Preston Docks: Mike Robarts

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Preston Marina, built in what used to be Preston Dock, recently welcomed a commercial vessel. The publicised arrival attracted social media, which led me to do some research about the port. The original dock was closed to commercial shipping in 1981.

Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s first son, laid the foundation stone to the dock in 1885, opened to shipping in 1892. It was very much a hive of activity over the years, with cargoes of cotton, timber, coal and fruits. Shipbreakers also developed their business at the dock. By 1900 the dock was handling 170 ships, and a railway line to the main line and various warehouses were developed. The dock is probably best known for being one of the first to introduce roll-on roll-off ferry transport, with a link from Preston to Ireland. By the 1960s it was one of the busiest ro/ro ports.

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The Prince Albert Dock was about 915 metres x 183 metres. Information is available on line pilotage provided by the Trinity House pilots stationed at Lytham St Anne’s. Pilots were picked up or dropped off at the Nelson Buoys marking the entrance to the Ribble Estuary. Vessels would proceed with their pilot up the river Ribble, following a course along a retaining wall confining the deeper water. Vessels would then lock in to the dock.

An increase in ship sizes and the strength of the tides meant increasing pressure to dredge the navigable channel to new depths. These factors meant the dock became economically unviable and was closed by an act of parliament. Interestingly enough this unusual commercial ship call shows the continued need for our navigable waterways and ports while shipping continues to deliver important items.

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