Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,159 pages of information and 233,681 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Royal Dockyards

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1496 Portsmouth Dockyard established. Rose to prominence during the wars with France, late 18th century. Expanded significantly in the nineteenth century with new facilities for steam engineering and ironclad shipbuilding. Privatised 1993. In November 2013 the operator BAe Systems announced that it was closing its shipbuilding facility at Portsmouth; part of the shipyard will remain open for repair/maintenance.

1512 Woolwich Dockyard - An important shipbuilding centre in the 16th-17th centuries. Became a specialist steam yard 1831. Closed 1869.

1513 Deptford Dockyard. An important shipbuilding centre in the 16th-17th centuries. Experimental yard for new technology, early nineteenth century. Closed 1869. (The adjacent victualling yard, which supplied the Thames and Medway yards, remained open for a further 98 years.)

1514 Erith Dockyard A failed Yard: closed 1521 due to persistent flooding.

1567 Chatham Dockyard The leading Royal Dockyard during the 16th-17th centuries, when the Fleet was principally based in and around the River Medway. Began to suffer from silting in the eighteenth century, but remained active. During the nineteenth century, other more accessible Yards led on fleet repairs and maintenance, while Chatham focused more on shipbuilding. The following century, it specialized in building submarines. In 1960 the adjacent Royal Navy barracks and facilities were closed; the Dockyard itself closed in 1984. (Today the site is preserved as Chatham Historic Dockyard.)

1632 Harwich Dockyard Active during the Anglo-Dutch Wars; closed 1713 (a small Naval yard remained on site, with refit/stores facilities, until 1829.)

1665 Sheerness Dockyard Originally built for storing and refitting; for much of its history served as a support yard for Chatham. Shipbuilding began in 1720 (mostly smaller ships). Entire dockyard rebuilt to a single design by John Rennie Jnr in 1815-26. Closed 1960 (site taken over as a commercial port).

1690 Plymouth Dockyard Pre-eminent, alongside Portsmouth, during the wars with France (1793 onwards). Known as Devonport since 1843. Significant expansion for steam engineering, 1844–53 and 1896-1907. Shipbuilding ceased in 1971, but the Yard remains active as a maintenance and repair facility.

1815 Pembroke Dockyard Unlike all the previous Yards, Pembroke was built purely for shipbuilding rather than for repair and maintenance. It was successor to a Yard at Milford Haven leased by the Navy Board for shipbuilding since the late eighteenth century. Active through to the end of World War One, the Yard was closed temporarily in 1923, reopened in the 1930s and closed permanently in 1947. (A small Naval Base remained on the site until 2008.)

1845 Portland Dockyard Previously in use as an anchorage, a Yard was established here to provide coal for the new steam-powered ships of the Navy. In the 1850s there were plans for dry-docks and building slips, but these were not carried through. Very active through two World Wars, the Dockyard closed in 1959; site taken over as a commercial port. (Adjacent Naval Base and RN Air Station closed in 1995-99).

1853 Keyham Dockyard H.M. Steam Factory and Dockyard; maker of marine boilers; also site of the Royal Naval Engineering College.

1869 Haulbowline Dockyard, Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour was established as a Naval Victualling Yard in 1811 (in succession to an earlier base at Kinsale further along the coast). It was extended in 1869 in order to create a sizeable Royal Navy Dockyard, specialising in ship repair and maintenance. In 1923 the island was handed over to the Irish government; Haulbowline remains the principal Naval base of the Republic of Ireland. A steelworks was established on the site of the Dockyard in 1938.

1909 Rosyth Dockyard Built with a strategic view to countering the threat from Germany. Closed after World War One, reopened 1939, and has remained open since. Privatized in 1993, but continues to build and maintain Britain's warships.

1921 Proposal to close the Royal dockyards in South Wales and Ireland met strong protests.[1]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1921/04/29