Home » Dock Life » Inside the No.1 Warehouse at the Museum of London Docklands – Opens Friday 25th March 2016

Inside the No.1 Warehouse at the Museum of London Docklands – Opens Friday 25th March 2016


Yesterday, I was fortunate to get a sneak preview of the major new gallery at The Museum of London Docklands, the new permanent gallery is entitled No.1 Warehouse and 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.


The new gallery looks at the inner workings of London’s docks and warehouses and bring to life the warehouse when it was part of the large dock complex. The historic equipment and machinery illustrates that much of the technology in the 19th century relied on human labour with a number of barrows on display. The films show the dock and warehouse in their heyday with large number of dockers employed in all aspects of work. The gallery benefits by containing a large amount of materials from the Port of London Authority archive.


Some of the screens show historic images that have been incorporated into computer graphics to recreate parts of the docks where no film exists. There are also screens that show how the warehouses were designed and built. Each storey of the building was originally a different height – dictated by the nature of the cargo to be stored. The ground floors were designed to store two tiers of goods. The upper floors stored a single tier of goods, while the top floors held the lighter cargoes such as coffee, cocoa and cotton.


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.


Looking around the gallery and watching the films gives some insight into the enormous scale of the dock operations. Warehouse No 1 was part of a huge complex that employed thousands of workers and moved millions of tonnes of cargo.


One of the reasons that the warehouses were built was security and looking around the building, you can still see security windows with spiked cast iron frames and timber columns. In many ways, the finest exhibit is the building itself, designed by George Gwilt and his son


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.



  1. Kim Russell says:

    Visited today. Enjoyed the walk around and the chance to visit somewhere linked to my family. Very interesting and well laid out.

    5th Great Grandaughter of George Gwilt

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