Part I of the story of the Prince of Wales Pier tells that it was constructed as the eastern arm of the Commercial harbour cum Harbour of Refuge, by Dover Harbour Board (DHB) and was formerly opened in 1902. The Pier is 2,910-feet long with the inner portion, at that time, consisting of 1,260-feet of open iron viaduct and the remainder solid masonry. The depth at low water varied from 25 feet to 35 feet. The Pier was constructed from the designs of Sir John Coode (1816-1892), under the superintendence of the engineers, Messrs Coode, Son and Matthews, by Sir John Jackson Ltd, contractors. Even though the Pier was started before the Admiralty Harbour, which opened in 1909, had been officially considered, structural alterations were demanded. Nonetheless, Prince of Wales Pier belonged to DHB with pedestrian access as of right.
In 1903, the east side of the Prince of Wales Pier was given over to Transatlantic liners and the west side to cross-Channel ferries. The Wellington Bridge was reconstructed to take railway trains and in 1904 a single-track railway line was laid with a railway station. However, on 13 July 1906, the Hamburg-Amerika Line Transatlantic liner, Deutschland, hit the end of the Pier sustaining serious damage. Following the accident a new Transatlantic liner berth was built on the Admiralty Pier extension, the east side of the Prince of Wales Pier was given to the Admiralty and confirmed by Act of Parliament. Following the swap, the landing stage on the east side of the Pier was used for berthing the Royal yachts and when a three tiered berth was built, besides Royal yachts the east side was used by the navy and the military. The west side of the Pier, although used by cross-Channel ferries, was increasingly used for ships that had been involved in accidents.
Following the unification of Germany in 1871, the country had become the dominant European land power and following the accession of Wilhelm II (1888-1918) to the throne, relations between Germany and other European powers started to deteriorate. In the months before Britain declared war, World War I (1914-1918), on 4 August 1914, the Admiralty had started to bring back its major units from around the world to concentrate them into a single force, the Grand Fleet. This was formed in August 1914 under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (1859-1935) and as the German navy, under Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930), was increasingly growing in strength, wider consideration was given to the safety of the bases for the British fleet.
The German fleet were based at Kiel on the Baltic Sea and Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea. The British Battle Fleet, was moved to Scapa Flow, Orkney, to try and control the North Sea. At the time it was not expected that the naval aspect of the conflict would reach Dover, in consequence the town and port’s main sea defences rested with the Dover Patrol and its fleet of motor launches. They were supplemented by a fleet of small submarines based in the Camber where pens had been specially built to give them shelter. Admiral Reginald Bacon (1863-1947) was in charge of the Dover Patrol and the Admiralty offices were in Fleet House on Marine Parade.
On 4 August 1914 the town became part of Fortress Dover, with its headquarters at the Castle and the Admiralty took over the functions of DHB. A signalling training school was set up on the Prince of Wales Pier and the Pier was also designated to transport troops to and from battlegrounds of Europe. The first large contingency were Royal Marines who left on Saturday 19 September on two transport ships for Dunkirk. From there they went to Antwerp to assist in its defence. A section of the Royal Navy Division, left from the Pier on Sunday 4 October 1914 with their colleagues leaving in another ship from the Admiralty Pier. All were going to Antwerp.
On 9 October Antwerp fell and many were of the men who had embarked from Dover were killed. Of those who survived, most were taken prisoners of war but some did manage to return, looking the worse for their ordeal. They were on ships arriving from the Continent carrying mainly Belgium refugees. The bedraggled refugees on the ships tying up alongside the Prince of Wales Pier boarded the trains from the station that had been built for wealthy cruise line passengers. From the Pier they were sent to various parts of the United Kingdom. Although the Admiralty Pier became the main receiving quay for hospital ships following heavy battles, the Prince of Wales Pier was also used in that capacity.
From the Pier, the railway connection to the main South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR) line was via Harbour Station and to keep Admiralty Pier clear for hospital ships, other troop vessels returning from the Continent were brought alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. Royalty, politicians and senior officials in the armed services tended to use the Pier and on the 23 September 1915 George V (1910-1936) arrived by train in the full dress uniform of Admiral of the Fleet. From the Pier he embarked on a Naval launch, for the adjacent Promenade Pier to the east, that had been commandeered for naval purposes before the outbreak of War. From there, the King was taken, in an open car, to the Eastern Dockyard, accompanied by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon.
In the air, at the outbreak of the War, the enemy relied on Zepplins as their chief agent of destruction, so search lights and anti-aircraft batteries were set up in and around the town and port. Nonetheless, the harbour was bombed though the Prince of Wales Pier remained unscathed. By 1916, aeroplane raids became the norm and the Pier was armed with 6-inch anti-aircraft guns to help provide protection. However, on the night of 30-31 October 1917 two seamen sought shelter under the latticework of the Prince of Wales Pier as a Gotha aeroplane was dropping incendiary bombs on the town. One of the bombs hit the beach close to the Pier, exploded, killing one of the seamen and seriously injuring the other. The advance of the German armies in Flanders in 1918, proved threatening and an attack on Dover was felt to be imminent. Infantry detachments were deployed at all times on the Breakwater and the shore at the foot of the piers. Trench mortars and machine-guns were fixed at every vital point including along the Prince of Wales Pier.
From the outbreak of War the Admiralty had been toying with the idea of running a railway line from the Western Docks to the Eastern Dockyard. In 1918, Messrs S Pearson & Son Ltd successfully tendered to lay a single-track line running the length of the promenade from the Prince of Wales Pier railway line, by the Clock Tower, to the Eastern Dockyard that became known as the Seafront Railway. The railway lines used were those made for the Dover-Martin Railway line when building the Eastern Arm of the Admiralty Harbour and by this time belonging to the Dover, St Margaret’s and Martin Mill Light Railway Company. However, the connection between the Seafront Railway and the Prince of Wales Pier Line created an awkward back shunt for the Seafront railway engine drivers that included a steep gradient. Further, the line did not have a signalling system so passing loops were laid with catch points to enable trains to run in both directions. Soon after the line was laid an accident occurred so a low fence was erected on each side.
When the War was over, the harbour was still in the hands of the Admiralty but the Commercial Harbour, including the Admiralty Pier and the west side of the Prince of Wales Pier, was managed by DHB. There was a great deal of repair work to be done and DHB were over £1million in debt. Channel passage ships started using the Admiralty Pier as soon as the authorities allowed and when the Pier was not being used for ships returning servicemen from the Continent. The Prince of Wales Pier was also used for returning soldiers who were billeted in rest camps around the town while awaiting demobilisation.
The Chairman of DHB (1906-1934), Sir William Crundall (1847-1934), had been the Mayor of Dover thirteen times but that was before the War and since the declaration of peace, society was changing. Whereas before the War, Sir William and those holding similar positions of authority could dictate policies, in 1920 such expectations were open to question. That year, Dover Corporation applied to extend their boundaries to include mainly areas they wished to develop for housing. However, in their Bill, much to the annoyance of Sir William, the council applied to include all of Dover’s Piers. Sir William and the Register of DHB, John Mowll, pointed out that since 1606, when DHB was constituted, all the land in Dover that had been reclaimed from the sea belonged to DHB. This included the Piers that were not under the control of the Admiralty.
