Life and Work of James Abernethy, C.E., F.R.S.E Silloth, 1856-9
of Silloth, in Cumberland, lies on the margin of a small bay on the Southern
side of the Solway Frith, twelve miles from Port Carlisle, and thirty miles
from the mouth of the estuary. For centuries Silloth Bay has been known as a
place of anchorage, and haven of safety for an extensive range of coast.
Situated below all the difficult and intricate portion of the navigation of
the Solway Firth, with deep water close in shore (an advantage possessed by
no other harbour on the Cumberland coast), it was obviously a must desirable
site for the construction of a commercial harbour, and had been for a long
period considered as such when, in 1854, a company was formed with Mr.
William Marshall, M.P., as its Chairman, and an Act obtained for the
construction of floating docks, a pier, and other works, in connection with
a line of railway, to form a junction with the then existing Port Carlisle
Line, which would bring Silloth within twenty-one miles of the City of
Carlisle. In the previous Session the Bill had been rejected, owing
principally to the strong engineering and nautical evidence tendered in
opposition. But the temporary reverse experienced by the promoters was upon
the whole beneficial, as it caused them to carefully reconsider their
scheme, and in the Bill of the following year a better site was selected.
The general design for the works was prepared by the late Mr. John Hartley,
whose other duties at Birkenhead necessitated his resignation as engineer
after the passing of the Act, and his successor was Mr. Abernethy. The works
were carried out in accordance with the general arrangement of the original
design. This consisted of a pier or jetty 1,000 feet in length on the
seaward side of the dock entrance: an entrance channel parallel with the
jetty, forming a slight angle with the foreshore, 100 feet in width at the
bottom, with slopes of six to one, having a fall of two feet six inches in
its entire length, the bottom of the channel being generally sixteen feet
below the level of the adjoining beach: thirdly, an embankment on the
foreshore, projecting 400 feet beyond high water mark, and enclosing the
entrance to the dock, sixty feet in width, and securing a depth of
twenty-four feet of water over the sill at high water ordinary spring tides.
Reverse, or sea-gates also were erected for protection during gales: and
lastly, a dock of four acres with a depth of water of twenty-live feet six
inches at the general level.
Operations were commenced in 1856, and completed in 1859 at a total cost of
£122,000, and were opened in August, 1859, by the then First Lord of the
Admiralty, Sir James Graham.
construction of the dock was a work of considerable difficulty, inasmuch as
a strong artificial foundation had to be made in sand of great depth and of
a light quality in order to support the masonry.
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