LIMERICK PORT IMPROVEMENTS

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The situation of Limerick, about sixty Irish miles from the sea, and its extent of river navigation, render the port an object of peculiar importance; but it labours under several disadvantages. For a great port, it is too high up the river: its navigation is obstructed and intricate, with insufficient water for large vessels in the higher parts of the channel; no funds are applied to the maintenance of the navigation, which is almost entirely neglected: ships may discharge ballast in any part without restriction, and the proprietors of adjoining lands may create any obstructions they please. At each side of the narrow arm of the Shannon that encircles the English town are several quays accessible only to boats; and at Merchants' Quay is the Long Dock, where the turf and fish boats unload.

From the Custom-house, at the mouth of the Abbey river, various detached quays, erected by private individuals, extend along the united channel, but they are in a very bad condition; the ground around them is rugged and hard, so that vessels lying there are frequently damaged. The water-bailiff receives dues to the amount of about £400 per ann., levied on all vessels arriving in the port; and other dues, amounting to about £80 per annum, are received by the mayor on salt and coal imported.

The Chamber of Commerce, consisting of opulent and most respectable merchants, has supreme interest in the navigation of the port, and from its funds has been defrayed the greater portion of the expense that has been incurred by whatever improvements have been made, although it has no right or control over the river. The commissioners appointed by act of parliament, in 1823, have power to levy certain taxes for the erection of the Wellesley bridge, and of docks to accommodate vessels frequenting the port: their revenue now averages £1500 per annum, and they have jurisdiction over the pilotage of the river. These commissioners have obtained from Government a loan of £55,384 under a mortgage of the tolls on exports and imports, tonnage, dock dues, &c. It was their intention to construct a floating dock, but the original plan has been abandoned, and , an act has been recently obtained to carry into effect a design by Thomas Rhodes, Esq., who in 1833 was appointed by Government to survey the port, with a view to provide a safe harbour for shipping. His plan proposes, by constructing a dam or weir across the river at Kelly's Quay, to convert that part of the river above into floating docks, which are to be formed by excavating and levelling the bed of the river along the present quay walls; and a new line of quays is to be built, on which bonded warehouses, storehouses for grain, &c., may be erected.

On the north side of the river is to be a dock-yard, with two slips or inclined planes, and a graving dock; and on the south side, another graving dock. It is also proposed to form a line of embankments on each side of the river, for reclaiming considerable tracts of waste land, which might be drained, and the water discharged by tide sluices through the embankments.

The total amount required to carry these plans into execution is estimated at £82,756. 10. No part of the work has been yet commenced; but £40,000 has been granted, and the quays are already contracted for, to be finished in 1838: they are to extend 3030 feet, from Kelly's Quay to the custom-house. A cut from the Abbey river continues the navigation, partly in the river and partly by an artificial canal for 15 miles, to Lough Derg, which was transferred by Government to a private association, called the Limerick Navigation Company, on their undertaking to expend £3000 in the rebuilding of Baal's bridge, which had previously interrupted the communication between the canal and the tide-water of the river, and still continues to do so in a great degree; and about the same period a new and important impulse was given to the trade on the Shannon, by the establishment of the Inland Steam-navigation Company, by which a communication has been opened by steam with Kilrush and other places in the estuary of the Shannon, and by packet boats to Killaloe, whence there is a communication by steam through Lough Derg to Portumna, Banagher, and Athlone.

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