At the time, negotiations were taking place between the Admiralty and DHB with a view to transferring the whole of Admiralty Harbour to DHB but with certain caveats. If the boundaries were extended, then they would apply to the Prince of Wales Pier, the Promenade Pier, the Eastern Arm and adjacent Dockyard. This would mean that DHB would have to pay rates to Dover Corporation and Kent County Council (KCC) and seek planning permission from Dover Corporation or KCC. A Public Inquiry was held and the proposed boundary change was sanctioned. Sir William and the Board were furious so the Register, John Mowll – a solicitor, put together their case and centred it on the Marine Station. The case was heard in the High Court in March 1920 before Justice Charles Darling (1849–1936) and the Corporation boundary proposal was upheld. It was subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeal. On 1 November 1921, it was officially declared that ALL the Piers that jut out to sea from the Borough of Dover were part of the Borough of Dover, even those in the hands of the Admiralty.
The western side of the Prince of Wales Pier was open to promenaders in the summer of 1921 and special excursion trains were laid on to bring folk to the town. Trains could still be taken directly to the Pier where excursion steamers waited to take passengers for trips out into the Channel. After protracted negotiations on 9 September 1923, the Admiralty Harbour, comprising of 610 acres, was transferred, by Act of Parliament to DHB. The Admiralty retained some rights, the most important of which was that should the Defence of the Realm create the necessity, the Harbour without compensation, would revert to the Admiralty. DHB agreed to rename the Admiralty Harbour ‘The Outer Harbour,’ and immediately took over from the Admiralty, the dues charged on vessels using it. This gave them a healthy source of revenue.
Following the transfer of the harbour to DHB, the Dover Chamber of Commerce set up a ‘town team,’ who presented a policy document on the best way forward to ensure the future prosperity of the town and port. The presentation was the result of negotiations with DHB and Dover council that had been on-going since before the end of the War. The Chamber’s town team outlined two schemes that had emerged from the negotiations, the first centred on the development of the Kent coalfield. At the time it was envisaged that 15 mines would be sunk in East Kent, three of which were already open and proving productive. They were Snowdown, Tilmanstone and Chislet and one of the first things that DHB had done, following the War, was to have railway lines for coal trucks, laid along the quays of both Granville and Wellington Dock. Coal yards opened that were paying rent to DHB, providing another source of income. In order to export more coal from these mines, the ‘town team’ proposed widening the Prince of Wales Pier, laying three railway lines and erecting coal staithes.
The council and the Chamber of Commerce were in favour of this proposal as the costs involved would be minimal by utilising the new railway lines that DHB had laid around the inner docks and the existing Prince of Wales Pier railway line. The alternative suggestion put forward by the Chamber of Commerce‘s town team, was to build a new jetty within the Commercial Harbour, between the Prince of Wales Pier and the Admiralty Pier. Before the War, it had been agreed that this area would be used to build a ‘Water Station’ and included three cross-Channel shipping berths. The proposed jetty, in the new scheme, was envisaged to be 1,000-feet long; 60-feet wide and again would have three railway lines. Besides the increase in expense of building a new Pier, a great deal of dredging would have to be undertaken as well as the cost of laying a connecting railway line. It was agreed, between the Chamber of Commerce and Dover Corporation, that the first option was the most favourable but to their surprise, DHB responded by saying that finance was not yet available and therefore they were unable to make any commitment.
In reality, DHB were considering a third plan. Neither Granville nor Wellington docks were adequate to deal with the size of new ships that were being built. Further, during the War the Admiralty had brought to Dover a ‘floating’ dry dock, which had since been removed and DHB wanted to build both a dry dock and a wet dock. These, they believed were more important than either of the town team’s plans. DHB therefore sought an Act of Parliament to build a retaining wall, including lock gates, across the Commercial harbour between the Prince of Wales Pier and the Admiralty Pier. This was for a large wet dock on the site of the existing Tidal Basin with a smaller dry dock for cross-Channel shipping in front of the Clock Tower.
A larger dry dock was proposed between the Prince of Wales Pier and the Granville Gardens with a channel into the outer harbour and for the use of Transatlantic cruise vessels. Other proposals within the Bill were to extend the quay spaces in the Wellington and Granville Docks. The cost was estimated as £1.25million for which an application was made to the Trades Facilities Committee for a guarantee. The latter was on the promise of providing work for the unemployed, which was steadily rising. Although fiercely opposed by the council, Chamber of Commerce and towns folk, the Bill received Royal Assent. The proposals, however, never reached fruition.
At about this time private seaplane companies were being set up and a number applied to DHB for a seaplane anchorage. There had been a seaplane establishment on the Seafront near the Mote Bulwark during the War but this had officially closed on 26 March 1919. Albeit, a few ground crew remained to refuel the occasional Royal Air Force seaplanes and flying boats. Following negotiations, it was agreed to designate a seaplane anchorage east of the Prince of Wales Pier with landing runs of 1,000, 1,200, 1,600 and 1,800 yards. The anchorage was well used and brought in more revenue for DHB.
The London Chatham and Dover railway company and the South Eastern Railway Company had partially amalgamated in 1899, creating the South Eastern Chatham and Dover Railway (SECD). Following the 1921 Railways Act, which came into force on I January 1923, SECD became part of the new Southern Railway network. With two members on the DHB Board, they were more concerned at maintaining the Prince of Wales Pier for the use of cross-Channel shipping during heavy weather rather than for the exporting of coal. In February 1924, fierce easterly winds and intense cold had made crossing the Channel difficult and berthing against the Admiralty Pier almost impossible. The west side of the Prince of Wales Pier was the only option and the case of the 1,767-ton Belgium steamer, Pieter de Coninck was one such case cited later. The ship had left Ostend for Dover but 24-hours later when she finally berthed in Dover harbour she required two tugs to get her to the Prince of Wales Pier. The little steamer, with 91 passengers on board, rolled and pitched severely but was eventually tied up safely. The Harbour Master, John Iron, reported that the Admiralty Pier had been impossible to approach.
In the early 1920s the country had started to slide into an economic depression exacerbated by sterling being in an unsustainable parity making imports consistently cheaper than exports. In consequence, unemployment continued to rise and cheap imports of coal was affecting the domestic industry. Midnight on 3 May 1926 saw the beginning of the General Strike when the railways, including shipping services to the Continent, ceased operations. By the end of the second day most workers in other Dover industries were on strike. On Wednesday, just after midday, the strike was being called off and on the Friday a national railway settlement led to a partial resumption of national services. In Dover, Southern Railway resumed its full rail and shipping services but the miners remained on strike for a long time after.
