Silvertown is an industrialised district on the north bank of the Thames in the London Borough of Newham. It was named after Samuel Winkworth Silver's former rubber factory which opened in 1852, and is now dominated by the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery and the John Knight ABP animal rendering plant.
In 1852 S.W.Silver and Co moved to the area from Greenwich and established a rubber works, originally to make waterproof clothing. This subsequently developed into the works of the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Cable Company, which constructed and laid many submarine cables. By the 1860s a number of manure and chemical works and petroleum storage depots had been set up.
Sugar refiners in the area were joined by Henry Tate in 1877 and Abram Lyle in 1881, whose companies merged in 1921 to form Tate & Lyle. Prior to the merger, which occurred after they had died, the two men were bitter business rivals, although they had never met in person. Tate & Lyle still has two large refineries in the area.
On 19 January 1917 parts of Silvertown were devastated by a massive TNT explosion at the Brunner-Mond munitions factory, in what is known as the Silvertown explosion. Seventy three people died and hundreds were injured in one of the largest explosions ever experienced in the British Isles.
In the early 20th Century the area suffered greatly from road congestion due to being located between the Thames and the Royal Docks, then the largest and one of the busiest dock groups in the world. The area was cut off for much of the time by lifting bridges over dock entrances, and by level crossings which were closed for up to three quarters of each hour by train movements. This led in the early 1930s to the construction of the elevated Silvertown Way, one of the earliest urban flyovers.
Another major local employer was the Loders and Nucoline plant at Cairn Mills, a traditional port oleo industry and formerly part of Unilever. This originally milled seeds but later concentrated on production of fats from palm kernel oil.
The area has been transformed since the 1970s by the construction of the Thames Barrier, an adjacent park, new housing areas and the London City Airport. In the mid 1990s much of the business activity in the area was centred around the brewing firm Bass.
In 2007 Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester visited Silvertown, to formally open the new Silvertown Ambulance Station on North Woolwich Road. The Silvertown Quays redevelopment on a 50 acres (20 ha) site south of the Royal Victoria Dock is scheduled to start in 2014.
The nearest Docklands Light Railway station is West Silvertown. Access was much improved by an extension of the Docklands Light Railway from Canning Town to Woolwich Arsenal, which opened on 2 December 2005. However, the old Silvertown railway station on the North London Line, was closed in 2006.
As of 2014[update], construction is underway for Crossrail which will pass through the area from 2018, using the trackbed of the old North London Line. A new station is currently planned at Custom House station and there is passive provision for a stop serving City Airport to be built in future.
London City Airport is located on the eastern edge of Silvertown.
The district also features in Charlie Connelly's book Attention All Shipping. In the first chapter "Sea, Soup and Silvertown" the author describes the his grandparent's flight from the area during The Blitz and the inspiration for the book.
In the British television drama Upstairs, Downstairs the character of Ruby leaves service with the Bellamy family to work in a munitions factory in Silvertown. She returns to 165 Eaton Place in a later episode on the very evening of the Silvertown explosion, having barely survived the disaster.
The folk punk band The Men They Couldn't Hang called their fourth album Silver Town after the district. They mention it in the LP's seventh track "Blackfriars Bridge" (I looked along the river to the shores of Silvertown / Putting up castles, what are they tearing down?).
- Alan Godfrey. Notes to London Sheet 80, Silvertown 1867 (Map). 1:2500 reduced to 1:4340. Old Ordnance Survey Maps, The Godfrey Edition. ISBN 1-84151-861-1.
- Alan Godfrey. Notes to London Sheet 80, Silvertown 1893 (Map). 1:2500 reduced to 1:4340. Old Ordnance Survey Maps, The Godfrey Edition. ISBN 978-0-85054-073-4.
- Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi. The Sugar Girls. Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-744847-0.
- "London's explosion was at Silvertown". New York Times. 29 January 1919. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- Winchester C (Ed) (1937). London's Dockland Highway. Wonders of World Engineering. The Amalgamated Press. pp. 749–756.
- Smoke from the bombed factories in Silvertown (image) (Port Cities) accessed 23 November 2008
- "West Ham: Industries". A History of the County of Essex 6. 1973. pp. 76–89. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
- Connelly, Charlie (2006). Attention all shipping : a journey round the shipping forecast. London: Abacus. ISBN 9780349116037.
- Melanie McGrath (2003). Silvertown. 4th Estate. ISBN 978-1-84115-143-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Silvertown.|
- Abandoned communities ... Central Silvertown
- Stories from Silvertown - Eastside Community Heritage
- The Sugar Girls official website