IWAI - Dublin Branch - Graving Docks at Grand Canal Dock

 The Graving Docks at Grand Canal Dock

Update!

Update 25/11/11: Plot 8 has been handed over to NAMA by DDDA.  Prior to that, at the end of Septmember, DDDA (who leased the plot upon which the graving docks stand) withdrew permission for the planned workparties.  The next planned workparty of October 1st 2011 was to include 10-12 volunteers form Trinity College Dublin participating as part of the 1st National Day of Volunteering



View the OSI maps (historic & modern)



Part of an 1982 aerial photograph showing
the use of the area by the Dublin Gas Company
(courtesy Alan Tomlin).


Modern aerial view (Google Maps)
or aerial photographs on Bing

Surveying the scene, January 2011
See here for more Photos of the Graving Docks


The smaller of the Graving Docks, January 2011
See here for more Photos of the Graving Docks

 

Description of the opening ceremony at Grand Canal Docks, 23rd April 1796

On the western side of the Dodder, in the immediate vicinity of the village of Ringsend, are the Grand Canal Docks, comprising an area of twentyfive acres, with two thousand yards of quayage, and about eighteen feet depth of water. They have three commodious graving docks, and are entered by two gates, called the Camden and Buckingham locks. They were opened on the 23rd of April 1796; the following curious and interesting account of the ceremony is from "Walker's Hibernian Magazine:" "This being St. George's Day, was exhibited one of the grandest and most interesting spectacles ever witnessed by this kingdom—the opening of this Grand Canal Floating and Graving Dock. At 11 o'clock his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, attended by his mite, and accompanied by Mr. Secretary Pelham, went on board the yacht (commanded by Sir Alexander Schomberg) lying in the river. The yacht immediately proceeded into the great eastern ship lock, from whence she passed into the floating docks. As soon as the yacht entered the basin a royal salute was fired from the park of artillery on the south bank of the docks, which was returned by the yacht as soon as she came to anchor, when she also hoisted the royal standard. About twenty vessels of considerable size entered the docks after the yacht, and each of them saluted as they came in ; they were followed by a considerable number of small craft and a variety of barges and pleasure-boats handsomely decorated, which gave great variety and beauty to the scene. His Excellency, Earl Camden, with Mr. Pelham, attended by Sir Alexander Schomberg, came ashore, and was received on the wharf between the two large graving docks by the Court of Directors of the Grand Canal. The company, which consisted of about a thousand of the principal nobility and gentry, then went into a breakfast, prepared in tents."

Background

Over the years, the Dublin Branch of the IWAI has rarely been able to stay still for long, with attention variously focused on the Central Line of the Grand Canal (1960s), the Naas Line (1970s), and the Boyne Navigation (2000s). Now, with the blessing of Waterways Ireland and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), we're commencing an effort to restore one of the graving docks at Grand Canal Dock in Ringsend to working order.

History of the Graving Docks

The Grand Canal Dock famously opened in 1796 to much celebration. Originally, there were three graving docks, primarily used for ship repair. The largest was 180ftx65ft, the second 150ft and the third 90ft long.

However by 1837, the Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge reported that “the basins within are capable of containing 600 sail in 16 feet of water. Attached are three graving-docks for vessels of different dimensions, with several extensive piles of stores; the whole being surrounded by spacious wharfs. This portion of the works has failed in a remarkable manner. The stores have long been unoccupied, and the wharfs are for the most part overgrown with grass” - the same text is repeated in later editions but without the scurrilous remarks at the end!

There were many reasons why Grand Canal Dock failed including regular silting at the dock entrance by the Dodder.  Official documents from 1847 report that - "there are no graving docks in Dublin but those of the Grand Canal Company, and their dock gates, constructed before steam was employed in navigation, are too narrow to permit steam-vessels to enter; neither is there sufficient water at all times within the Grand Canal docks, to permit large sailing vessels to pass from them into these graving docks, the entrance sills of which are six feet above the bottom of the dock basin. ... [additionally] the Corporation have erected two patent slips, ... at which large steamers are examined and repaired [which] had injured the property of the Grand Canal Company, by diminishing the value of their graving docks”. Despite this, Thom's directory records that 102 vessels entered the graving docks for repair a year earlier in 1846. A large graving dock was built in 1853 at North Wall, 378 feet long on the floor, with entrance gates 70 feet wide and 17 feet over the sill and was in use until 1989.  The largest of the GCD graving docks had been filled in two years earlier in 1851 (although 1918 is also quoted in the The Grand Canal Dock Planning Scheme, of 2000).


A 1929 advert for the Ringsend Dockyard Company
who were based at the two graving docks
(
click for a larger copy)

The two remaining graving docks were run by the Dublin Dockyard Company from 1851 to 1881 which constructed and repaired ships on site. 

