Everybody in thinking about the London docks tends to think that all the docks nowadays have been rebuilt as skyscraper offices or swanky housing. Of course many – perhaps most – have, but Londoners, like the rest of Britain, like their new flat screen tellies and other home comforts which are imported from elsewhere. Moreover, believe it or not, London alone produces quite a few physical exports that have to go either by air or by boat.
Tilbury is one of the two London docks (apart from Heathrow) from which they come and go. The other is the new London Gateway dock, further down river at Stanford-le-Hope, apart from the oil terminal of Purfleet a bit higher up the river from Tilbury
Tilbury can be reached either directly on the north side of the river or via a short ferry from Gravesend. It is impossible to get into the docks from Tilbury itself (north of the river) and the best photos of the docks I managed were to be found using a long lens from Northfleet – at the western end of Gravesend. I had to walk down a rather grotty lane that hardly deserved the elevated title of industrial estate and poke the camera lens through some iron railings. Unlike the docks of old, Tilbury is modern, and more investment by Tilbury has been announced just recently. They are intent on buying the disused Tilbury Power Station site next door (of which I have a couple of photographs) to expand the docks.
Gravesend where a ferry is found – quite a busy ferry at that – to take you over to Tilbury – is an old river Thames port – and nowadays quite a surprisingly poor town for a place which is just a short distance beyond the Greater London Authority area. It has very high levels of non-European immigration(14% of the population at the 2011 census) and a lot of deprivation, but for all that some of the streets of the old town remain attractive.
I have taken a number of photos of Gravesend from the ferry and one of them shows the small pleasure boat Princess Pocahontas. Pocahontas (1596-1617) was captured by European Virginia settlers in one of their wars with local North American Indians and she became a Christian and married a tobacco planter (whose descendants still are around today). They came to England and she died on board a boat on the river at Gravesend and is thought to be buried at the church shown in my photograph – but the exact whereabouts of the grave are not known. The Princess Pocahontas pleasure boat makes trips up-river to Tower Bridge and down to the mouth of the river at Southend. I intend to try the trip to Southend some time in the summer.