Object 14: Plain Statement of Facts, 1824

Plain Statement of Facts published by the promoters of St Katharine Dock, London, 1824

Plain Statement of Facts published by the promoters of St Katharine Dock, London, 1824. © RBS

When this pamphlet was published in 1824, the Thames in London was already lined with quays and docks, but they were ill-equipped to cope with growing demand for their facilities. Ships arriving from all over the globe had to queue to load and unload. While they waited, theft from cargoes was rife. The newer docks offered better security, but they held legal monopolies over specific cargoes, further restricting the movement of goods. This pamphlet was issued in support of a new dock which would hold no monopolies, but instead work 'in a spirit of honourable rivalry, through the means of general and open competition'. By so doing, it hoped to make Britain 'an emporium for the commerce of the world'.

Opening of St Katharine Dock, 1828 © Museum of London

St Katharine Dock was to be the first of a new generation of docks, equipped to handle any type of goods. Such an enterprise had government support, after a Parliamentary Select Committee report of 1823 had concluded that cargo-specific monopolies were not in the national interest. The plan also had the best minds behind it; it was designed by the talented architect Philip Hardwick and the legendary engineer Thomas Telford. It was to be so secure that it could specialise in valuable cargoes such as marble, wines, perfume and spices, which had always been vulnerable to pilfering.

The signs were all good, but the new dock remained an enormous undertaking, in need of massive investment to get the plans off paper and into reality. It was here that bankers played their part. One of the key promoters of the enterprise was the banker George Carr Glyn, partner in Glyn, Mills, Hallifax, Glyn & Co. His bank handled the stock subscriptions for the company's initial capital of over £1.3m. He himself invested, and was instrumental in raising more investment among his friends, family and colleagues. He served as a director and treasurer of the dock company.

bedecked from top to bottom with flags of every nation

The completed dock was officially opened on 25 October 1828 in front of an invited audience of 10,000, no doubt including George Carr Glyn and other representatives of the bank that had worked so hard to support the venture.

The first ship to enter the dock as part of the festivities was the Elizabeth. As she turned into the basin from the river, a band playing on board, the crowds caught their first glimpse of her, and saw that she was bedecked from top to bottom with flags of every nation. She, like the dock she was helping to open, was bringing the whole world to London.