Limerick Harbour Commissioners, 1823-1980

Reference code: IE LA P2

Extent: 58 Volumes

Scope & Content

The Limerick Harbour Commissioners collection spans two centuries, with material dating from 1823 until 1980.


The collection is divided into two main sections, each with several sub sections.  The first section consists mainly of records from the Boards of the Harbour Commissioners, and from the office of the Secretary. These records relate to decision making of Limerick Harbour Commissioners, administration of the Board, and the development ofLimerickHarbour. They include minute books, extract minute books, rough minute books, and agenda books of the Harbour Commissioners dating from 1830-1978 (P2/1/1-28). It also includes the minute books of sub committees such as the Finance Committee (P2/1/29-39), the Pilotage Committee and the licensing of pilots (P2/1/40-48), and sub-committees set up to investigate specific matters (P2/1/49-59).


The second section consists of records from the Office of the Collector of Rates. It consist mainly of financial records which relate to daily activities such as levying of harbour dues on importers and exporters; to capital expenditure; and to current expenditure including the payment of wages of employees of the Harbour Commissioners.


Limerick Harbour Commissioners, Limerick Bridge Commissioners


Limerick Harbour Commissioners

Biographical / Historical Note


The Bridge Commissioners gave priority to the building of a new bridge, and within months of the 1823 legislation had approved plans drawn up by the Scottish Civil Engineer, Alexander Nimmo. During construction, the Bridge Commissioners ran into considerable financial difficulties, and had to turn over responsibility for the completion of the bridge to the Commissioners of Public Works. However the WellesleyBridge(later renamed Sarsfield bridge) was finally opened in 5th August 1835, at a cost of £80,000. In 1834 a House of Commons Select Committee on Shannon Navigation was established. This Committee approved plans, which had been drawn up by Thomas Rhodes, to construct a weir across the Shannon at Kelly’s Quay (now O'Curry Street) , which would enable vessels to stay afloat at all stages of the tide.  The 1823 legislation was thus amended in 1834 to allow the Bridge Commissioners to borrow £200, 000 to implement the developments proposed byRhodes.


On the 18 September 1845 the Tidal Harbour Commission held a public enquiry in Limerick, at which the Limerick Bridge Commissioners and the Chamber of Commerce argued convincingly for a floating dock to be built inLimerickHarbour. Thus new legislation was enacted on 9 January 1847, which firstly changed the name of the Limerick Bridge Commissioners to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, and secondly allowed the Commissioners of Public Works inIrelandto loan the harbour commissioners the sum of £50000. The floating dock was eventually finished in 1853, at a final cost of   £54, 000.


The Limerick Harbour Commissioners were severely inhibited through out the nineteenth century by the financial difficulties arising from the repayment of the 1823 loan for the construction of the WellesleyBridge. Limerick Corporation did set up a committee in the early 1860’s to examine the issue, but no meaningful action was taken.  Finally on 15 July 1867 legislation was passed which compounded the debt of the Harbour Commissioner to £55, 000 to be repaid over 50 years, at an annuity of 4%. It also transferred ownership of theWelleselyBridgeto the Commissioners of Public Works.


Once the financial difficulties of Harbour Commissioners was alleviated by 1867 legislation, further legislation was passed which enabled a graving dock for ship repairs to be built, adjacent to the floating dock. This legislation also reconstituted the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. The Commissioners were to consist of seventeen members made up of two ex officio members - the Mayor of Limerick, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and fifteen elected members. Elections were to be held every two year terms and the elected commissioners had to include five from Limerick Corporation, five elected byLimerickimporters and exporters, and five elected by Harbour Rate Payers. Nominees of the importers and exporters had to have imported and exported goods to the minimum of value of £1000 per annum. Harbour ratepayers qualified by paying harbour dues of at least £20 per annum.


In 1882 the remaining debt on theWellesleyBridgewas transferred to the Grand Jury of Limerick and the Grand Jury of Clare. Limerick Corporation took over the maintenance and lighting of the bridge, and the Limerick Harbour Commissioners were charged with marinating the swivel bridge and approaches by water. In 1883 toll charges were abolished and the name of the swivel bridge was changed toSarsfieldBridge.


