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Southampton
 
Piers, Docks and Ferries


This is the first of a series of pages devoted to postcards and photographs of the piers, docks, liners and ferries of Southampton and Southampton water. This page covers the piers and docks, plus the Itchen Floating Bridge.
 
Southampton has been a centre for shipping and trade for centuries. Watergate Quay is first recorded in 1411. It stood at the foot of the High Street on the site of today's Town Quay, and it was bordered by the town walls. Small wharves extended either side of Watergate Quay. To the east they reached 'the platform', an area built in the 13th century area for defence of the town, and on towards the oyster beds where the Eastern Docks lie today. Faced with competition from London, continental trade from Southampton declined after 1700, leaving Watergate Quay derelict.
 
In 1803 the newly-formed Harbour Commissioners demolished Watergate and began to build the new Town Quay on the site. The Royal Pier was opened in 1833 (the first jetty or pier in Southampton). It was used by steamers to the Channel Islands, Le Havre and the Isle of Wight. In 1853, a jetty was built at Town Quay. A new Customs House had also been built on the Town Quay in 1847.
 
The London & South Western Railway (LSWR) arrived in 1840, linking London to Southampton Terminus Station (although not officially named as such until 1923), less than a mile from the Royal Pier. Two years earlier, the Southampton Dock Company had started on the construction of the first dock, the Outer Dock, later part of the Eastern Docks system. The Outer Dock opened in 1842, the first ships to use it being the P&O liners Tagus and Liverpool. The continental steamers moved to the Outer Dock once the railway arrived. The first three dry docks at Southampton were built between 1846 and 1854, able to take the largest ships of the day. The Inner Dock was opened in 1851. It was connected to the Outer Dock by locks, and was the only closed wet dock in Southampton. Trade grew rapidly and 2000 feet of quays were built on the River Itchen, completed in 1876. Three years later, a fourth dry dock was opened, mainly for use by the Union SS Co. In 1890, the larger Empress Dock was opened by Queen Victoria. This was largely financed by loans from the LSWR, since the Southampton Dock Co was in a poor financial position. The largest vessels of the day could enter or leave at any state of the tide, the only port in the UK which could claim this. The Dock Company finances did not improve, and so the LSWR bought the docks in 1892 for £1,360,000. Further Quays were added on the Itchen, these being completed in 1895, and the Prince of Wales dry dock, the largest in the world at the time, opened the same year.
 
The White Star Line transferred its express services from Liverpool to Southampton in 1907, and the White Star Dock was built to accommodate them. When Cunard and Canadian Pacific followed suit after the First War, the dock was renamed the Ocean Dock. The docks were controlled by the Government during the First War, and afterwards returned to the LSWR, who continued their expansion. The LSWR passed to the Southern Railway in 1923. The Southern Railway began work on a massive construction project to create a 7000 foot quay west of the Royal Pier. This became the New Docks (later Western Docks), and the fist ship to visit was Cunard's Mauritania in 1932. The 1200 foot King George V dry dock was also part of the scheme, first used by the White Star's Majestic in 1934. In the same year, Imperial Airways began using Southampton for their flying boats on services around the Empire.
 
Southampton was again extremely busy during the Second War, and remained so after peace returned. The famous Ocean Terminal was opened alongside the Ocean Dock in 1950. New passenger liners regularly entered service until the 1960s, but by the end of this decade travel patterns had changed radically, with most people travelling by air. The Ocean Terminal was closed in 1980 and demolished three years later. The railway passenger ferry services ceased in 1964, but the first ro-ro car ferry service was started by Thoresen Car Ferries in the same year, with a car ferry berth in the Outer Dock. The Inner Dock was filled in to provide car storage areas for this service, and other services started by Swedish Lloyd and Southern Ferries (later Normandy Ferries, then P&O). By 1984, all these services had either closed or moved to Portsmouth. The Queen Elizabeth II passenger terminal was opened in 1966, and remains in regular use for Cunard and other cruise ships. In 1967 the Outer Dock was renamed the Princess Alexandria Dock. It remains as the marina for the Ocean Village.
 
