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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

Dover Harbour - The Western Docks

The nucleus of the Western Docks is the docks and basins that  have developed on the site of the original mediaeval and Tudor  harbour.   Between 1840 and 1843 improvements were made to the Pent with  all the quays rebuilt in stone.  Then work commenced on enlarging  the the Tidal Harbour by removing a large area of land in the  north-east corner.  This enabled the construction of a new entrance from the Tidal Harbour into the Pent with lock gates and a bridge  for the public.  This work cut through Union Street and involved the demolition of many buildings and the removal of 3000 wagon loads  of soil a week from 1844 to 1846.  The new bridge was opened by  the Duke of Wellington, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and  Chairman of the Harbour Board..  The bridge was named after the  Duke and the Pent renamed the Wellington Dock.   The South Eastern Railway opened its Town Station in 1844 giving  a speedy link to London.  The first section of the Admiralty Pier was built between 1848 and 1854. In 1861 the London Chatham and  Dover Railway opened the Harbour Station providing a second link  to London. The Harbour Board started further improvements, especially in the  Tidal Harbour, which were completed in 1871.  The rebuilding of  the Basin between the Tidal Harbour and the Wellington Dock and  completed in 1874.  It was named the Granville Dock after the then  Lord Warden, Earl Granville.  Other improvements, including the  laying of railway lines along some of the quays to allow the easy  transport of goods, were completed in 1879.  The entrance of the  Wellington Dock was widened in 1888 to allow larger ships to use  it. The Western Docks were expanded through the 20th Century.  In  the early 1900s the Prince of Wales Pier was briefly host to the  German trans-Atlantic liner traffic.  The Marine Station opened to  civilian traffic after the First World War and the Train Ferry Dock in  1936.  After the Second World War the growing Eastern Docks and  the popularity of car ferries reduced the number of traditional rail  to ship passengers. New services were developed from the Western Docks with the building of the Hoverport and later the introduction  of jetfoil and seacat services.  After the closure of the Marine  Station the site was redeveloped into the highly successful cruise  liner terminal.  The Granville and Wellington Docks continued to  handle most of the cargo traffic through the port until the middle of the 20th Century.  As the commercial traffic declined the two docks were redeveloped into the Marina. The Port of Dover Master Plan published in March 2006 outlined  proposals to develop a new ferry terminal at the Western Docks  with direct road access to the A20/M20. This could provide a  location for up to four new ferry berths. In 2014 more detailed plans were unveiled.  To make better use of  space in the Western Docks, it will be necessary to modify Prince of Wales Pier and absorb the old Hoverport and some of the land  currently dedicated to freight customs clearance. In addition it will  be necessary to reclaim the Granville Dock and the Tidal Harbour  marina areas to create adequate space for the new terminal. The marina is an important asset to tourism and the attractiveness  of the harbour front. So the plan outlines proposals to create a new marina in a more prominent position in the outer harbour in the lee  of the Prince of Wales Pier. It is interesting to compare the plans for development of new  berths along the Prince of Wales outlined in the plan of 1906  (below left) with the plans from 2014 (below right).  
The Harbour in 1830. The Inner Harbour c1880.  A map showing the improvements carried out since the 1830s. The Granville Dock c.1910. The Wellington Dock c.1905.  The postcard this picture is taken from is mis-titled 'Granville Dock'. The Wellington Dock c.1910. Back to Harbour Index Proposals for port improvements, 2014. Proposals for port improvements, 1906.