A Link with Liners Past: Part Two

by Paul Louden-Brown FRSA

The historic graving docks on Queen’s Island mirror the development of the passenger vessel from its humble origins in the 1860s to the zenith of ocean liner construction before the First World War.

Those pre-war floating palaces are all gone, together with many famous graving docks built to accommodate them across the British Isles, lost beneath a mass of urban renewal that swept the nation in postwar years.

The graving docks of Belfast survive - a unique and remarkable legacy of dock construction - and a lasting link with liners past.

Above, the White Star liner Teutonic (Yard No. 208) in the Alexandra Graving Dock just days after its official opening by H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor. In the background is the tent erected for guests and to the right the concrete base and wooden staging around the as yet to be completed 100-ton crane. Teutonic's propellers have been removed for inspection and adjustments prior to her leaving Belfast for Liverpool.

Graving Dock

What is a graving dock and what is it used for? The word ‘graving’ is an obsolete nautical term for the scraping, cleaning, painting, or tarring of an underwater body. Combined with the word ‘dock’ a graving dock refers to an enclosed basin into which a ship is taken for underwater cleaning or repair.

Older graving docks were fitted with watertight entrance gates when closed permitted the dock to be pumped dry. However these gates, hinged on either side, restricted the size of vessels entering and the gates were also difficult to seal and to repair. Later designs of graving docks incorporated the use of a caisson or pontoon (sometimes called a camel by shipbuilders) that fitted closely into the entrance. The caisson is flooded and sunk in place and the water pumped out. Reversing the process the dock is flooded, the caisson pumped dry, floated and is warped away from the entrance to permit passage of vessels.

A graving dock is sometimes called a graving dry dock or just dry dock. It is, however, not a dock. A dock is an artificial basin provided with suitable installations for loading and unloading, close to the sea, where vessels can lie afloat. The dock area may communicate freely with the stream or harbour, or the entrance to it may be closed by a lock or gates.

Caisson

The primary function of a caisson is a device used for repairing outside damage to the hull at, or below, the waterline while a vessel is afloat. In the case of a graving dock a caisson is an iron or steel structure used for closing the entrance. It is constructed with buoyancy chambers and ballast tanks so that by means of valves and a pump or ejector the weight of the contained water ballast can be varied at will for floating or sinking the caisson into position.

A total of four of these types of caissons were constructed between the 1860s and 1910s for the three graving docks on Queen’s Island.

Alexandra Graving Dock

The Hamilton Graving Dock by the mid-1870s was too small to deal with the increasing size and numbers of vessels being constructed at Belfast. The solution the Commissioners’ arrived at for larger dock accommodation was a novel one. A new graving dock was to be constructed on the north eastern edge of Queen’s Island, this time on reclaimed land and running parallel with the Victoria Channel. Designed in such a way that the dock could, if required, be divided into three separate sections using two caissons and capable of accommodating vessels in the graving dock in a combination of dry or flooded dock space; it was hoped that this revolutionary type of graving dock would solve the growing crises regarding the lack of dock accommodation in the port for many years.

The first sod was cut on 24 April 1885 by H.R.H. Princess Alexandra of Wales in honour of whom the graving dock was named. Sir Edward Harland, at the time Chairman of the Board, presented on behalf of the Commissioners, an engraved silver-mounted spade and wheelbarrow to her Royal Highness for performing the ceremony.

The contract for building the graving dock was awarded to McCrea & McFarland; the Company had successfully executed many other large scale projects of a similar nature such as the Limavady & Dungiven Railway, the Letterkenny Railway and the Clogher Valley Tramway and they had also carried out a large contract for the Metropolitan Board of Works in London.

The contractors began operations with a full staff of men in early June 1885 the work superintended, on behalf of the Harbour Commissioners, by Chief Engineer Thomas Ross Salmond (1828-1917) and assisted by William Redfern Kelly (1845-1928), with Mr Powell as the Clerk of Works.

The Alexandra Graving Dock was the first large public works project where the extensive use of steam engines and cranes (over twenty different types) were employed. The land where the dock now stands was very soft and yielding; it had been filled in with dredging's out of the river when the Victoria Channel was formed in the late 1840s and later with excavated soil from the Abercorn Basin and Hamilton Graving Dock. The result of all this loose fill was that work on construction proceeded very slowly and with great difficulty. The contractors were forced to work twenty-four hour shifts, with electric lighting used to illuminate the site, from the summer of 1885 to the winter of 1886 in order to keep pace with the building schedule. At its peak about 500 men were employed and they excavated an estimated 300,000 cubic feet of earth.

