South Dock

Category: Dock

South Dock is the only surviving fully operational dock in the former Surrey Commercial Docks in Rotherhithe, London. It was built in 1807-1811 just south of the larger Greenland Dock, to which it was connected by a lock; it also had a lock giving access to the River Thames.

Originally named the East Country Dock, it was renamed in 1850 when the Surrey Commercial Dock Company purchased and enlarged it.

The dock was seriously damaged by German attacks in World War II, when the area was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. Due to bomb damage in Greenland Dock, South Dock became the only exit from that dock. It was emptied of shipping in 1944, drained and used for the construction of concrete sections for the Mulberry Harbours used on D-Day. After the war, it was repaired and the surrounding warehouses rebuilt.

The revival of the Surrey Docks proved short-lived with the advent of containerization from the 1960s onwards. The new container ships were much too big to be accommodated in the London docks and, with a few exceptions, most of the river trade moved downriver to Tilbury and other more modern ports around the country. The Surrey Docks closed in December 1970 and were sold to the London Borough of Southwark in 1977.

Although most of the Surrey Docks were infilled and converted to residential, commercial or light industrial land, South Dock escaped this fate. The former warehouses were demolished and replaced with residential blocks, while the dock itself was refurbished. In 1994 it reopened as London’s largest marina, with over 200 berths. It is now largely occupied by yachts and residential barges.


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