SkyscraperCity Forum banner

BERWICK UPON TWEED - The North Northumberland Town and East Coast Port

38414 Views 146 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Ken O'Heed
The Port of Berwick is the second largest Northumberland Port, handling in excess of 150,000 tonnes of cargo (with capacity to handle significant additional tonnage) and around 250 shipping movements annually.

Berwick is situated on the eastern border between Scotland and the North East England, at the mouth of the River Tweed, which defines the historic Scottish Borderland.

Its coastal position places it equidistant from the Rivers Forth and Tyne.

Berwick is a modernising Trust Port, which has been established for over 125 years. The Harbour Master and staff see to the needs of incoming shipping and provide a friendly and flexible service to all Port users.

There is easy trade access to all the northern European ports including the Baltic, Mediterranean and beyond. Incoming cargo is transported by road. The main A1 road is situated less than ten minutes away from the Port, serving the North & South of the United Kingdom.

Official port Website:
The 'My Port' Website:
More Photo's:

Here is a copy of a post about Berwick, dated 2010, from the "Infrastructure and Mobility, Maritime Forum" of SSC . . .

1 - 5 of 5 Posts
A Short History of Berwick upon Tweed.


IN THE second half of the eighteenth century the Port of Berwick enjoyed a boom such as it had not known since the middle ages. The Berwick smack, a type of sailing vessel built locally primarily to carry salmon speedily to London, captured a great amount of trade in other commodities, notably grain and eggs, which were brought overland from considerable distances for transmission to the Thames. The smacks also carried passengers more quickly and cheaply than any other form of transport. They sailed from the old quay below the bridge, which was still the only part of the Harbour with facilities for loading and unloading.

By about 1800 much of this trade had been lost to Leith, and it may have been the spur of competition that caused the merchants of the town to promote an Act of Parliament for rebuilding the pier and improving the Harbour. This act, passed in 1808, established the Harbour Commissioners in office, and they completed the new pier, extended the quay and built the stone jetty at the Carr Rock. Despite these measures trade scarcely improved. The harbour was still highly unsuitable for the larger steamships that had begun gradually to replace sailing vessels, and in the middle of the nineteenth century the railway took away most of the coastal trade almost overnight.

However, larger ships were attracted to the port, particularly by the needs of new industries established in Tweedmouth and Spittal, and it was evident that improvements would need to be made for their accommodation. A second Harbour Act was passed in 1862, which contained provisions for the election of fifteen Harbour Commissioners, and ten years later another Act of Parliament empowered them to make a wet dock on the shore of Tweedmouth between Berwick Bridge and St Bartholomew's Church and an embankment from the west end of Berwick Bridge to the landward end of the Carr Rock pier. On the embankment they were to build the road which became Spittal low road. They also had powers to construct coal staithes and to enter into an agreement with a railway company for the construction of a railway line to the new dock.

Consideration had at first been given to the construction of a dock at the ballast quay on the north side of the river, but it was clear that there was both a greater demand and a better site for the proposed dock on the south bank. It would replace a large mud bank which was exposed at low tide, and it would be much easier of access than any similar structure on the northern shore.

The plans of the Dock were drawn up by the famous engineering firm, D. & T. Stevenson of Edinburgh (David and Thomas Stevenson were respectively uncle and father of Robert Louis Stevenson). The contractors who executed the work were Messrs. A. Morrison & Son also of Edinburgh.

Work began in 1873 with the building of a coffer dam within which the dock walls were constructed. They were made of concrete, and the upper portions were faced and ' capped with granite. The floor of the Dock was puddled with blue clay to make it water- tight. In plan the Dock is a five-sided figure with 1,550 feet of quay. It encloses three- and-a-half acres and the depth of water at ordinary spring tides it twenty-one feet. The entrance to the Dock is forty feet wide. and the sill of the gates reduces the depth of water by two feet. Entrance to the Dock by large vessels today is only possible for about an hour either side of high water. Inside the Dock, in the north-west corner, there is a slipway for timber which is one of the original features. A steam crane was provided for loading and unloading. Outside, a channel was dug from the Dock gates to the main stream of the river and its course is marked by a wooden quay or jetty. The total cost of the works exceeded £40,000.