Early on the contractors realised it was impossible to proceed without constructing a puddle (heavy clay) and timber cofferdam, fifteen hundred feet long surrounding the site in order to shut out the tide and keep the area dry. After this was completed the contractors were able to get the foundations of the dock walls in dry an important factor in ensuring the work was more substantial and long lasting.

The graving dock was constructed using 61,000 cubic feet of concrete and faced with the same material of the ‘best quality’. 10,000 tons of Portland cement were used, together with an immense quantity of gravel, broken stones and sand, estimated to weigh almost 100,000 tons. The floor of the dock is ten feet thick and the walls twenty-four feet thick at the base. The depth of the dock is thirty-one feet; the width at the floor fifty feet and at the coping ninety-two feet. 80,000 cubic feet of granite was used for the facings of the entrances, where large blocks were used and for the copings, four stairs, two on each side of the dock and caisson quoins also in the same fine cut and dressed stone.

A pair of iron caissons were built in 1888 by Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd., for the Alexandra Graving Dock and assigned the yard numbers 53 and 54. The first was launched from the Company’s Spencer Basin shipyard at high water on 12 May and the second, two weeks later, on 26 May. Workman’s had gained something of a reputation for building high quality caissons and in July of the same year received an order from the British Admiralty for the construction of two 1,000-ton caissons for the Royal Navy dockyard at Haulbowline Island, near Queenstown.

The Alexandra caissons were flooded in place for the first time on 3 January 1889. One was used as a floating dock gate for the entrance, with the other as a sub-division, so that while a vessel was being repaired in the upper part of the dock, another could be floated in or out without disturbing the vessel in the upper dock. The caissons had a separate steam boiler and centrifugal pump and could be emptied of the 590 tons of water contained in each of their ballast tanks in about thirty minutes, or 19.6 tons per minute. A donkey boiler supplied steam to the pumps and large sluice valves fitted on the sides of the caisson admitted water when they were to be sunk in place. The hulls were built of ‘extra quality’ specially tested iron, the keels and sterns were iron forgings, sheeted with heavy logs of greenheart timber in a similar manner to that employed on the Hamilton caisson and the roadway deck of each laid with the finest British oak. The dimensions of the caissons were: Length, 80 feet; Breadth of beam 25 feet; Depth 31 feet. Both were built under the supervision of Richard Lewis, on behalf of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

At low water there were about 24,000 tons of water in the dock, which could be discharged in about two hours by the powerful pumps located in the nearby pump house which lifted the water about thirty-three feet.

One permanent timber jetty 500 feet in length was erected on the eastern side of the entrance to the graving dock, to be used by vessels either being warped in or out. Another one, 850 feet in length, was placed along the west side of the dock; between this and the end of the dock a massive concrete base was built for the 100-ton steam crane.

The dock, caissons, pump house, steam winding capstans, crane and adjoining wharves were completed at an estimated cost of £93,000, in today’s money equivalent to almost £4.5m.

Inland, between the Alexandra and Queen’s Road on the ground now occupied by the Northern Ireland Science Park, stood a series of buildings which became known as the Alexandra Dock Works. The buildings, mostly single storey, were largely devoted to rough woodworking and for the storage of baulk timber, iron and oil. In another building samples of the various styles of decorations for the interiors of vessels such as dining saloons, staterooms and cabins were setup in order to help shipowners decide which designs to choose.

A number of accidents and incidents marred the building project. In December 1887 John Tierney was killed after being struck by a loading bucket and falling into the pit being dug for the foundations of the pump house. The most serious incident happened a year before on 4 June 1886. Tensions were running high over the Irish Home Rule Bill going through Parliament and as a consequence several riots and disturbances had occurred in the City and in the shipyards. At the Alexandra Graving Dock a single Protestant navvy was chased off the site by the majority Catholic workforce. Navving, a dirty, tough and often dangerous job, was the only work Catholics could obtain in the docks; the shipyards were off-limits to anyone other than Protestants and those belonging to the local Orange Lodges who largely controlled the workforce.

In a tit-for-tat reprisal James Curran, a Catholic, along with several others employed on site was attacked by a mob with clubs and pelted with ‘Queen’s Island confetti’ - the sinister nickname given by Island Men to rivets and other small pieces of metal used as ammunition. Curran, with others attempted to escape by swimming across the Victoria Channel but the attacks continued with more Queen’s Island confetti resulting in the drowning of Curran. Seventy persons were later charged with riotous behaviour and John Wilson, a Harland & Wolff employee, was convicted of the manslaughter of James Curran and sentenced to seven years penal servitude.

