Naval Dockyards Society

Exploring the civil branches of navies & their material culture

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Here is the long-awaited Speakers’ Programme. To download it, click here

SNR 1910 logo 2021Logo 2015 (390x440)Naval Dockyards Society 26th Annual Conference

 Dockyards as nodes of naval architecture, maritime traditions and cultural heritage

National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth 9–11 June 2022

3-day hybrid international conference sponsored by the Society for Nautical Research

Keynote speakers Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA, Professor Andrew Lambert FKC & Dr Antony Firth MCIfA

Day 1.    Building a warship 9 June 2022

Clare Hunt: HMS Trincomalee: Design, Construction and Modification, 1812–1900
Prof. Emeritus David Bradley: HMS Unicorn: Sir Robert Seppings, the Industrial Revolution and Developments in Warship Design
Dr Ian Buxton MBE: Supplying Machinery for Dockyard-built Warships
15 minutes Questions followed by a 30-minute Refreshment Break
Brian Lavery: Shipbuilding in Shoreham in the 1690s: Benjamin Furzer – a One-Man Naval Base
Commander Martin R. Marks OBE, BSc (Eng) Design, Deploy, Decline and Dwindling – the story of the VIC (WW2 Victualling Inshore Craft)
David Griffiths: Building a Coastal Motor Boat for the 21st Century
Dr Antony Firth KEYNOTE: Placing Warships: Reconnecting vessels and dockyards
15 minutes Questions
1.30 End of morning session & Lunch. 2.30 Delegates disperse for afternoon tours

 Day 2.    Dockyards as heritage 10 June 2022

Dr Jonathan Greenland: Port Royal Jamaica Project: Progress and Tourism
Karoline-Sofie Hennum: Museum Collection Storage Conditions in Historical Dockyard Buildings – A Threat to The Long-Term Preservation of Maritime Collections?
10 minutes Questions followed by a 30-minute Refreshment Break
Dr Katarzyna Jarosz: Abandoned ships. Exploring aging dockyards in the post-Soviet space.
Dr Federico Camerin: The 2022 draft agreement for the regeneration of the Venice’s Arsenale. What if the Arsenale dies?
Dr Donatella Rita Fiorino: Research tools and inter-institutional synergies for sustainable redevelopment of former navy sites in La Maddalena Archipelago Sardinia (Italy).
Dr Celia Clark: Doing things differently: how do countries dispose of their surplus defence land? Do these differences offer losses or gains to ex-defence communities and sustainable reuse of historic structures?
Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA KEYNOTE Conservation Planning: Creative framework or straitjacket?
20 mins Questions
1.30 End of morning session & Lunch. 2.30 Delegates disperse for afternoon tours

Day 3.    Dockyards as global hubs and regional centres of maritime culture 11 June 2022

Dr Philip MacDougall: A Russian Monopoly: Britain’s Naval Stores Import Trade
Dr Catherine Scheybeler: Draining Cartagena Dry Docks: Meeting the Challenge with Steam Technology
Dr Roger Morriss What motivated Samuel Bentham, Inspector General of Naval Works, 1796–1807, Civil Architect and Engineer, 1808–1812?
15 minutes Questions followed by a 30 -minute Refreshment Break
Dr Jakob Seerup: Dockyards as Reflections of Societies – A Franco-English diplomat’s perspective on the Copenhagen Royal Dockyards in 1702
Dr Ann Coats Royal Dockyards communities and cultures – Portsmouth and overseas
Dr Mark Ericson: Samurai at Royal Dockyards
Professor Andrew Lambert KEYNOTE: Dockyards, Fleets and Global Power: 1815–56
15 minutes Questions
1.30 End of morning session & Lunch. 2.30 Delegates disperse for afternoon tours

6 March 2022 (modified 7 May 2022)


Naval Dockyards Society 26th Annual Conference

We are pleased to announce that you can now book for our Portsmouth 2022 Conference

Dockyards as nodes of naval architecture, maritime traditions and cultural heritage

Naval Dockyards Society 26th Annual Conference

Conference sponsored by the Society for Nautical Research

 National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth 9-11 June 2022

 Keynote speakers Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA, Professor Andrew Lambert FKC & Dr Antony Firth MClfA

Yes! a ‘proper conference’ in the National Museum of the Royal Navy Action Stations Auditorium, Boathouse No.6, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth, PO1 3LJ

This THREE-day hybrid international conference* will present six speakers and a plenary session each day on these topics:

  1. Thursday 9 June 2022 Building a warship
  2. Friday 10 June 2022 Dockyards as heritage
  3. Saturday 11 June 2022 Dockyards as global hubs and regional centres of maritime culture

Thursday 9 June evening: Conference Reception HMS Victory: vegetarian, meat & fish canapés, prosecco & wine included

Friday 10 June evening: Conference Hot Fork Buffet in Princess Royal Gallery: 2 courses, sparkling wine, wine, tea & coffee

Conference fees include a buffet lunch and refreshment teas and coffees.
We have endeavoured to satisfy all individual requirements. See the booking form here
Any queries contact Dr Ann Coats avcoatsndschair@gmail.com

Optional specialist behind-the-scenes archive, ship, dockyard and harbour tours in the afternoons of 9 & 10 June 2022 will be advertised separately when finalised, such as the Admiralty Library Naval Historical Branch Reading Room – Georgian Dockyard Walking Tour – Boathouse 4 – Harbour Tour – HMS Warrior – HMS Victory – some free, others chargeable.

