London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry

1851

The West India Docks.

 

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