St Katharine Docks were opened in 1828 to provide additional port facilities for the increasing number of world trading ships entering the Pool of London.
Built the site of the 12th century Royal Hospital and Collegiate Church of St. Katharine by the Tower, the commercial docks were designed by the famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford.
In 1921, the famous polar explorer Ernest Shackleton departed from the docks on board the schooner-rigged steamship Quest on his last Antarctic scientific and survey expedition.
Located in the heart of the City of London the docks become a centre for ‘portable wealth items’ such as brandy, rum, wine, spices, perfumes, ivory and marble imported from Europe and far off places like the West Indies, Africa and China.
Due to its tidal access and relatively small size St Katharine Docks could not compete with the larger more efficient Southbank Wharves and East London’s ‘Docklands’ facilities. As the size of the ships increased and the lack of good railway links to distribute their imported goods, the docks became less used and therefore profitable.
Severely damaged during the Second World War St Katharine Docks was closed by the Port of London authority in 1968.
Although the original quayside warehouses were demolished, St Katharine Docks were one of the first and most successful examples urban redevelopment in London. The central basins are now marina with mix of luxury yachts and historic barges, surrounded by residential apartments, restaurants, cafes, bars and shops.
A popular attraction with both locals and tourists the docks are serviced by river boats from St Katharine Pier, the Tower Gouman Hotel and on most Fridays, the gourmet Good Food Market which trades from Marble Quay Courtyard.
The Dickens Inn, opened in 1976 by a grandson of Charles Dickens, is a reconstruction of an 18th century three storey balconied inn. The 120 ton timber shell, tailboards and ironwork were salvaged from an original 1700’s wooden warehouse which stood nearby.