, a ‘blue water square’, a mar­ket square and what is being called a ‘float­ing cor­niche’. The pro­posed scheme takes its inspi­ra­tion – and some tech­no­log­i­cal know-how – from the float­ing homes at IJburg in Ams­ter­dam.

Postal district: E16
Station: Docklands Light Railway, Beckton branch (Royal Victoria, zone 3)