In 1887, the Harbour Commissioners were confronted with a serious problem when a portion of the harbour wall collapsed. Special legislation was passed in 1888, which allowed a loan of £20,000 to be raised over 25 years at 4% to carry out work.


In the twentieth century, the Commissioners continued in their efforts to improve the facilities ofLimerickharbour, namely by improving the river channel to the docks, and by the provision of a new Western dock. However the activities of the Harbour Commissioners, and the import and export of goods fromLimerickHarbour, were severely inhibited by the outbreak of World War One (1914-18) and World War Two (1940-45). However during the inter war period, substantial revenue surpluses were accrued by the Commissioners, as a consequence of the import of large amounts of construction material for the Shannon Hydro Electrical Scheme.


Various legislative measures relative to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners were enacted in the period 1900-1946, including the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act 1913 authorising the construction of a new swivel bridge, the Limerick Harbour Act 1926, granting the necessary powers to extend the Dock and to borrow up to £200,000; the Limerick Harbour Train ways Act 1931, and the Pilotage Acts of 1913. Ministerial Orders (confirmed by subsequent Acts) included the Limerick Harbour Orders of 1903, 1921, 1932, 1936, and 1937, and the Limerick Pilotage Order 1921.


One of the most significant acts passed during this period was the 1946 Harbours Act This act reconstituted the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, and also appointed General Managers for each of the four major ports in Ireland-Dublin,Cork,WaterfordandLimerick. The newly constituted Limerick Harbour Commissioners had 23 members comprising of five from Limerick Corporation, four from Limerick Chamber of Commerce, two from National Executive of the Live Stock Trade, two from the Federations of the Irish Manufactures, two from Limerick Council of Trade Unions, four elected by Shipping interests, and four nominated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.


The idea of a Unified Port Authority with the merging of three Harbour Authorities on the Shannon Estuary- namely the Limerick Harbour Commissioners, the Foynes Harbour Trustees, Kilush Urban District Council (the Harbour Authority for Cappa Pier) was first mooted in 1963-64. This finally occurred with the passing of the 1996 Harbours Act. On third of March 1997 the Limerick Harbour Commissioners were wound up after almost 150 years of existence, and replaced by Shannon Estuary Ports. This new company was responsible for all the port facilities on the Shannon Estuary, except insideFoynesHarbouritself. The Harbours Act 2000 amalgamated theShannonEstuaryPortsand Foynes Port Company to form the Shannon Foynes Port Company.


Adminstrative Information

Access Restrictions: N.A.

Use Restrictions: N.A.

Related Materials: 

The Office of Public Works records held by National Archives of Ireland, and records held by the National Archives of United Kingdom also include some material relating to Limerick Harbour. Researchers should also consult the Limerick Chamber of Commerce (P1) and Limerick Custom House Collection (P16) held by Limerick Archives. A full list of Limerick Bridge Commissioners and Limerick Harbour Commissioners dating 1823-1994 can be found in A Rising Tide: The Story of Limerick Harbour.

The Offic

Collection Content

I. Boards and Committees of Limerick Bridge and Harbour Commissioner

(i) Board of Limerick Harbour Commissioners Minutes

(b) Minute Extract Books (1823-1906)


Minute Book Extract volumes with extracts from the Minute Books of the Bridge and Harbour Commissioners. Entries are chronological and record date of minutes, details of resolution, and reference to minute book folio. All-important decisions relating to the Harbour Commissioners are mentioned, including appointment of staff, deaths of staff, election of Commissioners, port developments, letting of premises, collection of dues etc. Arranged under headings recording the date, the minute book, folio, subject, proposer and seconder. Includes also extracts from acts of Parliament relating to the Commissioners generally and to the duties of the Collector specifically, general notes regarding accounts (1893), names, ages, addresses and work experience of 36 individuals (c. 1893) and lists of Limerick Pilots with details of [licence fees paid], 1893—1894.


   P2/1/17. 12 November 1838-[] April 1894 (DjVu - 30.3 Mb)
    12 November 1838-[] April 1894
Extent: c. 50pp
Access Rules: N.A.

