The Green Blackwall Collection

George GreenGeorge Green Gas maskGas maskThe Green Blackwall Collection comprises material presented to the Museum by members of the Green family between 1941 and 1977. The items are mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries and focus on the Blackwall shipyard, London.

Browse the Green Blackwall Collection – 145 items are available online.

The Collection includes:

  • ship models
  • relics and antiquities from personal belongings collected by or given to Green family members
  • house flags and ceramics from the Greens' Blackwall shipping line
  • prints, drawings and paintings illustrating the yard, the London docks and ships built by or for the Greens
  • naval and other uniforms of 20th-century pattern include a helmet and gas mask used by Edward Napier Green (right), Acting Temporary Commander, during the Second World War
  • ship plans
  • historic photographs
  • maps and charts
  • printed books and manuscripts.

The ship plans are being digitized and will be available online in the near future. The Museum's Caird Library holds maps and charts of the Thames, and manuscripts and printed books concerning the Greens and their business activities.

Researchers are welcome to visit the Caird Library and study the collection. Certain items may require an appointment. Please contact the Library for further information:

Tel: +44 (0)20 8312 6516

To find out more about the ship plans or photographs, contact the Historic Photographs and Ship Plans section:

Telephone: +44 (0)20 8312 8600

Green family history

Green's of Blackwall

George Green (1767–1849) founded this important London shipbuilding and shipping family. In 1782 George was apprenticed to John Perry (1743–1810), whose family had managed the Blackwall shipyard on the Thames since 1708. He rose quickly and in 1797, along with Perry and his two sons, became a partner in the firm.

Blackwall yard

A view of the Blackwall looking towards GreenwichA view of the Blackwall yard looking towards GreenwichBlackwall yard was founded by the East India Company and later passed into the hands of Sir Henry Johnson and his family, under whom the Perrys became involved.

The yard estate included a 17th-century wet dock. Adjacent land used for storing timber and grazing allowed expansion and the sale of various parts over the years.

From the mid-18th century up to 1815 Blackwall was the largest private shipyard in the world. Warships for the Navy, Indiamen and other vessels were built there. In 1843, the shipyard was divided and the Green family retained sole ownership of the eastern part.

Passengers and cargoes

London Docks London DocksGeorge's three sons, Richard, Henry and Frederick eventually took control. Richard, eldest, held overall direction and managed the ships following his father's retirement in 1838. Henry came to supervise the yard in 1822, having served his apprenticeship and in 1836 Frederick took charge of Frederick Green & Co., which handled passengers and cargoes.

The Greens set out to continue the high operating standards of the East India Company. Their conditions of service attracted and retained good crews, helping them maintain regular voyage schedules. They began to make Australian voyages in the late 1840s and established a monthly service after the discovery of gold in Port Victoria in 1852. By about 1860 they had a fleet of 30 ships.

Ship repairing

In 1902, with the decline of Thames shipbuilding, Richard and Henry became part of the well-known ship repairing partnership, R. & H. Green and Silley Weir. The Blackwall yard remained in use, with a major graving dock, but the main site was at the Royal Albert Dry Docks. P & O acquired control of the business in 1918 but Green and Silley Weir still had 8000 employees in the 1960s. It was sold in 1977 to become part of the Government-owned River Thames Shiprepairers and closed in 1980.

Notable philanthropists

Trinity ChapelTrinity ChapelThe 19th-century Greens were notable philanthropists, especially in Poplar, the locality of the Blackwall yard. Here George Green built the Congregationalist Trinity Chapel (where both he and Richard were buried).

They also founded the Poplar Hospital, built several schools and were involved in many other areas of benefaction. Richard's included the founding of the training ship Worcester, on the Thames, for training merchant service officers.