Monday, April 04, 2022

'SS Great Eastern' Launch Ramp


London The Unfinished City
Steam Ship Great Eastern launching chains

Saturday, April 2, 2022

It had long been one of my ideas to walk along the Thames Path around the Isle of Dogs, to take in the historic aspects of the area.

And so, having left Borough Market and crossed the River Thames via Tower Bridge, I made my way through St Katharine Docks to Wapping and on to Limehouse, before finally making it to the Isle of Dogs.

Much of the area around West India Docks, which became disused in the 1980s, were redeveloped between the late 1980s and the 1990s, and became the second financial district for London, commonly known as Canary Wharf.

Continuing on my walk I finally reached one of the most historic places on the Isle of Dogs... Napier Yard and the launch ramp of the SS Great Eastern.

London The Unfinished City
SS Great Eastern launch ramp.

This was the exact spot from where, on January 31, 1858, following thirteen unsuccessful attempts, the SS Great Eastern was launched sideways into the River Thames. 

A model of the SS Great Eastern
A model of the SS Great Eastern, in the Museum of London Docklands.

She was the largest ship ever built, at the time, and was the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

London The Unfinished City
Timbers and the dock wall leading to the River Thames.

The slipway had been lost to the ravages of time, but was finally rediscovered in 1984 when redevelopments took place in the area. As the timbers were uncovered they were sprayed with water before they could be injected with a preservative.

London The Unfinished City
Preserved for Posterity.

The reason for the thirteen unsuccessful attempts stems from the fact that two slipways were required, rather than the usual one. Both slipways had to be at an identical height to carry the weight of the 12,000 tonne ship, but a miscalculation made the slipway at the bow of the ship being steeper than that at the stern.

London The unfinished City
A history of the SS Great Eastern.


  1. Interesting. Didn't know that. Nice bit of history and pics.

    1. There is so much history, in that area, that you could easily spend an entire day walking the Isle of Dogs, discovering interesting places.