The construction of Dunmore Pier

In 1824 Rev Richard Hopkins Ryland published The history, topography and antiquities of the County and City of Waterford.  The Dungarvan native and amateur historian had set out to challenge "the incorrect ideas and false representations of flying travellers and tourists"1.  As part of his research he visited the port of Dunmore as it was being transformed under the watchful eye of the great engineer Alexander Nimmo. What follows is his description of the construction.
Steam paddle packets Meteor and Royal Sovereign which operated
on the Dunmore service in the 1820s
Maritime Museum, Greenwich via Roger Antell 
"Nearly at the entrance of the harbour is the village of Dunmore, formerly a place of resort for fishermen, but now a delightful and fashionable watering place...Dunmore has latterly been much enlarged; it is now a post town and a station for the packets which carry the mails between England the south of Ireland. {I've written previously about the earlier Waterford service} By an act passed in the 58th year of Geo III cap.72 the limits of the harbour of Dunmore are defined to be 'from Shannoon Point otherwise called Black Nobb, to Ardnamult Point' This act also regulates the duties to be charged on vessels arriving at, or sailing from, the harbour: it also authorises the appointment of a harbour master...


The pier of Dunmore is situated on the southern shore of the bay of Waterford, where the haven joins the Atlantic Ocean.  The harbour for the packets is formed under Dunmore head by the projection of a mole, which is carried a considerable distance to the sea.  The object being to reduce the fury of the waves, which, when impelled by the south and west winds, dash against the coast with inconceivable violence, a mole, supported by an immense breakwater, was commenced from a little within the head of Dunmore.  By vast exertions, and by procuring rocks of great size, the mole was extended 800 feet into the sea, which, at the place where the breakwater is formed, is from four, five to six fathoms deep.  The mole is raised on an inclined surface between forty and fifty feet above low water mark, roofed or paved with great masses of stone, embedded in a species of mortar which becomes hard under water; the inclination is such to allow the fury of of the waves to expend itself before reaching the parapet, which surmounts the whole, at an elevation of seventy feet perpendicular above the foundation.  The pier and quay for the shipping are erected inside the mole, and present a most beautiful specimen of masonry.  This pier, or quay, is 600 feet in length: the depth of low water at the entrance is twenty five feet, and at the innermost part eighteen feet.  The greatest part of this noble quay under low water has been built by means of a diving bell, of which useful machines there are two here, on very improved principals.

Under the superintendence of skillful engineers, the workmen (untaught peasants) soon learned to move rocks with admirable dexterity: few of these were less than five or six tons weight, and some exceed ten tons.  Those immense mountain masses, torn from the solid rock, were transported with apparent ease, on inclined planes and iron railways, to the place where they were squared with the greatest exactness: they were then disposed in their places, accurately fitted and joined together without the clumsy iron bolts and bands, which are at the same time laborious and expensive...

Steam packets sail every day between Waterford and Milford and afford a cheap and expeditious conveyance: the passage is usually effected in about 9 hours.  The time occupied in conveying the mail between London and Waterford rarely exceeds eight and forty hours*.  On the arrival of the packet at Dunmore, in the evening, a well appointed mail coach is to convey the passengers to Waterford; and from thence coaches proceed to Dublin and Cork, where they arrive the following morning.

*The Cinderella, the first vessel of this description on this part of the coast, performed the passage in a little better than seven hours. She left Milford at half past nine in the morning of the 16th April, and arrived at Dunmore a quarter before five the same evening. The usual hour of arrival is between seven and eight; but it is expected that when the arrangements are completed, the packets will arrive three or four hours earlier. The packets do not leave Dunmore now until twelve o'clock at night.          [Rylands endnote]


The results of the building work described can still be appreciated today, and it's certain that the Reverend had first hand accounts with both his eyes and ears and from the engineers employed in the construction.  It was a pity he gave no mention to the construction of the lighthouse, which leads me to think he visited Dunmore a few years before the book was published.  The mails continued to arrive and depart at Dunmore until 1835.  But with the coming of steam power and the ability to bend the winds and tides to the will of the ships, the packet moved to Waterford city.

1 short biographical account via Fewer.T.N. Waterford People. A biographical Dictionary.  2004.  Ballylough Books. Waterford

The extract above was sourced from Ryland.R.H. The history, topography and antiquities of the County and City of Waterford. 1982. Welbrook Press. Kilkenny pp239-243.  Thanks to Damien McLellan for the loan of his copy.


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Comments

  1. Handy boys altogether, those untaught peasants. I bet they could thatch the barn, plough the ten acre, butcher a hog, and make cheese as well.

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    Replies
    1. It jarred to transcribe it, I'm sure I'd have fit the description very aptly at the time! well said Bob

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