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Admiralty Pier, Holyhead Harbour
Holyhead, Isle of Anglesey, Wales, UK
associated engineer
John Rennie snr
Thomas Telford
date  1810 - 1824
era  Georgian  |  category  Pier, harbour  |  reference  SH253829
ICE reference number  HEW 1095/01
Admiralty Pier was the first structure built to protect the anchorage at Holyhead in north Wales. It was one of the many harbour works by the elder John Rennie (1761-1821), and it began the development of the modern port here. Now Grade II listed, the pier is an integral part of the harbour and remains in use.
Holyhead, located on Holy Island at the north west tip of Anglesey, has had an anchorage since Roman times. Its proximity to Ireland, only 101km due east of Dublin across the Irish Sea, makes it an ideal trading and ferry port.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the port of Holyhead was a tidal creek and dry at low water. From 1765, ships operated a mail service between Britain and Ireland from the inlet. The Acts of Union (1800) joining the two countries came into effect on 1st January 1801, and highlighted the need for infrastructure improvements on the route from London to Dublin, particularly at the coasts.
In 1802, John Rennie (1761-1821) submitted his first report on Holyhead as a packet port. At the time, he was engineer and advisor to the Navy Board. The Act of Parliament enabling harbour construction was passed in 1809, having been delayed until then by competing commercial interests in Liverpool. Work began in 1810.
Rennie designed a scheme to create a sheltered area, the Inner Harbour, of six acres protected to the north by a masonry arm approximately 300m long called Admiralty Pier. The pier runs eastwards from the south of Salt Island (Ynys Halen) and was linked to the town by a swing bridge over the sound. The Custom House (pictured) and harbour office on Salt Island, and the lighthouse at the east end of the pier were all part of the project.
After Rennieís death in 1821, the project was completed by Thomas Telford (1757-1834) in 1824, at a cost of around £80,000. The pier quickly became well used and port trade flourished.
The pier is constructed in large squared stone blocks with a sloping wall on the seaward (north) side. On the south side, stone steps lead down to water level and the east end of the pier has a square projection. The 14.6m high pierhead lighthouse is a three storey tapering masonry tower supporting a glazed light with copper roof and iron-railed gallery. The Custom House and harbour office are two storey buildings of local Mona marble with hipped slate roofs.
Telford went on to design the harbourís dry dock (completed 1825) and South Pier (constructed 1823-31). Submerged rocks were removed by workers using a diving bell. The area enclosed between Admiralty Pier and South Pier is now known as Old Harbour.
In 1822-4, a triumphal arch (SH252829) was constructed west of the pier to commemorate a visit by King George IV on 7th August 1821. It was designed by Thomas Harrison (1744-1829), architect and county bridge-master of Cheshire, and marks the end of the Holyhead Road to London, the construction of which was masterminded by Telford.
On 1st August 1848, the Chester & Holyhead Railway reached Holyhead with a terminus at the head of the creek and a horse-drawn bus to the pier. The railway brought mail, cargo and passengers to the harbour. At some point, the pier was widened and lengthened by the addition of three timber jetties to increase its wharfage. From 1849, the mail boats of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company (founded 1823) used the pier for voyages from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. In 1856, the Chester & Holyhead Railway was extended onto Admiralty Pier itself.
in 1920, the mail contract was taken over by the London & North Western Railway and by 1925, the City of Dublin Steam Packet Companyís crossings had ceased. Between 1935 and 1943, the pierís timber extension structures were demolished.
In November 1993, the Salt Island buildings were listed. The Custom House is Grade II and the Harbour Office is Grade II*. In July 1994, Admiralty Pier and its lighthouse were Grade II listed.
In 1999, Irish Ferriesí high speed craft Jonathan Swift entered service on the Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire route. She docked at a new berth constructed especially on the pier, and reduced the ferry crossing time below two hours. Other companies now also operate high speed ferries from Holyhead.
On 30th September 2011, a plaque (SH248824) was presented to Holyheadís port operators Stena Line Ports Ltd to commemorate Rennieís work and mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. It was presented by the Institution of Civil Engineers Wales Cymru and is located in the ferry terminal.
Architect: Thomas Harrison
Resident engineer: James Brown
RCAHMW_NPRN 41283, 23135, 41261
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH WalesBDCE1

Admiralty Pier, Holyhead Harbour