Since the beginning of the early 1920s, the Prince of Wales Pier became a magnet for the unemployed and interest in sea angling grew, offering solace during the depths of the economic depression and also to the striking miners. It was at about this time the Dover Sea Angling Association started to run national fishing competitions. On the evening of 19 August 1928, 23-year-old Ivy Hawke of Surbiton stepped onto the Prince of Wales Pier having successfully swum the Channel. She had made landfall at Hope Point, between Kingsdown and St Margaret’s making the crossing in 19hours and 19minutes. She was the 14th person to succeed since Captain Matthew Webb (1848-1883) had made the first successful crossing on 24-25 August 1875. Up until 19 August 1928, the fastest Channel swim was made by Georges Michel in 11hours 5minutes on 10 September 1926 and the fastest woman was Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003) on 6 August 1926 who took 14hours 39minutes.
Once the notion of the Prince of Wales Pier being used for coal staithes had been abandoned, Captain John Iron, Dover’s Harbour Master, arranged for DHB tugs to be berthed along the west side of the Prince of Wales Pier. This enabled them to move quickly within the Commercial and Outer Harbours and also out into the Channel through the Eastern entrance. It was on the west side of the Pier where the DHB tugs, Lady Brassey and Lady Duncannon were berthed on the evening of 11 February 1928. At the time the 1,365-ton Ville de Liege came into the harbour it was intensely cold with a fresh wind blowing. The Belgium cross-Channel ship attempted to moor alongside the Admiralty Pier but as she went astern she was caught by a combination of tide and wind and hit the dangerous Mole Rocks between the Tidal Harbour and the Prince of Wales Pier. The ship sank but although the passengers were frozen and frightened they were safely taken off. In April the 961-ton cargo ship Emilie Dunford trying to turn into the Commercial Harbour struck the head of the Pier badly damaging her starboard bow. While in December the Castitas Antwerp, leaving the Commercial harbour, struck the Pier head and sustained far more damage.
During the mid-1920s, Jim Ryeland of Hammonds was travelling around different countries attempting to persuade cruise liners to call at Dover and in 1927 the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company took this up. The 3,600-tons Simon Bolivar arrived on 26 March to a civic welcome on Admiralty Pier. Following this, the Company’s ships regularly called at the port, sometimes berthing alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. This motivated Southern Railway to repair the Prince of Wales railway line. Manually operated points were also installed at the junction with the Seafront Railway, by the Clock Tower, but a regular service was not introduced and the line was not used that often.
By 1932 cruise ships belonging to the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company were calling at Dover on a regular basis but preferred to moor in the Outer harbour. This, they said was due to the closure of the Western entrance making berthing difficult. Blockships had been placed across the Western Harbour entrance by the Admiralty at the start of World War I. To help encourage cruise liners to call, even if they berthed in the Outer harbour, DHB purchased the Penlec, a liner tender from the Great Western Railway Company. The tender helped to transfer passengers and supplies to the Prince of Wales Pier. The 3,800-ton Cottica, the newest ship of the Surinam fleet, called in 1928 and steamers from the Jamaica Direct Fruit Company in 1929. However, in 1932, under the instigation of Jim Ryeland, Bullard & King Line’s 5,175-ton Umkuzi berthed alongside the Prince of Wales Pier landing 63 passengers and taking on board 100-tons of bunkers (assorted fuel).
Work started at the end of February 1931 to remove the blockships and on 6 May 1933, the remnants of the Livonian, lying nearest to the entrance, was blasted away and the entrance opened that afternoon. Two months earlier, the Horn Line announced that they would be making fortnightly calls at the port to picked up passengers on the company’s regular crossing from Hamburg to Trinidad. In August the Norddeutscher Line announced that the 9,400-ton twin screw steamer Trier, would be making regular calls at Dover to embark passengers for its Far Eastern destinations to Singapore. By this time the Holland Africa Line was calling regularly along with the Hamburg Sud Afrika Line on an occasional basis and the Elder Dempster Line based in Liverpool. Further, the Hamburg-Amerika Line returned to the port, but with only the company’s smaller ships. Because of this increase in cruise traffic, DHB purchased the tender Lady Saville. As the decade progressed the number of cruise ships continued to increase and by 1937 there were 15 different cruise lines calling at the port with some berthing along the east side of Prince of Wales Pier.
Shipping casualties continued to be brought along the west side of Prince of Wales Pier and DHB craft including tugs and tenders were also moored alongside the Pier on that side. On 24 February 1934 the Lady Saville was trying to do just that but there were two shipping casualties already berthed alongside when the Lady Saville fouled a bolt in a spar of the drifter Radiant Rose. The Lady Saville was quickly repaired and put back into service but the shipping casualties took longer to repair and shipping casualties were a regular occurrence in the Strait of Dover. On 31 August 1935 the 6,757-ton German emigrant steamer Eisenach was in collision with the British 29,150-ton battleship Ramillies. The Eisenach suffered severe damage to her port bow and was brought into the harbour stern first by the DHB tugs Lady Duncannon and the Simson and helped by the Goliath. The crews quarters of the Eisenbach were in the bow and as a result of the accident two crew members were killed. The final toll was three crew members dead and one missing.
As the 1930s progressed, Dover Corporation increasingly instigated visitor attractions to bring tourists and their spending power into the town. By the end of the decade, nearly every weekend during the summer months there was a major attraction. There would be thousands of spectators on the Seafront and the Pier to see such events as the annual Regatta, organised by the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club, that attracted very expensive yachts. There would also be sailing competitions involving smaller boats such as dinghies. Dover Sea Angling Club continued to run national fishing competitions and the council organised an annual Water Pageant. Swimming clubs ran the annual Breakwater swimming competition as well as associated competitions. The Rowing Club too, organised races within the confines of the outer harbour.
There would be pleasure steamer trips from the Prince of Wales such as the twice weekly excursions on the twin screw passenger steamer Lady Savile (with one ‘L’). Many of the larger events finished with a firework display and these always took place on the Prince of Wales Pier. As the decade wore on, many visitors stayed for the weekend at one of the grand hotels or in lodging houses with a walk along the Prince of Wales Pier a necessary part of the town’s tourist package. Indeed, it was frequently stated that on fine Sundays it was almost impossible to pass along the Seafront and the Prince of Wales Pier because of the crowds.
Following Britain’s declaration of World War II (1939-1945) against Germany on 3 September 1939, the port of Dover closed on 5 September. Shortly after saw the embarkation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the Continent. Throughout the War, the officer responsible for co-ordinating all of Dover’s defences that made up Fortress Dover was the Fortress Commander based at the Castle. Immediately the Prince of Wales Pier was commandeered and public access forbidden. During this time the Pier was in use constantly by both naval and military personnel. On the Continent the German forces, employing blitzkrieg tactics, that is attacking with a dense force of parachuted-armed soldiers quickly followed by armoured, motorised infantry with close air support, had attacked country after country. This led to an ever-increasing number of refugees and although cross-Channel ships were taking them to Folkestone, many arrived in Dover on other seagoing vessels. These berthed by the Prince of Wales Pier and from there the refugees were taken by East Kent buses to the then Town Hall for documentation and interrogation.
