A commercial port with the largest and best harbour on the east coast of England,


when we are at war when it becomes a naval port

and as things have turned out, always right next door to our chief ENEMY!

In both peace and war this large harbour is managed by a Board appointed with the Ministry of Transport' blessing. The only difference is that in war [or when required] the Admiralty can usurp the power of the Board to do what it requires is necessary for the defence of the realm.

That said, and because war is fortunately a rarity [in the UK, ten years in the 100 years of the 20th century] the Harwich Harbour Board have proved their worth just like the naval management of a dockyard does, and continuously. The few down-times pail into insignificance when compared with the successes, so I choose not to mention them!

With the Admiralty gone, and when a commercial port, decisions are taken with business sense only and nobody can circumvent the will of the Board, unless a person is filthy rich, has a great deal of clout, oh, and owns half of Suffolk, a UK county which surrounds well over half of the harbour. That lucky guy was called the Marquess of Bristol who lives just up the road from where I live and where my wife works as a room and a tour guide at Ickworth Park House, now owed by the National Trust.

In fairness the Marquess [and before him, his resplendent family] had been around the harbour' northern edge for some time even before the army had moved in not long after Queen Victoria had assumed the throne. In fact he owned most of the homes in the Shotley areas [villages and hamlets alike] and come 1893 he had raised all the rents to collect enough money to prop-up his financial outlay to build a pier from the foreshore at Shotley Gate out into the River Stour immediately opposite the town of Harwich. The Railway Pier itself and its landing stage was part paid for by the locals of Shotley and its associated villages and hamlets by Lord Bristol raising the rents on his domination of properties the cost being spread over the period 1894 to 1916 when it became self sufficient and rents were modified accordingly!. His intention was to provide a mail service and pedestrian ferry to and from Essex, and given the length of his pier [though as you will learn, short'ish to begin with] the carriage of mail and other goods was conveyed in carriages pushed manually on rail tracks. At the end of the railway pier was a landing stage where people boarded small boats heading for Parkestone Quay, and at the Shotley end, a narrow walk-way taking passengers back into the centre of Shotley Gate to be dispersed on foot up the Bristol Hill/Battery Lane into the open spaces beyond.

Filling in the blanks [or, putting meat on the bones!] these are historical markers to the history of this famous port which won much praise in both WW1 and WW2 and their respective post's


The Ganges site 100 years before the building of HMTE Shotley started in 1905 in MFQ 1/307/11 at TNA [The National Archives] and 38 years before 1905 [1867] in Works 43/ 438/28.  In 1914 permission was given to extend the Bristol Shotley Railway Pier further into the river in MT 10/1714/16 held by TNA   All Harwich harbour board of trade files are prefixed MT/10 [Ministries of Transport]  followed by specific file and series.  Seaplane sheds were erected in Harwich harbour in 1916 under the remit of BT/356/8228 requested by the Admiralty.  Harwich Harbour which includes the Orwell, the Stour, Ipswich Harwich, Felixstowe and all foreshores were fully under the control of the Board of Trade [Harbours] with the Ministry of Transport just one of its subsidiaries, controlled everything that happened in the Harbour. However, when the Admiralty or the War Office wanted anything doing to or within the confines of the harbour, it was nodded through and as an example of this file MY10/1818/7 of 1915  when the work to be done is simply called SECRET. All civilian requirements fared less well unless absolutely critically, but if you had money and clout [Lord Bristol for example] money talked!

This included the Board allowing the Admiralty to bring a floating dock into the harbour with the provision of “for the war only”. M 10/1901/14

In 1863 the Harwich Harbour were facing a large Bill for improvement of the Harbour covered by file MT9/18/M59441/63. No doubt a land owner of land within the harbour confines [Lord Bristol] was approached which must have done him proud in 1894 when his railway jetty was built at Shotley Gate.

There are many options open to one on TNA discovery trail, but it is wise to first understand the system. For example try adding in alternatives like “W.HARWICH” – or “H.HARWICH” or  “M.HARWICH” for other files of interest into TNA discoveries..

