Latitude: 50° 34'N
Longitude: 02° 26'W
Ownership: Portland Port Ltd
Contact name: Mr Steve Davies, Chief Executive
Address: Castletown, Portland, Dorset, DT5 1PP
Telephone no: 01305 824044
About PortlandFor centuries sailing ships had sheltered in Portland from westerly gales in the lee of the great sweep of Chesil Beach. In 1844 Parliament gave its approval for enclosing the bay as a harbour of refuge, and Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, laid the first stone in 1848. His son Edward, Prince of Wales, declared the harbour open in 1872. The early harbour had only two breakwater arms stretching out into mid bay. The development of the torpedo created the need to protect ships, and two further arms were added at the turn of the century to completely enclose the bay and make the largest deep-water harbour in Europe.
Advance in technology fuelled the development of the harbour. As fossil fuels replaced sail, steamships had to refuel at short intervals and Portland, half-way up channel, with its "quick-in-and-out" facility, was an ideal place. Later, the first successful commercial torpedo factory was built at Ferrybridge on the north side of the harbour in 1891. This in turn spurred the development of submarines and then the technology to detect and destroy them. Thus the harbour became the centre for research into underwater warfare. For some time Portland was the base for the Channel and then the Home Fleets and a depot for submarines. Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and George VI all reviewed their fleets here. Young seamen were trained in the old frigates anchored in the harbour, successively named HMS Boscawen.
Violent action came in 1940 after the fall of France. Portland was now in the front line and the recipient of fierce German air attack. The anti-aircraft ship HMS Foylebank was sunk in the harbour in July after a mass attack by Stuka dive bombers, and one of her crew, Leading Seaman Jack Mantle, received the Victoria Cross. In 1944 Portland became the embarkation port for thousands of Americans on their way to Omaha beach on D-Day - "Bloody Omaha".
After the war Portland, with its quick in and out facility, became responsible for sea training for the navy. With the advent of the helicopter an airfield was built at Chesil to work up ship's helicopter flights. It was also a preferred base Royal Fleet Auxiliary who carried the fleet's supplies. With the reduction of the Royal Navy in the 1990s the naval facilities at Portland were dispersed and the harbour became a civilian concern. "Portland Port", a commercial company, took over responsibility with the aim of developing the ship repair, leisure and tourism potential. One of the first arrivals at the new set up was a prison ship.
There are 2,000 acres of Outer Harbour, with up to 16 metres depth in the Inner Harbour and up to 40 metres depth of water in the Outer Harbour.
Portland's Harbour is well protected from the prevailing south westerly winds, as it shelters behind the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach, and is circled by an extensive breakwater system which protects it from easterly adverse weather.
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