Kingston Dock

By on May 23, 2015 in Clyde River and Firth, Events, Kingston Dock Fire 1914 | 4 comments

Maps of Harbour 1840 1876 468

As early as the 1830s, there were discussions of expanding the crowded Harbour of Glasgow to increase the quayage and accommodate more traffic. Plans for the construction of the first wet dock were put on a more solid foundation in January 1855 by J. F. Ure, the Clyde Trust’s Chief Engineer. The site chosen was the Windmill Croft, part of the Springfield Cotton and Printing Works. Construction of the wet dock began in the mid 1860s and opened at the end of 1867. The dock cost £155,000 and enclosed a surface of 5.5 acres with 13 ft depth at low water and provided 823.5 yards of quayage. The entrance was 60 ft across with swing-bridge.

Todd's Mill G in F 150

Todd’s Springfield Mill with the Croft beyond

The eastern end of the dock is seen beyond the sheds of Windmillcroft Quay in this photograph taken from the tower of the Sailors Home around 1870. The view looks along West Street.  The early dredger, No. 5, is in the river and there is a profusion of mud punts to collect the dredged material.  One of Burn’s coastal paddle steamers is at Anderson Quay.

Windmillcroft from Sailor's Home 1870 467

Harbour from Sailors Home around 1870 (Becket)

In its early years, the dock was heavily used mainly by sailing craft and some of the Sunday steamers, but by the turn of the century it had become the home of coastal sailing schooners and small steam coasters such as the Minard Castle.

Windmillcroft Tidal Basin 464

Windmillcroft Tidal Basin—Kingston Dock (Engineer)

On the morning of June 18, 1914, workers were involved in widening and piling the quay. Two carpenters employed by Clyde Trust were driving holes through piling by pneumatic borers. They then “fired the hole” with a red hot poker to clear the roughness and smooth the way for a bolt. This was standard procedure. The piles near Dundas Street at west end of the dock were saturated with creosote and the heat generated by this singeing process set the pile on fire. The workers first tried to put out the fire with buckers of water and then went for a hose but the rapid expansion of the fire could not be contained. The fire brigade summoned at 8:30 a.m.

Kingston Dock Fire 2 783

The south side sheds with the masts of the schooners in the smoke (Balabanian & Yuill)

The sheds on the south side of the dock caught fire and burned first and caught sheds on the eastern side. If had just been a fire in the sheds, the conflagration would have been more easily contained but piling along quayside, saturated by creosote spread the fire quickly. The fire spread along the quayage at West Street and then the sheds on the north side caught fire. Barrels of seal oil in the sheds also caught fire. Some fell into the water, an amazing sight burning and floating along, other seal oil barrels were removed to West Street.

There were ten vessels in the dock; steamers Embla, Lochaber and Lady Tennent and schooners Gleaner, Betsy Crawford, Navigator (Portsmouth), Warsash (Dumfries), Edith (Padstow), J.T.S. (Barrow) and the lighter No. 10. The were four schooners on the south side quay. The steamer Lochaber had steam up but no engineer and it and the Gleaner made their way out of the docks by warping round the mooring bollards. The four sailing ships, NavigatorWarsashEdithJ.T.S., perished. Their crews escaped through the sheds, although two had to take to the water, one swimming to the other side of the dock. A piece of blazing canvas shot over the roof of the sheds and caught on a tenement chimney on West Street, setting two dwellings on fire. Other tenements in Springfield Lane were also affected. A gas tank at the corner of Springfield Lane and Paisley Road fortunately did not explode.

Kingston Dock Fire 1782

The aftermath of the fire with a river ferry at the east end (Balabanian & Yuill)

Fire spread to the sheds of the Campbeltown Steamship Co on the North Side of the dock in the early afternoon and the efforts of fire-master Waddel concentrated on limiting damage. River ferries were brought in and supplied from hoses on land to their decks to fight the fire from the water. The trust did not have fire-fighting tugs at this time but the disaster prompted this to be remedied. At Windmillcroft Quay the steamers Warner, Copeland and Rathlin were moored and had to be moved to the buoys in the river. The Rathlin was moved to a berth on north side of the river. The whole area of sheds around were reduced to ashes. Fortunately of the 150 firemen who fought the fire, there was only one injury, a broken ankle. Initial damage estimate was £160,000 but later revised to $1,250,000.

Kingston Dock ICI ship Cerium Colour 220

ICI coaster Cerium canting in Kingston Dock

Kingston Dock Colour 442

Kingston Dock from the air, shortly before it closed

The dock was rebuilt and saw many years of use. It was closed 1966 when the Kingston Bridge was built.


  1. Tom

    May 24, 2017

    Post a Reply

    We are looking into the fate of the burned schooners after the fire. What is your source of information on the names of the vessels damaged? and of the other ships in the harbour at the time of the fire? There are some conflicting reports in contemporary newspapers about the names of the ships, but I think you are correct.

    • valeman

      May 24, 2017

      Post a Reply

      My Sources were mainly reports from the Daily Record and Glasgow Herald as well as the Scotsman from June 19 and 20, 1914 and Illustrated London News of June 27.

  2. Mairead Cullen

    November 2, 2017

    Post a Reply

    Hi there
    We are searching for images of the Kingston Dock fire, could you let me know where you sourced these? Specifically the one titled: The south side sheds with the masts of the schooners in the smoke (Balabanian & Yuill)

    • valeman

      November 2, 2017

      Post a Reply

      Image is from my personal collection of contemporary photographic postcards (as are majority of images on the site). Graham

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *