Naval Dockyards Society

Exploring the civil branches of navies & their material culture


Conference Programme, also links to Registration and to ‘Abstracts and Biographies’

Economic and Social Impact of Dockyard & Shipyard Closures & Heritage Renewal: Lessons to be Learned

National Maritime Museum Greenwich Saturday 22 April 2023 11.00–4.30

Registration & refreshments 9.30–11.00 Conference 11–4.30 Lunch 12.40–1.40

This Conference is sponsored by the Society for Nautical Research

11.10–12.45 Morning Conference Chair Ann Coats
11.10–11.35 Celia Clark, Portsmouth Harbour: Exemplar of defence site regeneration?
11.35–12.00 Nick Ball, The Historic Dockyard Chatham: 40 years of regeneration.
12.00-12.25 Matt Beebee, Memory, temporality and living with industrial decline in Sheerness since 1960
12.25-12.40 Questions

12.40-1.40 Buffet Lunch

1.40–4.30 Afternoon Conference: Chair Ian Stafford
1.40–2.05 Jean-Baptiste Blain, German ‘U-Bunkers’ (U-Boat pens) built on French port cities, between reuse and oblivion.
2.05–2.30 Mark Barton: Why do we forget some Naval Dockyards – for built-in obsolescence, economic or geopolitical reasons?
2.30–2.55 Nives Lokoṧek and Luka Josip Erhardt, Innovatory rehabilitation of Hvar Arsenal and Historic Theatre to win the Europa Nostra Best European Conservation Achievement Award 2020.

2.55-3.10 Comfort break (no refreshments)

3.10-3.35 Stella Jackson, The Kasbah Remade: Culture and Heritage-led regeneration on the Port of Grimsby
3.35-4.10 Keynote Professor Hugh Murphy, The Economic and Social Effects of a Shipyard Closure: Scott Lithgow at Greenock and Port Glasgow, Scotland, 1970–1990
4.10–4.30 Questions

4.30 Valediction and close


Registration For both In-person and Online Conference :
Booking directly online via PayPal or Credit Card click here
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BOOKING DEADLINE 11 APRIL FOR IN-PERSON DELEGATES to give NMM caterers notice of numbers.


Abstracts and Biographies please click here

15 March 2023

Further update to ‘Threat to Portsmouth Harbour’ – Main Channel Shoal

For those new to the subject, the ‘Threat to Portsmouth Harbour‘, the ‘Update‘ and ‘Haslar Wall‘ give context.

NAVWARN NO 72/22, only recently seen, notes shoals, close to Blockhouse Fort, on the western side of the Portsmouth harbour approach channel (see also Note below). Further information suggests that the area concerned is immediately to the south of the Fort, already identified as critically endangered by shoreline erosion.

Channel shoal2

Figure 1: Harbour entrance looking south west. Old Portsmouth on the left, Fort Blockhouse to the right. ‘X’ is the approximate position of the largest shoal. ‘BC [Boat Channel] Outer’ mark is also shown in fig. 2 for comparison. CHD

Of the five shoal patches here the largest extends 11m into the channel along a length of up to 10m.   To maintain a minimum channel depth of 10.5m requires a rather deeper routine dredging depth.   Thus, the quantity of sand and shingle lost from this bank will be larger than at first appears, making the Fort even more vulnerable to any passing storm.    Without prompt remedial action, further damage to this ancient structure with limited foundations, built as it was on a sandbank, is almost inevitable.  Once the sea penetrates beneath the Fort, the situation becomes virtually irretrievable.

The immediate  issues are stark. Dredging – to maintain access to the only available carrier port – is a priority, but so too is the maintenance of the one structure which , alone, is able to preserve the deep water harbour. Dredging will undoubtedly clear away the unwanted material in the channel. While the shoal is currently reported as stable, the dredging process  will naturally precipitate further loss from the bank [until equilibrium is achieved], putting even more pressure on the Fort structure.  Hence, the concern for the consequences if dredging should go ahead in isolation, before completing viable sea defences for the Fort.

07017 MasterF

Figure 2: View from the south towards the harbour entrance; Old Portsmouth on the right. Post-event surveys are not currently available in the public domain. This plan is based on figures provided by KHM for the largest shoal. The location, or extent, of the other four shoals has not been released. CHD

There is no avoiding the dilemma, posed by these two conflicting and time-constrained demands.   Immediate dredging, to safeguard the former, or pre-empting damage to the latter before dredging.  This seems to be a crucial moment.   Speed is of the essence but an ill- considered decision taken now could impact the very future of the harbour.

For those unfamiliar with such matters, think in terms of an underwater landslide.   Part of the steep bank along the edge of the deepwater approach channel has become unstable and collapsed into this channel, reducing manoeuvrability for the larger ships, particularly the aircraft carriers, when accessing the harbour.   As with a landslide, there will be the inevitable consequential loss from the bank itself at a point close to the Fort – see fig. 2.

Chris Donnithorne (January 2023, illustrations added March 2023)
5 March 2023

The Naval Dockyards Society (NDS) is looking for Associate Officers

We are seeking applications for this post. START date: 22 April 2023. If appointed they will shadow current officers, take on mentored tasks for experience and support officers. They will provide a pool of trained personnel from whom to elect a replacement officer in the event of anyone retiring and relieve some officers’ workloads in the process.

