King's Pier is a 17th-century stone shipping quay, located on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England; part of the Jurassic Coast. It is found at the boundary point of the land owned by Portland Port Ltd, on the east side of the island within the area of East Weares. To the north of the pier is Balaclava Bay, whilst further south along the coastline are the remains of Folly Pier and Folly Pier Waterworks, East Weares Rifle Range, the two Salt Pans, Little Beach and Durdle Pier respectively. When active, King's Pier was one of the most important stone shipping pier sites.
The pier was first recorded on a map in 1710, although historical documents reveal that King's Pier was completed in 1622, for the shipment of stone to Whitehall in London. Work originally started in 1619, and cost £700. British architect Inigo Jones chose Portland Stone for the rebuilding of the Banqueting House at Whitehall, London, in 1619, and from then on the island's stone became increasingly popular. The three-year contract between Jones and the island gave Portland the chance to build various roads, and also the piers along East Weares coastline. King's Pier was one of these, and became one of the main stone shipping places on the east side. From the earliest days of the stone industry, the Islanders had the right to erect piers with cranes or sheers for shipping off stone 'from any part of the water mark'.
The limestone quarries of East and Penn's Weares were the earliest to be quarried on the island, and were the location of Sir Christopher Wren's first workings of stone to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666. The quarries occupied a 200-300m wide strip along the east coast of the island between Church Ope Cove and King's Pier. At Penn's Weare the dressing process remains clear and evident from roughly dressed stone to finely square blocks, with dressing rough-out piles in situ. These remains continue northwards into East Weare, although 19th and 20th century development has caused significant damage. The finished stone was shipped from the adjacent Durdle, Folly, and King's Piers, although only Durdle Pier remained well-preserved until early 2014 when storms destroyed the pier's standing wooden crane. The stone for St. Paul's Cathedral came from the East and Penn's Weares quarries, and the majority of it was shipped from King's Pier.
When stone was needed to rebuild St. Paul's Cathedral, a meeting in London was held on 20 January 1698, attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Dean of St Pauls, Christopher Wren and others. This meeting agreed that a contract should be drawn up for Thomas Gilbert, the quarry agent and member of the London Masons Company. Within this contract, Gilbert was to create a substantial and effective pathway from the quarries to King's Pier, for the sum of £500. The contract also ensured that Gilbert would keep the pier in good condition, with sufficient repairs at a rate of £40 per annum.
The best piers in 1800 were noted as being King's Pier, east of the Verne, Durdle Pier, and three piers around Church Ope Cove, whilst others existed at Cheyne, Underbank (Southwell), Folly Pier and crude, short-lived loading platforms under West cliffs. Castletown provided the best facilities and sheltered water, but it was furthest from the quarries. The roads between the quarries and to the piers were poor, being prone to damage by heavy carts and land movement. If in working the cliff quarries a road or way was destroyed, the adjoining owner was expected to allow it to be diverted onto his land, on receipt of 'Road Dues'.
In the Portland Year Book 1905, a chronology of the island, King's Pier was recorded as the location of an incident in the year of 1755. A cart loaded with 2 and a half tons of stone fell over the head of the King's Pier, and rolled down 100 feet without doing any other damage than breaking two of the horses ribs.
Once quarrying in the area was reduced, the quay fell out of use, and any cranes were removed. It is believed that the some of the remains of King's Pier were used in the foundations of the butt of a nearby, small rifle range further north along the coastline. This range was later demolished. The remnants of the King's Pier quay ended up being used as a small breakwater with a fence on it to mark the beginning of the naval base. Portland Harbour was sold off by the Royal Navy in 1996 as a commercial port run by Portland Port Ltd and Portland Harbour Authority Limited. The fencing to stop the public from entering the land on King's Pier continues to stand today.
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