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  • Policing South Wales Docks by Viv Head

    Bute Dock Police Naval Style Cutlass. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    During the Nineteenth Century, South Wales exploded into industrial activity; previously peaceful valleys were turned on their head. Iron masters built their furnaces, coal owners sank their pits, the railways arrived and great docks were built all along the coast; at Newport, Cardiff, Penarth, Barry, Port Talbot and Swansea. South Wales became the crucible of the Industrial Revolution.

    Men arrived from all over the country, eager to be part of these great mechanical workings. Seamen of every nationality came on ships ready to carry these fruits of industrial labour to all corners of the world. The docks became a land of opportunity; peaceful coastal communities were turned into overcrowded towns and cities. Disease, prostitution, violence and dishonesty were everywhere.

    Alexandra Railway & Dock Police in 1921. (Policing South Wales Docks, Amberley Publishing)

    Into this mix of blood, sweat and coal dust came the dock police, charged with keeping a lid on rough communities bent on self-intent. Crime and murderous violence were rife; it took a breed of hard men to step in and take control. The docks were a dark and treacherous place; PC John Foulkes served at Swansea Docks during the latter part of 1890.  One morning when he had not returned to the police station at the end of his night duty, a search was made and his body was found in the water by a fellow officer. There were no witnesses and no evidence of foul play. Cause of death was found to be drowning. So at some point in the night, he had stumbled and lost his footing, or perhaps simply lost his way, or perhaps had challenged someone and ended up in the water. Nobody knows – he was simply doing his job when, alone and in the dark, he had been overtaken by death. Neither was John Foulkes the only one, at least three other officers drowned on duty. The docks could be a fearsome lonely place sometimes.

    Each of the ports employed their own police forces. Over time they amalgamated to join into a single force, the British Transport Police. Then in the mid-1980s came privatisation and containerisation; it was perceived that the police had done their job and were no longer needed. So, in 1985, the last dock policeman switched off the light, locked the police station door, got into his car and drove away. Men, and they were almost entirely men, who had sort to preserve the peace 24 hours a day, seven days a week for almost 130 years. Men dedicated to looking after the lives of others, who occasionally gave their own lives to the cause; men who worked twelve hours a day without a single day off throughout the years of the Great War. Men who did the dirty work that others turned away from.

    Policing South Wales Docks provides an illustrated insight into some of the darker and lighter moments of the dock coppers’ working lives. They weren’t always angels themselves but they do deserve to be remembered. In the 1970s I was privileged to serve at Cardiff Docks for seven years before my police career took me elsewhere. It was an experience unlike any other and I recall it often.

    Viv Head's new book Policing South Wales Docks is available for purchase now.

  • Canals, Docks and Routes in Salford by Paul Hindle

    Amberley first contacted me to see if I would write Bolton Through Time for them. Although I live just inside the Bolton boundary I’m not really a Boltonian, and soon Bolton Camera Club did an excellent job with that book.

    Instead, as Chairman of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society I suggested that I could write a Through Time book about the canal. So in 2013 I set to work, using the Society’s own photographic archives for the ‘then’ photos, before going out to take the ‘now’ photos, largely done on foot, walking the whole canal towpath which runs from Salford (not Manchester!) to both Bolton and Bury. In the process I noticed that I was walking rather oddly, and eventually I was rushed to Salford hospital for a brain operation!

    The Entrance to the Canal. Both views taken from the Princes Bridge. The left picture was taken in 1905 when Princes Bridge was being rebuilt. It shows the river towpath crossing the canal entrance over the curved 'Bloody Bridge'; the lower lock gates of Lock 1 are open. The right picture, after restoration, shows the entrance to the Margaret Fletcher Tunnel under the Inner Relief Road, leading to the new lock. (Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Several of the ‘now’ photos have already become redundant, due to various redevelopment schemes. For example the entrance to the canal from the River Irwell (shown on pages 8 and 9) has been transformed. Princes Bridge has gone and been replaced by a new lower footbridge, and the walls and roof of the first part of the entrance tunnel have been removed. The Ordsall Chord now spans the river at this point, with its new railway lines linking Victoria and Piccadilly stations. On pages 13 and 14 there is a new housing development alongside the canal, rather than the ‘urban desert’ seen in the book. On page 19 the water tower has gone. Prestolee Locks (seen on pages 44-46) have been excavated to about half their depth, making them much more visible. The Fire & Rescue training centre mentioned on page 75 has now been built, keeping the line of the canal clear. All that in just four years!

    Prestolee Locks. Two views of the canal basin and the lower locks; the stonework has been partly dismantled. Two branch canals lead off to the left serving a quarry, tramway and vitriol works. Overall the 6 locks raise the canal 64 feet in just 200 yards to the summit level. (Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    A year later Amberley asked me to take on Salford Through Time. Although I had worked at Salford University for 30 years I didn’t really know much of Salford well, and, as it is a large city, the biggest problem was which parts to include. Eventually I came up with the idea of three linear routes through the parts of Salford I knew best. The first went from Exchange Station, along Chapel Street to the Crescent (passing the University), then on to Broad Street and Eccles Old Road. The second route was a tour around Broughton and Kersal. The third route gave me another chance to follow the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal just as far as Agecroft, using mainly a different set of photos. This time I had to obtain most of the ‘then’ photos from the very helpful Salford Local History Library. Again already several of the ‘now’ photos are redundant, starting with the office block on the front cover (and page 17) which has already gone.

    Exchange Station. The railway line linking Salford and Manchester Victoria stations was opened in 1844, but Victoria became so congested that Manchester Exchange station was opened by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1884. It was named Manchester Exchange despiten most of it being in Salford. Manchester Cathedral is on the right, and a wide approach ramp led across the River Irwell to the station. A second approach led down to Chapel Street. (Salford Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Another request from Amberley came in 2017 and I suggested Salford Quays Through Time. The Quays is a development of the former Manchester Docks that were in fact in Salford. Once again I went back to the Salford Local History Library, and I hit the first problem, which was that many of the photos did not say which dock they were showing, and half were undated. There are only so many photos you can show of a dock area, so I decided to widen the scope of the book to include the local areas of Ordsall and part of Weaste, which were developed alongside the docks.

    Dock 9. The left picture, taken in the 1930s from the Grain Elevator, shows a very busy Dock 9 with numerous ships and barges. The right picture shows the same view today, taken from a lower viewpoint. To the left there is the low-rise housing of Anchorage Quay and Grain Wharf, with the Lowry beyond. The basin is spanned by the relaocated railway swing bridge. The part of the dock in the foreground is now called the Erie Basin, which is continuously aerated. To the right is a row of high-rise buildings. (Salford Quays Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The changes throughout the area in recent years have been massive. In Ordsall the area was largely made up of terraced housing which has been largely replaced by modern housing. The road network has been drastically altered. The only surviving features are the medieval Ordsall Hall, Ordsall Park, four churches and the main roads. In the Quays only the outline of the four docks remains, and even that has been altered by closing off three of the four docks from the river, and creating new canals and basins. So in both Ordsall and the Quays getting matching ‘then’ and now’ photos was very difficult. I found Ordsall a fascinating area, notably the surviving Barracks area of terraced housing, including St Ignatius Church and the Salford Lads Club. A final section took me to the peaceful Weaste Cemetery where several famous folk are buried.

    Paul Hindle's books Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Through Time, Salford Through Time and Salford Quays Through Time are available for purchase now.

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