1855 Proposal for a railway linking Havant with Hayling Island


Railways provided great opportunities to improve connections throughout Britain but steam vessels introduced a new and deadly threat our commercial trade at time of war, in particular, to ships travelling through the narrow seas of the English Channel, to reach the Port of London.

A paper was published in the 1855 Naval Chronicle, which made the case for developing a commercial port facilities in Langstone Harbour, connected by a railway line from Havant to Langstone Quay and the proposed docks, near the Portsmouth – Hayling ferry. A nautical map of the area (above) was included in this paper.

At this time, the railway from Godalming to Havant was under construction by The Portsmouth Company which would provide a much shorter route to London.


The proposal

The article sets out the importance of developing docks for the import and export of goods around the world and the income that such schemes can generate. It uses the example of the commercial docks at Liverpool to support these arguments.

It considers the commercial docks in the Portsmouth/Langstone area and identifies the lack of local dry dock facilities as impediment to the ships using the docks. It records that the Admiralty consented to the construction of the embankment, from the proposed railway bridge to the harbour entrance on the Hayling Island side of Langstone Harbour. The channel from the harbour entrance to Langstone Quay was to be considerably deepened and widened to aid the passage of vessels. A railway line, running along the embankment, was proposed leading to the harbour entrance where wet, dry and timber docks would be built together with warehousing and discharge facilities abreast of Sinah Lake.

Completion of the railway was given as 2 years from the start of construction. No such time was placed on completing the docks.

The mud lands from the embankment to the west coast of Hayling Island had already been purchased by this time. This amounted to some 1000 acres of land. Further purchase of land on the island would be necessary.

Supporting Arguments

The position of Langstone Harbour and the proposed Docks scheme, together with the new rail connection and canal system would make the harbour an outpost of London. This would avoid the need for vessels to navigate up the English Channel to reach the Port of London and thus make considerable savings in terms of shipping costs. The projected savings are laid out in this article.

The vulnerability of merchant shipping to enemy action would be safeguarded by the presence of the Royal navy in Portsmouth Harbour, the existence of Cumberland Fort at the Purtsmouth side of the Langstone Harbour entrance, a martello tower on the Hayling side in communication with a fort to be built on Horse Sands. Other southern coastal ports do not have this advantage.

A quote from his Grace the Duke of Wellington in 1846 was included; “That it is important to the navigation of this country that every means should be adopted to preserve and improve the natural harbours of the country”. Added to this was a quotation from the Tidal Harbours Commission for a comprehensive inquiry into every port and navigable river in the United Kingdom. With the advent of steam powered vessels, it was considered that the passage of merchant vessels through the Straits of Dover would become even more hazardous. This adds to the commercial argument for the development of Langstone Harbour as an outpost of London.

This plan had been much researched and had received the support of many influential people.


Final Comments

A powerful case put forward for the development of Langstone Harbour. The contents of this paper fit well with both the 1861 and 1864 Acts of Parliament and very likely were part of the original proposals to the Board of Trade.

Full article in the 1855 Naval Chronicle

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