WATERFORD CITY HARBOUR

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The numerous and peculiar advantages which Waterford enjoys for the extension of its commerce are still but beginning to be fully known and duly appreciated. The river Suir is navigable for ships of very large burden, having sufficient depth of water to allow vessels of 800 tons' burden to discharge their cargoes opposite to the Custom-house.

About two miles below the city is an island called the Little Island, in the form of an equilateral triangle; and in the King's channel, which embraces two sides of this island, is the greatest depth of water, but from its position it requires particular winds to work through it, and it is also rendered dangerous by a sunken rock, called the Golden Rock. In the other channel, which is called the Ford, and which is both the shorter and more direct passage, there was a depth of only two feet at low water.

This great disadvantage naturally attracted the attention of mercantile and nautical men, and in 1816, through the exertions of the Chamber of Commerce, an act was obtained for deepening, cleansing, and otherwise improving the port and harbour, for supplying ships with ballast, and for regulating the pilots. Under this act the management is vested in 24 commissioners, 12 of whom are nominated by the Chamber of Commerce, 7 by the corporation of the city, and 5 by the Commercial Association of Clonmel; under its provisions, arrangements were speedily made for deepening the channel called the Ford, and this has been so effectually accomplished that there is now at high water of ordinary spring tides a depth of 21 feet.

The expense of this improvement amounted to £21,901. 15., towards which Government contributed £14,588, and the remainder was paid from duties levied on the shipping under the authority of the act; there are now three excellent pilot boats, one of 40 and two of 30 tons' burden.

During the latter years of the war, the average number of ships which annually entered the port was 995, of the aggregate burden of 91,385 tons; but on the sudden transition from war to peace, and more especially from the alteration in the navigation laws, which enabled the Colonial settlements, particularly Newfoundland, to procure from the cheaper markets of the continent those supplies of provisions which they had exclusively obtained from the mother country, the trade of the port was materially diminished. Since the deepening of the Ford, however, and the reduction of the port duties, the trade has been rapidly increasing; in 1825, the number of ships that entered the port was nearly equal to the former, and the trade has since continued to make rapid advances.

In the year ending Jan. 5th, 1835, 57 British ships, of the aggregate burden of 11,489 tons, and 5 foreign ships, of 984 tons aggregate burden, entered inwards; and 28 British ships, together of 4658 tons, and 1 foreign vessel of 169 tons, cleared out from this port in the foreign trade. During the same period, 1376 steam-vessels, coasters, and colliers, of the aggregate burden of 154,004 tons, entered inwards, and 1028, of the collective burden of 123,879 tons, cleared outwards, from and to Great Britain; and 132 of 6136 tons aggregate burden entered inwards, and 170 of 6848 tons cleared outwards, from and to Irish ports. The number of ships registered as belonging to the port, in the same year, was 115, of the aggregate burden of 11,986 tons.

The amount of duties paid at the customhouse, for 1835, was £135,844. 12. 4., and for 1836, £137,126. 7. 9: the amount of excise duties collected within the revenue district of Waterford, for the former year, was £60,835. 12. 10.

The quay, in the centre of which is the custom-house, a neat and commodious building, presents a very brilliant appearance at night, having two ranges of gas lights, of which that on the verge of the quay is provided by the Harbour Commissioners from the profits of the fees and emoluments of the water-bailiff's office, by agreement with the corporation; the benefit of these lights has been experienced in a very high degree by vessels loading and unloading by night. The Harbour Commissioners have also established a quay and river watch, which has been very useful in the protection of property and the preservation of human life; it appears that, since its first establishment in 1822, not less than 300 persons have been saved from drowning. They have also made a complete survey and published a chart of the coast for 12 miles to the cast and west of Hook lighthouse, for the purpose of making it better known to mariners as an asylum harbour.

The port affords peculiar facilities to steam-vessels of the larger class, which, from the great depth of water in the river, are not obliged, as in most other parts, to wait at the harbour's mouth for high water, but can approach the quay at any period of the tide. The Harbour Commissioners have also placed vessels or hulks firmly moored about 60 or 70 feet from the edge of the quay, with a strong gangway or bridge from 10 to 12 feet wide, and fenced with iron railings, reaching from the hulks to the quay, which, having one extremity resting on the hulk, rises and falls with the tide; by this means the steamers can discharge or receive a cargo or passengers even at low water, and without the labour or risk of throwing out or taking up an anchor, but merely by casting off from or making fast to the moorings close to the hulks.

Steam-vessels of a superior class sail regularly, three times in the week, with goods, passengers, and live stock to Bristol and Liverpool; and being able to enter or leave the river at any state of the tide, have an opportunity of arranging their time of sailing so as to take advantage of the time of high water in other less favoured ports; hence passengers are not more than one night at sea, the passage being usually made, except in extreme cases, in 18 or 24 hours. The geographical situation, with the natural and acquired advantages of the port, and the moderate rate of duties, render it a very desirable station for the introduction of a portion of the East India and China free trade, which has been lately obtained, the Messrs. Kehoe having imported tea direct from China.

The harbour is 42 leagues from the Land's End, in Cornwall, to the lighthouse on the peninsular of Hook, which lies N. ½ E. When making for it from the south or east, it is necessary to keep Slievenaman, a remarkable mountain inland, N. E. ½ N., or the Great Salter island E. S. E., till the lighthouse is seen on the east side of the harbour; Hook Point must be kept at the distance of a cable's length, to avoid falling into irregular streams of tide that run near it; the west side of the harbour is deep along shore as far as Creden's Head, and shews a red light at Dunmore pier. Passing the Hook, anchorage may be obtained with a flood tide or leading wind at Passage.

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