Portland Harbour

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This article is about the harbour in England. For the port in Maine, see Port of Portland (Maine). For the port in Oregon, see Port of Portland (Oregon).
Southern and eastern entrances of Portland Harbour looking northeast from the Isle of Portland across Balaclava Bay. The dark colour of the water between the two breakwaters in the foreground indicates the position of the scuttled battleship HMS Hood.
The western side of the Harbour with Chesil Beach, Lyme Bay and the Fleet Lagoon in the background.

Portland Harbour is located beside the Isle of Portland, off Dorset, on the south coast of England. It is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. Grid reference: SY 685 765.

History[edit]

Historically the original harbour was formed by the protection offered by the south coast of England, Chesil Beach and the Isle of Portland. This gave protection from the weather to ships from all directions except the east. King Henry VIII built Portland Castle and Sandsfoot Castle to defend this anchorage.

Construction of the modern harbour began in 1849 when a breakwater was to the south of the anchorage, made of blocks from local quarries on the Isle of Portland, under the civil engineer John Towlerton Leather, with James Meadows Rendel as engineer in chief, and John Coode as resident engineer. This was completed in 1872 and created a much larger harbour providing protection from south-easterly winds. The Verne Citadel fort, Nothe Fort, East Weare Battery, High Angle Battery and two forts on the breakwaters were also built, including Portland Breakwater Fort. The detention barracks of East Weare Camp were built above the East Weares Battery circa 1880. The area of quarried stone now features Nicodemus Knob, which is a landmark pillar left as a quarrying relic to mark the extent of how much stone was removed.[1] The nearby Royal Naval Hospital in Castletown served Portland's naval base from the late 19th century until 1957, when the hospital was handed over to the NHS, whilst the now-disused East Weares Rifle Range served the navy and other military soldiers from when it was built by 1903.

In 1906, with the threat of torpedo attack from the eastern side of the anchorage, two more breakwaters were added. A further barrier against submarine attack from the south came in 1914 when the battleship HMS Hood was scuttled across the southern entrance to the 1848 breakwater. Its wreck still remains, although it is deemed too dangerous for divers. In 1905, the breakwater's Portland Breakwater Lighthouse was built, which continues to operate today.

The second of only two Victoria Crosses awarded for action in the United Kingdom was posthumously bestowed on Jack Foreman Mantle, who died at his post on HMS Foylebank during a 1940 air raid on Portland Harbour. Mantle is buried in the Portland Royal Naval Cemetery. Hermann Göring's nephew — Hans-Joachim Göring — was a pilot in the Luftwaffe with III Gruppe./ZG 76, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110. Hans-Joachim was killed in action on 11 July 1940, when his Bf 110 was shot down by Hawker Hurricanes of No. 78 Squadron RAF. His aircraft crashed into Portland Harbour during an air raid.

The strategic importance of Portland's Naval Base and Dockyard during the rise of Second World War was fundamental, and in 1940 it was decided that an underground headquarters and communications centre should be constructed. By 1941, the Portland Naval Communication Headquarters was completed, built into the hillside at the rear of the dockyard.[2]

Modern Port[edit]

The Harbour was sold off by the Royal Navy in 1996 allowing it to be used as both a centre for water sports and as a service facility for Channel shipping. The commercial port is currently operated by Portland Port Ltd and Portland Harbour Authority Limited. Commercial activities on the water include specialist diving services for vessels and repairs & maintenance as well as a bunkering (fuelling) station. The port is used by all nature of vessels from commercial ships such as bulkers, tankers, container carriers car carriers, survey and Reefers etc. to British and foreign naval vessels. Commercial activities on the land of the dock estate include fuel storage, natural gas storage, several engineering facilities and a shell fish specialist.

The Portland Harbour Revision Order 2010 provides for the creation of new berths and hardstand areas at the port in order to allow increased commercial activities over the next 50 years. These new facilities have been identified as part of a master plan and business strategy developed by Portland Port. The development is designed to increase berthing opportunities and provide more operational land.

