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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Dover Harbour - The Admiralty Harbour

Plans for a new National, or Admiralty Harbour were drawn up in  September 1897. These plans proposed the extension of the  existing Admiralty Pier and the building of a second pier (the  Eastern Arm) of about the same length on the other side of the bay, a mile and a half away. The gap between the two piers was to be  bridged by a detached Mole or Southern Breakwater, with an  entrance to the harbour at each end of it. The contract for its  construction was awarded to S. Pearson & Son in April 1898. This  major building project took over ten years, the harbour finally being  completed in 1909.   At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 civilian cross  Channel services were withdrawn.  The Admiralty Harbour was used  by the Dover Patrol throughout the war.  In January 1919 an  intermittent ferry service to Ostend started, with a daily service  commencing in June when the minefields had been cleared.  A  service to Boulogne resumed later the same year, and to Calais in  1920.   The Admiralty realised during the First World War that large naval  vessels in Dover were very vulnerable to air attack.  In 1919 the  Admiralty decided to abandon Dover as a naval port, retaining only  certain installations at the Camber by the Eastern Arm where old  naval craft were broken up in the early 1920s.  All other  installations were handed over to the Harbour Board with the  proviso that, should the need arise, the Admiralty could resume  possession without having to pay any compensation for  improvements that the Harbour Board may have made in the  interim.   The Navy returned in force at the outbreak of the Second World  War. The harbour was again closed to civilian traffic and played a  major role in the evacuation of Dunkirk.  The Admiralty returned  control to the Harbour Board after the war never to return.  The regular cross-Channel service to Calais resumed in April 1946,  to Ostend in September the same year and the train ferry service to Dunkirk in December 1947.   It is still the Admiralty Harbour that forms the framework of Dover  Harbour as it is today.
Map of the Admiralty Harbour 1909. Constructing the Admiralty Harbour, 1904.  The last block of the Admiralty Pier extension being laid in position on November 29th 1904. The Southern Breakwater, 1908/9.  The Breakwater and the Eastern Arm (in the distance) nearing completion. Back to Harbour Index