History of Fleetwood Dock

History of Fleetwood Dock

Ashton Printers are still printing in Fleetwood. They gave us a copy of the leaflet used for the procession and opening of Fleetwood Dock in 1877.

The leaflet can be seen left – we’ve transcribed the details below it so that you can read the fascinating list of trades people, bands and churches who took part in this great event, many of which have long faded from current use. 

The Fleetwood Maritime Heritage Trust website has lots of interesting information about the fishing industry. Read about life at Fleetwood Docks in its heyday here.

About Fleetwood Dock

(This information has been taken from Wikipedia – read it in full here)

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Frederick Kemp was Peter Hesketh Fleetwood’s land agent. By the time that Hesketh-Fleetwood was just about bankrupt, Frederick Kemp’s career was going well – he had set up the Fleetwood Estates Company to manage the land, and the North Lancashire Steam Navigation Company in 1843 to manage the expanding steamer trade.

From the 1860s Fleetwood expanded its port activities. Steamers began pleasure and commercial services to the Isle of Man, Ardrossan and Belfast. 1⁄2 mile (800 m) of stone quays were built along the river front, and the railway line was extended to the steamer pier opposite Queen’s Terrace, where the imposing new railway station was built in 1883.

The port was still mainly a cargo terminal at this time, but the fishing industry began to grow as vessels expanded their catchment area from the Irish Sea fishing grounds first fished in the 1840s, to the haddock grounds of the North Atlantic Ocean. At this time, all the fishing vessels out of Fleetwood were sail-powered fishing smacks, few being over 40 tons deadweight.

The Fleetwood Docks Act of 1864 enabled the construction of a dock and embankment for both fishing and general cargo. Work on what was to become Wyre Dock began in 1869 but was suspended for financial reasons. A second Act in 1871 gave construction authority to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, under chief engineers Sir John Hawkshaw and Harrison Hayter. Construction itself, by John Aird & Sons, was completed in 1877. 

By the early 1890s, the construction and expansion of rival cargo ports in the North West and the building of the Manchester Ship Canal heralded the decline of Fleetwood’s prominence as a cargo port. However, at the same time this was more than offset by a period of rapid expansion of the fishing industry, signalled by the launch in 1891 of the first steam powered trawler, the Lark.

All the other major fishing ports in Britain, Hull, Grimsby and Aberdeen, were on the east coast, so there was a competitive advantage for a west-coast port with good rail links. By the start of the 20th century, Fleetwood’s position as one of the three major fishing ports in England was cemented. James Marr brought a fleet of steam trawlers to Fleetwood and actively started to change the port by selectively fishing for hake, which until then had been treated as a much less desirable catch.

The docks were expanded in 1908 with the construction of the Fish Dock, accessible through Wyre Dock and still used today for the inshore fleet. 

By the 1920s, the fishing industry was at its height, employing over 9,000 people. 

Many industries related to fishing grew up along the rail corridor on the eastern side of the town, and a number of unrelated industries also moved to the area to take advantage of the availability of labour.

By the 1960s Fleetwood began to decline economically. The last ferry to the Isle of Man sailed in 1961. The sailings have been revived periodically since. Most serious was the collapse of the fishing industry, which was largely destroyed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the Cod Wars, a dispute over fishing rights between Iceland and the UK.

As Fleetwood’s trawlers mainly fished the North Atlantic in search of cod, the loss of the fishing grounds hit the town hard. The last deep sea trawler left the town in 1982 and now only inshore fishing boats fish out of the port, although trawlers registered in other places can still be seen taking advantage of the fish market. Fish is still a big industry in the town, though the jobs are mainly in processing rather than fishing. 

Fleetwood Freeport and Marina (1995) is built on the site of the former Wyre Dock, below.

Fleetwood Freeport Marina

In 1973, the area around the old railway station was developed into a container port facility, with P & O operating a container service to Larne in Northern Ireland. In 1975, this became a Roll-on/roll-off service. This development led indirectly to some renewal of the then largely derelict Dock Street area, and improved road access to the town to support the container traffic. Twice-daily container service continued until 2004 when Stena Line bought the route and increased the service to three times a day.

In December 2010, Stena Line announced that the service would be withdrawn at the end of 2010, with the loss of 140 jobs.


Opening of Fleetwood Dock

Opening of Fleetwood Dock
Monday October 8th, 1877

Order of Grand Procession

The Procession will assemble in the Company’s Field, Poulton Lane, at half past nine, and will start at ten am in the following order:

Members Local Board
Festivities Committee
Gentry and Tradesmen
Fire Brigade
Life Boat and Crew
Ship Carpenters and Sailmakers
Ellesmere Club
Fishermen with Boat complete for Fishing
Workmen Thos. Riley and Sons, Saw Mill
Workmen of Curwen & Swain (Limited)
Church of England
Roman Catholics

By the kind permission of Col. Lord J Taylour the 94th Regiment will line the route


Poulton Road, West Street, East Street, North Albert Street, Bold Street, Archery Ground, Upper Queen’s Terrace, Lower Queen’s Terrace, Dock Street and onto the Dock.

On the return the Procession will be reversed and proceed along Dock Street, Church Street, St Peter’s Place, Alfred Terrace, and disperse in the Square, North Albert Street.

It is particularly requested that all parties strictly adhere to the Order of Procession prescribed by the Committee, and also obey the orders of the Marshalls appointed.

Mr J. G. Shield, Marshall

W. Ashton (late Stanley), Printer and Stationer, 14 Dock Street, Fleetwood


Fleetwood docks
Fleetwood docks




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