Southampton had always been primarily a passenger port, although most ships carried substantial amounts of cargo too. With the decline of the passenger liners, this emphasis was about to change, with the opening of the first 900 foot container berth in 1968. It was soon joined by a second of the same size, plus a further 3900 feet in the 1970s. Southampton is also a major importer and exporter of cars, with at least one of the ugly car-carriers in port at any time. In more recent times, passengers have regained their importance, this time for people taking cruises. Whilst never looking as busy as in previous times (cruise ships turn around in a day whereas passenger liners spent a considerable time dealing with cargo), four large cruise ships were in port simultaneously on a number of days in 2006, and their combined gross tonnage probably exceeds that of all the ships in port on busy days in the 1950s.
 
 
Sections on this Page:-
Empress Dock
Floating Bridge
Floating Dock
King George V Dry Dock
Netley Pier
New Docks
Ocean Dock
Royal Pier
Town Quay
Western Docks
White Star Dock
 
Other Southampton Pages:-
Blue Funnel Cruises
 
Associated Pages:-
UK Excursion Ships
Ferry Postcards
Cruise Ship Postcards
Ocean Liner Postcards
Simplon Postcards - Recent Updates
Simplon Postcards - Home Page
 
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Southampton
 
Royal Pier
 
The Royal Pier was opened in 1833 (the first jetty or pier in Southampton). It was used by steamers to the Channel Islands, Le Havre and the Isle of Wight. The continental steamers moved to the Outer Dock once the railway arrived. The London & South Western Railway arrived in 1840, linking London to Southampton Terminus Station (although not officially named as such until 1923), less than a mile from the Royal Pier. A wagon tramway was opened to the Pier in 1847, initially horse-drawn. The tramway connected to the the railway via a wagon-turntable, so passenger carriages could not access it. This was changed from 1871, when a new direct connection was laid. Carriages were still pulled by horse until 1876, when increasing traffic required their replacement by small steam locomotives. A small station with single platform was built at the pier head for passenger trains. Between 5 and seven trains a day linked the Terminus with the Royal Pier.
 
In 1864 a pontoon was added, and the pier head was enlarged in 1871. Major reconstruction of the pier was carried out in 1892, including a second station platform and shelters. A pavilion was added soon afterwards. A new pier entrance, with ornate dome, was built in 1930. The tracks were damaged in the First War, and passenger services did not resume after the war. Vehicles were side-loaded onto ferries until 1950, when a ramp for the converted landing craft Norris Castle (2) was opened. The pavilion was extended in 1963. However, in 1979 the pier was becoming unsafe and was not economic to maintain - it was closed in 1982. The Victorian entrance was restored, and re-opened as a pub/restaurant in 1986. Part of the closed pier was severely damaged by fire in 1987. In 2006, the pier entrance was still in good order, but no longer in use. Subsequently it was restored for use as a Thai restaurant, still open in 2011.


Postcard of the Royal Pier with the Balmoral of the Southampton Company (later Red Funnel)
Note the railway & station on the pier at this stage
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of the Royal Pier.
Note the railway line and station, plus various early Southampton Company paddle steamers
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of the Royal Pier.
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



A well-known photograph of the Southampton at the Royal Pier, Southampton.
Issued here as a Pamlin Prints postcard.
SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



A variation on the photograph above of the Royal Pier, clearly showing the station.
SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of the Royal Pier.
Note additional pier buildings compared to the photo above.
SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of Balmoral (1) at the Royal Pier.
SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard CM.5007 of the Royal Pier.
Queen Elizabeth proceeding to New Docks, Vecta at royal Pier
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Kingsway postcard S19627 of the 1930 Royal Pier entrance.
Railway line and station removed, plus various Southampton Company with black-topped funnels
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Excel postcard of the later Royal Pier entrance.
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of the Royal Pier showing the road which replaced the railway
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Salmon postcard of the Royal Pier entrance in the 1960s.
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SOUTHAMPTON ROYAL PIER - www.simplonpc.co.uk



The Royal Pier entrance in 2006.
The building remains in good order, but is not obviously in use
Photo: © Ian Boyle, Southampton, 23rd April 2006
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Southampton Royal Pier
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 4th August 2006
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Red Funnel postcard of Norris Castle (2) at Southampton, with
She is unloading a fine collection of 1940s/50s cars from the side. A ramp was installed in 1950.
Town Quay in the background



The remains of the Royal Pier in 2006
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 4th August 2006
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The remains of the Royal Pier in 2006
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 4th August 2006
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Town Quay
 
Southampton has been a centre for shipping and trade for centuries. Watergate Quay is first recorded in 1411. It stood at the foot of the High Street on the site of today's Town Quay, and it was bordered by the town walls. Small wharves extended either side of Watergate Quay. To the east they reached 'the platform', an area built in the 13th century area for defence of the town, and on towards the oyster beds where the Eastern Docks lie today. Faced with competition from London, continental trade from Southampton declined after 1700, leaving Watergate Quay derelict.
 
