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Prince of Wales Dock, Workington
Workington, Cumbria
Prince of Wales Dock, Workington
associated engineer
Alexander Meadows Rendel
Rendel, Palmer & Tritton
date  1864, 1922 - 1927
era  Victorian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  NX990294
ICE reference number  HEW 2014
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
The iron industry flourished in 19th century Britain, especially after the 1856 creation of the Bessemer convertor, which turned pig iron into steel. As an area with a large quantity of haematite iron ore, Workington rapidly became an iron producing town, and the Lonsdale Dock was built in 1864 to handle the trade. This wet dock was enlarged in the 1920s, when it was opened by, and renamed after, the Prince of Wales.
Located on both banks of the River Derwent, Workington was a small fishing village under the control of the Curwen family, before quays were built on the banks of the river for the export of coal to Ireland. The river was large enough to take vessels up to 400 tons.
From 1857 the Workington Haematite Iron Company Ltd built blast furnaces, then Bessemer converters and rolling mills, producing the first ever commercial quantities of mild steel. This expansion necessitated the building of the two hectare Lonsdale Dock on the north bank of the River Derwent. Designed by Alexander Meadows Rendel, it had coal drops, but also a restricted river entrance. It was therefore limited in the size of ships it could accommodate.
As local supplies of iron ores became depleted, ore was imported from Spain and South America, and it became necessary for the dock to accommodate larger ships. To the designs of Rendel, Palmer & Tritton, the Lonsdale Dock was rebuilt, enlarged to some three hectares and deepened (by Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co) between 1923 and 1927. The Dock was then opened by the Prince of Wales, after whom it was renamed.
The new Dock had an entrance 21m wide and catered for ships of 10,000 deadweight tonnage. The principal imports were iron ore, exports being rolled steel rails. The port was served by the London & North Western Railway and also by the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway. The initial contractors were Kirk & Randall of London, but they ran into problems of higher rock levels than expected as well as abnormal storms. When the company failed in March 1926, they were replaced by Sir Henry Japp.
The steelworks closed in 1974 and coal exports ceased. However, the port remains the largest in Cumbria and now caters for 600,000 tons of freight annually, remaining under the ownership of Cumbria County Council. The entrance to the harbour is protected by a short right-angled breakwater on the north side and by a long breakwater on the south side. There is a modern wind farm just to the north of the harbour.
Contractor (1923 - March 1926): Kirk & Randall
Contractor (1926-7): Sir Henry Japp
Dredging: Tilbury Contracting & Dredging Co
Research: PD and AJD
bibliography
www.portofworkington.co.uk
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Prince of Wales Dock, Workington