The Grand Surrey – The old canal route through the Surrey Docks

The old route from the Thames to Plough Way was taken over by the large Surrey Docks complex. The docks themselves have been redundant since the 1970’s and are mostly filled in.

The original route of the Grand Surrey from the Thames to the Greenland Dock was obliterated as the expansion of the Surrey Commercial Docks progressed. However, it roughly went via what were known as the Stave Dock and Russia Dock. Today only part of the Russia Dock remains. The original canal lock was situated part way down the site of the Russia Dock, and when Greenland Dock was built, the lock was moved to the south of this.

Alternatively boats entering the Grand Surrey could take either the Stave and Russia Dock route or the Albion and Canada Docks. However, much of the canal trade was transferred from ships in the various docks into lighters for the journey down the canal. Rarely did canal lighters make a direct run from the Thames into the Grand Surrey itself.

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The second entrance built at Rotherhithe into the Surrey Commercial Docks system. This led into a basin that in turn split into the Island and Albion dock branches. The original lock, now disappeared, led straight into Stave dock. Island dock provided a secondary route into Stave dock

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The lock and bascule bridge (now fixed)

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From the lock one could enter the former Island dock (its entrance can be seen straight ahead)

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Straight out of the lock led to the Albion dock, whose entrance can be seen here

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Whilst the Albion dock has largely disappeared, in its place is this delightful canal. It looks temptingly navigable but its quite shallow. Its the Albion Channel.

The following images are a sequence going from north to south, the lifting bridge being at the entrance to Canada Dock. Canada dock led straight into Greenland dock.

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Nice attempt at a canal bridge – except it’s not representive of the Grand Surrey!

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For a representation of what the original GS route looked like, click to see two images from a low relief model at the site of Stave Dock. These show the route when Russia Dock was smaller and Greenland Dock had not yet been built. There is also a map. The images are very large files.

The former canal route through the Surrey Docks (2)

Whilst the docks have mostly disappeared (except Canada and Greenland docks) Russia dock has been partially filled, creating a wetland habitat for plants and birds. Stave Hill is a 30ft high hill offering good views all around. Its situated at the north end of the old Russia dock

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The quay walls of Russia dock exist as a reminder of its former glory days

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The site of the lock that led from the Russia dock into Greenland dock. Boats heading for the Grand Surrey Canal would have often passed through here. It was a straight run from the far end of the lock across Greenland dock into the canal proper. This was also the original alignment the canal ran on before Greenland dock was extended. The notice (below) explains this in part

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The Greenland Dock, with Canary Wharf to left. The Russia dock entrance is on the left. The Grand Surrey’s original course ran across the picture from left to right.

The shortest route of all to the Grand Surrey was through the Greenland Dock and lock. It is through here the last boats from the Grand Surrey passed through before closure of the canal in 1971. Access to Greenland Dock from the Thames is now via South Dock.

Next: Greenland Dock – Plough Lane

Grand Surrey Canal Pages: Intro / Old Surrey Docks route / Greenland Dock – Plough Lane / Plough Lane – Surrey Canal Road / Ilderton Road – Camberwell / Canal junctions & place names / Bridges & buildings / Peckham branch & canal wharves

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