Granton Harbour. A Potted History!

Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, lies to the north of the city. Here’s a potted history. Enjoy!


Granton Harbour dates back to the 1800’s. Its construction began in June 1837 and the central pier was opened on 28 June 1838. Sounds familiar? This was the date of the coronation of Queen Victoria. The 5th Duke of Buccleuch funded the entire project. In 1843/44 the pier was extended in length to a total of 500m. This stage was completed in October 1844. By 1845 a steamboat service used to run between Stirling and Granton.

Lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson oversaw the later construction of the outer breakwaters, completed in 1863. Thereafter, the Resident Engineer was John Howkins, followed by his son, also John Howkins.

Successful Port

Granton became a successful port for the export of coal, and the import of esparto grass for making paper. The fishing fleet grew considerably, leading to the construction of an ice house to the west of the harbour. There were some 80 fishing trawlers resident just before World War 2! The foreshore area between Granton and Newhaven is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This site aims at encouraging and preserving the source of fossils in the area.

On 3 February 1850, the world’s first ferry-train began operating between Granton and Burntisland, Fife. The paddle-steamer, “Leviathan”, carried the trains, which formed the main link across the Forth. This service continued until completion of the Forth Bridge in 1890. Passenger and car ferry services continued until the 1960’s.

During the First World War, Granton Harbour was a base for mine-sweeping equipment. This was mainly Scottish trawlers and their crews. During this period, the harbour became known as “HMS Gunner”, when referred to in military documents. This was a reference to the name of the largest trawler in its fleet. The harbour was then home to mine-sweepers, decoy ships and anti-submarine vessels. The north section held smaller support vessels specifically built for Navy use. These included 24 motor launches, 18 paddle mine-sweepers, and 30 boom-defence vessels, with a total of 103 craft.

Granton was the key base, in Scotland, of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Their boats took lighthouse keepers and their supplies to and from lighthouses around the coast of Scotland. It also became the base for pilots from 1920, guiding ships into the Firth of Forth. It still provides a base for this service today!


Thanks are due to Wikipedia for this potted history of Granton Harbour, without whom this blog post would have been virtually impossible.

Needless to say, Granton Harbour is, today, a shadow of its former self. However, plans are afoot, allegedly, for a massive redevelopment. Watch this space!

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