A celebration of 100 years of the Port of London Authority (PLA) began at the Museum of London Docklands yesterday. The temporary exhibition uses archive film and photos to chart the huge changes on the Thames from early Edwardian times to the present day. And what a hundred years.
Pick up any general history of London, and you can bet the opening chapter will wax lyrical about the Thames, normally calling it the city's 'lifeblood' or some such. Until fairly recently, comparisons with the renal system would have been more accurate. The river was a smelly ooze of piss and pollute - what Peter Ackroyd would describe (again and again and again) as 'noisome'. With improving water treatment and declining industry the Thames has grown cleaner and is often cited as one of the least polluted major rivers in Europe. At the same time, human activity on the water has changed beyond all recognition - from the teeming port of Empire at the start of last century, through the devastation of the Blitz, to the closure of the inner London docklands and the transformation of this area into the huge office and leisure complex we know today.
These and many other changes were made under the stewardship of the PLA. Now, the Docklands museum is celebrating the organisation's centenary with material from the PLA's archives, including over 100 captioned images and oral accounts from staff. The exhibition is supported by a trio of events for those who wish to know more about the PLA. An archive tour takes place on 6 April, with a talk on the 16th and a screening of archive film on 19th.
Port of London Authority: A Century of Service runs until 19 April 2009 at Museum of London Docklands.