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Wednesday 15 April 2015

Fact 66. First docks to the west was Albert and Wiliam Wright Docks.

Trade continued to increase in Hull, even after the completion of Victoria Dock in 1850 (see Fact 59). In fact docks to the west of Hull had been promoted as far back as 1830. In 1860 a consortium of Hull interests tried to set the ball rolling. They were the influential bodies of the Hull Corporation, North Eastern Railway and Hull Trinity House. Not wanting to lose the monopoly they held over cargo handling in the area The Hull Dock Company submitted their own plans and had an Act of Parliament passed in 1861. The plan was to build on the foreshore to the west of the River Hull. Construction began in October 1862. The Engineer engaged was John Hawkshaw who had cut his teeth in mining and then worked on the building of many of Liverpool's dock. We was very involved in the building of railways in Lancashire and Yorkshire and after moving his practice to London with the rail system there, over and under ground. He was also the engineer on the North Sea Canal that links Amsterdam to the sea and at the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal Ferdinand de Lessep said he owed the building of the canal to John Hawkshaw as when the Egyptians worried about de Lessep's ability to complete the canal they engaged Hawkshaw to right a report on the works. They had decided that they would accept what ever advice he gave. After a thorough survey of the scheme he gave a glowing report on its viability and the Suez Canal was completed. J.C. Hawkshaw, his son, was also in his practice and he was engaged as the site engineer.

The easiest part of the construction was the north wall of the dock as this was built on the land side. The southern dock wall was built in land reclaimed form the river. The foundation stone for the north wall was laid in 1864. Cofferdams had to be built to build the south wall on reclaimed land. Concrete 3 mt thick were laid and then stone from near Leeds was used with lime mortar to build up the quay side. These works were plagued by water leaking through the cal layer below everything and boiling up inside the cofferdams. This breached the wall in September 1866 and took a month to repair. It also stopped work on the lock entrance and a dam had to be built across the area so work could continue. Later again there was more trouble which took a lot of remedial work to fix the problem. It also caused the lock to be shortened from 120 mt to 98 mt.


Even whilst construction was continuing further Acts of Parliament were obtained to extend the dock further west. In 1866 the Act allowed for a lengthening of the dock to the west from 760 mt to 1020 mt this would make a total area of 9.2ha at a depth of between 8.8 and 7.5 mt. In 1867 another Act was passed allowing for a further extension to the west. This time the extension would be accessed via a 18 mt cut from the west end of the first dock and add a further 2.3 ha of area. The larger dock was finally opened in 1869 at a cost of £118000 for the excavation, similar for the dock walls and £89000 just for the lock it's self. The total of £560000 included the lock gates and mechanism. The Dock had just been known as the Western Dock but as The Prince and Princess of Wales (Albert Edward and Alexandra) performed the opening ceremony the Dock was given the name Albert Dock.

All the dock machinery including the lock gates and the railway bridge across the lock pit were hydraulically powered. This was supplied by three boilers supplying a 30 Kw steam engine that powered the hydraulic system using an accumulator. They also pumped mains water around the docks. Railway lines had to be moved and double tracks were laid to both quays.

The German Ship 'Herzogin Sophie Charlotte' which was built as the full rigged four masted ship 'Albert Rickmers' in 1894. The ship was at the time a cadet ship. This was probably 1905 when it had arrived from Australia. She and the vessel ahead are loading coal from the hoists that take coal from railway wagons for tipping into the ships holds via the chute that can be seen.

The final 2.3 ha extension was commenced in 1873 and foundation stone laid in 1876 by William Wright who was the Chairman of the Dock Company at the time and gave his name to the dock. It finally opened in 1880. In 1972 it was decided to move the fish handling quay to Albert Dock so it was closed to other traffic and shore side alterations took place. The fishing fleet moved in in 1975. The fishing fleet has all but disappeared now but both Albert and William Wright Docks are open for all commercial vessels to this day.

An aerial photograph looking west along the length of Albert Dock. To the bottom right can be seen the outer lock gate and the hydraulic railway bridge over the lock pit. Albert Dock can be seen to narrow to the channel leading to the much smaller William Wright Dock in the top left corner.

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