Home » Human Life » The Story of Aberdeen Wharf in Limehouse

The Story of Aberdeen Wharf in Limehouse

abedinionpoat

Regular readers will know that Eric Pemberton often sends some of his interesting postcards to the site, which often provides a clue to events or places that have  been forgotten. Recently he sent a postcard of the SS Aberdonian at Aberdeen Wharf which is a reminder of the close connection of the Limehouse riverfront to Scottish trade and passenger services and the importance of coastal shipping lines before the 1950s.

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The Aberdeen Steam Navigation company was founded in 1836, an amalgamation of the Aberdeen and London Steam Navigation Company and the Aberdeen and London Shipping Company. It operated a regular service, first from Wapping and later Limehouse between London and Aberdeen, using first a number of small sailing vessels before moving to steamers in 1828. In the 19th century, a large number of coastal shipping companies had vessels that transferred goods and passengers from a large number of UK ports to London.

linney 1927

Old Aberdeen Wharf, the Wapping Police Station, and St John’s Wharf. All three buildings are still standing,

Photo A G Linney,1929

The first Aberdeen Wharf  built-in 1843 – 1844 by the Aberdeen Steam Navigation company was in Wapping next to the police station, however in the late 1870s they  acquired part of Limehouse Dockyard and developed the land . A four-storey block of warehouses in four divisions was built on the north side of the new dock where parts of the ground storey were left open from quay to yard for transit handling. The capacity of the warehouses was about 770,000 cu.ft and the site had its own hydraulic power supply.

aberdeen wharf 1882

Aberdeen Steam Wharf 1882

Aberdeen Steam Wharf was chiefly used for the storage of goods brought from Scotland, notably tinned salmon and other sundry goods, however passenger services were run especially in the summer. The SS Aberdonian was one of the passenger ships that plied that particular trade. The trade must have been quite profitable because the company provided sailings until 1945 except for wartime when many of the ships were requisitioned. At the end of the war, the company was taken over by the Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co., Newcastle, part of the Coast Lines group. Passenger services were temporarily resumed after the end of World War II but only lasted until 1948 when they finally ceased. Competition from road and rail traffic led to the end of the cargo trade between Aberdeen and London which eventually finished in 1962 and the company officially closed in 1964.

aberdeen wharf 1937

Aberdeen Wharf was badly damaged in the Blitz and some of the riverside warehouses were cleared in 1948–9, the remaining 1870s warehouses were demolished in 1971–2, Aberdeen Wharf was cleared in the late 1980s for use by contractors working on Westferry Circus and riverside parts of the Canary Wharf site.

1953air from above

In this photo from 1953, Dundee Wharf in the foreground, with some of the 1870 warehouses and then low level building of Aberdeen Wharf.

Today on the riverfront, little remains of Aberdeen Wharf and the Aberdeen Steam Navigation company, however there is a plaque that few people notice that marks their location and reminds us of  another interesting piece of Docklands history.

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This particular corner of Limehouse  has a number of connections to Scotland with Dunbar Wharf and Dundee Wharf close by. Even though the Aberdeen Steam Navigation company traded from the site for almost 100 years, its history has largely been forgotten.

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Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for his contribution to this post.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Fascinating – as now a resident of Maldon District in Essex and living near Tollesbury, I can imagine some of this trading calling into ports around the East Coast on the return journeys, although possibly not largish ships, especially to ports and harbours that were tidal, but rather to larger places like Lowestoft, and Great Yarmouth and Hull.

    Another thought is that obviously steamships did not completely take over from the Sailing Barges which also continued trading well into the 20th Century, those shallower draught (I presume) craft presumably able to get to the smaller landing stages that are dotted along the coastal fields including at such places as the Tollesbury and Salcott Marshes, where craft probably supplied goods to the farms and collected their harvests

    Here is an example from The Mersea Island Museum Website

    http://www.merseamuseum.org.uk/mmphoto.php?typ=cat&syn=all&cat=287&hit=79&tot=87&pid=RG06_115

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your very interesting comments, you are right to point out that just because steamships took over did not mean that sailing barges did not cease to be used for trading goods. I think it is amazing that these old trade links have largely been forgotten but they were vital for trade and the transport of passengers.

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