The four identified areas for development are:[citation needed]

  • Britannia Terminal Area
  • North of Coaling Pier Island
  • Camber Quay Development
  • Floating Dry Dock Development at Queen's Pier

The port also sees various cruise ship calls bringing visitors to the Dorset area. The Britannia Cruise Terminal, which was opened in July 1999 and again refurbished in 2005 has seen the likes of Royal Caribbean, Azamara, Club Cruises, Saga and Crystal Cruises use it as a start point for excursions in the wider Dorset region and beyond.

Recreation[edit]

The harbour is a popular location for wind surfing, wreck diving and sailing. Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy which hosted sailing events in the 2012 Olympic Games, is located on the south-western shore of the harbour. In October 2007 work commenced on a new marina and recreational boating facility. Some 250,000 tonnes of Portland Stone was used in creating the 875m breakwater and associated reclaimed land. This facility was open by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in April 2009 and is situated directly adjacent to the National Sailing Academy. Apart from the usual freshwater, fuel, shore power and pump-out facilities the marina also has a bar/restaurant, 15 retail/business units and 5 larger commercial units.

In addition to Hood, there are other dive wrecks around the harbour:

  • on the inside of the harbour, against a breakwater:
    • Countess of Erme - barge 30 metres north of the Eastern Ship Channel
    • the Spaniard - barge 50 metres south-west of the Chequered Fort
    • a World War II landing craft and a Bombardon Unit, a harbour device intended for the D-Day beaches in Normandy, 50 metres north east of the curve of the south break water
  • in "open" water inside the harbour:

Grade listed features[edit]

The harbour and dockyard has various buildings and structures that are Grade Listed.

East Weare Battery was built in the 1860s to protect the harbour, consisting of sections A to F, and sits below the cliff to the east of the Verne Citadel. After being active throughout both World Wars, part of it was used by the Royal Navy, along with other NATO allies, for Flag Officer Sea Training, and other forms of naval training. When the Royal Navy left Portland Harbour, and Portland Port Ltd became the new owners, the site fell into total disuse from this point and has yet to be seen by the public. It became Grade II Listed in May 1993.[3] In addition to this, the 'E' section of the battery has become a scheduled monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance.[4] East Weare Camp, a detention barracks built in 1880, originally served the East Weare Battery which lies 200 feet below. It was later converted to coastguard use in 1914. Later on it fell into disuse and remains in a derelict state, on the private land of Portland Port Ltd. It became Grade II Listed in September 1978.[5]

In May 1993, the Dockyard Offices became Grade II Listed. These offices are set in two conjoined buildings, and date from the mid 19th century.[6] The inner breakwater, and its jetty and victualling store became Grade II Listed in September 1978. The store is dates from 1850 and is a long 11-bay stone structure.[7] At the end of Castletown village, closest to the point where Portland Port begins, is the former Dockyard Police Station. The MOD police station was initially a railway station, dating from around 1865. It was built to serve the naval base which was expended under Palmerston's administration in the 1860s. It has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[8][9]

At the top of the nearby, private incline road is the abandoned Old Engine Shed that once served the cable-operated inclined railway that ran to Castletown through the Navy Dockyard that is now Portland Port. The Portland Gas Trust has made plans for a £1.5m project to transform the buildings into an interpretation centre, which were to be the highlight of the Trust's work for the next few years. Situated on the cliffs above Portland Gas' Dorset facility, the centre was planned to have an audio visual room, display areas and café, and will function as a visitor attraction and an educational resource. However as of 2014, work has yet to start.[10][11] The shed has been Grade II Listed since January 2001.[12]

Breakwater defences[edit]

Situated across Portland Harbour's four breakwater arms are various defensive structures and related monuments. Many of these are still in existence today, however are derelict and remain unopened to the public.