The Alexandra Graving Dock was formally declared open by H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor of Wales on 21 May 1889 when the White Star liner Teutonic (Yard No. 208) was warped into the dock. With the exception of the Birkenhead Graving Dock¹ on the River Mersey, the Alexandra was the second largest, but of its type, the only one in the world.

Above, the White Star liner Teutonic (Yard No. 208) lying alongside the Alexandra Wharf pictured shortly before the graving dock was flooded on 21 May 1889.

Above, with H. R. H. Prince Albert Victor of Wales on board Teutonic the vessel is warped into the Alexandra marking the graving dock’s official opening.


Above, this photograph was taken in March 1890 shortly before Majestic left Belfast on her trial and delivery voyage to Liverpool. The elegant cast iron gas lamp posts with copper hoods, installed shortly after the dock’s opening, seem more suited to a city centre street than this industrial landscape.

Above, the 100-ton derrick crane designed and built by J. Taylor of Britannia Works, Birkenhead. Three massive concrete pillars were poured, one for the base, the other two for the crane’s angled supports.

One of the most remarkable uses and engineering feats took place in the Alexandra in 1896 when Harland & Wolff lengthened the Cape mail steamer Scot. The lucrative contract, at the time the largest and most complicated ever undertaken, was awarded to Harland & Wolff. Gustav W. Wolff was instrumental in winning the business for Belfast. Not only a partner in the shipbuilding firm, Wolff later became a director of the newly formed Union-Castle Line when the Union and Castle lines amalgamated in March 1900, further strengthening the ties between shipbuilder and shipowner.

Scot, nicknamed the ‘White Albatross of the Cape’ held the record for the fastest passage between Southampton and the Cape. Originally constructed by William Denny & Brothers at Dumbarton, the work was won by Harland & Wolff partly because of the great size of the Alexandra Graving Dock. At the Company’s annual general meeting Sir Francis Evans, Chairman of Union Line, in reply to a question, stated Scot ‘was being lengthened by Harland & Wolff by arrangement, and not by contract, and that they did not see their way to ask for tenders to build their vessels, as they were thoroughly satisfied that the Belfast firm turned out work cheaper than they could obtain elsewhere.’ In reality Wolff had arranged for Union to become part of the shipbuilder’s exclusive ‘commission club’.

Rather than contracting for a fixed price build, Harland & Wolff simply built the finest vessel they could, or repaired it to the highest standard, applying a small commission to the final price. It seemed on the face of it a good deal for the shipowner but in reality the shipbuilder operated an internal market. By manufacturing any number of component parts on Queen’s Island and adding their profit margin, the shipowner ultimately paid two lots of profit on a large part of the construction or repair budget. The policy of ‘in house’ manufacture led to the rapid expansion of the yard as more and more fixtures and fittings were produced. Standardisation of patterns for the fixtures and fittings used in passenger accommodations was key and resulted in liners built for different companies containing similar elements. An example of this are the by now famous bronze deck bench ends that litter Titanic’s debris field. Their design dates back to White Star’s Teutonic and Majestic of 1889-90. But the same pattern of bench can be seen on a large number of steamers belonging to Dominion, Union-Castle, Red Star, Atlantic Transport etc., and the pattern was still being cast in the yard in the 1930s. The quality was of the highest standard, no question, but Harland, Wolff and latterly Pirrie developed Harland & Wolff into a virtual shipbuilding production line and in many respects similar to Henry Ford’s pioneering methods of car manufacture decades later.

Above, one of Titanic’s bronze deck benches on the seabed. The teak slates have been eaten away but the metalwork, resistant to corrosion, remains in perfect condition.

Above, in the first of Richard Quiller Lane’s illustrations the Belfast artist charted the work on Scot. In this illustration Island Men are slinging ashore Scot’s second funnel, the first having already removed. Her foremast is lying on the quay, together with three boilers while men are engaged in removing the last amounts of coal from her bunkers. Caisson No. 1 is in position at the entrance of the Alexandra, while caisson No. 2 has been warped out of dock and is lying alongside the dock quay.

Above, the bow of Scot before moving.

Above, Scot, looking forward, after moving showing the gap of 54 feet.

