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Leith Docks
Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
associated engineer
John Rennie snr
William Chapman
James Meadows Rendel
George Robertson
Alexander Meadows Rendel
Peter Whyte
Rendel, Palmer & Tritton
date  1800 - 1806, 1810 - 1817, 1826 - 1829 and onwards
era  Georgian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  NT270767
ICE reference number  HEW 80
First mentioned in around 1329, Edinburgh's port — the Port of Leith — is one of the oldest in the United Kingdom. For nearly 500 years, the port was a series of quays bordering the Water of Leith. From the 19th century onwards, it developed in stages as an enclosed dock system — Leith Docks.
The first phase of Leith Docks' development ran from 1800 to 1806, with John Rennie (the elder) as its engineer. He built the 10.4m wide, 44.2m long and 7m deep entrance lock with a 3.96m sill depth, and the East Dock, which measures 228.6m by 91.4m.
In around 1850, East Dock's original timber swing bridge was replaced by the existing iron structure, with its wrought iron handrails, iron cartwheel channels, and six cast iron ribs carrying a timber deck. The bridge is 4.6m wide and is in two sections, giving a clear span of 10.9m with a skew of 85 degrees. The overall length is about 26.5m.
Rennie was also responsible for the next stage in the port's development. Between 1810 and 1817 the West Dock was built with essentially the same dimensions as those of the East Dock.
Next, the eastern pier, followed by the western pier and breakwater, were built 1826 - 1829 and designed and supervised by William Chapman, with James Leslie as Clerk of Works. Thomas Telford was consulted when costs rose in 1828, but his advice that the level of trade did not justify the expenditure was ignored. Indeed, in 1852 the piers were lengthened as the port expanded.
James Meadows Rendel was the engineer for Victoria Dock (1846 - 1852), which is also of similar dimensions to the East Dock, though with an entrance width of 18.3m and 6.1m sill depth. He was also responsible for the 1859 Prince of Wales dry dock, which measures 116.4m by 21.3m.
Starting in 1862 and working with George Robertson, Rendel designed Albert Dock, completed in 1869 and measuring 335.3m by 137.2m, with an 18.3m wide entrance and a sill depth of 6.7m. This development was closely followed by that of Edinburgh Dock (1874 - 1881), this time with Alexander Rendel and George Robertson as engineers. Edinburgh Dock is 457.2m by 198.1m, with an entrance of similar dimensions to those of Albert Dock.
Alexander Rendel and an unknown individual were responsible for the 1881 Edinburgh dry dock, which is 91.4m by 12.2m. George Robertson was responsible for the 1896 Alexandra dry dock, which is 102.1m by 14.6m. In 1896, Peter Whyte was responsible for the construction of a 134.1m long and 9.1m high sea-wall, in what later became known as the 'Continental style' — a gently curved wave-return wall surmounting a sloping apron (similar to the North Shore Works in Blackpool).
Moving into the 20th century, Whyte together with Leith Docks designed Imperial Dock, constructed between 1897 and 1904, measuring 579.1m by 167.6m, with a 21.3m wide entrance and sill depth of 8.2m. Further development came between 1936 and 1942 with the western harbour created by the construction of two breakwaters.
The Forth Ports Authority, created in 1969, gave the port its present form. It built a new 259m by 33.5m entrance lock, designed by Rendel, Palmer & Tritton, which turned Leith into a deep-water port capable of taking ships of 10.7m draught at high tide.
Main contractor: Edmund Nuttal, Sons & Co (modern entrance lock)
Research: PD, FG
reference sources   CEH SLB

Leith Docks