One of the most dominant of these structures is the Portland Breakwater Fort, located on one of the outer breakwaters. It was built to defend the harbour, and the circular sea fort was started in 1868 and the building was completed in 1875. Designed by Captain E. H. Steward of the Royal Engineers, the guns were added in 1892. It was armed and active until being reduced to care and maintenance by February 1945 before it was abandoned in 1956 and handed over to the navy. Since its closure the fort remains derelict and unseen by the public. In 1995, Dorset Sculpture Trust attempted to seek funds from the Millennium Fund to turn site into an arts centre, and in 2011 a local historical group wished to use the fort as a home for a new Weymouth Timewalk attraction and a maritime history museum. None of these materialised. As of 2005, it was estimated that it would take £10 million to repair the fort for commercial use, and that it was not a priority for the current port owners.[13] This was despite published reports in 1996 that Portland Port Ltd had made possible plans of the renovation of historic coastal fortifications in the area.[14]

At the fort is a World War II 29 millimetre spigot mortar emplacement (pedestal), which was constructed after May 1941, of concrete and steel. A field visit in 1983 found it to be in a good condition.[15] A World War II pillbox is located at the fort, which is of a Naval design, square in plan, measuring about 14 feet square with embrasures set across the forward corners. It was constructed in 1940-41 and is built of concrete. A report of 1993 found the structure to be extant.[16] A World War II battery observation post is also located at Breakwater Fort, constructed in 1940-41 and built of brick and concrete. A field visit in 1986 found the structure to be extant.[17]

Further along the same breakwater arm, towards Portland, are two World War II coast artillery searchlights. The first is located not far from the fort's area, and the other is located a little further along, near Beacon 'E' light. Both searchlights were constructed in 1940-41, of brick, concrete and iron. A field visit in 1983 found the structures to be extant.[18][19]

On the northeast breakwater, at the southern end, directly opposite the fort, is the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, still active today since being established in 1905. The first Portland breakwater light was shown in 1851, and afterwards from the fort at the end of the breakwater as then completed in 1876, before the lighthouse first shone out in 1905. It was decided to supersede the navigational light on top of the fort with the lighthouse close by, as under the rules of war the enemy is forbidden to fire at a lighthouse and so the fort guns would have had an advantage during the First World War.

The lighthouse site was also the location of a coastal battery, known as A Pier Head Battery, which was built as part of Portland's coastal defences. The battery opened in 1901 and was armed with two 12-pounder quick-firing (QF) guns for anti-torpedo craft defence. In 1944 emplacements were constructed to replace the 12-pounder guns with 6-pounders, which were mounted by 1954. During the Second World War it was manned by 106 Battery of 522 Coast Regiment. A field visit in 1983 found the structure had been demolished.[20] A World War I torpedo station was located on 'A' Head. During World War I it had two 18 inch torpedo tubes which were operational from 1915 until 1918. The torpedo station was also operational from 1940 until 1945 during World War II.[21] During World War II a petroleum warfare site consisting of four flame throwers was located on 'A' Head. Constructed in 1940-41, the 1983 visit found the site had also been demolished.[22]

Although the battery and station are now demolished various defensive buildings still remain on site, including a World War II battery observation post. The observation post was constructed in 1940-41 and is built of brick and concrete. A field visit in 1983 found it to be in a good condition.[23] The B Pier Head Battery is located on the far end of this breakwater, whilst C Pier Head Battery is located on the breakwater at Weymouth's end.[20]

On the North Eastern Breakwater, within the centre area, is a World War II coastal battery with coast artillery searchlights. The battery was constructed between 1940 and 1941 and is built of brick, concrete and iron. A field visit in 1983 found the structure to be extant. It is close to the near Distant Torpedo Range. Alongside is a World War II coast artillery searchlight, which was constructed in 1940-41 and built of concrete, brick and iron. It was also found to be extant in 1983.[24] A coast artillery searchlight battery is located close by on the same arm too.[25] Further along towards Weymouth on this arm is a World War II 29 millimetre spigot mortar emplacement (pedestal), which was built after May 1941, of concrete and steel. A field visit in 1983 found the emplacement to be in a good condition.[26]

