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Philip Cunningham’s London Docks

May 2, 2017
by the gentle author

Once, the East End had the ‘docks land’ but when the docks closed and the developers moved in they rechristened it the ‘docklands’ – a transformation recorded by Photographer Philip Cunningham

‘My paternal grandfather was a dock labourer all his life. He came from Dublin and was in the Irish gunners during the First World War. He suffered from shell shock afterwards yet managed to carry on working. I never met him as he died the year I was born. When the Docks were moved out of London, the speculators wanted to develop the old wharfs but, whenever they could not get planning consent, the wharfs would mysteriously catch on fire! Very convenient for them. What a grand rip-off it was!’ – Philip Cunningham

Construction of Tower Hamlets’ new Town Hall

Free Trade Wharf, Wapping

King Henry’s Wharf, Wapping


Regent’s Canal

Lusk’s Wharf

‘whenever they could not get planning consent, the wharfs would mysteriously catch on fire’

Three Mills Island, Bow

The Grapes, Limehouse

South of the river

Building frenzy on the Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs

London Docklands Development Corporation

Protest against the London Docklands Development Corporation

Philip’s grandfather, Arthur Cunningham, worked as dock labourer his whole life

Photographs copyright © Philip Cunningham

You may also like to take a look at

A Walk with Philip Cunningham

Philip Cunningham’s Pub Crawl

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

More of Philip Cunningham’s Portraits

Yet More Philip Cunningham Portraits

A Lost Corner of Whitechapel

Philip Cunningham at Mile End Place

Philip Cunningham’s East End Shopfronts

Philip Cunningham’s East End Streets

6 Responses leave one →
  1. May 2, 2017

    Wonderful photos, for me filled with childhood memories. Valerie

  2. May 2, 2017

    Great shots and a wonderful archive of the area.

  3. Helen Breen permalink
    May 2, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    As a tourist, I really enjoyed my visit to the Docklands Museum, nice trip up the river too. Missing London today…

  4. Gary Arber permalink
    May 2, 2017

    The development of docklands caused a boom of moneymaking over the entire East End.
    The man who owned the yard behind the shop adjacent to mine put three large caravans in it and 18 workers on the development lived there.

  5. Malcolm permalink
    May 5, 2017

    The closure of the docks was the death of London as a great trading nation. The river almost died too. The subsequent development of the area into a second financial services district led to the death of local communities, like the Isle of Dogs, which had been neglected for years. The East End, as we knew it, was already in a state of decay and depression and the death of the docks finished it off. What exists today is a bright, shiny and utterly charmless conurbation of steel, glass and heartless-ness that has no time for nostalgia about the history, people or communities that preceded it.

  6. Georgie permalink
    May 5, 2017

    Never been to the docks myself, unfortunately. But these photos capture what I can only imagine to be a wonderful, characteristic place.

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