Haulbowline Dockyard

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HM Dockyard Haulbowline
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Haulbowline Island, Cork in Ireland
Site information
OperatorRoyal Navy
Controlled byBoard of Admiralty
Site history
In useOrigin -1808 formally 1869-1923

Haulbowline Dockyard or formally HM Dockyard Haulbowline was a British Royal Naval Dockyard and overseas base located at at Haulbowline Island, Cork, Ireland from 1869 to 1923.


HM Dockyard Haulbowline Plan in April 1910

At a strategic and deepwater position in the harbour, the island has long been a military base. The island was first fortified in 1602, and initially an important base for the British Army. In 1603 the Cork city fathers were accused of attempting to demolish it, and William Meade, the Recorder of Cork, was charged with treason as a result.

In 1720, much of the island was owned by the Cork Water Club, later connected to the Royal Cork Yacht Club (claimed as the world's first yacht club). There was a castle on the island which was the clubhouse for the Cork Water Club.[1]

In 1806, the British Army moved to nearby Spike Island, and the fortifications were handed over, with 14 acres (6 ha) of land going to the Royal Navy, and the remaining 8 acres (3 ha) to the Board of Ordnance.[2] (At the time the island was less than half its present size.)

An Ordnance Yard was established on the westernmost part of the island, separated from the rest by a large stone wall. A Martello tower was built for defence, and in 1808 a pair of magazines were erected on nearby Rocky Island with capacity for 25,000 barrels of gunpowder. East of the wall a Victualling Yard was laid out, and from 1807-1824 a series of buildings were constructed, several of which are still standing. Most prominent are six large Storehouses, three grouped together around a quay on the north side of the island, and three along what was then its eastern edge. Behind these was a large rectangular rainwater tank (which collected fresh water for the ships), on top of which was a quadrangular cooperage complex. To the south were a mast and boat store, at the top of a slipway, and to the west, along the length of the wall, were cottages and houses for the workers and officers of the yard.[2] At this time, some 4 acres (2 ha) was added to the island through land reclamation, the first of several such additions.

Remarkably soon after so much investment, the Navy announced the closure of the Yard in 1831; ten years later, though, it reopened.[2] The next major development came in the 1860s with the establishment of a Royal Navy Dockyard on Haulbowline completed in 1869, for warship repair and construction. To accommodate this new industrial complex the island was doubled in size to a total of around 60 acres (24 ha). The large basin was constructed, which today bisects the island, with a 408 ft (124 m) dry dock at one end (extended to 600 ft (180 m) just prior to the First World War). By the 20th century, the (now renamed) Royal Alexandra Victualling Yard area also contained a coaling/fuelling depot, as well as a Naval hospital (housed in one of the Storehouses).[2]

Unlike the other fortifications in Cork Harbour, which formed part of the treaty ports, the dockyard was handed over to the Irish Free State in 1923, and remains the main naval base and headquarters for the Irish Naval Service.

Administration of the dockyard and other key officials

Responsibility for naval dockyards rested with the Navy Board until 1832, local superintendence being exercised by civilian resident commissioners. On the abolition of the Navy Board, responsibility passed to the Board of Admiralty. At the Admiralty, dockyards were under the control of the surveyor (later controller of the Navy); at the dockyards, naval superintendents replaced the civilian commissioners. A surveyor (from 1885 director) of dockyards with his own department was appointed in 1872; he was under the superintendence of the controller of the Navy.[3]


  1. Corinthian, History of yachting in the South of Ireland, 1720-1908 (Cork, 1909)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet: Architecture and engineering of the Royal Navy's bases, 1700-1914. Swindon: English Heritage.
  3. "Records of Dockyards". www.discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Kew, England: The National Archives UK. 1690–1981. Retrieved 2 March 2019. This section contains some copied content from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.