London has been a significant maritime trading port since Roman times. With the growth of the British Empire, it became the busiest port in the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. For nearly two millenia, most loading and unloading took place in the Pool of London, the stretch of the River Thames from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. But by the end of the 18th century, demand for quayside space had outstripped capacity, and throughout the 19th century private companies constructed new enclosed docks in what became known as Docklands.
Although Docklands was very heavily bombed in World War II, and has now been redeveloped for office and residential use, London remains one of the largest ports in Britain, with new docks further downriver. Its capacity will increase considerably with the completion of the massive deep-water port at London Gateway.