The Basin



"Prior to 1834, the passage along the side of the Pent, at the back of lower Snargate Street, was only available for foot passengers, and it was called Pentside.  The building of Commercial Quay, and the widening of it for a road, was completed in 1834, and about the same time the quay on the opposite side was built, at the back of the Esplanade.  The Slipway was made in 1850, and in 1852 was commenced the work of cleansing the Pent, the building of Northampton Quay, the arching over of the Dour, and the completion of Northampton Street up to new Bridge.  These works completed the inner harbour."   (J.B.J. 1907)

A cargo of timber being unloaded at the Custom House Quay (Granville Basin) in the 1960s

The picture above shows the Granville Basin as it was in the 1960s, with cargo vessels being loaded and unloaded by cranes on the quayside.  Just left of the centre of the picture, you can see the entrance to the tunnel that takes the railway line from London to the Priory Station.

Behind the building on the quayside to the left of the picture was the site of Holy Trinity Church.

All of the buildings on the quayside, and in Strond Street beyond, have long since been demolished.  The present day view can be seen in the picture bottom right of this page.

BRS Canterbury
British Rail ship Canterbury

The picture above shows the British Rail ship Canterbury alongside Northampton Quay (Wellington Basin) in the 1960s, shortly before being scrapped.  The Canterbury, was built for the Golden Arrow service in 1929 and continued in this role until replaced by the Invicta.  In 1934, she was specially chartered to carry Princess Marina to Dover for her marriage to the Duke of Kent.  In her heyday she was a luxurious ship, with fully appointed cabins and a palm court, decorated in oak and mahogany.  Although licensed to carry 1,700 passengers, she was not intended to take more than 300.  Such was the luxury of travel from London to Paris on the Golden Arrow - Fleche d'Or service.

Lord Warden and Maid of Orleans
Lord Warden and Maid of Orleans

During the winter months, when less people wanted to cross the Channel, some of the ferries were laid up in the Wellington Basin for maintenance.   The picture shows the car ferry Lord Warden and the passenger ferry Maid of Orleans alongside Commercial Quay.  The Lord Warden, launched from William Denny's shipyard on the Clyde on 14th December 1951, was the first purpose-built drive-on car ferry.


Today, the entire inner harbour including both the Wellington and Granville docks has been turned into a yachting marina.  All signs of commercial activity on the quayside has long since disappeared.

The pictures below show how the area looks today (1999).

The slipway

This view of Snargate Street across the slipway was taken from Slip Quay.

Crosswall Quay

This view of Crosswall Quay and the Wellington Basin gates was taken from the Union Street swing bridge.

Tidal Harbour

This view of the Tidal Harbour was taken from the Esplanade (now a car park).

Granville Basin
Granville Basin

The picture above shows the Granville Basin taken from the Union Street Quay.   Compare this view with the picture of the Canterbury (above, left).

The Pent, before Northampton Street was formed

The picture below shows the Wellington Basin as it appears today.   Compare this view with the pictures above, taken in the 1960s and with this picture, taken around the end of the 19th century.

Wellington Dock
Wellington Dock from Union Street - Snargate Street in the background

"A new Harbour Board was constituted in 1861, and that Board being deprived of the revenue from Passing Tolls, the finances did not permit of any important works being undertaken for several years.  In 1871, the 5ft. deepening of the inner basin was commenced; and when that was completed, and some additions made to the quay walls at the north end of Custom House Quay, it was re-opened and re-named the Granville Dock.  The Clock Tower was built about the same time, and improvements made in the Wellington Dock Quays, the entire cost of the works from 1871 to 1879 amounting to 77,416.  In 1888, the Wellington Dock gates were widened to admit the larger Channel steamers.  The Wellington bridge as built in 1844, was replaced in 1904 by a massive steel bridge, swung by a combination of hydraulic and electric power, to carry both the roadway for vehicular traffic and the railway to the Liner landing-stage on the Prince of Wales Pier, and that completed the development of the harbour inside the north and south piers."   (J.B.J. 1907)

This card, which almost certainly dates from before the Great War, shows two of the "Ladies" (Harbour Board tugs) - probably the Lady Vita and the Lady Curzon - alongside a cross-Channel steamer.  On the left is a sailing ship, most likely a collier.

This card, depicting a rather romanticised view of the Basin, is from a painting entitled Moonrise in Dover Harbour.  It shows a mixture of steam and sail.