By 24 May 1940, the Germans had reached the Continental coast and there was only one escape route to Britain and that was at Dunkirk. Operation Dynamo, better known as the Evacuation of Dunkirk, was launched under the command of the Dover Fortress commander, Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay (1883-1945). A fleet of 222 British naval vessels and 665 other craft, known later as the ‘Little Ships’, went to the rescue and between 26 May and 4 June, 338,226 British and Allied troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. Many of the soldiers were brought to Dover and the Prince of Wales Pier played a significant role.
Following the Evacuation of Dunkirk, resources were used for defensive measures, including the installation of guns and surrounding the deck of the Prince of Wales Pier with barbed wire. Between 10 July and 31 October 1940, the prolonged aerial conflict between the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force, known as the Battle of Britain, took place in the skies of South East England. On the morning of Sunday 24 August a massive formation of German aircraft could be seen approaching with the RAF in the skies to meet it. Rescue launches, berthed alongside the Prince of Wales Pier, were at the ready to pick up airmen of planes shot down. That day, one of the launches brought back Pilot Officer Stewart who had baled out of his Spitfire. However, the Pier was continually under attack with heavy shelling or bombing killing or injuring personnel working on or berthed alongside the Pier. In September six men were killed when a bomb hit a trawler berthed there. The following month more personnel were killed along with civilian bricklayer Herbert Trinder of Walmer, engaged in a repair.
In the years following the Battle of Britain, Dover remained in the front line and the position of the Prince of Wales Pier made it an easy target for enemy shelling and bombing. On Saturday 1 May 1943 a shell exploded close to the Pier foundation stone which was damaged, and a soldier was slightly hurt. When peace returned the foundation stone was repaired and the present plaque erected. The citation reads: The first stone of this new harbour was laid by H.R.H The Prince of Wales K.G. 20 July 1893. Engineers – Coode, Son & Matthews. Contractor – John Jackson. This plate covers the original stone damaged by enemy action, 1 May 1943. The next day, 2 May 1943, the minesweeper Opossum, berthed alongside the Pier, took a direct hit and sank at her moorings. At the end of the month, an ARP reported that a bomb had sank the Adam, while tied up alongside the Prince of Wales Pier.
By the autumn of 1943, preparations were afoot for the Allied invasion of France and information abounded that this would be by the Pas de Calais. The German’s therefore increased their attacks on Dover and shells continued to explode on and around the Prince of Wales Pier. On 8 April 1944, the Seafront became a restricted area and gradually what appeared to be landing craft filled the harbour. Yet, in the weeks leading up to D-Day, it seemed as though secretiveness was forgotten as minesweepers berthed alongside the Pier after spending time carrying out extensive sweeping operations in Dover Strait. From the beginning of June 1944 when they left harbour they initially went in different directions. They then made their way westwards along the Channel to lead the battleships that were to bombard the Normandy beaches prior to the invasion fleet landing. The D-Day Landings that took place on the beaches of Normandy commenced on 6 June 1944 and many Dover men, ships and boats were involved.
Of note, the behaviour of the minesweepers together with the landing craft – which were dummies – was all designed to deceive the enemy into believing that the attack would be around the Calais area – and it worked. Following the D-Day Landings, the Allied troops moved north toward the Channel ports and the German assault on Dover from occupied France increased. The Prince of Wales Pier, like the rest of the town, took a major battering. Minesweeper Lois, that had been involved in the Normany Landings, was hit, sank off the Pier and three of her crew were injured.
When the War was over, the Seafront was off limits due to the danger from war-time defences. Albeit, to enable the locals to supplement their meagre food rations members of the Dover Sea Angling Club, along with others who had fishing tackle, were allowed access to the Prince of Wales Pier, Southern Breakwater and the Eastern Arm. In October 1945, the Sea Angling Club held a successful angling festival from the Prince of Wales Pier, despite rough weather. Three years later the Club recorded the greatest number of members up until that date. Blockships were sunk across the Western entrance at the beginning of the War and as in the years that followed World War I, they remained despite the promise that the Admiralty would move them. It was not until 1963 that except for one, they were removed by DHB with assistance from the Admiralty. The remaining blockship, the Spanish Prince, remained a shipping hazard to the east of the head of the Prince of Wales Pier. A Wreck buoy and later a North Cardinal Buoy marked safe passage to the north and west of the wreck prior to its eventual removal.
The first liner to call into Dover, following the Armistice, was the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company’s Maarskirk on 18 March 1946, bound for the West Indies. However, the poor state of the Prince of Wales Pier, and the Admiralty Pier being used for military and naval purposes, prevented her tying up. She therefore moored in the Outer Harbour and this provoked fierce criticism of Dover in the national press. Although the Western entrance was blocked, said the reports, this did not prevent the south-westerly wind blown waves rolling in, bouncing on the Eastern Arm and making it uncomfortable for the passengers on the Maarskirk. Albeit, the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company continued to use Dover as a port of call and, indeed, throughout the 1950s cruise liners called with 1957 being the peak year. However, most of these ships moored in the Outer harbour with passengers transferred by tender to the Prince of Wales Pier.
In 1948, during major maintenance of the Wellington Dock gates, it was decided to realign the Prince of Wales Pier / Seafront Railway junction near the Clock Tower. This was to get rid of the complicated shunting arrangement for engine drivers working on the Seafront Line and was made possible by the severely battered Esplanade. However, it was not until 1951 that war damaged properties on the Esplanade were demolished and it was across the area where they had stood that the line was relayed. Following the realignment the Seafront trains could go directly from the Wellington Bridge on Union Street along the Seafront to the Eastern Dockyard.
During the inter-war period, with the opening of Marine Station and the advent of the Golden Arrow service and the Train-Ferries, Royalty and State Visitors used the Admiralty Pier. By 1950 the railway track on the Prince of Wales Pier and the landing jetty had been repaired on the east side. The decision over the Pier’s future had been made, it was to be a cargo terminal with berths on the west side, to supplement those in Granville Dock. In the interim, the general public had full access to the Pier and DHB tugs moored alongside.
The 7 March 1950 was a calm, warm, spring day when French President (1947-1954), Vincent Auriol (1884-1956) arrived alongside the Admiralty Pier for a State Visit. He had crossed the Channel on the 13,600-tonnes French Aircraft carrier, Arromanches. The French President was met by a contingent of dignitaries headed by Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester (1928-1974) with Dover Mayor William (Bill) Fish in the Party. Members of the press commented upon the quietness of the public reception. They were told that the public were not allowed near the Pier or the Marine Station but there were some folk on the Prince of Wales Pier. The President, dignitaries and the press alighted from the train that was to take them to London and M. Auriol went onto the Admiralty Pier quay to where he could see the Prince of Wales Pier. There, crowds were jostling in the hope of catching sight of the distinguished party and when they saw President Auriol waving to them, the cheer of ‘Vive La France’ was deafening! Following the incident, it is claimed, the decision was taken to refurbish the Pier for use by the general public and on welcoming Royal dignitaries to the Admiralty Pier, that they should be given an opportunity to wave to spectators on the Prince of Wales Pier.