On the far end of the North Eastern Breakwater, on the Weymouth side, is the site of B Pier Head Battery. The coastal battery opened in 1901 and was armed with two 12-pounder quick-firing (QF) guns for anti-torpedo craft defence. By 1913 the battery's armament included four 12-pounder guns and a 6-inch breech-loading (BL) Mk. VII gun. The battery was decommissioned in 1934, and after a field visit in 1983 it was reported the site had been demolished.[27] The same site featured a World War I torpedo station. It contained three 18 inch torpedo tubes and was probably operational from 1915 to 1918.[28] Additionally there is a World War I battery observation post. It is constructed of brick and concrete, and a field visit in 1983 found it to be in a good condition.[29]

The Weymouth end breakwater features the C Pier Head Battery on the southern tip. The arm is an Admiralty extension to the earlier breakwater built by the Great Western Railway and known as the Bincleaves Groyne. The head is 100ft in diameter. The battery was opened in 1901 and was armed with two 12-pounder quick-firing (QF) guns for anti-torpedo craft defence. By the First World War the 12-pounder guns had been removed and replaced with a 6-inch breech-loading (BL) Mk. VII gun. The 6-inch gun was removed in 1924 and in 1934 two 12-pounder guns were transferred across from the recently decommissioned B Pier Head. In 1944 emplacements were constructed for two 6-pounder guns, but the guns were not mounted for a number of years. During the Second World War the battery was manned by 107 Battery of 522 Coast Regiment. A field visit in 1983 found the structure to be extant.[30]

At the C Pier Head Battery a World War II petroleum warfare site was constructed in 1940-41, and comprised a flame thrower. However the field visit in 1983 had found the site had been demolished.[31] On site is a World War II 29 millimetre spigot mortar emplacement (pedestal). It was constructed after May 1941 and is built of concrete and steel. The field visit in 1983 found the structure to be in a good condition.[32] Almost within the centre of the arm another 29 millimetre spigot mortar emplacement is located near Military Pier. Again it was constructed after May 1941, of concrete and steel, and remains in good condition.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Portland’s Geology". JurassicCoastline.com. Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Subterranea Britannica: Sites: Portland underground Naval Headquarters & Communications Centre". Subbrit.org.uk. 2004-09-01. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  3. ^ "1281863 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 1993-05-17. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  4. ^ "1002412 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  5. ^ "1205814 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 1978-09-21. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  6. ^ "1203099 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 1993-05-17. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  7. ^ "1203106 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 1978-09-21. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  8. ^ "1203074 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 1993-05-17. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  9. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=501751&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=93626&place=&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=
  10. ^ "The Portland Gas Trust". The Portland Gas Trust. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  11. ^ "Visitor centre for Island (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  12. ^ "1389124 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". List.english-heritage.org.uk. 2001-01-26. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  13. ^ Breakwater Fort. "Dorset - History - Breakwater Fort". BBC. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  14. ^ Will Bennet (1995-07-22). "Portland's naval history ends as last warship sails - News". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  15. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1420411". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  16. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1421432". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  17. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425479". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  18. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425474". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  19. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425475". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  20. ^ a b "Detailed Result: NEW BREAKWATER A PIER HEAD". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  21. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425470". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  22. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425472". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  23. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425469". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  24. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425458". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  25. ^ "Detailed Result: MIDDLE ARM BATTERY". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  26. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1420414&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=577361&place=breakwater&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=
  27. ^ "Detailed Result: NEW BREAKWATER B PIER HEAD". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  28. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425452". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  29. ^ "Detailed Result: MONUMENT NO. 1425453". Pastscape. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  30. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1425450&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=577361&place=breakwater&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=
  31. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1425449&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=577361&place=breakwater&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=
  32. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1420415&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=577361&place=breakwater&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=
  33. ^ http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1420416&sort=2&type=&typeselect=c&rational=a&class1=None&period=None&county=93347&district=93625&parish=577361&place=breakwater&recordsperpage=10&source=text&rtype=&rnumber=

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°35′15″N 2°26′47″W / 50.58738°N 2.44632°W / 50.58738; -2.44632