London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry
1851

The West India Docks.

The West India Docks.

THE West India Docks are about a mile and a-half from the London Docks. The entire ground that they cover is 295 acres, so that they are nearly three times larger than the London Docks, and more than twelve times more extensive than those of St. Katherine"s. Hence they are the most capacious of all the great warehousing establishments in the port of London. The export dock is about 870 yards, or very nearly half-a-mile in length by 135 yards in width; its area, therefore, is about 25 acres. The import dock is the same length as the export dock, and 166 yards wide. The south dock, which is appropriated both to import and export vessels, is 1,183 yards, or upwards of two-thirds of a mile long, with an entrance to the river at each end; both the locks, as well as that into the Blackwall basin, being forty feet wide, and large enough to admit ships of 1,200 tons burden. The warehouses for imported goods are on the four quays of the import dock. They are well contrived and of great extent, being calculated to contain 180,000 tons of merchandise; and there has been at one time on the quays, and in the sheds, vaults, and warehouses, colonial produce worth 20,000,000l. sterling. The East India Docks are likewise the property of the West India Dock Company, having been purchased by them of the East India Company at the time of the opening of the trade to India. The import dock here has an area of 18 acres, and the export dock about 9 acres. The depth of water in these docks is greater, and they can consequently accommodate ships of greater burden than any other establishment on the river. The capital of both establishments, or of the united company, amounts to upwards of 2,000,000 of money. The West India import dock can accommodate 300 ships, and the export dock 200 ships of 300 tons each; and the East India import dock 84 ships, and the export dock 40 ships, of 800 tons each. The number of ships that entered the West India Dock to load and unload last year was 3008, and the number that entered the East India Dock 298. I owe the above information, as well as that which follows, to the kindness of the secretary and superintendent of the docks in question. To the politeness and intelligence of the latter gentleman I am specially indebted. Indeed his readiness to afford me all the assistance that lay in his power, as well as his courtesy and gentlemanly demeanour, formed a marked contrast to that of the deputy-superintendent of the London Docks, the one appearing as anxious for the welfare and comfort of the labouring men as the other seemed indifferent to it.

The transition from the London to the West India Docks is of a very peculiar character. The labourers at the latter place seem to be more civilised. The scrambling and scuffling for the day"s hire, which is the striking feature of the one establishment, is scarcely distinguishable at the other. It is true there is the same crowd of labourers in quest of a day"s work, but the struggle to obtain it is neither so fierce nor so disorderly in its character. And yet, here the casual labourers are men from whom no character is demanded as well as there. The amount of wages for the summer months is the same as at the London Docks. Unlike the London Docks, however, no reduction is made at the East and West India Docks during the winter.

The labour is as precarious at one establishment as at the other. The greatest number of hands employed for any one day at the East and West India Docks in the course of last year was nearly 4000, and the smallest number about 1300. The lowest number of ships that entered the docks during any one week in the present year was 28, and the highest number 209, being a difference of 181 vessels, of an average burden of 300 tons each. The positive amount of variation, however, which occurred in the labour during the briskest and slackest weeks of last year was a difference of upwards of 2500 in the number of extra workmen employed, and of about 2000l. in the amount of wages paid for the six days" labour. I have been favoured with a return of the number of vessels that entered the East and West India Docks for each week in the present year, and I subjoin a statement of the number arriving in each of the first fourteen of those weeks. In the 1st week of all there were 86, the 2d 47, the 3d 43, the 4th 48, the 5th 28, the 6th 49, the 7th 46, the 8th 37, the 9th 42, the 10th 47, the 11th 42, the 12th 131, the 13th 209, and the 14th 85. Hence it appears, that in the second week the number of ships coming into dock decreased nearly one-half; in the fifth week they were again diminished in a like proportion, while in the sixth week they were increased in a similar ratio; in the twelfth week they were more than three times what they were in the eleventh, in the thirteenth the number was half as much again as it was in the twelfth, and in the fourteenth it was down below half the number of the thirteenth, so that it is clear that the subsistence derived from dock labour must be of the most fickle and doubtful kind.

