On the Waterfront: The Railway King and a time capsule

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THIS week, we look at some interesting waterfront trivia from years gone by.

- In 1851, Mr AH Ross successfully carried out astronomical experiments illustrating the Earth’s diurnal motion from his observatory at South Dock.  

 This related to the apparent daily motion of stars around the Earth.

- Sunderland Dock Company’s offices were completed by local builder, George Young, in 1851 – the year after the dock was opened to traffic.

 Constructed from limestone blocks hewn from the company’s Hendon Grange quarry, with ashlar quoins (cornerstones) quarried at Gateshead Fell or Penshaw, the building featured a clock tower with four dials.

 Now known as Gladstone House, the disused premises still stand at the north end of Hudson Dock.

- In 1864, when Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and Liverpool Borough Police were jointly planning the introduction of the Mersey River Police, Head Constable, Captain John J Greig was so impressed with River Wear Watch uniform, that he recommended a complete outfit be obtained from Sunderland and a similar design be adopted for the new river force.

- In laying the foundation stone of the New Sea Lock, connecting Hudson Dock with the South Outlet, on December 18, 1878, Mr EC Robson (Vice-chairman of the RWC Works Committee) used the same silver mallet which George Hudson MP, “The Railway King,” had lain the foundation stone of South Dock on February 4, 1848.

 A time capsule, containing Victorian coin of the Realm and local newspapers of the day, was placed beneath the foundation stone in the new lock’s inner entrance cill.

- An application by the Postmaster-General to open a new post and telegraph office at the north end of Hudson Dock was approved by the RWC in December, 1891. It was reported that work had become too much for the existing post office on the docks.

- Leith Wharf, at the south end of Hudson Dock, between Laing Warehouse and Hendon Dock entrance, was constructed in 1892 to facilitate increasing steamer traffic between the Wear and Scotland by Currie and Co of Leith.

- The 72-foot-long excursion steamer, City of Norwich, owned by William Dry, arrived in the Wear on March 16, 1894.

 Licensed to carry 200 passengers, the screw-driven vessel made regular trips upriver, often as far as Lord Lambton’s estate, when the tide permitted.

- On August 31, 1903, No 2 Gateway entrance to the North Half Tide Basin was permanently closed.

 At the same time, the new enlarged No 1 Gateway on the east side of the basin was opened for traffic.

- Enlargement of Hudson Dock North was completed in 1904, increasing the water area by some 8.5 acres.