WE’VE unearthed these historic photographs which show a massive expansion of Tilbury Docks taking place in 1929.

The Tilbury port had opened in April 1886 in response to the overcrowding of the docklands up the river in London.

A cargo jetty was added in 1921, but by 1926 it was decided that Tilbury was just not big enough to cater for the kinds of colossal ships that were being built.

The Thurrock Gazette newspaper reported at the time: “Expansion has been necessary because the shipping using the docks is mostly vessels of the largest types trading to and from Australia, New Zealand, India and the Far East and the ships were getting too big for the original entrance.”

So in the same year, work to build a huge new entrance lock to the port and a new dry dock began. Three years later, by 1929 the work – costing £2.5 million – had been completed and in September of that year, a VIP ceremony was held to mark the finished project.

The new entrance lock and dry dock were officially opened by Lady Ritchie of Dundee – wife of the chairman of the Port of London Authority.

As one of the photos in our gallery shows, thousands of port workers lined the docks to watch as the new-look site received its official unveiling.

The new entrance lock was 1,000 ft long and almost 50ft deep and was more than capable of accommodating the largest vessels on the waves at the time.

The first ship to be welcomed into the new dock was the British ocean liner, the SS Oronsay, which is pictured in our gallery sailing up to Tilbury in September 1929.

A new road bridge, built so it could be raised and lowered for passing river traffic, was also part of the development.

The work hadn’t been all plain sailing, however and a lot of hard graft went into clearing such a huge area.

The Gazette reported: “The site for the entrance lock and dry dock were excavated by steam navvies and drag line excavators. The side walls were built by 30ft square sinking concrete monoliths.”

Tilbury Docks would see many more expansions and additions over time, but this 1929 development marked a significant new chapter in the life of the port.