Belfast Harbour - Story of Belfast

THE harbour of Belfast had indeed a very small beginning, and the original dock or "Creek," as it was called, was the mouth of the little river which flowed down High Street, into the Lagan. An old map of 1685, shows this small dock, which was cleaned out and deepened as was required. No accommodation for ships or artificial landing-place existed. Some time previous to that, in the year 1613, it was named in the Charter of Belfast as a free port, but small sums were paid by shipmasters. After some extension of the dock had been made, it was enacted in 1696, "That all vessels belonging to foreigners should have liberty to discharge at the 'Key' on payment of twopence a ton, but vessels belonging to Freemen of the Borough should only pay one penny a ton." Gradually the increase of shipping brought increase of harbour dues. In 1775, Lord Avonmore reclaimed part of the causeway across the Strand at Connswater. At a meeting of the harbour corporation held in the Ballast Office in 1786, a resolution was passed, " That the ford opposite Chichester Street is of great detriment to the harbour and shipping, and ought to be removed at once." £10 10s. was allowed for this work, and the stones which were removed were to be sold.

It was found that every year more money was required. In the year 1800, a great advance was made when a new graving-dock was opened to receive vessels. It was capable of containing three vessels of two hundred tons each. At spring tides there were nine feet of water, and it was constructed by the Ballast Corporation at a cost of £6,000.

The Belfast Harbour Commissioners were formed in the year 1854. They have now a very handsome building, and the Harbour Trust is one of the most important public boards we have. It is not within the scope of this small book to touch upon the vast importance of their work.