© www.dover-kent.co.uk 2000 - 2016 
Home History Defence Transport Leisure Places People Words Information Contact
Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Dover Harbour - The Eastern Docks

The now important Eastern Docks grew from a small beginning, in  the eastern corner of the Admiralty Harbour. In the right angle made  by the junction of the Eastern Arm with the shore a, roughly square,  area of the harbour, known as the Camber, was enclosed by the West Jetty, jutting out from the shore, and the South Jetty, built out from  the Eastern Arm.   During the First World War the Camber was used to accommodate  the Dover submarine flotilla and their depot ship, HMS Arrogant. An  oil and coal storage depot had been established on the shore in 1907  and was used by the Admiralty in both World Wars. After the war the  Admiralty broke-up obsolete naval vessels at their dockyard and in  the Camber until 1925.   After the Admiralty’s withdrawal a private ship-breaking business  started up in the Camber. In 1930 the Tilmanstone Aerial Ropeway  was opened, bringing coal from Tilmanstone Colliery to a bunker for  loading ships at the end of the Eastern Arm. The Southern Railway  also had a coaling hopper, opened in 1932 and supplied by coal  wagons worked along the Promenade Railway to the Eastern Docks.  From the late 1920s Captain Townsend started to operate his car  ferry service from the Camber, thus starting the trade which was to  build the Eastern Docks into what it is today. In the Second World War the Camber became home to motor torpedo  and motor gunboats of the Royal Navy. Torpedoes and mines were  stored in specially excavated tunnels in the cliffs. A number of  cavernous fuel storage tanks had also been built into the cliffs to  supplement the existing Admiralty fuel depot.   After the war the ship-breaking business returned to the Camber. The old Admiralty oil depot was taken over in two parts, one by Esso and  one by Shell-Mex. Parker Pens opened a factory here and freight  ships docked at the Eastern Arm. Townsend car ferries resumed  operation and in 1951 designed their own linkspan at Calais, which  allowed car to drive off the ferry in France even though they were  loaded by crane in England.   In 1953, when 117,000 vehicles a year were using the port, a new  car ferry terminal at the Eastern Docks was opened allowing roll-on,  roll-off traffic to start. The ever-increasing demand soon rendered the two berths inadequate and extra capacity and new terminal building  opened in 1970.   The first Hoverport opened here in 1968 increasing the cross-Channel  car carrying capacity. The Hoverport moved to its new location at the Western Docks in 1978. The steady growth in traffic caused serious traffic congestion in the  town at peak times and in 1977 the A2 by-pass was opened and  named Jubilee Way in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee that  year. The road left the top of the cliff and was carried down to the  dock gates by a graceful curved viaduct. Originally built with some of  its supports actually in the sea, this viaduct is a good measure of how much the Eastern Docks have grown since the late 1970s. Land  reclamation for further ferry births and parking for cars and lorries  waiting to cross has resulted in the viaduct now being firmly  landlocked, with all of its supports on dry land.  You can see a photo  of the docks and the viaduct in 2008 on the general harbour history  page. The Eastern Docks Ferry Terminal is reaching full capacity with little  scope for further expansion, there are proposals to develop a new  ferry terminal at the Western Docks.
An aerial photograph of the Eastern Docks in 1949.  The metal pylons on the astern arm are part of the Tilmanstone Aerial Ropeway that suppiled the coal bunkers on the Eastern Arm direct from the colliery. The first car ferry berths under construction in the late 1950s. The completed car ferry berths c.1960. The Eastern Docks in the early 1960s. Back to Harbour Index