In 1803 the newly-formed Harbour Commissioners demolished Watergate and began to build the new Town Quay on the site. The Royal Pier was opened in 1833 (the first jetty or pier in Southampton). It was used by steamers to the Channel Islands, Le Havre and the Isle of Wight. In 1853, a jetty was built at Town Quay. A new Customs House had also been built on the Town Quay in 1847. The London & South Western Railway arrived in 1840, linking London to Southampton Terminus Station (although not officially named as such until 1923), less than a mile from the Town Quay. A wagon tramway was opened to the Pier in 1847, initially horse-drawn. The tramway connected to the the railway via a wagon-turntable. This was changed from 1871, when a new direct connection was laid. Wagons were still pulled by horse until 1876, when increasing traffic required their replacement by small steam locomotives.
 
In recent years the Town Quay has been redeveloped as high-class shops, restaurants and offices. Most of the shops which they managed to let soon closed, and were replaced by more offices. The Hythe Ferry and fast Red Funnel ferries now leave from the Town Quay. The seawards end of the Town Quay is now a public car park, and a free bus links the Town Quay with the Red Funnel Terminal, West Quays shopping centre and the railway station.


F.G.O.Stuart postcard of the Town Quay.
Gates to Royal Pier bottom right, with railway track leading on to it.
Massed railway wagons on the Town Quay.
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Aerial view showing the Town Quay on the left and floating dock on the right
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Photographic postcard of Duchess of York passing the Town Quay in Southampton.



Pamlin Prints postcard of Mauritania passing the Town Quay.



Netley Pier
 
Netley Pier was originally built in 1856. It was rebuilt in 1865 for patients travelling to the huge military hospital opened that year and had a length of 570 feet. A railway spur served the hospital from 1901, reducing the use of the pier. However, it was used for patients to convalesce on until it became unsafe. It was demolished in 1955.
 
The hospital was built after the Crimean War showed the necessity for having a large military hospital, and it opened in 1863. It was 435 metres long and had around 1000 beds. It was Britain's largest military hospital, and received extensive use during the Boer War and the two World Wars. the main building was closed in 1958, and demolished in 1966 after a major fire in 1963. Only the chapel still remains. A smaller block behind remained in use until 1978. the site is now a park.


Netley Pier & Hospital
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Netley Pier & Hospital
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Outer Dock - Inner Dock

The London & South Western Railway (LSWR) arrived in 1840, linking London to Southampton Terminus Station (although not officially named as such until 1923), less than a mile from the Royal Pier. Two years earlier, the Southampton Dock Company had started on the construction of the first dock, the Outer Dock, later part of the Eastern Docks system. The Outer Dock opened in 1842, the first ships to use it being the P&O liners Tagus and Liverpool. The continental steamers moved to the Outer Dock once the railway arrived. The first three dry docks at Southampton were built between 1846 and 1854, able to take the largest ships of the day. The Inner Dock was opened in 1851. It was connected to the Outer Dock by locks, and was the only closed wet dock in Southampton.


The Eastern Docks showing Inner/Outer Docks in the background
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk






Empress Dock
 
In 1890, the larger Empress Dock was opened by Queen Victoria. This was largely financed by loans from the LSWR, since the Southampton Dock Co was in a poor financial position. The largest vessels of the day could enter or leave at any state of the tide, the only port in the UK which could claim this. The famous Ocean Terminal was opened alongside the Ocean Dock in 1950. New passenger liners regularly entered service until the 1960s, but by the end of this decade travel patterns had changed radically, with most people travelling by air. The Ocean Terminal was closed in 1980 and demolished three years later.


