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Wesley Avenue, Britannia Village, Silvertown.jpg
Wesley Avenue in Britannia Village, a completed part of the Silvertown Quays redevelopment project.
Silvertown is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
OS grid referenceTQ415795
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtE16
Dialling code020
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°30′N 0°02′E / 51.50°N 0.03°E / 51.50; 0.03Coordinates: 51°30′N 0°02′E / 51.50°N 0.03°E / 51.50; 0.03

Silvertown is a district in the London Borough of Newham, in east London, England. It lies on the north bank of the Thames and was historically part of the parish and borough of West Ham, hundred of Becontree, and the historic county of Essex. Since 1965, Silvertown has been part of the London Borough of Newham, a local government district of Greater London. It forms part of the London E16 postcode district along with Canning Town and Custom House.

The area was named after the factories established by Stephen William Silver in 1852,[1] and is now dominated by the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery and the John Knight ABP animal rendering plant.

A £3.5billion redevelopment of part of the district was approved in 2015.[2]


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 Works 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.[3] In 1864, the area became an ecclesiastical parish of its own, centred on the church of St Mark's.

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.[4] Prior to the merger, which occurred after they had died, the two men were bitter business rivals, although they had never met.[5] Tate & Lyle still has two large refineries in the area.

In 1889 Silver's factory was the scene of a twelve-week-long strike by the majority of its 3,000 workers. The strikers were demanding higher pay and were inspired by the recent successes of New Unionism in the East End of London. Management refused to negotiate with the strikers who had immense popular support. Leading figures in the strike included Tom Mann and Eleanor Marx. The workers were eventually starved back to work, with many being victimised for their role. In the aftermath of the strike, Silver's declared a half-yearly dividend of 5 percent. Silver's management were congratulated by the rest of the industry for holding a line against New Unionism.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

On the first night of The Blitz, Tate and Lyle's sugar refinery, John Knight's Primrose Soapworks, and the Silvertown Rubber Works were all badly damaged by bombing.[9]

Silver's was eventually taken over by the British Tyre and Rubber Co, later known as BTR Industries. The site closed in the 1960s and is now the Thameside Industrial Estate.[10] 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.[citation needed]

The area was part of the ancient parish of West Ham, Essex, from the 12th century onwards. West Ham became a County Borough in 1900, before merging with neighbouring areas to become the new London Borough of Newham in 1965.[11]


The residential area of Britannia Village was developed in the 1990s.[12]

On 21 April 2015, Newham Council gave planning permission to The Silvertown Partnership for a new £3.5billion redevelopment of the area. The 7 million square foot development will provide offices, a tech hub, 3,000 new homes and brand experience pavilions. A school, health centre and shops are also included in the plan and an innovative new bridge will cross the Royal Docks to get people to Custom House station[13] and Crossrail.

Construction in Silvertown (view from Shooter's Hill)

The Silvertown Partnership were selected as the development partner to take forward the regeneration of the site.

The Silvertown Partnership's plans aim to deliver a vibrant new destination in London with homes, restaurants, commercial buildings, local convenience retail facilities and significant public realm for community use. The heritage of enterprise in the Royal Docks is hoped to be revitalised bringing up to 21,000 new jobs, up to 3,000 homes and contributing £260m each year of gross value to the London economy. The redevelopment is planned to include the restoration of former flour factory Millennium Mills.[14]

In January 2015, the Mayor of London announced an initial £12m of government funding to start work on demolishing part of Millennium Mills and clearing it of asbestos.[15] Prior to this latest development, the area was transformed in the 1970s by the construction of the Thames Barrier, an adjacent park, new housing areas and London City Airport. In the mid 1990s much of the business activity in the area was centred on 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.



Tate & Lyle Silvertown sugar refinery

The Tate & Lyle Thames Refinery is a safeguarded wharf in the Port of London. It is one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with a capacity of 1.2 million tonnes per annum. The Raw Sugar and Refined and Shore Berth jetties include two bulk-handling crane. The terminal commodities are sugar, as dry bulks, and edible & vegetable oils, as liquid bulks: it exports globally and imports from Fiji, Caribbean, Africa and South America.[16][17]


From 2020/21 a new station at Custom House station will provide transport to and from the area, using the trackbed of the old North London Line. There is passive provision for a stop serving Silvertown to be built in future.

The nearest Docklands Light Railway stations 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.

London City Airport is located on the eastern edge of Silvertown. A new bridge to connect Silvertown with Crossrail's Custom House station is one of the features of a £3.5bn redevelopment plan for London's Royal Docks.[18]

Popular culture[edit]

Silvertown is featured in a ballad by Mark Knopfler, titled Silvertown Blues, which describes the area as it was before redevelopment.[citation needed]

The district also features in Charlie Connelly's book, Attention All Shipping. In the first chapter "Sea, Soup and Silvertown" the author describes his grandparents' flight from the area during The Blitz and the inspiration for the book.[19]

Melanie McGrath's book Silvertown is a novelistic account of her grandmother's life in the area, where she and her husband ran a cafe.[20]

The Sugar Girls, by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, tells the true stories of women who worked at Tate & Lyle's Silvertown factories, and features much detail on the area.[5]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (Exploration and Expedition Auctions): SW Silver & Co". Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood Ltd. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  2. ^ "Go-ahead for Silvertown development". BBC News. 22 April 2015 – via
  3. ^ Notes to London Sheet 80, Silvertown 1867 (Map). 1:2500 reduced to 1:4340. Old Ordnance Survey Maps, The Godfrey Edition. Alan Godfrey. ISBN 1-84151-861-1.
  4. ^ Notes to London Sheet 80, Silvertown 1893 (Map). 1:2500 reduced to 1:4340. Old Ordnance Survey Maps, The Godfrey Edition. Alan Godfrey. ISBN 978-0-85054-073-4.
  5. ^ a b Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi (2012). The Sugar Girls. Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-744847-0.
  6. ^ Tully, John (2014). Silvertown: The Lost Story of a Strike that Shook London and Helped Launch the Modern Labor Movement. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 9781907103995.
  7. ^ "London's explosion was at Silvertown". New York Times. 29 January 1919. Retrieved 12 June 2009.
  8. ^ Winchester C (Ed) (1937). London's Dockland Highway. Wonders of World Engineering. The Amalgamated Press. pp. 749–756.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Smoke from the bombed factories in Silvertown (image) Archived 2 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine (Port Cities) accessed 23 November 2008
  10. ^ "West Ham: Industries". A History of the County of Essex. 1973. pp. 76–89. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  11. ^ 'West Ham: Introduction', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6, ed. W R Powell (London, 1973), pp. 43-50. British History Online [accessed 15 July 2021].
  12. ^ Britannia Village Primary School
  13. ^ "Central and south east stations". Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  14. ^ "TheWharf - News - InYourArea". Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Renovation of historic mills begins". BBC News. 21 January 2015. Archived from the original on 24 July 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  16. ^ "Historic Sites and Where We Are Based | Tate & Lyle Sugars".
  17. ^ "Terminal Directory".
  18. ^ "New bridge planned in £3.5bn Silvertown Quays scheme". 24 July 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  19. ^ Connelly, Charlie (2006). Attention all shipping : a journey round the shipping forecast. London: Abacus. ISBN 9780349116037.
  20. ^ Melanie McGrath (2003). Silvertown. 4th Estate. ISBN 978-1-84115-143-4.
  21. ^ Nicholas, Michael (26 January 2016). "Frank Bailey obituary". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.

External links[edit]