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Purfleet Jetty
River Thames, Purfleet, Essex
Purfleet Jetty
associated engineer
C. S. Meik
Louis Gustave Mouchel
date  1904
era  Modern  |  category  Jetty  |  reference  TQ564770
photo  Mouchel archive
Purfleet on the River Thames is one of the terminals of the Port of London. These days it is home to lubricants and margarine manufacture but at the turn of the 19th century, it was coal handling that brought the need for a jetty. In 1904, the first phase of Purfleet Jetty was constructed in "ferro-concrete" using the Mouchel-Hennebique system.
The jetty and its approach viaduct were designed by C.S. Meik. For the first section he employed the Hennebique reinforced concrete system for which Louis Gustave Mouchel was the agent in Britain. Mouchel's patented piles featured a hollow cavity. These were braced with concrete beams, in a manner similar to timber construction. The jetty was extended in 1911 using cylinder pier and precast frame techniques.
The use of mass concrete in marine structures had been largely unsuccessful before the 19th century and the development of reinforced concrete, since it tended to become unstable under water. In the late 18th century, various systems of concrete reinforcement were developed, with Hennebique's becoming the most widely used in the UK. Mouchel successfully tried out its marine application on a retaining bank at Southampton Docks in 1898.
At Purfleet, the main part of the jetty runs parallel to the shore. Its width, therefore is measured perpendicular to the beach — 18m measured in 1911. It was approached via a 91m long viaduct that included a ferro-concrete bowstring girder bridge, possibly the first of its type to be constructed in Britain.
The jetty survived three major steamer collisions before 1917, which were noted with interest by engineers, who were keen to see how the concrete structure would perform under such duress. The jetty got through these trials, and through regular maintenance — despite some (unrelated) cracking round the high water mark — it remained in service.
Major repairs were undertaken in 1950, and in 1961 the jetty became part of a larger pier complex for use by oil tankers. It was repaired again in 1979 and was in use until quite recently. It apears to be still standing.
Research: FBA
"Concrete Foundations and Substructures: A Historical Review"
by M.M. Chrimes, Proceedings Institution Civil Engineers Structures & Buildings, Vol.116, Aug-Nov 1996
"Mouchel: A Century of Achievement" published by Mouchel, 1997
"Reinforced and Prestressed Concrete in Maritime Structures"
by B.N. Sharp, Proceedings Institution Civil Engineers Structures & Buildings, Vol.116, Aug-Nov 1996
"Historic Concrete: Background to Appraisal"
by R.J.M. Sutherland, D.Humm, M.Chrimes
Technology & Engineering, 2001
"Reinforced Concrete Piers and Marine Works" by W. Noble Twelvetrees
Journal of the Concrete Institute, Vol.12 No.2, 1922

Purfleet Jetty