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1864 - 2nd Major Expansion of Dockyard

It was this year the Lords of Admiralty were granted the necessary Parliamentary powers for the enclosing of an additional 180 acres to Dockyard (93 of which were reclaimed mudflats) and the construction of 15,000 ft of wharfing, of 3 basins, one tidal basin, 3 dry docks and 2 locks, with the provision for a further two dry docks to be added later.

This extension was caused by the building of the Warrior and Black Prince that were the largest ships in the world.

Portsmouth had one dry dock that could accommodate them - the combination of docks No’s 7 & 10. As these ships were to become the standard of new naval construction, and not the exception, the facilities of Portsmouth and other dockyards would have to grow to accommodate them. The estimated cost was £1,500,000. Whale Island was enlarged from 11½ to 74 acres from the spoil that was excavated, which was carried over the water by a railway viaduct from the Dockyard: it was constructed with a swing bridge in its centre so that merchant ships could use Flathouse Wharf; it was still in existence in 1892. Flathouse Wharf was given to the Portsmouth Corporation in exchange for the Anchor Gate Wharf, which had been included in the first Dockyard Extension.

A large portion of Portsea known as the Pest Field (a place where plague victims were buried) was taken into the Dockyard Extension. This land was well populated by Rabbits. In the early days of the extension dockyard men were allowed to set traps to catch rabbits; if questioned by the police on leaving the dockyard with a parcel the answer would be “its only a rabbit”. The expression grew into any job that was performed in dockyard time and with government materials for private use i.e. A rabbit job. Interestingly at the time there was great concern among the inhabitants of the town that by digging up the Pest fields the plague would return and to calm the fears of the people the Admiralty agreed to keep at least six feet of soil on the land. To-day this land is still higher than the surrounding land and during the First World War became known as “Hill 60”.