The Dover Western Dock Revival

Year:1848, 1898 & 2017

Duration:52, 11 & 3+ years

Cost:Unknown

Country: Dover, UK

What did this project achieve?

Port of Dover: past, present and future

The Port of Dover, situated on the South East tip of England and in close proximity to the Continent, has always been of importance to cross-Channel traffic. The history and origins of the Port can be traced right back to Roman times.

The deep cleft in the hills formed in prehistoric times by the River Dour, has always given protection to the small ships plying across the Strait.

A number of famous engineers have been associated with the port's evolution dating back to the 19th Century; including ICE Past President Sir John Rennie and ICE's first President, Thomas Telford.

Now in a new era of development, the Dover Western Dock Revival (DWDR) is a one-off opportunity for the regeneration of Dover, bringing new investment into the area.

With UK Government planning approval, DWDR will deliver:

  • Two deep-water berths and a new cargo terminal, with 13 hectares of reclaimed land for a future port-centric distribution facility .This will create greater space within the Eastern Docks for ferry traffic to support UK plc.
  • DWDR plans also include a new marina in the outer harbour and a transformed public-realm waterfront to attract a host of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants with Dover's unique backdrop of the harbour, cliffs and castle.

Difference the harbour has made

After fourpublic enquiries between 1836 and 1845, Dover was announced as the location for a combined harbour of refuge and naval base in the English Channel.

Engineer Sir John Hawkshaw was asked to design the new port. He came up with the Admiralty pier - an 800ft (244m) long stone structure curving out from the shore into the English Channel.

The pier was completed in 1854. Then another contract was awarded for a further 1,000ft (305m). This section was finished in 1864. Later works saw the pier extended to 4,140ft (1262m) by 1900.

The Dover breakwater was built between 1898 and 1909. About 1207m long and 7m wide, the granite structure forms an enclosed harbour with the Admiralty pier.

The port was an essential base for the Royal Navy during both world wars. It played a major role in the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk in 1940.

Today, thanks to the building blocks of the past two centuries, Dover remains a leading commercial port and is currently undergoing a new phase of development. The Port of Dover's flagship £250m Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) development is the single biggest investment it has ever undertaken and represents the next exciting stage of its evolution. It will deliver long-term capacity for a key international gateway handling trade to the value of £122bn and representing up to 17% of UK trade in goods.

How the work was done

Engineers working on the Admiralty pier used a dredging machine to remove mud to prepare the foundations. Workmen with shovels took over during low tide.

The project team used blocks of Portland stone to build the pier - each block weighed about 3 tons. Stones were lowered by crane and positioned underwater by workers in diving bells.

The pier was designed to be 10ft (3m) above the high water mark. The structure was faced with granite on the west side and stone quarried in Horsforth near Leeds on the east.

Work on the structure was often disrupted by bad weather – stones had to be re-laid when storms washed them out of position.

The first section of the Admiralty pier opened in June 1851. A cross-Channel packet ship (a ship carrying mail), the Princess Alice, became the first vessel to use the structure.

Engineers working on the Dover breakwater (also known as the Dover southern breakwater) used concrete blocks to build the structure.

The blocks were cast at a specially built yard on Shakespeare beach, to the west of the harbour site.

Workers used goliaths – huge cranes with a 100ft span (30m) – to move the blocks, which weighed between 24 and 42 tonnes.

The civil engineering involved in DWDR development is underpinned by an ever changing environment and techniques for construction.

For example:

  • Construction of over 2km of quay wall within a very busy commercial port, whilst maintaining access to all areas;
  • Demolition and removal of Dunkirk Jetty to maintain access to the marina via a Wick Channel diversion and this included removing a 1935-built structure down to -5m CD using innovative techniques;
  • We also encountered a considerable amount of archaeology during the excavation of the Wellington Dock Navigation Channel; some of which dated back to the 1600's along with listed structures and ancient monuments within the construction area;
  • Weather in the port, exposed to SW and NE direction;
  • Managing 5 main contractors throughout 2018, all essential to deliver a completed refrigerated cargo terminal and hinterland ready for operation in Q1 2019; and
  • Dredging 1Mm3 within a busy port with both commercial and leisure traffic, without incident.
"​‌

Admiralty pier is one of the great British engineering feats of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Heritage Conservation Officer

Port of Dover

Fascinating facts

A consignment of 2,000 carrier pigeons arrived at Dover on the mail ship Princess Josephine in August 1898.

The birds were being trained as homing pigeons for the German army. Released to fly home to Germany, they decided to stay put – roosting on the Admiralty pier instead.

Another 600 pigeons-in-training arrived at Dover the following year. Released to fly to Belgium, these birds also seemed to prefer England – none of them ever showed up across the Channel.

People who made it happen

  • Designer: Sir John Hawkshaw (ICE president)
  • Consulting engineer: Sir John Rennie (ICE president)
  • Contractors: Henry Lee and Sons
  • Dover Breakwater
    Consulting engineers: S. Pearson and Son

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