Above, view from the dock floor showing the ways and the support cradle constructed under the vessel's bows.

View of hauling tackle.

Above, a general view of the Alexandra Graving Dock following the successful moving of the bow portion of the vessel. After moving, the alignment was checked and not the slightest deviation had taken place. On each side of the quay are the four steam winches used during the operation; the steam to drive the winches was supplied from the Alexandra Pump House, shown on the left.

When Scot was designed and built in 1891 her length was limited by the size of the graving dock at the Cape which could only accommodate vessels up to 500 feet. Larger dock accommodation, competition from rivals and the demand for additional cargo carrying space led her owners to decide on lengthening the rather beamy ship with a ratio of 1 foot of beam to 8.44 feet of length. The plan seemed straightforward enough. Cut a five-year old ocean liner (built by another yard) between her funnels, insert a new 54 foot section, fit two additional boilers in order to maintain the original service speed of 18 knots and refit her original interior. In reality a job on this scale and complexity had never been attempted before, Harland & Wolff inventing many of the engineering techniques employed in the reconstruction.

When the ship had been docked and the water pumped out, time was allowed for settlement of the keel blocks, specially prepared of hard wood and capped with iron plates. Regular launching ways were laid underneath the vessel, supported at short intervals on blocks of timber and wedges extending from amidships to about 50 feet beyond the stem. Thoroughly level and well-greased blocks of timber in pairs, 18 inches square, were laid as a base for the cradle to support and steady the whole during the moving operation.

Meantime drillers were hard at work boring out thousands of iron rivets in the shell plating. frames, stringers etc., in line with the midships watertight bulkhead. The stanchions carrying the promenade deck were also removed as far aft as the line of separation, strong timber shores being firmly fixed to the edge of this deck by angle irons and chains (see illustrations), the lower ends resting on wedges on the dock steps. The lower edge of the various houses on the under deck were then severed by all the rivets etc. being bored out, chains and screws for tightening being attached at the bottom to short lengths of angle iron bolted to a stringer and their ends being securely bolted to the outer edges of the framing of the promenade deck.

A cradle was then gradually erected under the vessel and kept in place at the head by angle irons and top and sides where it touched the hull riveted to the shell of the ship and at bottom by stretchers of timber and chains made fast to eye-bolts passing through the bottom binder. Strong chains were slung from the top binder, passing under the keel to prevent lateral motion. 

To enable the hauling gear to be attached to the hull, a pair of heavy angle iron bars were bolted near the keel, almost amidships, to which massive chain cables were connected by shackles; these were then led forward inside the launching ways, with heavy blocks at the other end through which the hauling ropes were attached, stays of bolt iron and double angles were bolted to her sides, four on each, to which chains and steel hawsers were attached further to assist in the hauling. Two steam winches of the latest type were placed on each side of the dock gate, bolted to logs of timber and secured to the ground by angle bars, and further rendered immovable by a few tons of pig-iron resting on the logs. The winches were supplied with steam from a 4 inch galvanised iron pipe from one of the Harbour Commissioners' boilers in the nearby Alexandra Pump House and these were assisted by a couple of fully-manned capstans. 

Everything being in place and ready for action, operations began shortly before 10am and in an incredibly short space of time the immense fabric, set in motion by hydraulic jacks placed inside amidships, commenced to move ahead. The winches and capstans coming into play, kept the vessel going and in ten minutes the cradle supports, came in contact with the stop blocks, 14 feet ahead, showed the great undertaking was successfully completed. When the alignment was checked the bow had not deviated in the slightest. A remarkable engineering feat. 

In early May the main structural work to her hull was completed. Scot was floated and warped out of the Alexandra Graving Dock and placed at the fitting out wharf where the work of re-fitting her machinery and passenger accommodations began. On 27 May James Crangle, a ship’s carpenter employed by Harland & Wolff died in hospital from injuries received following an accident onboard Scot. Crangle, married with five children, suffered a fractured skull, caused after falling about 15-20 feet through a hole in the deck to the bottom of the hold. The jury at the Coroner’s inquiry found that Harland & Wolff were negligent. 

On Friday afternoon, 10 July 1896, Scot departed Belfast for Southampton and re-entry into commercial service. On board for the trial trip was G. W. Wolff. 

