Collection: S W Rawlings Collection

1945 - 1965
Collection containing Photographic material
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This collection of monochrome photographs taken by S W Rawlings between 1945 and 1965 provides a fascinating glimpse of the working Thames and its estuary in its heyday. Many of the images show busy docksides: vessels moored in the Port of London; containers being loaded and unloaded at London Docks, West Quay; men at work painting a ship's hull in dry dock at Tilbury Docks; and barrels in wine gauging ground on the North Quay of the London Docks.

As well as views of the River, there is a series of images of the interiors of some of the many warehouses that once framed the River Thames. These photographs show wine and carpet warehouses as well as the people who worked in them, notably Cutler Street Warehouse and a transit shed at King George V Dock containing exports for Australia.

Other images reflect the architecture along and close to the Thames, including the many bridges. Other sites include pubs, commemorative monuments, piers - notably Royal Terrace Pier at Gravesend and Tower Pier - and power stations at Deptford and Battersea.

There is good coverage of the range of watercraft common on the Thames at this time including Thames barges at Woolwich, pleasure launches at Tower Bridge, rowing boats at Eton, tugs at Gravesend, boats at Teddington Lock, as well as cargo ship from the Far East and North America.

Archival History

Stanley Rawlings worked for the Port of London Authority (PLA) for over forty-three years. He joined the PLA's Resident Engineers' Department at West India Docks in 1921. After working in other departments he joined the Public Relations Department in 1931.

Following the Second World War he returned to the Information Office (as the Public Relations Department became known), where he was the Authority's photographer. It was during this time that he was able to record the working River, some of his images being published in the PLA Journal and in The Londoner's River, 1949. He was promoted to Chief Clerk in the General Manager's Department in 1959, before becoming Chief Clerk of the Engineering Department until his retirement in July 1965.

In May 1989, shortly after her husbands death, Mrs G M Rawlings donated his photographic collection to the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME). It was catalogued in detail between February and March 2000.

The collection consists of over 1292 monochrome acetate and glass negatives and their corresponding file prints. There are two albums of black and white photographic prints which mostly correspond to the negatives; any image without a negative was been noted during cataloguing. A group of family portraits and holiday shots has been catalogued at series level.


This Collection is divided into 3 Child Series
This Collection contains the following materials:
Photograph (Negative): 1,401
Photograph (Print): 2,991
Photograph Album: 2


© Historic England Archive

People & Organisations

Photographer: Rawlings, Stanley William