Portcities Southampton
UK * Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton
You are here: PortCities Southampton > Life of a Port > Trade - lifeblood of a port > Coal And Oil > Coal
* Text only * About this site * Site Map * Feedback
Explore this site
Start Here
About Us
Partners And Collections
Get Interactive!
Image galleries
The Docks
River Itchen
Southampton at war
Flying Boats
Finding Out More
Southampton speaks
Street Directories
Historic Buildings Survey
Registers and Records
Lloyd's Register
Official Sources
Other Records
Finding Out More
Wrecks and Accidents
Why accidents happen
Improving Safety at Sea
Finding Out More
Wreck Reports
Life of a Port
How a port comes to life
At work in a port
Ports at play
Trade - lifeblood of a port
Finding Out More
On the Line
Company growth and development
Shipping lines
Transatlantic travel
Preparing a liner
Finding Out More
Sea People
Life at sea
Jobs at sea
Travelling by sea
Starting a new life by sea
Women and the sea
Finding Out More
Diversity of Ships
The variety of ships
What drives the ship?
Ships of ancient times
Ships in the age of sail
Ships of the steam age
Ships of today

Coal And Oil


Coal ports grew up near the major coalfields. For instance, Newcastle and Sunderland served the fields in Northumberland and Durham in North East England; Garston served Lancashire, Cardiff and Barry served South Wales, Goole served Yorkshire, Ayr and Troon served the Ayrshire coal fields in west Scotland, Methil served those in Fife (east Scotland).

Most of these ports specialised in coal. The emphasis was on moving it from the pit to the dock and then on to the ship as quickly and efficiently as possible. Railways connected pit and port, and usually carried little else but coal. At the port were large rail yards where coal wagons would be kept until the ship arrived, and empties sorted for return to the pits. The railway lines were laid right on to the dockside. Goole was an exception, as much of the coal it handled was brought in by water from pits that were alongside canals.

Southampton`s coal barge dock, River Itchen

Magnifying glassSouthampton`s coal barge dock, River Itchen

At the dockside, coal ports were characterised by special equipment to load the coal as quickly as possible. At Newcastle and Sunderland, the banks of the rivers were high. Here staithes were built, tall structures along which rail lines were laid. The wagons of coal were pushed along these by locomotives, and the coal tipped down chutes directly into the ships` holds. Other ports did not have this advantage of height. The coal wagons had to be lifted bodily, and their contents tipped into the hold. These coal hoists varied in design, but had to be movable so that each hold of the ship could be filled.

Southampton Speaks

audioCoaling ships (0:58)

Help with sound

Equipment was designed so that the coal was broken up as little as possible as it fell into the hold. Coal was usually worth less if it was in the form of small pieces or, worse still, dust.


Advanced Search
Southampton City Council New Opportunities Fund Lloyd's Register London Metropolitan Archives National Maritime Museum World Ship Society  
Legal & Copyright * Partner sites: Bristol * Hartlepool * Liverpool * London * Southampton * Text only * About this site * Feedback