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The Story of Dundee Wharf


Dundee Wharf

Some weeks ago, I told the story of Aberdeen Wharf and the close ties between this small corner of Limehouse and Scotland. Eric Pemberton who regularly provides the site with interesting ephemera has provided some information on Dundee Wharf which gives us more information about these long forgotten ties.

Dundee Wharf is a now a striking residential development with a prominent position on the River Thames. The modern buildings was built-in 1997 but occupy land that has had a variety of uses for centuries. Before it became Dundee Wharf in 1901, it was a shipyard known as Limekiln Dockyard.

Dundee Wharf is on the embankment known as the Dunbars. The Dundee, Aberdeen, Caledonia and Dunbar Wharves were once owned by the Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company.

dundee wharfgift

The Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company first began its passenger service between Dundee and London in 1826 and were one of the first to introduce paddle steamers on the route in 1835, the ships were considered the most luxurious and fastest steamers on the East coast route.

Gradually the era of paddle steamers gave way to screw steamers and the company began to expand their fleet with cabin ships which had berths for 65 first class and 60 second class passengers as well as 75 deck passengers. Business was so successful, the company opened its own terminal at Dundee Wharf, Limehouse in 1901. Although as the following newspaper report from 1906 points out, business at the wharf was good but health and safety was a bit of an issue.

An astounding discovery was made on the steamer Perth when she arrived at Dundee from London. A dock labourer named Stewart, was found to have been buried in the hold of the vessel among the cargo. He had been imprisoned for sixty hours, and during that time had neither food nor water nor light. Stewart was engaged in loading the steamer at Limehouse Wharf, when he was buried among the cargo, which consisted mainly of jute, and was taken to Dundee, which, owing to fog, was not reached until sixty hours later, or double the normal time. As the vessel was being unloaded at Dundee the men heard a cry from below: ‘That’s right mates, heave away,’ and soon afterwards Stewart was found half-doubled up among the bales. He was in a very exhausted condition.

During the war years of 1914 – 1918, many of the company’s ships were requisitioned and in 1918 the company found itself with no vessels to maintain its sailings. Eventually they were able to find ships and returned to the Dundee to London sailings and expanded with routes to Lisbon, Seville, Antwerp and Barcelona .

dundee wharf 1928

Limekiln Dock and surrounding warehouses,(Large warehouses on Dundee Wharf in the middle) 1928.

The interwar years were relatively profitable for coastal line ship companies who carried passengers and various cargoes. Some of the products bought down from Scotland included jute products, popular magazines from D.C. Thomson, jams made by Keillers, printed stationary and postcards produced by Valentines .

Dundee, Perth & London boat 1933 (1)

Dundee Perth and London Shipping Company Ship 1933

The outbreak of Second World War saw vessels requisitioned once again and more seriously, Dundee Wharf was badly damaged in a bomb attack during September 1940 and was out of action for a considerable time.

dundee wharf 1953

The SS Angusburn moored at Dundee Wharf, Limehouse, 1953.

After the war, the ships resumed the passenger service to London but were facing increasing competition from both road and rail services. In 1946, the company introduction of the three general purpose vessels “Angusburn”, “Angusbrae” and “Angusmuir”, which travelled around the world with various cargoes and became familiar sights in many ports in different parts of the world.

angus burn 1953

The SS Angusburn moored at Dundee Wharf, Limehouse, 1953.

In 1954, the company acquired a minority interest in a small London-based firm, Lockett Wilson Ltd who used Dundee Wharf to run sailings to Paris. The coastal trade became increasingly difficult to operate profitably during the 1950’s and 1960’s which led to ending of the liner service between Dundee and London which the company had been run since its formation in 1826. The last “London boat” made her final sailing in 1961 and eventually Dundee Wharf was sold in October 1969.

Once again many thanks to Eric Pemberton for bringing another piece of Docklands history to light, it is remarkable to consider that the Dundee, Perth and London Shipping Company  were bringing passengers and cargoes from Scotland to this small part of Limehouse for over 100 years.