The Story of Southampton Docks

Southampton has a long maritime history that can be traced from the invasion of Britain by the Romans, but it was from the Act of Parliament of 1803 making it possible to develop quays and warehouses that the construction of the docks really began.

THE STORY OF SOUTHAMPTON DOCKS traces the history and development of the docks during the last two centuries. The book looks at the management of the docks from the Southampton Dock Company, and the construction of the Old and New Docks through the period when the docks was known as a ‘railway docks’ with London & South Western Railway, and Southern Railway. It was also a time when the docks became famous as the ‘Gateway to the World’ and the period known as the ‘Golden Age of Ocean Travel.’ With the outbreak of the Second World War Southampton Docks came under the control of the War Department and a time when the docks was heavily bombed.

From 1945 the management of the docks were faced with competition for trade from abroad, the need to reconstruct the docks after the wartime bombing and labour disputes. The book also covers the problems that faced both the management and docks labour force, the decline in transatlantic liner services in favour of the air travel, and the start of containerisation during the time it was managed by the British Transport Commission and the British Docks Labour Board.

The book highlights the time the ports were privatised, the introduction of Associated British Ports to manage Southampton Docks. The huge reduction of the dock labour force through redundancies, and retraining of the remaining workforce lead the docks top be more competitive in the world market.

Here in the 21st century trade is increasing in Southampton Docks with larger container ships and car carriers visiting, but the biggest change is the development of the cruise industry.

Interviews from management, union, ‘dockies’ and other interested sources give interesting, enlightening and often humorous first-hand accounts of life in and around the docks during this time.

The book contains 250 photographs and illustration, including some that have never been published before.

Published by Breedon Books Publishing Company Ltd 2009