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Lydney Docks
River Lyd, Lydney, Gloucestershire, UK
Lydney Docks
associated engineer
Astley Bowdler
Josias Jessop
Thomas Sheasby jnr
date  1811 - 1813, 1821
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  SO647013
ICE reference number  HEW 626
photo  Chris Morris
Lydney had been a port from Roman times, though its docks and locks were not built until the early 19th century. While no longer a trading port, Lydney Harbourís docks and basins have been refurbished and are well used as leisure amenities.
Coal has been exported from Lydney since the 12th century, and local oak has been used for shipbuilding. Lydney Pill, where the River Lyd entered the River Severn estuary, was the last upstream port where sea-going vessels could unload.
However, by the 17th century Lydney was reported as being unfit for shipbuilding as a result of accretion of silt from the Severn. Navigational difficulties continued and Bullo Pill, some 14.5km upstream, began to challenge Lydney as the Forest of Deanís port.
In February 1807, John Rennie (1761-1821) reported on developing transport in the area to the Department of Woods & Forests. His suggestion was for a wet dock or basin at Naas Point, and possibly a canal to Lydney.
In 1810, the Severn & Wye Tramroad Company, which operated 48km of tramway in the Forest of Dean, obtained a Parliamentary Act for constructing a basin, canal and outer harbour at Lydney to accommodate barges of 30.5m by 7.3m. A series of engineers worked on the dock design ó Astley Bowdler in 1809-10, Josias Jessop (1781-1826) in 1810 and Thomas Sheasby Jr (born c.1766), who was also resident engineer, from 1811 onwards.
The original entrance lock (SO650014) from the River Severn into the River Lyd was 7.4m wide and 4.3m deep on the upper cill, with one pair of lock gates and a pair of stop gates. All gates were of timber and capstan operated. The lock opened into a basin 231.6m long, 32m wide and 4.3m deep. A canal 930m long connected the lower basin to an upper one 335m long and 27.4m wide.
Two bridges were built during the 1810-13 works ó a curved stone bridge (SO633019) over the upper basin and a timber swing bridge (SO647013) at the west end of the lower basin. Both are now Grade II listed structures, though the swing bridge no longer moves.
In 1821, increasing trade enabled a tidal basin and an outer lock (SO651014) to be added, allowing in ships up to 406 tonnes. The 1810 stop gates were removed and a new outer lock with 10.4m wide steel entrance gates, operated by hand winch, was installed. The tidal basin between the locks is 82.3m long, 24.4m wide and 6.7m deep. Surplus water discharges into the River Severn over a weir in the south east corner of the lower basin and through an arched culvert in the lock wall.
Three quays, of 168m, 137m and 91.4m, and a horse-drawn tramway were also built along the whole length of the dock system. The western end of the works connected to Pidcock's Canal, built in 1790, which extended 2.4km further north and was used by local forges for transporting iron.
The total cost of the works 1810-21 was about £25,000.
In 1825, the north pier was extended to facilitate navigation into the basin. Lydney became the principal sea outlet for coal mined in the Forest of Dean. At their peak, the docks handled up to 406,400 tonnes of coal annually. Banks of coal sidings ran along the docks, serving nine coaling stages.
In January 1861, Thomas Howard, Engineer of the Bristol Dock Company, recommended enlarging the river entrance and deepening the tidal basin. It seems that his suggestions were not carried out.
In 1868, the tramway was converted to a broad gauge (2.14m or 7ft 0.25in) track and then, in 1872, to standard gauge (1.435m or 4ft 8.5in).
In 1894, ownership of the docks passed jointly to the Great Western Railway and the Midland Railway. In 1948, after nationalisation of the railways, they were owned by the British Transport Commission and eventually the British Transport Docks Board. With the cessation of mining in the Forest of Dean from the 1920s, the coal trade dwindled at Lydney and ceased in 1960.
In 1965, the inner lock gates and floodgates were renewed. The docks continued to operate until 1976, receiving shipments of African hardwoods from Avonmouth, which were used at the nearby Pine End factory (SO646013, built 1940) to manufacture military aircraft and plywood.
On 22nd August 1980, Severn Trent Water Authority purchased the docks to develop the area for mooring and as a public amenity. The structures, building and docks at the lower end were designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
In 1989, ownership was transferred to the National Rivers Authority, now incorporated into the Environment Agency. In 1998, the Lydney Docks Partnership was formed to create a sustainable future for the dock area.
Refurbishing Lydney Docks began in May 2002. Large quantities of silt were removed and the outer lock gates, sealed since 1976, were opened. In 2003, a £1.9 million scheme for a marina with mooring for some 50 boats was begun. Flood defences were improved, four automated metal gates were installed in the outer dock and lower basin, stonework on the walls and bases of the docks was refurbished and Lydney Docks re-opened on 23rd July 2005.
Resident engineer: Thomas Sheasby Jr
Contractor: direct labour after failure of original contractor
Lock gates (1965): Fairfield-Mabey of Chepstow
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH W&W

Lydney Docks