It was not until 1957 that the Prince of Wales Pier was used in an official capacity. That year, on 29 June, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900-2002) embarked on the 1710-ton destroyer Chieftain for Dunkirk. In his role as President of the Imperial War Graves Commission, Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester accompanied her. In Dunkirk the Queen Mother unveiled the Dunkirk War Memorial, a tribute to the 68,000 who died during the Dunkirk Evacuation and the 338,226 the Evacuation had saved. The Royal party returned to Dover that evening by which time the crowds on and around the Prince of Wales Pier was in the thousands.
The following year on, Friday 28 March, when returning from a State Visit to Holland, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh landed at the Prince of Wales Pier. They had arrived on the 5,769-ton Royal Yacht Britannia (in service from 1954-1997) and again thousands of folk were there to greet them. On leaving the Pier, the Royal couple were driven to the Castle and to the then Town Hall, now the Maison Dieu, where many of Dover’s prominent citizens were presented to the Queen by the Mayor, Alderman Jack Williams. Before leaving the ancient building, the Queen unveiled a plaque commemorating the visit.
In the 1950s, poliomyelitis had reached epidemic proportions and the usual treatment was to get the patient as quickly as possible into isolation hospitals. There banks of negative pressure ventilators or ‘iron lungs’ were used to enable patients to breathe. In those days, Dover’s Isolation Hospital was situated in Noah’s Ark Road, Tower Hamlets and it was there that patients, be they from town and district or having been disembarked at the port, were taken. Local Historian, Joe Harman, was an ambulance driver in those days and recalled picking up patients including, on one occasion, a member of the crew from the Varne Lightship who was brought to the Prince of Wales Pier.
In 1959, following the two Royal visits, DHB decided to give the Prince of Wales Pier a facelift by providing a refreshment kiosk and a new shelter at the end of the Pier. This was followed by the installation of a new public walkway along the Seafront to the North Pier passing under the Prince of Wales Pier. The walkway was officially opened in May 1959 by Wykeham Stanley Cornwallis, 2nd Baron Cornwallis (1892-1982), Lord Lieutenant of Kent (1944-1972) to commemorate the tertiary centenary of the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. The walk was designed to pass the actual spot where Charles II (1649-1685) landed and therefore named, appropriately, the Charles II Walk.
Further plans were afoot including the building of the Lighthouse restaurant/café that opened at the Pier head on 16 May 1960 and was served by a bus service that ran along the Pier! The restaurant/café was built around the central lighthouse and provided excellent facilities for watching shipping while enjoying light refreshments. From 12 May 1972 Bass Charrington gained the license to serve alcoholic drinks but the venture proved unsuccessful, nonetheless, the Lighthouse remained as popular as ever. Various social events were held including the Pierhead ‘Jump’ dance party hosted by the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club (RCPYC) in the sixties. On the wall outside the Lighthouse was the figurehead from the 371-ton barque Roseau, which sailed between the UK and the West Indies in the 19th century.
On 29 June 1960 Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester disembarked onto the Prince of Wales Pier from the Trinity House vessel Patricia and visited the Pilot Office. Following which he inspected the Cinque Ports Pilots and Cutter personnel. Just less than a month later, on 28 July a Cinque Ports Pilot safely brought the 3,265-ton Clarita Schroder into the harbour and she tied up alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. The cargo ship was carrying cars, crated foodstuffs and machinery when suddenly there was fire in her hold. Although controlled within four hours by Kent Fire service using five foam branches and nine water jets. The Service stayed for over nineteen hours.
The 6,000-ton vessel Kayseri, on 7 September 1961, was bound for Denmark with a cargo of oilcake and sunflower seeds. Off Margate fire was discovered in the cargo hold and two Kent Fire Service officers went on board. They recommended that the hatches be battened down to contain the fire and it was arranged for the ship to be brought into Dover alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. Once alongside, the Fire Officers were trying to extinguish the fire when two explosions occurred. The Kayseri then became unstable with a list of 8º to port. Following consultations with the Captain, Harbour Master and the Chief Fire Officer it was agreed to tow the ship out and beach her so that the hold could be flooded and the fire extinguished.
27 March 1963 was a black day for British Railways for it was that day the British Railways Board published their two-part report, The Reshaping of British Railways. Better known as the Beeching Report, after the Chairman – Dr Richard Beeching (1913-1985). The report was designed to make the British Railways financially profitable. The upshot was the closure of approximately 33% of the rail network. Part of the report appertained to freight transport that ultimately led to Freightline being set up. The company, now privatised, is still a major carrier of container goods but at that time, due to pressure from KCC, no freight carrying rail routes were designated to pass through Kent to the Channel Ports.
Further, although the trunk road routes were poor to the East Kent coast, nothing to ameliorate this was envisaged. It was expected that container and passenger Continental traffic would go to other UK ports and East Kent would become a quaint tourist destination in its own right. The Prince of Wales Pier along with the Seafront, already subject to much improvement, was designated as part of Dover’s tourist jewels and the revamping continued. In December 1964 the Seafront Railway ceased but the railway lines along the Prince of Wales Pier remained. British Railways members on Dover Harbour Board had announced that they wanted the line to be kept open!
Princess Marina the Duchess of Kent (1906-1968), disembarked onto the Prince of Wales Pier on 26 July 1967 to name the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), Dover branch, new lifeboat. Funded by the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Faithful Forester was a Waveney Class 44 foot (13.5 metres) lifeboat built by Brook Marine of Lowestoft being capable of 15 knots. The Princess’s husband, Prince George the Duke of Kent (1902-1942) had been the President of the RNLI from 1936 to 1942 and their son, Prince Edward Duke of Kent, succeeded Princess Marina as President in 1969. This was the Princess’s last naming ceremony for the RNLI before her death.
At the bottom of Durham Hill, on what was Hartley’s Meadow, during the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), John Hartley built Prospect House. Following the Wars, in about 1821, he opened a boarding school for boys. After changing ownership on several occasions the building eventually became a guest house before being taken over by the Navy in World War II. In 1946 the British Sailors’ Society bought the property and then in 1953, the Prince of Wales Sea Training School took over the building, staying until 1976. They moved out that year but before doing so, a plaque was placed on the Prince of Wales Pier lighthouse commemorating the school’s stay in Dover.
It had been KCC’s plan for East Kent to be a rustic tourist destination, offering sea, sand, beautiful scenery, well preserved ancient buildings, rural villages and pre-war style sea side towns with the bonus of a regular ferry crossing to Europe from Dover. The reality was going in an altogether different direction. Regardless of the lack of an adequate road network Dover was fast becoming one of the busiest passenger ports in the World. Further, and possibly due to the failure to recognise the port as a possible freight link with the Continent, the number of lorries going through the town and port was escalating.