The Hamburg America liner Augusta Victoria arrived at Belfast in November 1896 to undergo the same process of lengthening as Scot in the Alexandra Graving Dock. The passenger liner was originally built by Stettiner Maschinenbau AG Vulcan and entered service in May 1889. On Saturday, 19 December 1896, she was warped into the graving dock under the watchful gaze of G. W. Wolff. Over the following five months Harland & Wolff fitted a 61 foot section to the midships of the vessel, increasing her tonnage by 1,502 and her speed by half a knot. One of her three masts was removed and the nine year old liner brought up to modern standards by the refitting and redecoration of her passenger accommodation. The liner’s name was also altered to Auguste Victoria, correcting the embarrassing error made over the spelling of the Empresses’ Christian name.

In March the Island Mens’ prophesy that every liner built on Queen’s Island cost a life proved correct once again. James Allan, a shipwright, met with a peculiar and horrible death onboard Auguste Victoria in the Alexandra Graving Dock. His mate left before him at the end of the day and returning to work the following morning discovered Allan’s body tightly wedged, head downwards, in a bilge manhole. The deceased had evidently tripped and in the position in which he was discovered had lain until drowned in a few inches of water.

On 11 May Auguste Victoria left Belfast for Hamburg on budget and on time where her owner’s employed her as part of the celebrations for the Line’s jubilee on 27 May 1897 where Prince Henry of Prussia and a select number of distinguished guests were invited onboard. 


This illustration by Belfast artist Richard Quiller Lane shows the total output of Harland & Wolff for 1897 at the entrance of Belfast Lough.

Above, the rapid advances in shipbuilding and marine engineering at Belfast are well presented in this illustration by Belfast artist Richard Quiller Lane of the combined Harland & Wolff output for 1897 laid out at the entrance to Belfast Lough. A total of ten launched and the lengthening of a liner brought the tonnage total to over 84,000 tons*; a significant increase over past years, helping boost the yards profits to record levels.

Name Gross Tons Register    Indicated Horse Power
Delphic (Yard No. 309)  8,273    2,750
Goorkha (Yard No. 311)  6,287    2,750
Rotterdam (Yard No. 312) 8,302       5,250
Briton (Yard No. 313) 10,248 10,000
Derbyshire (Yard No. 314) 6,636 4,300
Cymric (Yard No. 316) 12,340 6,700
Brasilia (Yard No. 318) 11,100 3,800
Winifreada (Yard No. 319) 7,020 4,900
Imani (Order A)  4,582 2,700
Monmouthshire (Order B) 7,950 2,700
Auguste Victoria (lengthening) 1,502  -
Total 84,240 45,850

*Official tonnages and yard output tonnages occasionally vary.

Possibly one of the most remarkable feats of salvage and repair to a large vessel took place following the return to Belfast of the 7,900-ton P&O passenger steamer China (Yard No. 299), built by Harland & Wolff, after she went aground on rocks at Perim in the Red Sea on 25 March 1898. The salvage operations, also undertaken by Harland & Wolff, cost £130,000. The damage to the liner was so great that it was claimed her Belfast double-bottom system and the ‘sterling work of her builders’ were the only things that prevented the liner from breaking in two. Several rocks pierced her bottom in the forepart and her foreholds filled full of water immediately after stranding. The rocks had to be blasted away by divers and the holes in the hull filled with tons of cement. After five months of intense and difficult work she was made watertight. Once this was done salvage steamers pumped her out at the rate of 1,400 tons of water per hour and on 17 September she was re-floated. Further repairs were effected at Perim and in February 1899, accompanied by a salvage steamer, she commenced the long voyage to Belfast. She arrived on 18 March and was berthed alongside the brand new White Star liner Oceanic fitting out at the Alexandra Wharf. Some of China’s crew attracted a great deal of attention after they arrived, one newspaper reporting; ‘A large number of her lascars or "coolies" visited the city yesterday, where their Oriental costume and swarthy complexions attracted much attention.’ 

With engines and boilers removed she was warped into the Alexandra Graving Dock on 23 May and only after all the water was pumped out was the full extent of the damage to China revealed. Her shell plating and cellular double bottom from the stem to beneath her boiler and engine rooms was completely destroyed. Sections of the shell plating extending above the waterline were also buckled and in normal circumstances a vessel with this amount of damage would have been declared a constructive total loss. But China was virtually brand new. Launched on 13 June 1896 and delivered to her owners at the end of November of the same year, Yard No. 299 was one of the finest vessels in the Company’s fleet. Her expensive passenger accommodation, amongst the finest designed and constructed, were largely intact and the engines and most of the boilers undamaged. 

