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Ramsgate Dry Dock
Royal Harbour, Ramsgate, Kent
associated engineer
John Smeaton
date  31st July 1784 - 17th July 1791
era  Georgian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  TR383647
ICE reference number  HEW 1322
This dry dock, since filled in but now excavated and partially restored, was designed by Smeaton as part of the construction of Royal Harbour, Ramsgate. It lies at the eastern end of the inner harbour basin. A dry dock is a kind of lock — a boat is floated in and the water removed, exposing the hull ready for works.
The bedrock in Ramsgate Harbour is fissured chalk with some natural springs. Consequently, Smeaton designed the dock to have a timber floor on wooden piles, held down by the weight of the surrounding masonry walls. This would allow water to percolate through the floor, exerting vertical pressure but not undue lateral pressure on the walls.
The first stone was laid on 31st July 1784. Resident engineer Henry Cull changed the floor design to a flat inverted masonry arch and increased wall thickness and height by 600mm. Attacks by marine borer on timber structures was severe at Ramsgate and this may have influenced his decision.
The dock was completed two years later but water rising through the floor loosened and moved the stones. By August the following year, although the floor had been relaid with 800mm thick Portland stone, it failed on the tide and caused serious damage to the north wall.
Smeaton’s original timber floor design was then implemented, the walls were repaired and the dry dock rebuilt. It was 30.5m long, 4.6m deep and some 9.4m wide, and was first used on 17th July 1791. In 1815, it was extended by 6.1m, and it remained in use for 80 years. It was then converted into an ice store and filled in but later excavated and partially restored.
Resident engineer: Henry Cull
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Reports of the late John Smeaton, F.R.S. made on various occasions, in the course of his employment as a civil engineer”
by John Smeaton, Vol.II p.187-229,
Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, London, 1812
reference sources   CEH SouthJS
Location

Ramsgate Dry Dock