Northfleet was by 1800 the home of numerous shipyards that had produced many fine vessels, but the docks were in decline by 1843. One such yard was laid out in 1788 and owned by Thomas Pitcher, a shipwright, the first launch being of 1238 tons in November 1789. A list of merchant vessels built at his yard included at least 25 ships for the East Indies and West Indies services, and about the same number for the Navy. In 1839 the company was in the hands of Pitcher's sons William and Henry. The yard closed after William Pitcher died in 1860 having built 160 ships in 72 years but struggled on under the official receiver until 1865 when it was finally sold.

There is a fine model of such a ship in St. Botolph's Church. In the same graveyard are memorials to Russian seamen who died here while the Russian Fleet was being refitted.