In 1913, the Grand Canal graving docks were leased to the Ringsend Dockyard Company (aka McMillan's). Canal boat 31M was the first of the M Boats built by the Ringsend Dockyard Company, with production continuing until 118B in 1939. The Ringsend Dockyard went out of business in 1963 and the site was taken over by the Dublin Gas Company - the aerial photo from 1982 shows no sign of the docks. The modern aerial photo shows where two of the docks have been excavated in the early 2000s by WI and the DDDA.

The legal ownership of the Graving Docks (within Plot 8) is discussed here. WI is the owner of the freehold - DDDA's lease is essentially that of Bord Gáis, a lease of 99 years from 1964.  On the 25th November 2011, DDDA's interest in Plot 8 was handed over to NAMA.

Plans

The graving docks lie within an area covered by The Grand Canal Dock Planning Scheme, of 2000. The restoration of the graving dock is part of an overall ambition in respect of this area (known as Plot 8) (see diagrams below)

The original goal for this plot/zone was stated as: “The existing boating activities should be rationalised, and at least one of the three graving docks should be restored. This zone, as a whole, has the potential to combine exciting unique community facilities having a maritime theme with viable commercial and residential use. The provision of a nautical heritage centre is also worthy of examination. Close consultation will be maintained with the existing marine interests, local users and the community with a view to ensuring that this site is developed in a manner which will fully exploit its potential for amenity, nautical, community, commercial and residential use.”. It was reiterated in the 2008 plan where policy LU23 is to “Progress the implementation of the Plot. 8 community facility in Grand Canal. Dock in association with community groups and Waterways Ireland”.   Waterways Ireland's Chief Executive, Mr. John Martin was quoted in 2009 as stating of joint plans with DDDA that "...we were to get ... a new boat slipway and hard standing and a new depot of approximately 1,000 sq. m for our people, we were upgrading and reinstating walkways along the area, there was to be a car park, the lock gates were part of the development and were to be upgraded, one graving dock was to be a working dock and one to be a water feature and additional accommodation for dockmasters was to be provided." (quoted here).

Dublin Branch of IWAI has always been supportive of this goal in respect of Plot 8. Given the current national budgetary situation, progress in achieving these aims will likely be very slow. We have therefore decided that the restoration of one of the graving docks is a suitable challenge for the branch. We have already taken tentative steps in the process of getting the smallest of the graving docks back into working order with initial workparties held since January 2011.

Originally, the dock partly fills from the Dodder with the incoming tide and could be topped up from the Grand Canal Dock. It empties under gravity at low tide into the Dodder. Our initial ambitions are to secure the site, to remove the scrub, to locate the missing stonework (some is elsewhere on site), to get the valve/drain between the dock and the Dodder operational, to pump out and clear the graving dock of rubble. The entrance to the dock was sealed in the 1960s with a brick wall. Longer term, we of course want to replace this with functioning gates, repair/repoint the stonework and essentially get the dry dock back in operation.

Get Involved

If you feel like getting a bit of mild exercise on a Saturday morning, please get in touch. Contact the Dublin Branch committee by email by clicking here or call Mick Kinahan.
A timetable of planned workparties can be found here, but please check the Dublin Branch website at www.dublin.iwai.ie as plans may change!

How to get there?

Click the image below to link to the interactive Google map.

Plans for Plot 8

The graving docks lie within an area covered by The Grand Canal Dock Planning Scheme, of 2000. The restoration of the graving dock is part of an overall ambition in respect of this area (known as Plot 8).

The original goal for this plot/zone was stated as: “The existing boating activities should be rationalised, and at least one of the three graving docks should be restored. This zone, as a whole, has the potential to combine exciting unique community facilities having a maritime theme with viable commercial and residential use. The provision of a nautical heritage centre is also worthy of examination. Close consultation will be maintained with the existing marine interests, local users and the community with a view to ensuring that this site is developed in a manner which will fully exploit its potential for amenity, nautical, community, commercial and residential use.”. It was reiterated in the 2008 plan where policy LU22 is to “Progress the implementation of the Plot. 8 community facility in Grand Canal. Dock in association with community groups and Waterways Ireland”.   Waterways Ireland's Chief Executive, Mr. John Martin was quoted in 2009 as stating of joint plans with DDDA that "...we were to get ... a new boat slipway and hard standing and a new depot of approximately 1,000 sq. m for our people, we were upgrading and reinstating walkways along the area, there was to be a car park, the lock gates were part of the development and were to be upgraded, one graving dock was to be a working dock and one to be a water feature and additional accommodation for dockmasters was to be provided." (quoted here).  Dublin Branch of IWAI has always been supportive of this goal in respect of Plot 8.

The original plans from 2000 included the restoration of one (the central) graving dock. In the 2007 Docklands Campshire Vision, this had "improved" to the full restoration of one dock (to working capacity) and the restoration of the 2nd as a water feature.  The diagrams at left is from the .  One of the themes of that vision was that of "Animating the Water". 

 

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