Now key in  “PIERS. SHOTLEY”

Over the years [at least since 1907 when the first relatively small Admiralty Pier was built -it was doubled in size in 1911] the two piers on the Shotley Gate side of Harwich Harbour [for the  most part a military harbour] have been fully understood by the locals but grossly misunderstood [or wrongly named] by those whose take up the pen to write about them - the Queen arrives at Shotley Pier in 1961 = NO!  - @ Admiralty Pier! = Yes. In 1946 the outgoing FO Harwich Rear Admiral Tyrwhitt arrives @ Shotley Pier  to say goodbye to his Command after VE-DAY May 1945 - No! - @ Admiralty Pier = Yes.    The issue, were there to be one is simple to reconcile for the dividing point is an imaginary line  created by the left hand side of Bristol Hill [going down hill] where, left to its own devices it would plunge into the river at the bottom, when all to the right of the imaginary line is called Queen Victoria Drive and all to the left [including the whole width of Bristol Hill] is called King Edward VII Drive. Basically [with one or two small issues] King Edward VII Drive is one the War Office [subsequently Admiralty] owned while dear old Queen ‘Vic Driveis in civilian territory. When Lord Bristol built his Shotley Gate [Shotley proper is some distance hence] Railway Pier the Army [at that time], were generous to him by allowing him to create a small footpath which would lead over civilian property over onto War Office territory so that The Bristol Arms inter alia could be accessed. This was covered by TNA file HA/507/3/775 of the 3rd March 1901. The same file covered the first widening of Battery Lane which ran from Bristol Hill through into what became School Lane in the HMS Ganges story. and on into a largely undeveloped War Office property.  In 1914 Shotley Railway Pier was its self, greatly extended.

The correct name of Lord Bristol’s railway pier was [and still is] under reference CRES 58/380 of 1887-1893 “SHOTLEY POINT PIER AND LANDING STAGE”. However, it is quite wrongly named for the Point [Shotley Point] is some good distance from the Bristol's Pier edging along the foreshore towards the mouth of the Orwell and very much owned by the War Office. The Hervey's [Lord Bristol's surname] were, not to be trusted, and it was well known in the government that the Marquess was making claims on sections of the Stour foreshore which were not his. His stake for land to build the so-called Shotley Point railway pier and landing stage were closely monitored by the Treasury, and the Chancellor had on more than one occasion warned the family of their avarice manifest in their false claims.  Eventually, at the turn of the century, the government acted and assigned the disputed land issue over to the War Office, so that HMTE Shotley could be built without further encumbrances.

In 1907 just as HMTE Shotley was beginning to settle down to train boys, the Marquess of Bristol died. He left all the Shotley Estate to the Shotley Estates Established Trust for the benefit of his wife as this newspaper article of 1907 shows:-

TNA file MFQ 1/654/2 shows the original plans for the Shotley Kite/Balloon Station, supplanted by the Annexe to HMS Ganges and subsequently a housing estate. The plan shows the station, Shotley Gate Village, a pier, a wharf and other readily recognised bits and pieces.

Plus many other files for the area [and the events] worth sourcing and exploring.

Now some newspaper cuttings about Shotley Gate and Harwich.

Whoops - Wrong Pier your Majesty! Should be Admiralty Pier   -- see video below [wmv]

Note the width of the pier and the size of her entourage and welcoming party, outside of which are naval boys lining the route. In the distance are the naval davits which played host to the many whalers and cutters used to train the boys in boatwork, pulling up and down the Stour, and today, 65 years later, I still have the blisters? It would be impossible for HM to walk along Shotley Pier [the Bristol Pier] with the dignity and composure required of her. The picture shows HM with the First Sea Lord and the Lord Lieutenant immediately behind the Queen, approaching the end of the ADMIRALTY JETTY where she would step immediately into her Rolls Royce, awaiting to taken up Bristol Hill and into Caledonia Road and then straight through the gates into HMS Ganges proper where she met the Captain of the Establishment Captain John Gower DSC Royal Navy. None of that would be possible from the shore end of the Shotley Bristol Pier because of its narrow confines and totally lacking style and panache for such a Royal visit of the monarch herself. 

Regrettably, civilians, and in the case, journalists, will call both piers at Shotley Gate "Shotley Pier" as they have done here. but there are two, a civilian pier called "Shotley Pier" and a naval pier [or jetty] belonging to HMS Ganges called"The Admiralty Pier or Jetty".  In this case they are talking about the naval pier/jetty, this despite the commentary on the video!

The R.Y.Britannia must have earned a bob or two for local boat owners to take sightseeers on trips for close-up views of the vessel which was in the harbour off Shotley Gate  for nearly ten hours before sailing away.

Film evidence! Note how the Queen's car is facing right [as we view it - left as the Queen would have seen it] ready to travel from the jetty towards the bottom of Bristol Hill, turning right to climb the hill.

Video taken from the copyright owner © East Anglia Film Archive which shows all areas of Suffolk visited by HM, edited to show the HMS Ganges visit only by www.godfreydykes.info

The Queen at  HMS Ganges 1961  Copyright EAFA edited from the original by www.godfreydykes.info.wmv


The REV JFA Hervey is a member of the Marquess of Bristol family



Next four snippets reinstated on the 4th January 2018

See last entry "A body in RAF uniform......."