During the embryonic years of the development of Falmouth Docks the major civil engineering project had its ups and downs both in terms of cost and associated engineering problems.

Just three years after Lord Falmouth had laid the foundation stone the Falmouth Docks Director’s report for August 1863 makes interesting reading as the port continued to make progress in dredging and building wharves to accommodate ships for repairs and cargo handling.

A massive amount of dredging was underway but as usual funds dried up periodically with shareholders asked to increase their share holding whilst the company applied to the Public Works Loan Commissioners for further loans to complete vital works.

The 1863 report states: “Since the last half-yearly meeting the Prince of Wales’ Breakwater (Eastern Arm today) has been completed, and a cast iron Lighthouse erected on it, the wharfing attached to the breakwater has also been finished the extent of 580 feet, and deep water obtained by dredging alongside the depth of from 18 feet to 22 feet low water spring tides.

"No. 2 Graving Dock opened for traffic on the 10th of March last, and several vessels have been re-paired in it, including the large iron steam ship Dido of 1,800 tons burthen.

"No 1 Graving Dock has also been well occupied during the past six months.

Falmouth Packet:

Plan of Falmouth Docks in 1865 with proposals for future works.  David Barnicoat Collection

"The side of the Tidal Harbour is being rapidly advanced and the piles are driven to connect it with the North-Western angle of the Northern or Inner breakwater, which has been extended Eastwards.

"The wharfing of the Western arm has been completed for a length 300 feet, and the water deepened by dredging alongside.

"It is most important that this portion of the works should be finished as speedily possible, to afford the large additional and convenient accommodation for import and export traffic required in connection with the Cornwall Railway.

"The cutting to connect the Cornwall Railway and the Docks is being executed with all dispatch, and will no doubt be completed in time for the necessary exchange of traffic between the two companies.”

Dredging by the dredger Briton was a major undertaking by the Company. Powered by a two cylinder 60hp steam engine the 80 feet long the Briton was fitted with two ladders 65 feet long with 31 buckets on each ladder. She could excavate to a depth of 41 feet and raised 1,800 tons of dredging spoil in 12 hours with four hoppers during the three years she worked for the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners. Working alongside the Briton in the port was the wooden hopper barge Pendennis. Both vessels were let out on hire by the Dock Company when not in use around the port.

The report went on to say: “On the 30th June last Mr. H. Michell completed the second section of his contract for Dredging, and it would have been of the greatest value and importance to the Company if your Directors had been in a position to purchase his Dredging Machine, but for want of funds they were unable to entertain the question, and were reluctantly compelled to postpone the execution of the remaining portion his Contract.

"Mr. Michell, would have removed the whole of his Plant had not Mr. Tilly promptly purchased it on his own account and responsibility.

"It comprises a dredging machine of great power, nearly new, a steam tug, four 100 ton barges and appurtenances which he offers to the Company at cost price £4,400. The purchase of this machine by the Company would be of the utmost advantage – as it would effect a saving of £1,600 solely on the remaining 1,000 cubic yards which still had to performed by Mr. Mitchell under his original contract, the beneficial interest in which is included the sum of £4,400.

"But this only partially shows the advantage which would result to the Company; the Engineer's original estimate for Dredging the Tidal Harbour and entrance Channel is £37,409, which only £4,375 has yet been expended; we are now assured by him that from the peculiarly favourable character of the ground the remaining portion estimated at £33,094 can be performed by the Company with this Dredging Machine saving of at least 35 per cent, after making full allowance for wear and tear, and contingencies.

"Your Directors therefore trust that the Shareholders will in accordance with the appeal made to them by Mr Tilly at once place them in position purchase and work this machine, by taking additional shares in Company.

"Your Directors have applied the Public Works Loan Commissioners for a further Loan of £20,000, and they will require authority from the Shareholders to borrow that sum. This amount if obtained would be applied to the finishing of the Northern Breakwater, and dredging the entrance Channel and Tidal Harbour.”