Maritime Monday for December 17th, 2012: Port of Preston
original: Riversway Docklands, Preston
Preston: Official Guide and Industrial Handbook; c. 1960
Published by J. Burrow & Co. Ltd., Cheltenham & Gloucester
The Manchester Docks
Manchester Ship Canal Company
G Falkner & Sons, Manchester, 1921
The idea that the rivers Mersey and Irwell should be made navigable from the Mersey Estuary in the west to Manchester in the east was first proposed in 1660, and revived in 1712.
The necessary legislation was proposed in 1720, and the Act of Parliament for the navigation passed into law in 1721. Construction began in 1724, undertaken by the Mersey & Irwell Navigation Company. By 1734 boats “of moderate size” were able to make the journey from quays near Water Street in Manchester to the Irish Sea.
In 1825 an application had been made to Parliament for an Act to allow the construction of a ship canal between the mouth of the River Dee and Manchester at a cost of £1 million.
The navigation had by then fallen into disrepair, its owners preferring instead to maintain the more profitable canal; in 1882 the navigation was described as being “hopelessly choked with silt and filth”, and was closed to all but the smaller boats for 264 out of 311 working days.
Dues charged by the Port of Liverpool and the railway charges from there to Manchester were perceived to be excessive by Manchester’s business community; it was often cheaper to import goods from Hull, on the opposite side of the country, than it was from Liverpool.
A ship canal was proposed as a way to reduce carriage charges, avoid payment of dock and town dues at Liverpool, and by-pass the Liverpool to Manchester railways by giving Manchester direct access to the sea for its imports and its exports of manufactured goods.
Menu for Banquet, Manchester Town Hall, 6 Oct 1885
in celebration of the passing of the Manchester Ship Canal Act
The 36-mile (58 km) route was divided into eight sections, with one engineer responsible for each. For the first two years construction went according to plan.
The project suffered a number of setbacks and was hampered by harsh weather and several serious floods.
Norseman headed a convoy of vessels at the canal’s opening in January 1894. Seen passing the Barton Swing Aqueduct, it carried the company’s directors.
The success of the new port was a source of consternation to merchants in Liverpool, who suddenly found themselves cut out of the trade in goods such as timber, and a source of encouragement to shipping companies, who began to realise the advantages an inland port would offer.
The ship canal took six years to complete at a cost of just over £15 million, equivalent to about £1.65 billion as of 2011. The Manchester Ship Canal enabled the newly created Port of Manchester to become Britain’s third-busiest port, despite the city being about 40 miles (64 km) inland.
Once the canal was officially opened, Annie (shown above) was one of a large number of vessels that were brought to start sight-seeing cruises along its length.
These included the Falmouth Castle, former Clyde steamers Eagle and Shandon (as Daniel Adamson), Manx Fairy, Fairy Queen (From Douglas), and the John Stirling from the Forth.
In 1894 they were joined by the large chartered Clyde steamer Ivanhoe, as shown here. Smaller boats included the Irlam, Mode Wheel and Annie, the latter later serving at Maldon for cruises to Osea Island. None of the services were profitable, and all vessels moved on to further employment elsewhere.
Preston Excursion Steamers
Excursion services from Preston were never very successful, although Blackpool steamers often ran from there during the annual Wakes holiday weeks. The Ribble Passenger Transport Co had two vessels named Ribble Queen based in Preston. The Ribble Queen was a twin-screw steamer built in 1903, which was used between 1903-1905.
The second attempt came in 1922, when the 1896-built paddle steamer Ribble Queen 2 was tried until 1925.
paddle steamer Ribble Queen
image rt: Port of Preston Brochure 1949
Underlying much optimism was the construction of the Albert Edward Dock – Preston Dock – in the years 1884-1892. Up to this time Preston’s riverine location had been a rather marginal assett navigable, in Dr. Kuerden’s words, only with ‘a knowing and well-skilled pilot’.
A series of Ribble Navigation companies were floated in the 19th century, but when Samuel Horrocks was asked to invest, he replied that if he wanted to put money into the Ribble he would go upon Penwortham bridge and throw it in!
By the 1880s Preston’s largely textile based economy was apparently faltering, and the development of a Port of Preston was seen as a necessary investment in the town’s future. +
The Docks, Preston tinted postcard
Preston Docks tinted postcard
Due to a shortage of steel during the first world war, several experiments were made in the construction of ferro-concrete ships. The method of construction adopted was the ‘Ritchie Unit System’ of pre cast sections assembled on the slipways. The first ship completed was the ‘Cretemanor’ (PD110) launched in September 1919. After the cessation of hostilities the scheme was abandoned and the yard fell into disuse. No trace remains today of this enterprise other than a few bricks and the odd bit of concrete on the river bank.
