The Changing Face of London – Greenland Dock

We have looked through our archives again to see how sections of Great Britain have changed throughout the 20th century (see how the Isle of Dogs and Glasgow Docks have changed). In this blog, we have a look at the extensive regeneration of Greenland Dock, one of London’s oldest wet docks. Found in Rotherhithe it was once part of the Surrey Commercial Docks.

The area was first mapped by Geographers’ A-Z Map Company for the 1938 original A-Z Atlas and Guide to London.

The dock was originally constructed on land owned by the 1st Duke of Bedford in the last decade of the 17th Century intended for the repairing and refitting of East India Company ships. However, by the 1720s Greenland Whalers were using the dock and the surrounding area to create substantial blubber boiling houses to provide oil for London. This extensive use of the dock by the whalers led to a name change to Greenland Dock. During the late 19th Century the North Atlantic Whaling industry declined and the dock was sold to another industry which took over the dominant usage of the dock. This time a Greenwich timber merchant and founder of the Commercial Dock Company (1807) bought the docks and built a series of additional docks and waterways eventually merging with Surrey Commercial Docks in 1865.

Greenland Dock remained at the centre of London’s timber trade for well over a century expanding its physical size and depth until amalgamated into the Port of London in 1909. During World War 2 the dock itself was bomb damaged and rendered unusable.  Fixed up, work flourished again until the general decline of the docklands in the 20th Century. It was eventually sold to Southwark Council. This sale is possibly one of the reasons for the preservation of Greenland dock as compared to the nearby filled-in Surrey Docks.

Greenland Dock area in 1948.

The area is now home to residential developments and a water sports centre popular for sailing, windsurfing and canoeing.

View some our maps of the area from 1938, 1962, 1975, 1985, 1994 and 2017.

A-Z Maps produce a range of publications, gifts and digital data for London and we have a host of archive and current map data that is available for purchase. Please get in touch with us for more information.

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