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The group was formed in the late 1970s as a forum to bring together people interested in the history of Docklands and who were actively involved in its preservation and recording.  After thirty years it is still going strong with an interesting and varied programme of evening meetings and conferences.  


Back in the late 1970s, the last of the docks were closing and much of London’s Dockland was becoming derelict.  At the same time, plans were being drawn up to regenerate the whole area - a vast undertaking.  Within the areas of dereliction were many buildings and items of industrial equipment of great historical interest, many of which had not been identified.  To record this, the Docklands History Survey was set up by a group comprising representatives of the Museum of London, the Greater London Council, the National Maritime Museum and North East London Polytechnic.  The small steering group for this was gradually enlarged to include representatives of local authorities, academia and private individuals with an interest of the Port of London.  From this emerged the Docklands History Group in about 1979.


Initially the Docklands History Group was a forum for members to discuss their work and describe what they had found.  Once the Docklands History Survey Officer had been appointed, he gave regular updates on his work.  In this period a great deal of new information about the historic features in Docklands was emerging so these meetings were always of the greatest interest.  These meetings were hosted by the team within the Museum of London, led by Chris Ellmers, that had been set up to develop proposals for the creation of a Museum in Docklands and were held at the Museum of London.  The new discoveries by members of the Group and the Docklands History Survey Officer often resulted in more artefacts being collected for the proposed Museum in Docklands.  


The size of the Group was now expanding and the decision was taken to have a regular programme of lectures.  This gave researchers an opportunity to share their work with other like-minded people.  The setting up of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1981 dramatically increased the pace of development in Docklands, making recording of the historic infrastructure even more important.  At the same time the Corporation began to engage with the Museum of London on the development of proposals for a Museum in Docklands and made available an annual grant towards the work of assembling and curating the collections.  


Despite the increasing workload of the Docklands team within the Museum of London, they still administered the Group arranging the meetings and sending out the programmes and minutes for these.  Eventually the LDDC made an offer of a building for the proposed Museum and assisted with the development work.  This greatly increased the workload of the small team in the Museum working on the project and it became impossible for them to manage the Docklands History Group.  By then there was tremendous enthusiasm within the Group and members resolved to set up the Group as a separate organisation with its own committee.  This has managed the programme ever since.  When the new Museum of Docklands opened in 2003, the Group’s meetings very appropriately transferred there from the Museum of London.


Originally, officers and members of the committee were only allowed to serve for three years and could not join it again for a year.  With a relatively small group such as this there were not enough people for this to be sustainable.  In 2011 the constitution was changed so that members and officers could serve indefinitely, although they have to stand for re-election every three years.  


The change to the constitution has led to the officers and committee being able to take a longer term view of the activities of the Group and has enabled them to be able to organise annual conferences.  By the summer of 2016 they had arranged five of these and all were well attended drawing significant numbers of non-members and helping to promote the activities of the Group.  Conferences provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to bring forward the results of their work and share them with a large audience.  The Group has also undertaken to publish the proceedings of the conferences which will enable this important research to be available in the longer term to wider audiences.  Click Here to return to About Us Page 



    THE HISTORY OF THE DOCKLANDS HISTORY GROUP