Museum of London Docklands © Museum of London
The Museum of London Docklands have announced the opening of a major new gallery on 25th March 2016, it is the first part of a major development to transform many of the Museum of London Dockland’s galleries.
The new permanent gallery entitled No.1 Warehouse explores the Grade 1 Listed Museum of London Docklands building itself. The building was known as No 1 Warehouse and formed part of the massive West India Docks complex which was London’s first enclosed dock system. The West India Docks established in 1802 provided one of the first large secure environment in which cargoes could be loaded, unloaded and stored.
Tea chests being weighed using a beam scale at Cutler Street., 1949 (Museum of London)
The new gallery looks at the inner workings of London’s docks and warehouses. It will bring this story to life using a combination of historic equipment and machinery which performed the day-to-day work of the docks, as well as oral histories, historic images, film and the incredible building itself.
Sacks of sugar arriving by electric truck for loading into a warehouse at the West India Dock. c.1035-1940. Fox Photos photograph (Museum of London)
The West India Docks was one of the largest and busiest docks in the world which could accommodate over 600 vessels. At its height of activity, No.1 Warehouse was filled with valuable cargoes from around the world including sugar, rum, tobacco, spices, coffee, timber and wine. These cargoes helped to established London as a one of the major trading cities of the world. For nearly 200 years, workers on the docks moved the cargo to and from the ships.
Ratcatcher, West India Dock, 1930 . Photograph by A.G. Linney (Museum of London)
Among the items on display will be the beautifully made pieces of equipment which were the working tools of the dock: 19th century iron beam scales which hung from the ceiling timbers and weighed large items or quantities, large wooden cargo casks, elaborately braided ropework baskets and iron hand winches all give some insight into the enormous scale of the dock operations.
Single purchase warehouse hand winch with a cast iron frame (Museum of London)
Smaller items include an early 19th century bronze call-on bell, which sounded the dock’s opening and closing times; a lifesize wooden sculpture of a sailor at the wheel of a ship, the trademark of mast maker Bawn & Co; iron ring weights; tobacco trolleys, meat carts, and cut away models of the docks. The gallery will also contain numerous materials from the Port of London Authority archive.
The Old Gateway, West India Docks, pre-1932 (Museum of London)
Perhaps the finest exhibit is the building itself, designed by George Gwilt and his son; with its loophole doors on each floor, security windows with spiked cast iron frames and timber columns, the warehouse is an remarkable relic of a lost era. With the new gallery development, visitors will for the first time be able to look out on to the quay through the historic loophole windows.
This new gallery really offers an exciting opportunity to see Warehouse No 1 in its true historical context and understand some of the stories behind what were considered one of the greatest docks in the world.
No.1 Warehouse Museum of London Docklands Opens on Friday 25th March 2016 and the admission is free.