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A slowly regenerating dockland district situated between the Thames and Royal Victoria Dock. Industry and accompanying housing grew up on the marshes after the cutting of the railway to North Woolwich in 1847, prompting the opening of Silvertown’s own station in 1863. The town takes its name from one of the first manufacturers, SW Silver’s rubber works. In 1877 Henry Tate set up his sugar cube factory in Silvertown and four years later Abram Lyle began to produce Golden Syrup at nearby Plaistow Wharf. The two companies merged in 1921. The arrival of treacle refineries and jam makers gave rise to the nickname ‘the sugar mile’. Not all of Silvertown’s industrial history is so sweet: London’s largest ever explosion occurred in 1917 at the Brunner Mond munitions factory. 73 people were killed and much of the town was destroyed, only to be rebuilt after the war along the same lines as before. During the Second World War Silvertown was a prime target for German bombing. On one occasion a ring of fire forced the Woolwich ferries to mount a Dunkirk-style evacuation of the inhabitants. The latest residential developments here are taking shape at West Silvertown and Silvertown Quays. The Silvertown Link is a proposed river crossing to North Greenwich, due to open in 2016. However, it has not yet been decided whether this would be a bridge or a tunnel.

Tate & Lyle's Silvertown sugar refinery

The effect of wartime bombing in Silvertown is shown in Graham Sutherland’s Devastation: an East End Street (1941, Tate Britain).

Postal district: E16
Station:Silverlink Metro (Silvertown & London City Airport, Zone 3)
Further reading: Melanie McGrath, Silvertown: An East End Family Memoir, Fourth Estate, 2002

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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