To apply for this role, see full details at and complete all the sections in NDS Associate Officer Application Form. 
Closing date: 31 March 2023

20 December 2022

What’s Happening to Portsmouth’s Defence Heritage? Update.

Dr Celia Clark is reporting here on recent discussions regarding the future use of Tipner West site or Lennox Point as it has resently been renaimed.

In her article she also discusses the likely  fate of the Royal Marine Wardroom Eastney, which is shown below.

Eastney Barracks and Brent Geese

24 March 2021

Announcing the Award of five £1000 Grants by NDS to Small Dockyard Museum or Dockyard Heritage Site Projects

The 2020 Naval Dockyards Society AGM agreed that part of its small surplus of funds could be used to award five grants of £1,000 each to small dockyard museum or dockyard heritage site projects. It was felt that grants could make a real difference to the future enhancement of worthy museums or sites.

Successful applications were received from the following sites:

Bluetown Remembered (Sheerness)

The project will further raise the profile of Sheerness Dockyard and Blue Town heritage, run from Bluetown Remembered, a music hall built in 1841, later a cinema. One floor is dedicated to Sheerness Dockyard. It welcomes over 20,000 visitors each year. The NDS grant will fund a booklet on Sheerness Dockyard for all Sheppey schools, part of two Kent-wide schemes, Wheels of Time and the Children’s University, bringing in families from all over Kent. It will also finance six monthly lectures about the dockyard and Blue Town to encourage history groups to visit as well as locals. Preshow tours of the island and the dockyard will be used to help promote the dockyard to this wider audience. Special events for care homes will also be hosted.

 The Dockyard Museum at Antigua Naval Dockyard

Unveiling the 8 March Exhibition, 2020, at the Antigua Dockyard Museum

A multidisciplinary research, interpretation, and public outreach programme has been developed entitled ‘8 March Project’ under the theme ‘Dockyard History is African History’, to recover and interpret archival and archaeological evidence of the enslaved and free Africans and their descendants who made possible the naval dockyard at Antigua, established in 1725. The ‘8 March Project’ identified eight enslaved Africans who lost their lives in an explosion on 8 March 1744. These names launched a project to recover more names of enslaved Africans who worked in the yard, which has recovered more than 650 names. In 2021 the dockyard museum will initiate an expanded programme including creative works by students from Antigua State College and the local Cobbs Cross Primary School, telling the stories of enslaved workers. The students will bring parents and grandparents.

 Museum of Slavery and Freedom, Deptford

This embryonic organisation aspires to acquire permanent premises, working alongside Action for Community Development in Deptford. The project, ‘Chip on Your Shoulder’, will combine Deptford Dockyard history and the Museum of Slavery and Freedom (MōSaF). It will use the Deptford Pepys Resource Centre as an anchor hub for museum tours about Deptford Dockyard, its support of maritime communities, and its links to the African, Irish and Asian diaspora. Deptford is significant as it was home to John Hawkins who became a prominent early English slave trader. MōSaF will demonstrate how Deptford, London and the United Kingdom grew rich from the slave trade but also explore the extent to which freedom from slavery was won and celebrate the many cultures and peoples who live consequently in the UK. The Lenox Project has kindly offered £500 to help fund this project.

Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust (SDPT)

Sheerness Dockyard Church

1820s Sheerness Dockyard Model

SDPT was founded in 2014 to conserve the historic buildings of the former Royal Dockyard at Sheerness. The Trust’s focus has been to rescue and reuse the Grade II* listed former Dockyard Church, built in 1828 to the designs of George Ledwell Taylor, Navy Board surveyor. In 2001 it was gutted by fire. The Trust has developed a project to conserve the building and convert it into a mixed-use community facility with an events space, a business start-up centre for young people, and a permanent display gallery housing part of the 1820s dockyard model. This model will play a significant part in informing the public of the history of the dockyard and the church’s place in that community. The NDS grant will contribute towards the interpretation and conservation of the model.

The Unicorn Preservation Society, Dundee

The stern of HMS Unicorn

Robert Seppings, the Industrial Revolution & HMS Unicorn’. 2022 is the 200th anniversary of the keel laying of Robert Seppings’s frigate HMS Unicorn on No 4 slip at Chatham. From 1800, many factors affected ship construction methods and yard operations, such as the increased availability of consistent wrought iron and steam propulsion. Seppings developed wrought iron diagonal straps to increase the torsional stiffness of the hull and wrought iron knees, offering greater strength at less weight. HMS Unicorn is now the only remaining ship which fully illustrates Seppings’s approach. The grant will be used, with other funding, for an exhibition linking the Industrial Revolution, Seppings’s ship design and shipbuilding in Dundee and naval dockyards. It will utilise oral histories of those who worked in the Dundee shipyards and link outreach to relevant school curricula.

This was an exceptional event for the Society and it was very exciting to see the range of projects thus funded, reflecting the scope of dockyard cultural significance. The NDS is optimistic that these inputs will enable wider interpretation of dockyard heritage, ‘as an oak cometh of a litel spyr’ (Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book 2).

All of the photos are courtesy of the respective organisations, we have permission to use them, no names of photographers have been supplied.

Ann Coats

23 September 2020