The Reorganisation of Local Government Act (1972) came into force on 1 April 1974 and gave birth to Dover District Council (DDC), an amalgamation of four south-east Kent councils one of which was Dover Corporation. The fledging council had a mountain of problems to face and, it would appear, the growth of traffic through Dover to the port was not high on the agenda. A proposed Channel Tunnel had been given the go ahead and its threat to Dover’s economy was of much greater importance and, on the positive side, the Tunnel could even reduce the amount of traffic going through the town. However, this two edge sword was not lost on DHB. In order to keep the lorry traffic coming through the port, they approached KCC, in December 1974, for permission to open a freight lorry park alongside the A2.
At the time, the A2 London-Dover road was little more that the old turnpiked coach road that had been upgraded with a copious amount of tarmacadam. It was narrow with just two lanes, one for each direction, that traversed steep hills and rural villages. From Canterbury it passed through the winding villages of Bridge, Lydden and Temple Ewell before reaching Kearsney and the sharp drop of Crabble Hill into Dover’s residential areas. From there it wended its way through the town centre before reaching the Seafront and then by a tortuous route it finally made it to the Eastern Docks.
In the early 1970’s, a contingent of KCC councillors came from Maidstone and accepted that although it was predominantly car traffic that caused the continual chaos through Dover, lorry traffic to the port was increasing by 10% per year. Further, the A2 road to Dover was far from ideal for the volume and type of traffic that was using it. Because of this, they reasoned lorry operators would start looking to the Channel Tunnel or other ports and the lorry traffic through Dover would eventually fall to manageable levels. Therefore, they decided, in the short run, DHB should find accommodation for the lorries within the Eastern Docks and not contrive to pass on the cost for providing such a park onto rate payers!
Looking around the Eastern Docks for a potential lorry park, DHB’s eyes settled on the Hovercraft pad there. It was on 25 July 1959, that the experimental SRN hovercraft made the first historic crossing from Calais to Dover in just under two hours. On 11 June 1968 Seaspeed, a subsidiary of British Rail, introduced the Mountbatten class, 250 seater + 30 cars, SRN4 Princess Margaret hovercraft between the Eastern Dock and le Portel, Boulogne. The second SRN4 Princess Anne was introduced in August 1969 and as the service was proving popular, Seaspeed were looking to expand. British Rail officials were looking at alternative sites including Pegwell Bay, from where the rival company Hoverlloyd operated, Shakespeare Beach and the Warren near Folkestone.
At the time, the Chairman of Dover Harbour Board (1971-1980) was Sir Clifford Jarrett (1909-1995), an old boy of Dover Boys’ Grammar School so it was assumed he would be sympathetic to Dover town and locals views. In order to release the Hovercraft site at the Eastern Docks for lorry parking, DHB offered 15 acres of foreshore with the section that included the dangerous Mole Rock, between the Clock Tower and the North Pier, next to the Prince of Wales Pier, to be turned into a hovercraft pad. This was accepted and it looked as if a number of problems had successfully been dealt with, including what was cited by DHB, ‘the utilisation of an idle valuable land resource.’
However, Dover’s public thought otherwise and the Minister for the Department of the Environment, Anthony Crosland (1918-1977), called in the Planning Application for examination. By that time, the public had formed the Save Our Seafront Action Group, members of which included, amongst others, the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club, Dover Chamber of Commerce, Dover Sea Anglers Association, and Dover Members of both DDC and KCC. The Group’s secretary was Jack Woolford – who later became the longstanding Chairman of the Dover Society.
Woolford immediately sort to have the Prince of Wales Pier Listed by English Heritage and Grade II designation was given on 1 December 1975. One of the major reasons given by English Heritage, at that time, was because the Pier was ‘the only Dover Harbour structure designed by probably the most distinguished harbour engineer of the 19 century, Sir John Coode in 1890-2 … It survives substantially intact with end lighthouse, cleats and steps, iron railings and lamp standards…’ This became the main objection to the hovercraft pad proposal, other objections included the potential noise from the hovercraft and the loss of the King Charles II Walk. DHB retaliated by saying the Seaspeed would move to another port which would lead to a loss of jobs. While British Rail preferred the ‘carrot approach’ saying that they planned to utilise the existing railway connection for the proposed hoverport, between the Main Line and the Prince of Wales Pier.
At the end of October 1975, rumours abounded that DHB planned to demolish the lattice ironwork section of the Prince of Wales Pier and to replace it with a concrete wall and that the Pier head was to be demolished to reduce the length of the Pier. DHB responded by saying that a concrete shield would be built and this would enclose and thus preserve the lattice ironwork from the elements as well as reducing potential noise from the hovercraft. The demolition of the Pier head was to give hovercraft a clear run in to the hoverpad from the Western entrance and the previous shipping accidents involving the Pier head were also cited. In November the Transport Minister (1975-1976) Dr John Gilbert (1927-2013) came to Dover to inspect the plans, see the site and speak with British Rail and DHB officials along with leaders of the protest group.
Seaspeed submitted plans to British Rail to extend their two Mountbatten class hovercrafts on the correct assumption that permission would be given. Work began on building the new hovercraft pad even though formal permission for building the pad was not given in March 1976. At the time, it was clearly stated that the lattice ironwork section of the Prince of Wales Pier would be preserved in a concrete casing. Work was due to be finished in the summer of 1977 but appalling weather caused long delays and the cost of the project increased to £8million. Eventually it was finished in June 1978 and formally opened by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
In the event, the Prince of Wales Pier was not foreshortened and the lighthouse, Lighthouse restaurant/café remained along with the Grade II Listed artefacts. The railway line could still be seen but it was already known that British Rail had rescinded on the promise of the railway connection to the Hoverpad. There was a concrete shield along the length of what had been the lattice ironwork section of the Pier, with Perspex portholes so that the public could view the Hoverpad. Technical reports stated that the concrete part of the Pier had been built using ‘a 400m long twin sheet steel piled cofferdam cellular structure in filled with ballast and surfaced in a reinforced concrete cap spanning between reinforced concrete beams supported on the sheet steel piles and at the harbour end by a masonry block construction 500m long founded on the underlying chalk.’
However, it was plain to see and later reproduced on maps, that the straight Prince of Wales Pier had a significant bend to the west where the former latticed ironwork section joined the masonry part of the Pier. Initially, assurances were given that the lattice ironwork was still intact and within the concrete casing and that the bend was due to it being wider than the masonry part of the Pier. When this was queried the public were told that the west side of the lattice ironwork had been demolished but the foundations were safe under the Hovercraft Pad! Ten years later the following statement was quietly issued: ‘When Hoverport was built in 1978 the viaduct section was demolished and replaced with twin sheet piled walls, tie rods and ballast infill it was offset to the east by about 10m to give more land to the Hoverport.’
For many Dovorians, the highlight of 1979 was the installation of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900-2002) as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Queen Mother arrived on board the Royal yacht Britannia on 31 July when the strong winds prevented the ship from berthing alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. Thus she came ashore by Royal barge before visiting both Dover and Walmer Castles. The following day, 1 August, the weather was awful, wind and torrential rain. Nonetheless, folk dressed appropriately for the weather but with red/white/ blue trimmings the colours of which ran down eager and excited faces that lined the streets. After the Hallowing service at St Mary in Castro Church at the Castle, the Queen Mother accompanied by her grandson, Prince Edward, travelled in a glass coach to the grounds of Dover College for the installation ceremony. Princess Margaret (1930-2002) had arrived with the Queen Mother on board the Royal yacht but she remained on board Britannia, by then, moored alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. A firework display lit up the harbour when the Royal yacht sailed late that night.
