Falmouth Dockyard

From Naval History Archive
Jump to navigationJump to search
HM Naval Dockyard, Falmouth
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Falmouth in England
Site information
OperatorNavy Royal, Royal Navy
Controlled byNavy Board
Site history
In use1858-1945

Falmouth Dockyard was established in 1858 by a private operator the Falmouth Dockyard Company. It was located within the vast Falmouth Harbour that had been used both as a naval base for the Navy Royal from the 16th century then later Royal Navy. The dockyard was requisitioned by the Department of Admiralty in both World War One and World War Two.


Falmouth Docks Company

The Falmouth Docks Company was formed after a meeting in Falmouth Town Hall on 31 May 1858 with the aim of keeping the Packet Service, by providing facilities for the new steam-driven ships. James Abernethy, an engineer from Aberdeen was invited to draw up plans on a natural feature known as Bar Point, which extended northwards from Pendennis towards Trefusis Point. The docks was planned covering an area of 150 acres (61 ha). The shallow water was dredged by the Briton and by 1860 a channel of deep water 300 feet (91 m) wide linked the docks with deep water in Carrick Roads. The foundation stone was laid on 28 February 1860 by Lord Falmouth. There is no trace of the stone today. By 1862 No 1 Graving Dock was built along with a warehouse, known as the grain store, which can still be seen.

The Falmouth Dock Company had its own railway from January 1864 which connected it with the Cornwall Railway that had opened from Truro the previous year. The Eastern Breakwater was built in 1863 and No 2 Dock opened in 1864. Its first cargo to be exported was china clay brought on trains along the new railway in 1892.[1]

Admiralty and Royal Navy

The Department of Admiralty took over the docks during the First World War and built No 3 Dock, which was larger than the previous two. Due to the German submarine offensive, ship-repair was of enormous strategic importance but the facilities and workforce was unable to deal with the added workload. A London firm of ship-repairers R H Green and Silley Weir sent men to help clear the backlog and their managing director realising the potential of Falmouth bought the dockyard in 1918. Under a new name of Silley Cox and Co, new workshops were built, new machinery installed and skilled workman imported from London. Shipbuilding was a major activity until the 1920s, by which time 198 vessels had been built.[2] A fourth dock was opened in 1928 and new wharves built on the western side of the Western Breakwater. They were Empire (1931–33), King's (1935–37) and Queen's (1938–42).

Second World War

During World War II, 31 people were killed in Falmouth by German bombing. An anti-submarine net was laid from Pendennis to St Mawes, to prevent enemy U-boats entering the harbour.

It was the launching point for the noted commando raid on Saint-Nazaire in 1942. Between 1943 and 1944, Falmouth was a base for American troops preparing for the D-Day invasions.[3] There are commemoration plaques at Turnaware Point, Falmouth Watersports marina, Tolverne and Trebah gardens.[4]

The largest dry dock is the enlarged No 2 Dock, renamed Queen Elizabeth Dock, which was opened, by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1958. This new dock was 850 feet (260 m) in length and able to take the largest ship, then built, at 85,000 tons.[2]


  1. Woodfin, R J (1972). The Cornwall Railway To Its Centenary In 1959. Truro: Bradford Barton. p. 20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Acton, Bob (2003). Landfall Walks Books No 3. Around The Fal. Devoran: Landfall Publications. pp. 9–10. ISBN 1 873443 46 3.
  3. Wilson, Viki. "What happened on D Day in Cornwall". Cornwall Today. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  4. "War in Cornwall". IntoCornwall.com. Retrieved 30 October 2018.