David Simpson (standing on extreme right) poses with his squad of rock drillers and strikers beneath the hull of China in the Alexandra Graving Dock. Harland & Wolff Ltd

Above, David Simpson (standing on extreme right) poses with his squad of rock drillers and strikers beneath the hull of China in the Alexandra Graving Dock. Harland & Wolff Ltd 

The next task facing Harland & Wolff was how to remove the rocks still embedded in the bottom of the vessel and the hundreds of tons of concrete used to make her watertight. The company advertised for men experienced in rock drilling and explosives in the local press, the following appeared in the Belfast Newsletter: 

WANTED, at once, good Rock Drillers and Strikers;

top prices paid. - David Simpson, s.s. China,

Alexandra Graving Dock, Belfast. 

Working under the supervision of Harland & Wolff, Simpson and his team removed almost the entire bottom of the ship, plates, angles and concrete, with the use of dynamite, gelignite and other explosives leaving the vessel ready for the shipwrights to commence rebuilding the new bottom. Much of the rock and hardcore debris removed still litters the area surrounding the Alexandra and was also used in places to extend Queen’s Island.

On 9 December China, with practically a complete new bottom, was warped out of the Alexandra Graving Dock and placed alongside the fitting out wharf where work began on replacing her machinery, boilers and refitting the passenger accommodation; the work completed at the end of February 1900. From running aground to re-entering service a period of twenty-one months had elapsed almost seven months of that time spent in the Alexandra; the work represented one of the most remarkable feats of salvage and repair ever carried out on a large passenger liner and had cost £150,000 to complete (about £750,000 in today's money). 

In 1900 the repairs carried out in the Alexandra to another great vessel the American liner Philadelphia (formally the Inman liner City of Paris) lasted nearly six months and again drew attention to the lack of graving dock accommodation for heavy repairs and general fitting out work in the port. David Simpson² was engaged once again, following the success of operations on China, this time to remove the bottom plating of the vessel, which was badly twisted and buckled, using high explosives. The effects, sometimes spectacular, fortunately resulted only in shrapnel damage to the concrete of the dock walls and not injury to any worker.

Above, too large to fit in the Alexandra Graving Dock, the White Star liner Oceanic (Yard No. 317) was completed and fitted out at the Alexandra Wharf in early 1899. Final painting and adjustment of her propellers and rudder were carried out in the Canada Graving Dock on Merseyside.Above, the White Star liner Baltic (Yard No. 352) fitting out at the Alexandra Wharf in May 1904.

The Alexandra Graving Dock out of use for such long periods of time caused great difficulties, not only for Harland & Wolff, but also Workman, Clark & Company, the other large shipbuilding business at Belfast. Delays to the completion of several vessels, forced both yards to send them over to Liverpool for dry docking in Canada Graving Dock, at the time the largest of its kind in the world³. The net result of all this disruption led to demands for larger graving docks to be constructed on Queen’s Island. Leading the campaign for better facilities, and with the promise of larger ships to fill and pay for them, was W. J. Pirrie, Chairman of Harland & Wolff.

On a number of occasions Pirrie threatened that if the Harbour Commissioners did not invest in new dock accommodation he would move shipbuilding operations to England or Scotland as his plans for ever larger vessels were hampered by the lack of suitable graving docks, which in turn would ultimately result in loss of business and employment for Belfast.

Alexandra Graving Dock dimensions:

Extreme length - 825 feet

Breadth at entrance - 80 feet

Height of sill above bottom of dock - Level

The dock could be divided into three sections of 300, 200 and 300 feet in length respectively.


Continued reading:

A Link With Liners Past: Part One - The Hamilton Graving Dock

A Link With Liners Past: Part Three - The Thompson Graving Dock

Footnotes

1. It should be noted that the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, owners of the Birkenhead Graving Dock, opened in 1877, advertised their dock as the largest in the world at 930 feet overall. It was 105 feet longer than the Alexandra, but crucially only 60 feet wide at the entrance, compared with the Alexandra’s 80 feet.


2. David Simpson, formally of Liverpool and Tranmere, among other works undertaken on behalf of the Government was the diverting of the course of the River Shannon, removing islands, rocks etc, and making a clear and uninterrupted channel from Lough Allen to Carrick-on-Shannon.


3. The first vessel to be warped into the Canada Graving Dock was the White Star liner Cevic (Yard No. 270) on 2 May 1899 following her delivery voyage to Liverpool. 

Text and images © copyright Paul Louden-Brown/White Star Line Archive