Shortly after 1600hrs on Saturday 30 March 1985 the Hovercraft, Princess Margaret, with 370 passengers on board – mainly French schoolchildren – was coming through the Western entrance. At the time, there were strong winds and heavy seas such that she hit the Southern Breakwater. A number of passengers were thrown into the sea and members of the crew jumped in to rescue them. Both the lifeboat Rotary Service and the tug Dexterous were prompt with their assistance. After rescuing those in the sea the next job was to rescue the passengers still in their seats that were suspended over the tumultuous sea – there were no seatbelts to hold them in. The lifeboat crew ran a rope to the Prince of Wales Pier to steady the Hovercraft, and then putting Rotary Service on the damaged side of the Hovercraft, carefully helped the stricken passengers to safety. Altogether, the lifeboat crew worked for eight hours taking off 175 passengers and 8 crew as well as searching for the missing. Four passengers died in the accident.
During the early hours of 16 October 1987, one of the worst storms in two hundred years hit southern Britain. That night the Sealink freight ship Seafreight Highway was trying to get alongside No.3 berth at the Western Docks to load for a crossing to Zeebrugge. However, a generator had failed so the bow thruster was not working. A DHB tug was helping the beleaguered ship but due to the strong southerly wind was unable to hold the Seafreight Highway. In danger of becoming trapped between the Prince of Wales Pier and the ship, the tug aborted, which left Seafreight Highway to her own devices. The master on the Seafreight Highway went full astern to get her stern into the wind and away from Pier. Unfortunately the bow came up under the café that overhung the end of the Pier and surrounded the lighthouse. As a result, the Seafreight Highway, lifted the cafe off its foundations, virtually destroying it, and displaced the lighthouse from its base by about 18inches. The master then aborted trying to get to the Admiralty Pier and went to lay-by on the Eastern Arm, for repairs to the generator.
Problems, however, did not cease for during that night the ship was virtually battered against the Eastern Arm, and suffered a great deal of damage. That night the Sealink ferry Hengist, based at Folkestone, ended up aground on the concrete apron at the Warren between Dover and Folkestone. While the St Christopher, coming from Calais to Dover, was hit by seas so hard that her upper deck steel door, below the bridge, was twisted totally out of shape and vehicles were overturned. Following the great storm, the Prince of Wales Pier lighthouse was dismantled, block by block – each block numbered – and then rebuilt using the same design and blocks. The restaurant/café was demolished and the second Lighthouse cafe, now completely detached from the lighthouse, was built. Costing £65,000 it opened in August 1989. The Roseau figurehead was rescued, put in storage and later restored by Richard Mahoney of White Cliffs Boat tours. She can be seen, at the time of writing, in De Bradelei Wharf shopping mall on Cambridge Road.
In the late 1980s, as part of a tourism initiative, notices were erected telling folk about aspects of the town. On the Seafront one such notice described the Amenity part of the Harbour – the water area, bounded by the Prince of Wales Pier, the beach, Castle Jetty and the northern limits of the Anchorage. It was stated that this is about 90 hectares or 225 acres. The noticed finished by stating ‘Any reclamation or work involving a permanent use of the sea bed requires approval of Crown Estates to whom rent has to be paid.’ At the time, the area together with the remaining water areas was patrolled and regulated by the Harbour Manager through Port Control and the Board’s patrol launch Diplomat.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, again came to Dover on the Britannia and berthed alongside the Prince of Wales Pier. This was on Sunday 4 June 1989 to mark her first 10-years as Lord Warden. The weather was consistent with the day of her inauguration but did not put the crowds off. As the ship tied up a royal salute was fired from the Castle with the lifeboat, tugs and ships in the harbour, dressed overall, sounding their horns in greeting. The Lord Warden entertained guests for lunch on board Britannia and held a reception followed by a private dinner party in the evening. The following day the Queen Mother attended a Thanksgiving service at St Mary’s Church and then visited St Mary’s Primary school, which was celebrating its 2nd centenary that year. That day the Cinque Ports’ Court of Brotherhood and Guestling were meeting in the Maison Dieu and as Lord Warden, the Queen Mother presided over it. It was not yet 13.00hrs when she left so the Queen Mother went for a walk-about in Dover’s town centre meeting locals. She then rejoined Britannia, which departed Dover escorted by the Andromeda.
The Prince of Wales Pier was traditionally where fireworks displays took place and in April 1993 a fantastic display was put on for the arrival of P&O’s new super ferry, 28,138-ton Pride of Burgundy. As the cross Channel ship entered the western entrance, shortly before mid-night, the firework display lit up the sky. The centrepiece was the name of the ship and it looked as though it was written in the stars! That year, on the western side of the Prince of Wales Pier, the Western Dock Fast Ferry (catamaran) berth was constructed, consisting of a bank seat, portal dolphins, Linkspan bridge and side fendering system. Even though the Prince of Wales Pier was Grade II Listed, the fendering system, mooring access walkway and Restricted Area fencing were attached to the Pier’s masonry.
SeaCats, as they were nicknamed, had been introduced to Dover in April 1990 with the arrival of Hoverspeed France. At the time the berth was being built, in 1993, it was expected that the SeaCats would eventually replace the hovercrafts, as the latter were getting old. For the spectators on the Pier, they provided a new interest. Three years later, on Admiralty Pier, Cruise Terminal One opened providing another delight for spectators on the Prince of Wales Pier especially when some ships, as they left the port for the 1st time, were accompanied by harbour board tugs spraying water from fire fighting water cannon. Prior to her inaugural cruise, when she was in the port for 2 days, NCL arranged for a firework display from the Prince of Wales Pier as a spectacular celebration for their latest ship, the Norwegian Sky.
The Western Dock Fast Ferry (catamaran) berth alongside the Prince of Wales Pier was extended in 2001. This was for the arrival of Hoverspeed’s Italian built vessel Superseacat One. The 100-metre long craft operated to both Calais and Ostend and increased the company’s capacity by 80%. A passenger access walkway with operating machinery was installed between the eastern linkspan bridge support dolphin and the wall of the Grade II Listed Prince of Wales Pier. The two SRN4 hovercraft, Princess Margaret and Princess Anne had been withdrawn from service on 1 October 2000. Then, on 17 November 2005 the SeaCat Diamant made her last departure out of Dover and in 2008 the Western Dock Fast Ferry (catamaran) berth was officially taken out of operation when Hoverspeed went into administration.
