Life and Work of James Abernethy, C.E., F.R.S.E Blyth, 1855-61
THE Port of Blyth is
situated on the coast of Northumberland, about ten miles north of the River
Tyne. The surrounding district is rich in coal, but until 1861 only a small
class of vessels could trade to the port, and consequently a great part of
the coal raised in the neighbourhood was transmitted by rail to the Tyne for
shipment. In 1853, however, a Company, of which the Lord of the Manor, Sir
M. W. Ridley, father of the present Baronet, Sir M. W. Ridley, Secretary of
State for the Home Department, was Chairman, was formed, and powers obtained
for improving the harbour, and Mr. Abernethy was appointed Engineer for the
works. For a length of a mile the River Blyth was exposed to the action of
the sea—a very heavy sea at times—and no vessel could then lie in this
portion of what is now the harbour.
seaward side of the river there is a rocky reef called the Coble Hole Rocks,
and upon the base thus provided by nature the breakwater was erected. The
channel was extremely tortuous, and in many places dry at spring tides.
Generally there was not more than a foot of water within it, and a spit of
sand extended from the southern side nearly across the entrance, which
presented a dangerous obstruction to shipping during rough weather. The
channel for ts entire length of 4500 feet ran parallel with a lee shore,
exposed to the direct action of the north-easterly seas, and consequently
scarcely a winter passed without vessels being stranded and wrecked on the
beach on the southern side, while the estuary within the river mouth,
forming the harbour, was exposed to the sea during on-shore winds.
largely by experience acquired at Aberdeen, which is very similarly
situated, he designed works calculated to effect the following
objects:—Firstly, to afford protection to vessels entering and leaving from
the action of the sea during north-easterly winds; Secondly, to confine and
direct the outgoing current, so as to produce sufficient scouring power to
maintain the increased depth by dredging; Thirdly, to prolong the outgoing
current seaward, so as to bring the detritus carried by it within the
influence of the tidal current along the coast.
were commenced in 1855 and were completed during 1861, at a total cost of
£67,320. They comprised an eastern breakwater 4500 feet in length, a western
half-tide training wall 4000 feet in length, and the straightening and
deepening of the channel by dredging. Their efficiency soon became apparent
alter completion. The outgoing current was increased to a velocity of live
knots per hour at its greatest strength, whereas, formerly, it was lost
immediately on passing the line of the foreshore.
too, or spit of sand across the entrance entirely disappeared, and a depth
of eight or nine feet at low water opposite the breakwater was provided. The
channel was further deepened to the extent of four feet, and vessels, after
passing within the breakwater, were effectually protected from
works were considered wholly satisfactory when completed the subjoined
letter perhaps affords the best evidence:— '
Meeting of the Directors of the Blyth Harbour and Dock Company held here
to-day, the following Resolution was passed:—
from Mr. Abernethy to Sir M. W. Eidley having been laid before the Board, in
which lie intimated that all the works which require his superintendence as
at present contemplated by the Company will be completed in the course of a
month, it was resolved that this Board beg to record their sense of the zeal
and ability with which he has designed and carried out the works, and to
request that after the expiration of the present half-year he will consent
to act as Consulting Engineer of the Company.'
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