Albert Edward Dock
Watery Lane, Preston, Lancashire
Sir John Coode
11th October 1884 - 25th June 1892
ICE reference number
photo Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Preston's Albert Edward Dock, covering 16 hectares, was the largest enclosed dock in Europe when it opened in 1892. The port is 25.6 kilometres from open sea and served a steady stream of container and ferry traffic, peaking in the 1960s.
Preston is located on the River Ribble and a series of Ribble Navigation Companies were formed to carry out improvement works to aid the local, largely textile-based manufacturers who needed to be able to ship their goods to markets. The resulting navigation channel was 22.5 kilometre long.
The First Ribble Navigation Company (1806-1838) was primarily concerned with land reclamation and fixing the course of the river within training walls. The channel was the subject of a report by Robert Stevenson in 1837. Training walls continued to be constructed up until around 1935.
The second company (1838-1853) continued the work. By 1880 some 445 hectares had been reclaimed. R.B. Bell and D. Miller reported on it in 1866. The Third Ribble Navigation Company (1853-1883) continued the improvement works. Sir John Coode made a report in 1882.
At this point, the Preston Corporation decided to adopt a proposal first discussed in 1861 to create a dock away from the line of the river. In 1883, Parliament passed the Preston Dock Act, enabling this undertaking. Digging began in 1884, the foundation stone for the basin was laid in July 1885 and the dock was opened by Prince Albert Edward in 1892. The design is by Edward Garlick.
The dock lies north of the river and parallel to it. It measures 914m long by 183m wide. A system of greenheart locks at each end regulate the water level. The basin walls are concrete with granite copings. Most of the iron bollards, lock gate sluices and lock rams you can see there today are original.
Preston Docks were the first to introduce roll-on/roll-off ferry transport, doing so in 1948. By the 1960s, Preston held the record for container and ferry traffic. Its peak year was 1968, when 500 dockers were employed there. Its main trade was the importation of cotton and wood pulp.
However, a number of factors worked against Preston Docks in the long run — the size of ships increased, the cost of dredging the channel became prohibitive and traditional industries such as textiles declined — and it only made a profit in 17 of the 90 years it was open.
Preston Docks closed at the end of 1981. The basin has since been converted into a yacht marina and the land around redeveloped. A new swing bridge, with a pyramidal Control Building, was constructed over the dock entrance in 1985. The pontoon berths date from 1988-9 and 1991-2.
Main contractor: Thomas Andrew Walker