In 1995 the former Chairman of the Dover Harbour Board who had given the green light to the demolition of the Grade II Listed historic latticed ironwork of the Prince of Wales Pier, Sir Clifford Jarrett, died. In his memory, DHB and the Dover Society erected a bronze memorial on the Pier but it eventually was corroded by sea spray. In February 2005, a replacement granite memorial, created by monumental masons Cleverley and Spencer of Charlton, was unveiled on the Prince of Wales Pier. The Chairman of the Dover Society, Derek Leach together with the vice-Chairman Jeremy Cope and the Chief Executive of DHB Bob Goldfield unveiled the memorial.
For the year ending 2005 the number of freight lorries passing through Eastern Docks was 1.98million and the number forecast per year by 2034 was 3.9million. In March 2006, DHB announced, with great deal of publicity, that the Western Docks would be redesigned. The changes would include reclaiming (filling in) the Granville Dock and Tidal Basin, the shortening of the Prince of Wales Pier and the creation of four new ferry berths and a yachting marina. Three of the new ferry berths were to be on the east side of a widened Prince of Wales Pier and the fourth on the west alongside the site of the disused hoverport. It was envisaged that a new marina would be constructed landward of the three east side ferry berths, with a waterway access across the Esplanade / Marine Parade to Wellington Dock. The project, it was said, was to be a catalyst for the rejuvenation of Dover.
For a number of years DDC had been striving to gain similar publicity for the St James’ Development scheme situated between Castle Street and Townwall Street in the centre of Dover town. Soon after the DHB project was launched, the two redevelopment projects were lumped together by the media with talk of pedestrian aerial walkways to join the two proposals. As time past, other newsworthy matters came to the fore and media interest waned. With a change in top personnel at DHB their project was revamped and re-publicised. The two historic docks would still be filled in and the Prince of Wales Pier widened to create a new 2-berth cargo terminal similar to that first envisaged in 1950 but without the railway lines. Besides the two cargo berths the Pier would be foreshortened and the marina and the waterway access to Wellington Dock would be built on the east side.
The revamped plan was launched with great razzmatazz and kept totally separate from DDC’s St James Development plans. Further, DHB shrewdly sort to quell opposition by the use of workshops – where they set the agenda. Taking out full page advertisements in the local papers – implying that the whole community positively endorsed the changes afoot and offering an annual Community Fund of £100,000 for voluntary groups in Dover. What remained of the Grade II Listed Prince of Wales Pier would be encased within the new widened structure and the Grade II Listed artefacts would be removed for safekeeping except the lighthouse, which would removed, stone by stone and rebuilt in a new location.
The changes are radical and not always clear but the Western Dock Revival Project, as it is called, does require the approval of government through a Harbour Revision Order (HRO). This is, at the time of publication, still awaited but the Prince of Wales Pier has been closed for ‘Health and Safety Reasons’, while the Listed artefacts are being removed. Over 300 people have officially opposed the proposed changes to the Pier through the Lawful means of objection to the Planning Application. DHB response was, to use their own reported words, to ‘check all of the comments, and of the many only two of them have been to our workshops to hear our plans.’ We hasten to say, at this point, that a member of the Doverhistorian.com team did attend the workshops on a regular basis and we are amongst those who filed objections.
On this point, Doverhistorian.com is well aware that the correct procedure is to record all of the concerns expressed for posterity but in this case, there are many so we have limited the list to a few and where possible, DHB’s response:
The first, and the most common concern, is the loss of public right of way on the Prince of Wales Pier. The public right of way was part of the original application to Parliament for permission to build the Pier in 1891. The official response is that shown in the map above, in black it states that the existing Prince of Wales Pier gives 850metres of public access while the new development will eventually give 1,050metres around the newly built marina. Plus, according to the Chief Executive of DHB, Tim Waggott reported in the Dover Express (24 September 2015) , ‘When the end of the Pier is not used by cargo and freight ships we can facilitate escorted access to the rest of the Pier.‘
The proposed new marina and how it is going to be financed is of concern. Doverhistorian.com has learnt that the Western Dock Revival Project will be in three phases and that the redevelopment of the Prince of Wales Pier is the first phase. The public has been led to believe that the marina will be funded by ‘partners’ and that this will be the private sector. The private sector relies on funding for such projects with high marginal costs, through banks and after the crises of the last few years, banks are risk averse of such projects. Alternatively, money could come from the public sector, similarly to the funding for Ramsgate’s marina but DHB would not be drawn on this.
To ensure that the Wellington Dock does not become a sterile pond that empties through culverts, it is proposed to make a cut through the Esplanade to the new marina. This would provide access and berths for boats along with the marina and to maintain the water level in the Wellington Dock a lock would be needed. It is also proposed that the ‘partners’ are financing the proposed cut through but as Dover has had flooding problems since the building of the Admiralty Pier (see Flooding and Harbour of Refuge part I) and the way to alleviate this would be by the installation of purpose built lock gates. Such a lock will have significant marginal costs but, unlike the proposed marina, very low financial returns.
To date we await reassurances, in writing, from DHB that they will be funding the cut through incorporating a flood prevention lock. However, in the publicity pictures, although the proposed cutting from Wellington Dock across the Seafront to the sea is shown, there are no lock gates shown and it would appear that Wellington Dock would become a tidal basin that is unless there is a sill that would maintain an adequate water level for yachts.
We note that some folk have objected as they are concerned that if the present proposal proves a failure and/or a good offer for the Commercial Harbour comes along, DHB will accept it. DHB does have a track record of making such deals, see Old Park story part II. Another aspect of the loss of the beloved Pier, particularly concerns the berthing of Royal Navy ships and Royal visits when the cruise terminal is busy. We assume they will berth on the east side of the Pier when Phase 1 is completed? Finally, if the utilisation of the Prince of Wales Pier is so important to the future of Dover’s regeneration why has the large adjacent old hoverport been allowed to lay idle for all these years when, for far less cost, it could have been converted into a freight berth with considerable lorry parking space? It does not make sense.
Closed Shop: The Prince of Wales Pier was due to close but this has now been delayed as members of the public have made it clear that they are unhappy about the decisions. However, Dover folk are suppose to be represented at the Port & Community Forum that meet every three months with representatives of Dover Harbour Board (DHB). This is to discuss issues such as the future of Prince of Wales Pier. The Forum is made up of supposed representatives of the town and occasionally two leave and they are suppose to be replaced by new comers. If more than two people apply to join, then the existing members vote for whom they would prefer. On Thursday 17 December two new members were suppose to be elected and the Prince of Wales Pier was to be discussed. Nine people applied to join the Forum, two of whom were the ones that were due to be replaced! Voting took place and, needless to say, the ones that should have been replaced were voted back on! The Chief Executive of DHB gave a presentation of the Prince of Wales Pier but as the Forum is a closed shop, NO searching questions were asked by the supposed representatives of Dover folk!
January 2016 – The Prince of Wales Pier has now been closed and Dover Harbour Board has put in for more planning permission. This is to lower the height of the landward approach near the Clock Tower that promises that a prescriptive record with photographs of the lay out prior to demolition will be kept in case any museum is interested in the future. The application also states that it is expected that the new ‘marina curve’ will be open to public access by 2018.
First Presented: 03 October 2015