White Hart Dock

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Above: Large scale map of White Hart Dock (at Black Prince Road) passing under Albert Embankment.

This is one of the more unusual docks in London. The word ‘dock’ just means a place where a ship ties up – usually to deliver or collect cargo. The word does not imply the size of the vessel that can use it or the shape or size of the dock. When they were in use there were the Royal Docks that extended over two miles in length. We talk about St Saviour’s Dock which was modified by the Victorians so that barges could be moored alongside to handle cargoes. So, expect docks to come in all shapes and sizes.

White Hart Dock is situated near the T-junction of Albert Embankment and Black Prince Road. Until the 1970s much of the land on the map – and on land to the north and south of the map – was occupied by Doulton’s factory and offices. They made everything from fine dinner plates and tea-sets to ornamental tiles for the floor or the ceiling. They also made hand-basins for the bathroom as well as lavatory pans and vitreous pipes. In fact, if it was made of pottery then Doulton used to make it in their extensive works beside the Thames. The factory in London closed down in the 1970s and all work was transferred to their other main works at Burslem, in Staffordshire.

The main ingredient – the heaviest ingredient – for a pottery is, of course, the clay. That was brought to the factory in barges from the pits where it was dug. Once the pottery has been manufactured it is just as heavy and so the barges could be efficiently used to bring the clay to the factory and then be used to carry the finished goods for shipment elsewhere.

Doulton’s factory in London was established in 1815. It was deliberately built beside the Thames for reasons just explained. When built there would have been small docks beside the river at which the barges used to moor. However, it was decided to embank the river at Lambeth and construct a new road on top of it. The result became known as the Albert Embankment, built 1866-69, designed by Joseph Bazalgette. The road on top is also called Albert Embankment as well as being the name for the embankment itself. Of course Doulton’s factory was then isolated from the river bank and so an ingenious solution was devised to allow barges access for loading and unloading.


Above: Looking north at the dock when the tide was about half out. The dock gates are beside Black Prince Road. Albert Embankment is behind the dock wall on the left. The Victoria Tower, at the Palace of Westminster, is just visible (on the far left).

A dock could have been built with a road bridge over it. However, barges are very low in the water, having no rigging above them. It was therefore possible to build a cut-through under the level of the roadway where the barges could pass and reach the dock. It was only navigable at relatively high-tides because at low water the bed of the dock is completely dry. It is L-shaped with large gates at the northern end. Those gates were for security in the first place. Today the gates are to provide for flood prevention from high tides on the Thames which become higher as the years pass. Quite why it was called White Hart Dock is not known but a likely reason is because there was a pub by that name nearby.

Due to high tides in London – and therefore the risk of flooding with really high water – there are substantial walls beside the Thames. There are substantial walls around the dock also which means that a pedestrian passing by has to look over the wall to notice that the dock is there. Many people probably pass by each day, never realising that the derelict dock is still in existence as a reminder of times when this part of the Thames saw plenty of river traffic.

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Above: Wooden installation around the dock.

The drabness of the surrounding walls must have attracted some planner’s attention because rowing boats and arches resembling a large boat were erected in September 2009 at the dock. The £90,000 installation was designed and made by Handspring Design, in Sheffield. There are plans for planting reed-beds in the dock to make it look a little less neglected.


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1 Response to White Hart Dock

  1. Penelope Tay says:

    Adrian, Another item I didn’t know about, so I will go along and have a look. I’d also like to know more about Doulton’s works. Keep up these interesting nuggets. Penelope


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