THE OFFICIAL opening of the Tweed Dock was fixed for Wednesday, 4th October, 1876. In fact, it had already had an unofficial opening, witnessed by a large crowd of people, some six weeks earlier when the berths at the Carr Rock were overcrowded and more space was needed for new arrivals.
It was in the middle of August that the master of a three-masted schooner from the West Indies refused to enter the harbour until suitable accommodation was made ready for his vessel. The channel to the new Dock was quickly dredged and four ships were allowed in on the afternoon of Saturday, 19th August. The ship that had the honour of being the first to enter the Tweed Dock was the brig " Acacia '' of Hartlepool, and she was followed by the brig " Para " of London, the schooner " William '' and the brig " Vesta '' The three-masted schooner was berthed at the Carr Rock. When the four ships had discharged their cargoes and de- .
parted the Dock seems to have been unused again until tile day of the official opening.

On this occasion the Mayor of Berwick, Andrew Thompson. proclaimed an official half-holiday in the town, and the ceremony began with the ringing of the bells in the Town Hall. The rest of the story is best told from the local papers :

"The Mayor and Town Council assembled at the Town Hall at half-past one o'clock, from which place they marched. preceded by the Sergeants-at-Mace, to the Harbour office on the Quay. Here they were joined by the Harbour Commissioners, and a large number of tile principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood. At two o'clock the company embarked on board the steam-tug Tweed and sailed down the river as far as Spittal. The tug was then turned, and sailed down to the docks which was entered about half-past two o'clock.
As the tug entered the dock cheers were raised by a large concourse of people who had assembled to witness the proceedings.
At the south side of the dock the company landed and marched in procession round the dock, and halting at the dock gate, witnessed the entrance of H.M. Gunboat Tyrian, which is to be accommodated in the dock during the winter. Afterwards the brig Vedra of Sunderland was towed in by the steam-tug Tweed. . . ."

The formal opening speech was made by the Recorder of Berwick, William Thomas Greenhow, and the company then partook of wine and cake at the blacksmith's shop before marching back over the bridge to the harbour office. The occasion appears to have been successful and enjoyable, though one bystander wrote to the local Press anonymously, complaining at the funereal nature of the proceedings. It is certain that the evening's celebrations were enjoyed, when 110 gentlemen attended a special dinner in the King's Arms Assembly Rooms, and
downed an enormous meal and gallons of wine. A great many speeches were made, all of them optimistic in character.

The speakers included the Mayor. the Recorder, C. L. Gilchrist, Chairman of the Harbour Commissioners, Capt. David Milne Home, one of Berwick's two Members of Parliament, representatives of the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the North Eastern Railway Company, and of the engineers and contractors. It was agreed that the Dock was a valuable addition to the Harbour which was long overdue, and there was a confident forecast that a second wet dock would be needed within a year or two, a prediction that has not been fulfilled. It was the general opinion that the main trade in the Dock would be in the shipment of coal, and some of the first ships to use the Dock were colliers.

The Harbour Master at the time of the opening was Captain Robert Ferguson. who had been appointed in 1867 and who was closely involved with the building of the Dock.

Invitation to the opening.

The Dock and its ancillary works greatly improved the south bank of the river, and its access roads - also made for much easier communication between Tweedmouth and Spittal.
The Dock railway line leading to Tweed- mouth Station was opened on 16th October, 1878, by the North Eastern Railway Comp any. Its steep inclines were suited only to very small trains and it was eventually closed in the 1950s. The embankment by the river and one of the railway's two bridges were demolished in 1975.


In the years immediately following the opening of the Dock the harbour at Berwick was extremely busy, justifying the optimism expressed in the after-dinner speeches. It cannot be denied that there were lean years to come, particularly during and after the two world wars. The Tweed Dock however, has been in some respects more consistently successful than many of its rivals.

