Photos of Bremerhaven harbour, and its almost lost dry dock

Old dry docks at Bremerhaven

The 1850 dry docks at Bremerhaven, photographed last week

The dry dock photo from Bremerhaven harbour above shows what can happen when these treasures of industrial archaeology fall into utter neglect. No doubt the folks of Appledore will take careful note, and perhaps these photos will also seem relevant to those interested in the future of Faversham Creek.

The shot was taken on a brief trip last week by regular contributor Hans-Christian Riecke of Nordhorn’s Graf Ship Association. (By the way, we’re going to be at Nordhorn’s Canal Festival in a few weeks. If you’re in the area, please stop by to say hello!)

Here’s what Hans has to say:

‘Last week I have been on a short trip to the port of Bremerhaven. It was founded in the 19th century, when the River Weser became so severely silted that the original port of Bremen could not be reached by seagoing vessels.

‘Soon it became a thriving coastal town, with famous shipyards like Vulcan, Lloyd and Tecklenborg. Later it was the centre of German high sea fishing. But changing times claimed their toll and by 1995 nothing was left, the yards were bankrupt, the fishing industry was gone and unemployment was soaring.

‘Now it has been developed somewhat, with the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum (our national maritime museum), the Klimahaus (which is devoted to the subject of the world climate) and the Columbus Centre. It is also a great rallying point for traditional wooden boats and historic ships, as you can see from the photos [below].

‘One shows the last working steam icebreakerWal, and in the background you can see as replica of a German-built replica hansekogge, the famous medieval trading vessel. Another is of a part of the port reserved for traditional boats. On the third you can see the remains of the old drydocks of 1850. It is not only in Appledore that they fall in decay.’

Steam icebreaker Wal and kogge Bremerhaven Kogge at Bremerhaven traditional wooden boats at Bremerhaven

For more on the Graf Ship Association, zompen, tjalks and the rest, click here.



Yorkshire boy Leo Walmsley runs away to see Liverpool docks

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Liverpool in the mid-19th century

I’ve just been reading Leo Walmsley’s entertaining account of how as a child he ran away from his aunt and uncle for a day in order to explore Liverpool Docks.

The story is told in the first chapter of a short book called British Ports and Harbours in the Britain in Pictures series – but don’t be misled, for as usual with that series there’s plenty to read as well as some interesting images.

Leo was a spirited young fella who had been sent temporarily away from his home in a Yorkshire fishing village to stay with some particularly strict and dull relatives. The relatives happened to live just a few miles from the exciting city of Liverpool and its docks and it seems there was little likelihood of Leo allowing the opportunity to see the ships, sailors and stevedores at work to slip through his fingers.

So the youngster ran away for a few hours and had the time of his life: he saw all the exciting and exotic sights, sounds and even smells he was looking for, and to cap it all, met a ship’s captain who invited him for tea before escorting him back to his guardians.

His eyes must have been like saucers.

‘It was the start of a day of mounting excitements and unbelievable joy… I wanted to see the docks and ships, and see them I did, or as much of them as I could in the course of that swiftly passing day. I could tell where the docks were by the smell of them, without the sight of masts and funnels rising above the roofs of warehouses; a smell compounded of oil and smoke and tar and spices, a smell that lingers on a ship even when she is miles from land, and is accentuated rather than overcome by the briney vapours of the open sea. There were steamers, huge ones, so close to the dock wall that you could actually touch them. Some had English names. Others were foreign and they were flying foreign flags which I had never seen before… And the things that were coming out, or going into those ships! Great packages with foreign printing on them, casks, rolls of paper, timber, iron rails, bales of cotton and bundles of hides, machinery and even live cattle. Hundreds of men as well as the sailors themselves were helping in this work. Most of them were very big… ‘

Six decades later, the sights and smells of docks in London and elsewhere had a similar effect on me, though I doubt a container dock has the same magic.

But back to the early years of the last century, the moment that Walmsley is writing about. Of the captain, he says this:

‘He took me all over his ship, down into the holds and the engine room, explaining everything, but also asking me plenty of questions… he showed me a lot of curious that he had brought from foreign parts, including a wonderful model native canoe, which he said I could have. I was so excited I scarcely noticed a man in a white coat, who came into the cabin and laid the table, until he said “Tea is served, sir!”.’

I hadn’t heard about Leo Walmsley until I started reading British Ports and Harbours but it seems he’s quite well known and even has a society devoted to him.