Horrors in the Mist
The docks are specialised in high-value luxury commodities such as tea, indigo, silk, Persian carpets, ivory, spices, opium, coffee, cocoa as well as wine and wool, for which elegant warehouses and wine cellars were constructed at the beginning of the century.
The tea trade alone is worth £30m a year. With the enlarging of the British Empire, the docks spawned further local industry, with spice merchants and pepper grinders setting up around the docks to process goods. The area is populated by the most peculiar characters of all London. Here, between small and smoky alleys and dark and smelly buildings, all the people of the world can be met. There are small moustached Chinese men dealing in the dodgy business of smuggling opium and girls, long bearded and smily Indian gurus that sell wisdom and exotic spices and there are black muscular men from Africa at work on smelly steamers from around the world.
The area is known to be haunted by dodgy characters, political extremists, little self-employed criminals and well organised gangs of crooks. All of these splendid individuals can be found in the low-ceiling and smoky public houses found along the wharfs. One of the most famous and dirty is the Gorgon’s Head.
Rumours circulates of mysterious boxing tournaments held in the secretive Broken Jaw, an illegal gamble den. The Broken Jaw is supposed to be found in the same area of the Gorgon’s Head but its exact location is unknown to most. Some notable bare knuckle champions have developed their fairly sophisticated fighting tactics at the Broken Jaw and, despite being a well kept secret, the popularity of this despicable and dangerous entertainment has risen between the working and middle class alike.
A permanent communities of foreign sailors became established, including colonies of Lascars and Africans from the Guinea Coast. Large Chinese communities at both Limehouse and Shadwell developed, established by the crews of merchantmen in the opium and tea trades, particularly Han Chinese. This northern part of the docks became known in recent times as Chinatown.