One of the principal imports throughout the Dock's life has been timber from northern Europe for use in Allan Brothers wood-yard in Tweedmouth. In 1974, 12,532 tonnes of timber were imported. Again, the success of agriculture in the neighbourhood of Berwick has dependent in part on the use of fertilizers that have been brought in through the Dock. Chemicals and other raw materials (ammonia, phosphates, potash bones, etc.) were imported until the 1950's when the manufacture of fertilizers by H. G. McCreath and Fissions ceased. Since then ready-made fertilizers have been shipped in.

Cement was imported through the Dock from 'its beginning until 1964, when it became more readily available by road from the cement works at Dunbar. There is still a Ready-mix Concrete plant at the Dock. An- other import that was prominent from about 1915 until the 1950s was oil. The existing oil storage depot at the Dock is supplied by road.

The firm of H. 0. Short & Sons Ltd. has had a long connection with the Dock. It now mainly imports maize and other cereals for the use of its associate firm, Border Feeds.

Other imports through the Dock that were of significance for a time were clay for Tennant's Clay Pipe Factory in Tweed-mouth and esparto grass and china clay for Chirnside Paper Mill.

In the Dock's early years coal was one of the main exports, but it had ceased to be of much importance long before the closure of Scremerston Colliery in the 1950's. Its place was taken recently by sand and gravel which were dredged from the Tweed and shipped daily to Blyth. This operation lasted for three years, and at its peak in 1972 nearly 96,500 tons were exported. Stone is also ex- ported in large quantities from the former Herring Quay in Spittal (47,353 tonnes in 1975).

The main export from the Dock how-ever, now as in its first years, its grain, especially barley. In 1974, 7,738 tonnes of barley were exported and in 1975 admittedly an exceptional year when two harvests were involved, the figure rose to 92,859 tonnes. Most of this went to the Continent and to Northern Ireland. Over 2,500 tonnes of wheat were also exported in 1975. The principal firms involved locally were McCreath and John Prentice & Co.

In the years leading to its centenary the Dock has experienced a remarkable increase in its trading activity. A clear indication of the recent trend of improvement is contained in the following figures. In 1963-4 only 37 ships arrived at Berwick, and in the following year the number was 58. Ten years later in 1973, 1974 and 1975, the numbers were 273, 130 and 278 respectively. In the year 1964-5 the total tonnage of cargoes handled was 22,453; in 1975 it rose to 169,162 tonnes.

One of the main reasons for the great increase in trade is the growing reputation of the Dock for the Speed and efficiency with which ships are serviced by the staff. The Harbor Commissioners are also very keen to attract new business of all kinds. In the past two years unusual exports to the Continent have included dried milk, logs, and straw. There has also been an increasing use of the Dock's facilities by pleasure craft and small fishing beats. In the precincts of the Dock there is a public weigh-bridge which is in constant demand, and the wide edges of the Dock serve as an overnight lorry Park.


Being aware of the changing design of 'new building' ships the Harbour Commissioners decided to remove the beam restriction by removing the Tweed Dock lock bates and widening the entrance to allow vessels with a beam of up to 16 metres to safely enter.

The modern motor coaster is longer, broader draws less water than earlier versions and unlike the sailing ships and steamers of yesteryear with deep low keels is flat bottomed and can safely lie aground so does not require to be kept afloat at all times.

Whilst length and draught remain restrictions suitable modern vessels of up to 3000 tonnes cargo capacity can use the Port.

This long sighted policy has brought a Victorian Port into the 21st century and together with the provision of modern cranes, elevators and transit sheds the vessels get the fast turn round demanded by shipowners and merchants alike.

This improved port now allows traders to handle larger parcels and to trade with the Baltic Ports which have reopened to Western Europe since the demise of the "Iron curtain".