Postcard of Southampton showing the Empress Dock.
Olympic and Leviathan are in the Ocean Dock behind.



The Eastern Docks showing Ocean Dock, Empress Dock and Inner/Outer Docks
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Postcard of Kinfauns Castle leaving the Empress Dock.



Postcard of New York leaving the Empress Dock, plus Union Castle liner.



Aerial postcard of the Eastern Docks, showing the Empress Dock.
Four-funnelled Union-castle liner Windsor castle or Arundel Castle in centre
Aquitania top left, plus Royal Mail and Lamport & Holt liners in the Empress Dock and Union-Castle in foreground
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Postcard of the 'Princess' Dock - I presume in error for the Empress Dock.
Union-Castle and Royal Mail liners
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Union-Castle liners at the Empress Dock.
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Union-Castle's Reina del Mar and the Empress Dock
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk






White Star Dock - Ocean Dock
 
The White Star Line transferred its express services from Liverpool to Southampton in 1907, and the White Star Dock was built to accommodate them. When Cunard and Canadian Pacific followed suit after the First War, the dock was renamed the Ocean Dock. The famous Ocean Terminal was opened alongside the Ocean Dock in 1950. New passenger liners regularly entered service until the 1960s, but by the end of this decade travel patterns had changed radically, with most people travelling by air. The Ocean Terminal was closed in 1980 and demolished three years later. It had already been replaced by the Queen Elizabeth II passenger terminal which was opened in 1966, and remains in regular use for Cunard and other cruise ships.


Postcard of Southampton with Olympic and Homeric in the Ocean Dock
Aquitania is behind them, and a Royal Mail liner is in the Empress Dock in the foreground.



Queen Elizabeth in the Ocean Dock alongside the Ocean Terminal.
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Queen Mary in the Ocean Dock alongside the Ocean Terminal.
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Floating Bridge - River Itchen
 
The Southampton Floating Bridge
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
C&S postcard 538
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
F.G.O.Stuart postcard
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
F.G.O.Stuart postcard
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
Painting by L.S.Lowry
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
Roberts & Wrate postcard RW688
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The Southampton Floating Bridge with Sealink hovercraft
Harvey Barton postcard
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
Multi-view card to commemorate replacement by the Woolston Bridge in June 1977
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The Southampton Floating Bridge
Enlarged image from the multi-view card above



The Southampton Floating Bridge
Enlarged image from the multi-view card above



The Southampton Floating Bridge
Enlarged image from the multi-view card above



The Southampton Floating Bridge
Enlarged image from the multi-view card above






Floating Dock


Aerial view showing the Town Quay on the left and floating dock on the right
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SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS - www.simplonpc.co.uk



F.G.O.Stuart postcard of the Floating Dock.



Postcard of Olympic in the Southampton floating dock.



FGO Stuart postcard of Olympic in the Southampton floating dock.



Photographic postcard of Majestic (2) in the Southampton Floating Dock.



New Docks - Western Docks
 
Southampton Docks ownership passed from the LSWR passed to the Southern Railway in 1923. The Southern Railway began work on a massive construction project to create a 7000 foot quay west of the Royal Pier. This became the New Docks (later Western Docks), and the fist ship to visit was Cunard's Mauritania in 1932. The 1200 foot King George V dry dock was also part of the scheme, first used by the White Star's Majestic in 1934.


Queen Elizabeth at the New Docks at the end of WW2, with Queen Mary still in wartime grey.
Reclaimed land behind the New Dock is still unused



Windsor Castle at the New Docks



Windsor Castle at the New Docks



Shipping at the New Docks



Shipping at the New Docks






King George V Dry Dock
 
Southampton Docks ownership passed from the LSWR passed to the Southern Railway in 1923. The Southern Railway began work on a massive construction project to create a 7000 foot quay west of the Royal Pier. This became the New Docks (later Western Docks), and the fist ship to visit was Cunard's Mauritania in 1932. The 1200 foot King George V dry dock was also part of the scheme, first used by the White Star's Majestic in 1934.


Photographic postcard of Majestic (2) in the Southampton King George V graving dock.



Queen Elizabeth in the King George V dry dock.
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John Stranger postcard (no serial number) of Netley Castle in the King George V dry dock in 1991.
Photo: © Mike Insall






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