Copyright © Bridgwater Blake Museum 2018
Bridgwater was once the premier port for Somerset, with all manner of goods being imported here.
Brick and Tiles became the main export, and examples can be found around the world today. Alas,
with the coming of the railways and the growth in road transport, the docks and associated industry
went into decline. The last ship to be built at Carvers Yard was the ketch Irene in 1907.
The ketch Irene on launce day 1907
See images of Irene here.
A floating harbour, known as the "docks" was constructed between 1837–1841, when the canal was
extended through Bridgwater to the floating harbour. The resultant excavated spoil material was stored
on the north side on the docks site, creating what became known as the "mump". Much of the mump
was removed in the 1980s to make way for the redevelopment on the north side of the dock.
The berths were accessed from the river via sea locks with a maximum size of 180 by 31 feet (54.9 by
9.4 m). From 1844 the docks had a Steam powered, cable-towed puddled iron Drag-Dredger,
Bertha, similar to the one Brunel had designed for Bristol Harbour. Now preserved at the World of
Boats in Eyemouth, she is undergoing restoration at the head of the Old Harbour. The dock area
contained flour mills, timber yards and chandlers. The docks opened on 25 March 1841, with volumes
resultantly reaching a peak between 1880 and 1885; with an average of 3,600 ships per year entering
the port. Peak tonnage occurred in 1857, with 142 vessels totalling 17,800 tonnes (17,500 long tons).In
the short term, the opening of the docks increased the profitability of the Bridgwater and Taunton
Canal, which carried 81,650 tonnes (80,360 long tons) of cargo in 1840. This peaked in 1847 at 88,000
tonnes (87,000 long tons) of cargo; however, by the mid-1850s the canal was bankrupt due to
competition from both the Bristol and Exeter (B&ER) and Somerset Central Railways.An end to the
unequal competition came in 1867 when the B&ER purchased the canal.
Model of the docks.
Image from the Douglas Allen collection.
This model is on display in the museum’s Transport Room
The dredger Bertha.
The ‘mump’ can be seen in the background.
Crane at work in the docks
Click on an image to enlarge.
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