The Dock & Railway
Drydock & Sailing ships
Falmouth Packet Archives 1688-1850
1866 Plan of Falmouth Docks (Courtesy of Gerald Trethowan, RCPS Local History Researcher, 1999)
Pre-1913 view of the Docks from Trefusis. Note Training Ship in Ragatta regalia. (Courtesy of CSL)
FP 17/4/1897: Falmouth Docks. Historical Sketch.
May 1858: Public meeting in the Town Hall, noted; irrespective of coasting vessels, estimated at over a million tons, 16.078 vessels of a registered tonnage of 4,093, 412 had arrived at the port during the preceding 9 years. It was considered essential to the proper development of the port that increased accommodation should be provided for ships calling requiring their cargoes to be discharged and repairs effected cheaply and with dispatch. A committee of five gentlemen, Mr. Alfred Fox as chairman, was appointed. Later that year, Mr. James Abernethy, at the request of this committee, made a survey and report on the harbour, and afterwards prepared plans and estimates for such dry docks, slips, wharfage and storage accommodation as was deemed necessary, at something over £250,000.
In November 1858, prospectuses were issued by the committee to the public, and another meeting was held at the Polytechnic Hall. [His recommendations would cost under £300,000 and works might be completed in about 3 years.]
In April 1859, an Act of Parliament for carrying out the undertaking was passed and received the Royal assent, the first directors being Mr. Alfred Fox (chairman), Messrs E. B. Tweedy, Samuel Gurney, M.P., Geo. Williams, R. R. Broad, and Howard Fox, with Mr. John P. Bennetts as secretary. The first general meeting of the company was held on 16th June 1859.
On 28th February 1860, the foundation stone was laid by the Rt. Hon. Viscount Falmouth, and in 1861, lucrative work was being carried on in discharging and storing cargoes, and repairing ships in the graving dock. The profit for the half-year ending 31st December 1861 was £527 16s 1d. and the profits steadily increased until in 1863, when the second engraving dock and the western wharf were completed, and the profit for the year amounted to £2,466 19s.
The prospects of the Docks were enhanced by the opening of the Cornwall Railway. [Truro-Falmouth line opened 1863]
In the same year the directors made part of a very influential deputation to Lord Stanley, then Postmaster General
, to point out to him the advantage of making Falmouth [again] the port of arrival and departure for foreign mails; but an objection was raised that there was not a sufficient depth of water at the docks, nor adequate [passenger] accommodation. [Construction of the Falmouth Hotel commenced in 1864]. The causes for these objections were removed as soon as possible, but the directors were disappointed in 1867
, when Her Majesty's Government, in selecting a Western port for the landing of the West Indian Mails,
again passed over the undoubted claims of Falmouth.
In 1865, arrangements were entered into with the agents of the Peruvian Government for establishing at Falmouth a depot for the importation of guano, and extra stores were built to meet the demands of this trade, which for several years was a remunerative source of income to the docks.
Agreements were also made in this year  with the British, Irish and Liverpool Line of steamers - and this is still a source of revenue.
The storm of January, 1867, and the hurricane of March 17th, damaged the eastern breakwater and works so seriously that the directors (were forced to) obtain shareholders' authority to arrange for the Public Works Loan Commissioners to take possession of the property and advance funds necessary for completing repairs.
Between 1869 and 1871, nearly £10,000 was spent on dredging and deepening the tidal harbour and all its approaches, which has been repaid with interest out of revenue.
In 1870 and for a few years subsequent, the export of china clay and iron ore promised to become a large source of income to the Docks, but the construction of the mineral railway connecting Fowey with the main line again diverted this trade from Falmouth. The profits of the latter half of 1876 reached £5,266.
The universal depression of trade which followed very greatly affected the docks, and the loss of the china-clay and guano trade which occurred soon afterwards, coupled with the gradual substitution of large iron ships for old wooden vessels,[ a source of profit from repairs] was sorely felt.
The Docks management, had to increase the size and depth of their No. 2 graving dock, and it is now one of the finest docks in the west of England. Management had to search for fresh ways of earning an income. With the aid of their able and energetic Superintendent (Mr. F. J. Bowles) business of every kind was most carefully cultivated and encouraged, and, in 1889 the importation of grain assumed important dimensions, over 71,000 quarters having been landed in that year, since when the quantity has year by year increased, in the year just passed, , no less that 222,000 quarters were landed and delivered at the Docks.
FP 24/7/1858: Falmouth.
Our harbour has this week presented a very animated appearance, from the large number of vessels which have arrived. Several are grain-laden from the Danube.
In 1870, 406 vessels used the Docks, with 120,000 net tonnage.
In 1896, the total reached 1,920, with a tonnage of 320,860.
Profits: 1861 £ 527
1862 £ 1,154
1867 £ 3,000
1869 £ 4,681
1874 £ 5,898
1877 £ 6,115 (THE HIGHEST EVER REACHED)
1892 £ 2,506
1893 £ 2,544
1894 £ 2,108
1895 £ 1,259
1896 £ 4,766
FP 24/4/1897: The "Lady Roberts" built at the Ailsa Shipping Yard, Troon, for the British, Irish Steam Packet Company, arrived at Falmouth on Sunday [18th]. 275 ft. LOA, 26.15 ft. beam, 16.55 ft. depth moulded.
The lines are very graceful, and the internal fittings are ornate and elaborate. The handsome saloon, which is panelled with bird's eye maple and rare woods, is upholstered in green figured velvet. In the centre of the saloon is a magnificent skylight, and there are luxurious sprung lounges around the saloon. Accommodation is provided for 128 first and 49 second-class passengers, in spacious state-rooms and berths. Leading from the saloon are sic state-rooms and comfortable ladies cabin. On deck, there are nine more state-rooms, and a well-appointed smoking room. The vessel is electrically lighted with 180 lights, and every improved appliance for navigation or comfort of passengers has been provided.
The engines are of triple compound, with cylinders of large diameter, and on the trial 14 1/2 knots were obtained. The vessel is steady in a sea, and one of the finest ships employed on the coasting service. Captain Watts, who has her command, is an experienced officer, having been with the company for the last 38 years.
FP 14/4/1905: Ship-Breaking
Messrs Cox & Co., have purchased HMS Pigmy
and intend having her towed here shortly to be broken up. [see also 1909: T.S. Cambridge
, towed to Falmouth for breaking up.]
Bar Road, outside the Docks entrance
Opposite Imperial Buildings, Bar Road: Hotel, Garage, Stonemasons, Drinking Fountain [Photo by Philp]
Typical view - drydock & sailing ships
Today this drydock (now covered) is used by Pendennis Shipyard who occupy most of this area of the Docks.
British Tankers in Falmouth Docks..
[Image courtesy of coyright owner Peter Harvey]