Workers moulding the concrete members in wooden troughs. During World War I the shortage of labour meant that women had the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in areas that had previously been reserved for men. Here a woman is involved in shipbuilding, a traditionally male preserve.
English Heritage has assembled a number of photographs depicting the ferro-concrete shipbuilding activity that occurred at the docks here:
–abandoned concrete boat on the banks of the Ribble –
Remains of a concrete hulled boat on the banks of the River Ribble near Freckleton;
looking towards Preston – June 2005
To see a short film of the Manxman arriving at Preston click Here
As of July 2011 The vessel was being scrapped in the Pallion dry dock facility in Sunderland. Click Here to view.
TSS Manxman (1904) was a packet steamer which was owned and operated by the Midland Railway before the outbreak of the First World War.
In 1916, she was commissioned by the Royal Navy as HMS Manxman and saw action as a seaplane carrier during the First World War, after which she was acquired by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
Manxman was built at the yards of Vickers Sons and Maxim at Barrow-in-Furness and her keel was laid in 1903. She was a steel; triple-screw turbine vessel, which had an original tonnage of 2030 GRT; length 330 feet; beam 43 feet; depth 18 feet. Her engines produced a boiler pressure of 200 pounds p.s.i. and generated 10,000 indicated horsepower. This gave Manxman a service speed of 22 knots.
Manxman was certificated to carry 2,020 passengers and had a crew complement of 80.
Manxman was converted for her wartime role at Chatham Dockyard. The conversion included two aircraft hangars and a flying-off deck. She was commissioned as HMS Manxman on 17 April 1916. Her operating aircraft included Sopwith Baby, Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Camel and Short Type 184.
She served with the Grand Fleet until October, 1917. Manxman was purchased by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company from the Admiralty in March 1920. Known as a reliable ship, she enjoyed a trouble free life until she once again found herself at war.
Friedenthals Ltd; Propellers of all sizes
Each Designed for its own vessel
– The Port of Preston, brochure; rates and capacity –
Lancashire Records Office, Bow lane, Preston
Manchester – Famous British Docks; c. 1920
Lantern Slide of American Navy dredging the Canal.
Photo not dated but sometime before 1894
Prior to the Second World War employment in British docks was casual: workers would just turn up each morning, on the “stands”, and at this “Paddy’s Market”, as some called it, hope to be picked for work for that day. Needless to say health and safety didn’t get much of a look in, and if you were considered to be a ‘troublemaker’ for any reason – such as protesting against working conditions or wages – the chances of getting picked were much less.
Following the war the National Dock Labour Board was set up in 1947 to run the National Dock Labour Scheme (NDLS) to which all dockers had to be registered. Under this scheme work was allocated and wages determined, as well as providing training and medical care of dockworkers.
The Scheme was a compromise between these demands from the dockers, the the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) leadership, the union that represented most dockers, and the interests of the employers. The Dock Labour Board consisted of 50% union and 50% employer representatives. The dockers themselves were not happy with their unelected union representatives. Although there was fallback pay, so workers got a wage for turning up to the hiring pen, gangs were tied to particular ships and so could be paid quite different rates.
Between 1954 and 1955 10,000 dockers left the T&G union and joined the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers (NASD). This included approximately 40 per cent of the dock workers in Liverpool, Birkenhead Manchester and Hull.
In April 1955 the dock employers refused to recognise the registration cards of dockers who had left the T&G union, without which they would be unable to work. The men of the Manchester and Birkenhead docks struck, together with 13,000 of Liverpool’s 17,000 dockers, completely paralysing the three ports. After a two-day strike the Manchester Dock Labour Board capitulated and the Merseyside Board followed suit.
London, Oct 25: Britain Paralyzing Dock Strike Spreads to Manchester
see also: Port of Manchester Poster
– Manchester Ship Canal Patriotic Song –
Preston Docks today
© 2012 Tony Worrall
This steamship funnel waste basket is a joy to throw stuff in, its slanted shape just invites paper ball aiming contests.
Reminiscent of mighty smoke stacks and painted in the livery of the White Star Line, each wastebasket is crafted from hand turned and shaped metal and is adorned with real rivets bringing back the old character of the originals. Size: 35x25x33cm (14x10x13”)
on Buy The Sea
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