Port of London Authority Archive
To give an idea of the extent and range of the collection, the Port of London Authority Archive currently includes:
- 10,000 books and pamphlets
- 50,000 plans and engineering drawings
- 500 maps
- 40,000 historic photographs
- 4000 historic glass slides
- 5000 paintings, drawings and prints (framed and unframed)
- 350 film reels
- 2500ft run of primary and secondary archive
- The Minute Books of the Corporation of London’s River Committee 1770-1857)
- Minute books and archives of the Thames Conservancy (1857-1909)
- Minute Books and Archives of the private dock companies
- Comprehensive records of the Port of London Authority.
The Minute Books mentioned above - over 600 in number - are unique: no copies of them exist in any other library or institution. Taken together, this archive tells the story of the formation and development of what was once the world’s greatest port, out of which grew London’s pivotal role as a centre of commercial, maritime and financial prestige.
The historic photographic archive is one of the most heavily used segments of the collection, and runs to over 40,000 images, mostly black and white but some colour. The earliest images date from the late 1850s and the latest are views of the Docklands today. The bulk of the images cover the enclosed docks of London and the River Thames.
Every aspect of cargo-handling operations for each and every commodity once common in the port is represented in the collection. Dozens of the different trades carried out in the Port are depicted including Dockers, Stevedores, Lightermen, Police, Office Staff, Riggers, Coopers, Samplers, Deal Porters, even a Rat Catcher with his dog. There are special collections on:
- the Port during the 1939/45 war
- dock construction and dock warehouses
- dock trades
- the Silvertown Explosion of 1917
- ships, sailing vessel and Thames barges
- river reaches
- hundreds of aerial views of the docks and river.
Publications and reproduction of images
The quality and scope of these images has formed the basis of several highly successful publications produced by Docklands staff. Over three hundred were chosen for the best-selling book ‘Dockland Life’: A Pictorial History of London’s Docks 1860-1970.
Images of the banks of the Thames from London Bridge down to Greenwich were used to produce the top-selling ‘London’s Lost Riverscape’.
On a daily basis prints are supplied to a wide range of customers including the media, book publishers, film makers, academics, companies relocating to Docklands, pubs and restaurants, as well as to many private individuals.
In addition to the still photographs collection, a number of excellent documentary films exist of the working port, commissioned over the years by the PLA.
Included in this collection are such notable titles as City of Ships (1939), the finest pre-war documentary about the Port of London: Waters of Time (1951), directed by Basil Wright and acknowledged as one of his best ever made: and the award-winning Faces in a Crowd (1969). For further details, see film resources
These films have immense appeal, both visually and factually, and have been a widely used by television and film companies, generating valuable income, as well as being available to the general public in VHS cassette format and DVD.
Blogs from the Archive
Here staff and volunteers offer an insight into the day-to-day tasks which help to preserve, store and manage the Port of London Authority Archive:
The Port & River Archives enquiry service and research appointments is temporarily suspended from 28 February 2013.
This is because our current archivist is leaving the Museum for another post and we are recruiting for a replacement. The service will resume once the new archivist is in post, which we anticipate will occur in July 2013.
We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
For non-archive related enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org.