Swansea and Port Talbot Docks History

Hydraulic Power Stations, Swansea Docks

In 1850, during the construction of the lock entrance to the new Town Float, Mr. James Abernethy, consultant engineer to the Swansea Harbour Trust, suggested the new lock gates should be operated by hydraulic power rather than by hand-operated winches. The Harbour Trust agreed to this proposal, and appointed Sir William Armstrong to design and supply the hydraulic operating machinery not only for the lock gates, but also for quayside cranes, coal hoists, bridges, and various other mechanical appliances. The Town Float, which became known as the North Dock, was opened in 1852.

Hydraulic power was generated by steam-driven pumps which circulated high-pressure water around the dock by way of a ring main system of cast-iron pipes. Details of the hydraulic power stations constructed at various locations around Swansea Docks over the years are given below:-



North Dock Hydraulic Power Station

plan showing Hydraulic Engine House

Note – in later years, after the closure of the North Dock in 1930, the North Dock Basin gates were operated by hydraulic pressure via a pipeline from the South Dock Hydraulic Power Station.



North Dock Lock Drawbridge Hydraulic Power Station

When a new North Dock Lock drawbridge was installed in 1868, a small hydraulic power station was built alongside the lock to drive the bridge mechanism.

North Dock Lock Drawbridge Hydraulic Power Station


South Dock Hydraulic Power Station

The original South Dock hydraulic power station was built in 1860 and demolished in 1899. It was replaced by a new hydraulic power station equipped with 2 x steam-driven hydraulic pumps constructed immediately to the west of the original site. This 'new' power station is now the Pump House Restaurant.

When converted from steam to electricity in the mid-1950s, the South Dock power station was fitted with four Chester electrically-driven 3-ram pumps – only two of which were ever used – plus a Blackstone diesel engine and Sulzer pump stand-by unit. he construction of Kings Dock Impounding Station in 1959.

South Dock Hydraulic Power Station

Note – two spare Chester electric pumps were taken from the South Dock power station c.1960 and installed in the new Kings Dock impounding station to provide hydraulic power to operate the Kings Dock lock gates, sluices and swingbridge.



Prince of Wales Dock Hydraulic Power Station

Located on the south-east side of the Prince of Wales Dock (see 'Hydraulic Engine House' on the plan below, centre-right)

Equipped with 2 x steam-powered hydraulic pumps

Built 1881, closed & demolished c.1909

showing PoW Dock Hydraulic Power Station


Eastern Hydraulic Power Station

Located at the eastern end of Kings Dock

Equipped with 2 x steam-powered hydraulic pumps

Built 1908, closed 1950s – demolished

Replaced by 4 x Sulzer electric rotary pumps installed in a new building near No.12 hoist

Eastern Hydraulic Power Station


Western Hydraulic Power Station

Located at the western end of Kings Dock

Equipped with 2 x steam-driven hydraulic pumps

Built 1908, closed 1950s – building converted to engineering workshops

Replaced by 4 x Sulzer electric rotary pumps installed in an adjacent building

Western Hydraulic Power Station