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Victoria Slipway, East London Harbour
East London, Eastern Cape



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33°01'35.45" S 27°54'23.35" E

Victoria Slipway

A major stumbling block to the development of the East London harbour was the persistent sand-bar at the Buffalo River mouth. Ships had to be discharged in the roadstead. However in 1886, following the arrival of the dredger "Lucy", a navigational channel was established allowing ships to enter the river.

It was then decided to construct a patent slipway to facilitate shipbuilding. The turning of the first sod was carried out by the Governor, Sir Henry Loch on 05 February 1890. Progress was however delayed as parliament refused to sanction the necessary funds. Following the formation of the East London Harbour Board and prolonged negotiation the Government agreed to fund the necessary construction.

Work on the slipway duly began in March 1896, and on 02 September 1897, the Victoria Slipway was officially opened by Sir Alfred Milner. The dredger "Sir Gordon", which had been previously fixed on the slipway cradle was drawn up the slipway, to mark the occasion.

The Victoria Slipway had been constructed into reclaimed land on the West bank of the Buffalo River. The vertical slipway walls were constructed with hammer dressed dolerite blocks and the cradle was constructed using timber.

A heavy toothed metal rail to guide the cradle was fixed to the centre line of the inclined plane of the slipway which was terminated at the upper end with a stone winding house, a portion of which is still extant.

The area directly to the east of the upper end of the slipway was used for ship-building purposes from the completion of the slipway up until the 1960's.

(Submitted by William MARTINSON, August 2013)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.