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No.1 Granary at Avonmouth Docks, site of
Royal Edward Dock, Avonmouth Docks, Avonmouth, UK
associated engineer
Louis Gustave Mouchel
date  1906 - 1908, opened 10th July 1908
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  ST511786
ICE reference number  HEW 1012
A reinforced concrete granary building that contained tall vertical storage silos, grain elevators and weighing facilities. It was the earliest of five granaries at the docks in Avonmouth, about 9km north west of Bristol. After almost 80 years of service, it fell into disrepair and was later demolished.
Granary No.1, east of the entrance to Royal Edward Dock, was constructed as a grain store for the Co-Operative Wholesale Society (CWS) Flour Mills, built around the same time. Tenders were invited for three forms of construction — timber frame with steel columns and timber piles, steel frame and columns with brick silos and concrete piles, and ‘ferro-concrete’ with steel reinforcement and igneous rock aggregate. Ferro-concrete won the tender.
Ferro-concrete was brought to Britain by engineer Louis Gustave Mouchel (1852-1908) under exclusive license from its pioneer, French engineer François Hennebique (1842-1921). Hennebique's patented method of iron and steel reinforcement (béton armé) for concrete construction used embedded metal to strengthen concrete where it would be in tension, such as the underside of floor slabs. His method tied the reinforcement in columns and beams into a single framework.
The rectangular granary building was designed by architect Francis Eldred Lodge Harris (1864-1924) and constructed by the contracting company set up by Sir John Aird (1833-1911). It was 67m long, 21.6m wide and about 25.9m high (eight storeys), and founded on reinforced concrete piles sunk into the Keuper Marl to a depth of some 21.3m. The silos could hold 50,000 quarters of grain (about 14.5 million litres by volume).
The interior was divided into three zones. The southern 18.3m section contained six levels of storage floors where the grain could be inspected. The northern end housed a grain elevator system and weigh houses. The middle section of the building consisted of 13 rows of five silos, 65 in all, each with internal dimensions of about 3.3m by 2.9m. A conveyor floor ran above the silos, and a delivery floor below them where the grain was de-sacked.
The storage floors and weigh houses were lit by iron frame windows, 1.1m high and 910mm wide with cast-in mock voussoirs. The ground floor windows at the ends of the building were 4m high and round headed with mock voussoirs. Corrugated sheet steel on steel trusses arranged in transverse ridges and furrows made up the roof.
Sacks of grain arriving at the dock by ship were unloaded using a bucket elevator located on the quay, and dropped onto conveyor belts running through an underground tunnel to the granary. The intake tunnel, constructed under a separate contract, was of reinforced concrete, 4.9m by 2.4m. Two smaller tunnels, 1.5m by 2m, ran under the building variously carrying grain to be elevated, turned over or weighed.
Railway tracks ran under cover either side of the granary. Grain ready to be sent out was delivered in bulk to waiting train wagons through spouts from the outer rows of silos.
In 1922-3, additional grain storage was provided by the construction of a larger block of silos at the south end of Granary No.1, connected to it by high-level covered bridges. Designed by architect Leonard Gray Ekins (1878-1948), the new structure was a plain-walled building with windows in the upper storey, with a clerestory light and pitched roof.
Probably around this time, the intake tunnel was abandoned and replaced by overhead gantry delivery. The conveyor system was reconfigured to increase capacity, and the storage floors in Granary No.1 were adapted to house new elevators and weighing apparatus.
In the 1950s, both granaries were given proprietary exterior rendering to combat concrete spalling and reinforcement exposure. The earlier building was in noticeably better condition than the later one, attributed to the low water content of the concrete used for it (and thus less-potentially damaging to the reinforcement). The 1920s concrete was not only wetter but had more reinforcement in it. In the 1960s, the whole grain handling and storage system was upgraded.
In 1983, owing to a significant decline in the grain trade, Granary No.1 was taken out of service. Grain handling at Avonmouth ceased in the mid-1980s, the quayside handling plant was removed and the buildings stripped of their machinery. Granary No.1 was demolished sometime before 2012.
In June 2016, an application was made to the Environment Agency to construct and operate a new Incinerator Bottom Ash Recycling Facility on the site of the CWS mills and granaries.
Architect: Francis Eldred Lodge Harris
Contractor: Sir John Aird & Co
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"A short history of the Port of Bristol" by Charles Wells, J.W. Arrowsmith, Bristol, 1909
https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk
https://millsarchive.org
www.gracesguide.co.uk
www.ice.org
reference sources   CEH W&W
Location

No.1 Granary at Avonmouth Docks, site of