THE are about a mile and a-half from the . The entire ground that they cover is acres, so that they are nearly times larger than the , and more than times more extensive than those of St. Katherine"s. Hence they are the most capacious of all the great warehousing establishments in the port of London. The export dock is about yards, or very nearly half-a-mile in length by yards in width; its area, therefore, is about acres. The import dock is the same length as the export dock, and yards wide. The south dock, which is appropriated both to import and export vessels, is yards, or upwards of -thirds of a mile long, with an entrance to the river at each end; both the locks, as well as that into the basin, being feet wide, and large enough to admit ships of tons burden. The warehouses for imported goods are on the quays of the import dock. They are well contrived and of great extent, being calculated to contain tons of merchandise; and there has been at time on the quays, and in the sheds, vaults, and warehouses, colonial produce worth sterling. The are likewise the property of the West India Dock Company, having been purchased by them of the East India Company at the time of the opening of the trade to India. The import dock here has an area of acres, and the export dock about acres. The depth of water in these docks is greater, and they can consequently accommodate ships of greater burden than any other establishment on the river. The capital of both establishments, or of the united company, amounts to upwards of of money. The West India import dock can accommodate ships, and the export dock ships of tons each; and the East India import dock ships, and the export dock ships, of tons each. The number of ships that entered the West India Dock to load and unload last year was , and the number that entered the East India Dock . I owe the above information, as well as that which follows, to the kindness of the secretary and superintendent of the docks in question. To the politeness and intelligence of the latter gentleman I am specially indebted. Indeed his readiness to afford me all the assistance that lay in his power, as well as his courtesy and gentlemanly demeanour, formed a marked contrast to that of the deputy-superintendent of the , the appearing as anxious for the welfare and comfort of the labouring men as the other seemed indifferent to it.

The transition from the London to the is of a very peculiar character. The labourers at the latter place seem to be more civilised. The scrambling and scuffling for the day"s hire, which is the striking feature of the establishment, is scarcely distinguishable at the other. It is true there is the same crowd of labourers in quest of a day"s work, but the struggle to obtain it is neither so fierce nor so disorderly in its character. And yet, here the casual labourers are men from whom no character is demanded as well as there. The amount of wages for the summer months is the same as at the . Unlike the , however, no reduction is made at the East and during the winter.

The labour is as precarious at establishment as at the other. The greatest number of hands employed for any day at the East and in the course of last year was nearly , and the smallest number about . The lowest number of ships that entered the docks during any week in the present year was , and the highest number , being a difference of vessels, of an average burden of tons each. The positive amount of variation, however, which occurred in the labour during the briskest and slackest weeks of last year was a difference of upwards of in the number of extra workmen employed, and of about in the amount of wages paid for the days" labour. I have been favoured with a return of the number of vessels that entered the East and for each week in the present year, and

311

I subjoin a statement of the number arriving in each of the of those weeks. In the week of all there were , the d , the d , the , the , the , the , the , the , the , the , the , the , and the . Hence it appears, that in the week the number of ships coming into dock decreased nearly -half; in the week they were again diminished in a like proportion, while in the week they were increased in a similar ratio; in the week they were more than times what they were in the , in the the number was half as much again as it was in the , and in the it was down below half the number of the , so that it is clear that the subsistence derived from dock labour must be of the most fickle and doubtful kind.

 
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 Title Page
collapseChapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
collapseOur Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
collapseChapter III: - Street Musicians
collapseChapter IV: - Street Vocalists
collapseChapter V: - Street Artists
collapseChapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
collapseChapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
collapseChapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
collapseChapter IX: - Ballast-Men
collapseChapter X: - Lumpers
collapseChapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
collapseChapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
collapseChapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
collapseChapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
collapseChapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
collapseChapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
collapseChapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men
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