musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Great Britain

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.


Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry Dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry Dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

Liverpool also had two docks in the Canning Dock area that interested me and both we occupied. The first by the MV Edmund Gardner, a former pilot cutter that was launched in 1953. I was hoping to look around her but she was fenced off and painted in dazzle camouflage. 

The other dock was occupied by De Wadden, a three-masted auxiliary schooner built in the Netherlands in 1917.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
DRW © 2015-2019. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017, more images added 24/06/2019
Updated: 24/06/2019 — 18:57

A visit to Arnos Vale in Bristol.

It was a light bulb moment when I realised that there was another of those Victorian cemeteries just “up the street” as it were. Arnos Vale (aka Arno’s Vale) is about an hour away by 1st Great Western. I had used this particular train between Southampton and Salisbury and it continues on its journey to Cardiff via Bristol Temple Meads Station.  I can’t just head off to these places without a reason, and my reason this time around was the 507 military graves in the cemetery, See, a reason can always be found, although the weather is the deciding factor. We have been having rain for quite some time, but last week it showed signs of clearing so I made tentative plans for the 11th. 

The weather played along and just after 7.30 I was on the train. Arriving just over an hour later at the glorious Temple Meads Station.  Its a bit of a hodge podge of a building though, but that cathedral like roof just leaves me gawking


The cemetery is about 20 minutes away by foot and I set off at my usual brisk pace, arriving with my heart in my mouth just in case it was closed. I was also clutching at my pocket just in case I lost the train ticket. 

Arnos Vale is a massive cemetery, with hills and paths and overgrown woodlands that are daunting. Strangely enough there were no mausoleums, although there is a crypt under the Anglican chapel. The military graves are scattered between a Crematorium plaque, Soldiers Corner plot/screen wall, and what is known as “Sailors corner”. There are also a lot of familiar white headstones scattered amongst the graves, and many are what we know as “private memorials”. My wandering eye could not help but take in the statues and obelisks and strange headstones with the long lines of names and dates. 
Soldiers Corner Plot

Soldiers Corner Plot

It is difficult to quantify a place like this because it changes as you explore. The area near the front gate is really well tended and recognisable as a cemetery, but as you penetrate deeper into it, and towards the back area then you realise how big the cemetery really is and how overgrown parts of it are. 
I ended up picking my way through the undergrowth photographing individual graves, slowly working my way towards what is known as “Sailors Corner”. 
It was strange coming across this immaculate piece of lawn with its naval burials, while all around it are the graves of the people who lived and died in the city. During the war the city and docks were bombed and many of the casualties from the bombing were probably buried all around me if I knew what to look for. However, it is hard enough trying to find a white rectangular military headstone, all the time trying not to fall over or get entangled in the many plants that all seem to have thorns!
At this point I deviated from the burial plot and walked in the road, assuming that I would be able to rejoin the burial area lower down. but that did not happen and I ended up heading down the path towards the chapels and bottom lodges. There was a lot of mud around too, so at times taking a short cut would have been disastrous.  Looking through a gap in the shrubbery I could see the cemetery far below me. 
It was while heading towards this space when I got really downhearted by what I was seeing. Amongst the trees there were these obelisks, erected as a monument to somebody who has now been dead over 100 years. Some of them were huge too, massive stone spikes that were now just like some strange ruin of an alien civilisation. 
The amount of money that was spent on some of these headstones/statues was incredible, and a place like this was considered to be “fashionable” at the time, I don’t think that anybody who was pondering having a monolith erected, ever considered that just one day down the line this place would be an overgrown tangle, with their fancy memorial slowly decaying and becoming increasingly unstable and illegible. It was a very depressing thought, and one that I had never really felt so much in any of the other “garden cemeteries” I had visited before in London.
Like so many other cemeteries there is an Anglican and a “dissenters/non conformist” chapel, and they are both magnificent classical buildings, and in a really good condition too. 

The Anglican Chapel

The crypt is under this chapel, but was not open to see (I was able to see it on my return visit in 2015). The other chapel is used as an exhibition space and I did not really investigate it as there seemed to be a private function on the go. 
My first circumnavigation complete, I now started my second, this time concentrating more on the artistic and aesthetic side of the cemetery which has been interesting me a lot more than ever before. The rent was paid, I had photographed about 130 individual CWGC graves as well as the plaques and screen wall. Now it was time to enjoy myself. 
There are not too many statues of interest here, although there were some really beautiful ones that I had not seen before. Probably the most visually impressive tomb of all was that of Raja Rammohun Roy Bahadoor, yet it no longer holds the remains of the person it was built for in 1843. It was one of the earlier buildings in the cemetery which was established in 1837. 
I headed back along the path towards where I had been before, but via a different route, this time taking an earlier fork in the road and discovering a whole section that I had missed, and it’s many CWGC graves too, so it was back to rent paying for me. This area was quite heavily overgrown and I struggled to move between graves and finding enough space to get back far enough to take a pic. But, if you are photographing war graves it is worth considering that conditions on the Western Front during WW1 were thousands of times worse than I was experiencing now.
Random Images
It was time to move onwards, and I eventually found out how to access the Roman Catholic cemetery next door to Arnos Vale. There were a number of  CWGC burials here too, and I struggled to find the graves I was after that were not in the small plot. This one I will definitely have to return to so that I can gravehunt it properly.
It is quite a steep climb though, and in parts the footing was treacherous, and I was not in a mood to tumble down that hill. The screen wall and plot was close to the bottom of the cem, but looking back I missed quite a few individual private memorials within this cemetery


Just over the road from Arnos Vale is the churchyard of St Mary’s Redcliffe, and that held 18 CWGC graves. But the lower part of this cemetery is in a deplorable condition and it seems as there is a dispute over the continued existence of the cemetery. 
It was a find I did not expect to make though, but quite a large space. I don’t know where the original church is (I rectified that in 2015), although I did spot a large church on my way to Arnos Vale, but it was atop a hill and I did not like the look of the climb. Maybe next time?
The front gate lodges

The front gate lodges

Arnos Vale is a magnificent old lady, and very different to the similar cemeteries that I saw amongst the magnificent 7 in London. It did not have as much of the visible ostentatious mausoleums and statues, and there are a lot of ordinary people buried there, although it could be that a lot of the Victorian era graves are still hidden in the undergrowth. There are quite a few areas that are really just a mass of trees and bush, and there are the occasional headstones visible amongst them. Possibly the only way to find out is to wait and see whether they ever get to clear that area, 
From a war grave perspective I am still missing at least 100 graves, so that is a good reason to return. Besides there is a lot to see in Bristol that I only really peeked at. From here I went to the docks to see the SS Great Britain, although that is for a future blogpost. I was semi satisfied with my accomplishments, and the winter light was very interesting to photograph in. The sun was always low on the horizon and it made for some very nice light, but it also made for some very difficult viewing.  Irrespective though, I will be back some day, just watch this space.
Postscript, April 2016.
In October 2015 I returned to Arnos Vale, Holy Souls and St Mary Redcliffe cemeteries. I still had all of those missing CWGC graves to find and after an intensive hunt was able to whittle the total down to roughly 90 graves outstanding at Arnos Vale,  2 at St Mary Redcliffe and 4 at Holy Souls. I was also able to visit the church associated with St Mary Redcliffe, and it was magnificent. I will return to Bristol one day. I just must find the inclination. 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 17/04/2016.  More images added 26/01/2017
Updated: 04/12/2018 — 20:41
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme