St Katharine Docks - view from the Tower Bridge

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St Katharine Docks - view from the Tower Bridge ( 640x480 )
St Katharine Docks are located on the North side of the Thames River in Borough of Tower Hamlets, close to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. In the past they were part of Port of London serving as commercial docks. Nowadays the area is popular housing and leisure complex.

The name was derived from the hospital of St Catherine that stood on the site from the 12th century. The site was earmarked to be redeveloped in 1825 and it started in May 1827 and the docks were officially opened on 25 October 1828.

The quays were designed by engineer Thomas Telford. To make the quayside as large as possible he designed two linked basins. The entrance to both East and West basin was from the river. The water level in basins was kept lower than in the tidal river thanks to steam engines designed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. The warehouses designed by architect Philip Hardwick were built right on the quayside so the goods could be unloaded directly.

The disadvantage of the St Katharine Docks was that it could not accommodate large ships. Therefore, in 1864 they were connected with London Docks and in 1909 all docks in London became part of the Port of London. During the World War II St Katharine Docks were damaged by German bombing and they never fully recovered. In the 1950s warehouses were still in use but the inability to take large ships led to closing of the Docks. They were definitely closed in 1968 and sold to Greater London Council.

In 1970s warehouses were demolished and new houses were built. The site became a model example of successful urban development. Today there are offices as well as public and private housing, then one hotel, shops, restaurants and a pub. Original basins were changed into marinas and other recreational facilities. Also due to the location of St Katharine Docks, they remain a popular leisure destination.
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