This is due of course to an increase in the cargo capacity of ships able to use the port. Before the entrance was widened, vessels of up to about 1700 tonnes deadweight were able to use the port.. Now ships of up to around 3000 tonnes deadweight can safely enter Berwick. The import of Fertilisers has vastly increased and regular shipments from Ports such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland and Hamburg in Germany have been supplemented by 2000 tonne Fertiliser ships from places new to Berwick such as Vyborg in Russia and Kaliningrad in Lithuania.

Timber, a commodity largely absent from Berwick over the last decade, has also made a reappearance, this being imported from Latvia.

Grain Imports which had also been on a downward gradient, also began to increase, with cargoes of over 2000 tonnes being imported from Denmark.

Cement continues to an important standing trade in Berwick, with regular imports of Snowcrete from Denmark, and also new exports of Sulfacrete to Norway. Shipments of Cement to the islands of Shetland and Orkney remain consistent over the last six years and continue to be an important regular trade for the dock.

The improvement has also meant merchants from further afield have been attracted to Berwick, with regular Wheat exports to Germany and Denmark, and also the aforementioned timber.

The increase in seaborne traffic during 1994 shows what the Port can handle and provides a platform on which to build for the future.

There is quiet confidence that trade can continue to grow and that the Harbour will continue to be the gateway to the Scottish Borders and remain the jewel in the crown of Berwick.


From the Centenary news story 1976
Tweeddale press

The Harbour commissioners at their annual general meeting in the Guild Hall in July 1976

Left to right, back row, Mr. H. G. McCreath, Col. J. I. M. Smail, Mr. j. F. Reed, Mr. M. Thompson, vice-chairman; Mr. R. W. B. Bainbridge, Mr. K. I. S. M. Leslie and Mr. T. Gladstone.

Front row, Mr. J. Healy, Clerk to the Commissioners; Mr. D. G. Landels, chairman; Mrs. M. Tait, Secretary; and Captain P. Gibson, The Harbour Master.
Photo: Tweeddale Press Ltd.


IN THIS centenary year it is fitting that the names of the people directly responsible for the successful running of the Dock, and the Harbour in general, should be recorded. The present Chairman of the Berwick-upon-Tweed Harbour commissioners is Mr. D. C. Landels and the Vice-chairman is Mr. M. F. Thompson.

The other thirteen Commissioners are :
Major J. M. Askew, Mr. R. W. B. Bainbridge, Councilor R. C. Blackhall, who is also currently Mayor of the Borough of Berwick- upon-Tweed, Mr. I. Cochrane, Mr. T. S. Gladstone, Mr. A. D. Herriot, Mr. K. 1. S. M. Leslie, Mr. H. G. McCreath, Mr. 1. A. McDonald. Mr. I. F. Reed, Mr. S. B. Simpson. Colonel J. I. M. Smail and Mr. F. M. Steven

The Harbour Master is Captain Peter Gibson, and his secretary in Mrs. M. Steven,
The Clerk to the Commissioners is Mr. John Healy, Chief Executive of the Borough. His secretary is Mrs. M. Tait.

The Tweed Dock is an asset to the Borough of Berwick, and to the. Eastern Borders as a whole. The Harbour Commissioners and their predecessors are to be congratulated on their successful efforts to sustain trading activity in the Dock in the past 100+ years. They have also given pleasure to the thousands of townsfolk and visitor who have enjoyed the sight of fine ships sailing in and out of the mouth of the Tweed at high tide.

The current Harbour master is Mr Duncan Wood. The Clerk to Commissioners is Capt Brian Watson

Here is the current Berwick-upon-Tweed Harbour constitution: (un-official) (official)

The above quote is courtesy of SSC Member Coastwatch, and was originally posted on this thread -

Berwick upon Tweed, pictured on a lovely day from a low angle . . .

Through the Grass by skinman620, on Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Nell Skinner -[email protected]/8505015884/
From the "Photos of England" thread, on the General Photography Forum, of Skyscraper City . . .

May 24th 2011.

Three Bridges, at Berwick upon Tweed

Three Bridges, Berwick Upon Tweed by wumpus, on Flickr

This is a great place, that I often visited on Business in the 1980s and 1990s . . .

1 - 5 of 5 Posts