Discounted Accommodation has been arranged at two hotels which you need to book directly yourself. Early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.

Holiday Inn Express Gunwharf Quays PO1 3FD, +44 (0)333 320 9360 reservations.hixportsmouth@kewgreen.co.uk

Mercer Collection Hotels 4 Malvern Rd, Southsea PO5 2NA https://www.themercercollection.co.uk/ 023 9200 9009

A list of all hotels is available here

* If the physical Conference has to be cancelled due to government Covid regulations or by the Museum, it will be run as an online Conference and the fee difference will be refunded.

21 February 2022 (lists added 22 and 24 February 2022, replaced by a full list on 11 March 2022) (further modified 7 May 2022)


Haslar Wall by Chris Donnithorne

Chris Donnithorne has written a further report: ‘Haslar Wall’ (January 2022) with the accompanying statement:

In December 2021, an apparently sound part of Haslar Wall was damaged by storm ‘Barra’, with the manner of failure looking remarkably similar to such events at Blockhouse. The full extent of the wall had not been considered before, for reasons stated in the original paper. This brief, produced as a result, and clearly directing attention to this aspect of the threat, was made available locally and subsequently to attendees of a meeting convened to consider such issues.

Caroline Dinenage (Gosport MP) – already briefed that wall failure here would become a national issue – chaired the meeting of interested agencies, national and local, and myself, on 28th January 2022. The agency attendees provided positive reports of their various activities regarding the wall and, in summary, assured the Chair that the harbour entrance was secure, there was no flood risk, and new owners could be expected to fund this sea defence into the future – to which the Chair announced that she was encouraged by all that she had heard. The wall issue now appears dead until the next big storm damage.

1 February 2022


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

We are seeking applications for this post. START date: 26 March 2022. 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 https://navaldockyards.org/the-committee/ and complete all the sections in NDS Associate Officer Application Form. 
Closing date: 31 January 2022

28 December 2021


The Naval Dockyards Society (NDS) is looking for a Facebook Manager

 Our experienced Faceook Manager will retire at the 2022 AGM in March 2022, and we are seeking applications for this post. START date: 26 March 2022

To apply for this role, see here.

Closing date: 15 January 2022

This is an honorary (unpaid volunteer) post. It is a NDS member position, so the successful applicant will become an NDS member – if a full-time student their membership fee and future UK travel expenses to attend committee meetings and NDS conference will be paid by the Society (overseas officers would attend via zoom). Full-time students would also be paid a small honorarium.

You can be studying or interested in any topic, but education, history, sociology, maritime, built environment (architecture, civil engineering/surveying, planning), business and IT studies would be especially relevant; or be a member of a relevant volunteer organisation.

See here for further details.

13 December 2021


Dockyards ahoy!

Attached is an article by committee member Richard Holme which was recently published in the newsletter of the Victorian Society. Useful to remind us of the challenges facing Victorian dockyard buildings and structures and as ever good to raise the profile of our own Society.

6 December 2021


The Naval Dockyards Society (NDS) is looking for a Secretary

 Our valued Secretary will retire at the 2022 AGM in March 2022, and we are seeking applications for this post. START date: 26 March 2022

To apply for this role, see here.

Closing date: 31 January 2022

This is an honorary (unpaid volunteer) post. It is a NDS member position, so the successful applicant will become an NDS member – if a full-time student their membership fee and future UK travel expenses to attend committee meetings and NDS conference will be paid by the Society (overseas officers would attend via zoom). Full-time students would also be paid a small honorarium.

You can be studying or interested in any topic, but education, history, sociology, maritime, built environment (architecture, civil engineering/surveying, planning), business and IT studies would be especially relevant; or be a member of a relevant volunteer organisation.

See here for further details.

15 November 2021 (modified 30 December 2021)


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


Threat to Portsmouth Harbour

Chris Donnithorne, a former naval officer, has updated his paper which raises urgent concerns about the immediate and future viability of Portsmouth Harbour. The NDS  publishes it for public information and debate.

Portsmouth Harbour is an amalgam of natural and manmade events, originating when rising sea levels drowned the coastal plain after the last Ice Age. Its entrance has been kept clear by a scouring ‘double high tide’ and the influx of river water from the South Downs, but it has required occasional dredging at the harbour mouth to reduce the silt bar. With its creeks, streams and mudbanks, the harbour is a complex organism which is showing identifiable signs of stress.

See the update here and in Campaigns, Threat to Portsmouth Harbour webpage https://navaldockyards.org/threat-to-portsmouth-harbour/   for more information about the original paper.
Dr Ann Coats
30 November 2020 (brought up to date 20 December 2020, with the update added 6 December 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