(iii) Pilotage Committee and Licensing of Pilots on the Shannon


(a) Pilot Committee Minute Books (1864-1971)

Minutes of the Pilot Committee of theLimerickHarbourcommissioners, which dealt specifically with pilotage matters such as licensing of pilots, pilotage bye laws, and investigating complaints against pilots. Minutes held sporadically throughout the year. Minutes note the date, the members present, details of license applicants, and details of matters bought before the committee by letter or in person. Minutes signed by chairman.

   P2/1/40. 19 January 1864- 9 November 1905 (DjVu - 17.2 Mb)
    Includes printed leaflet titled ‘Port and Harbour of Limerick, Pilotage Rates 1873, 1875, 1881’. Also includes notes relating to alteration of pilotage bye laws c.1904
Extent: c. 220pp
Access Rules: N.A.

(iv) Miscellaneous Committees Minute Books (1867-1977)

Minute Books of various committees created to discharge special functions of the Limerick Harbour Authorities. Some committees were appointed to consider a specific report or issue and met only once. Other committees met on am going basis.   

   P2/1/50. 26 March 1877 – 16 January 1888 (DjVu - 13.5 Mb)
    Includes court notices in case Thomas Dixon and Sons -v- Limerick Harbour Commissioners.
Extent: c. 150pp
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/52. 22 April 1901 – 19 February 1907 (DjVu - 22.9 Mb)
    22 April 1901 – 19 February 1907
Extent: c. 180pp
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/59. 4 November 1868-14 November 1914 (DjVu - 7.19 Mb)
    Minute book recording minutes of electors meetings held every two years to elect harbour commissioners to represent the harbour importers and exporters, and the rate payers. Minutes record the date of meeting, attendance, nomination of candidates, and results of voting. Includes letters of nomination received for 1904 election. Minutes of meetings held between 1902 and 1912 are not recorded.
Extent: c. 100pp
Access Rules: N.A.

(c) Graving Dock Application Books (1905-1955)

   P2/1/87. 29 December 1873-20 September 1893 (DjVu - 3.41 Mb)
    Graving dock register showing accounts of the collector of graving dock dues. Entries record date of dock application number, date of docking order, vessels name, registered tonnage, length of keel, probable time for repairing, date of order for undocking, number of tides chargeable, dock dues, and receipts and lodgements.
Extent: c. 30ff
Access Rules: N.A.

(vi) Newspaper Cuttings and Other Printed Material (1875-1980)

File of printed leaflets issued by the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. Includes Rules for the working of the Sarsfield Swivel Bridge (1890), Bye-Laws and Regulations of the Commissioners for the Port and Harbour of Limerick (1905), Harbour Engineer’s Limerick Dock, Floating Dock, Specifications for “Sett” Paving (1904)

   P2/1/109/1. 1890-1905 (DjVu - 0.07 Mb)
Extent: 1 Item
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/109/2. 1890-1905 (DjVu - 1.84 Mb)
Extent: 1 Item
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/109/3. 1890-1905 (DjVu - 0.35 Mb)
Extent: 1 Item
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/110/1. 1836-1847 (DjVu - 0.43 Mb)
    Specification book consisting of printed specifications by Thomas Rhodes for building the south quay walls and sewers (1836) and by John McMahon for the construction of floating dock and swivel bridge (1847).
Extent: 7pp
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/110/2. 1836-1847 (DjVu - 0.44 Mb)
Extent: 6pp
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/1/110/3. 1836-1847 (DjVu - 0.01 Mb)
Extent: 1 Item
Access Rules: N.A.

II. Records of Import and Export of Limerick Harbour (Non Financial)


(a) Imports and Exports (1831-1976)


   P2/2/33. 1868-1892 (DjVu - 4.52 Mb)
    Volume consisting of annual summaries of goods imported, arranged by category of good (1869-1892); annual summaries of goods exported arranged by category of good exported (1888-1892); account showing repayment of government loans received under Harbour Act 1867 (1868-1889); importers of coal (1881-1891). The loan repayment account entries relate to loans received for ‘commuted debt’, ‘graving dock’ and ‘ Thomas Dean’s debt. Entries record date repayment paid, amount paid off on principal, and interest paid (1868-1889). The ‘importers of coal’ section is arranged by year, and lists name of importer and tonnage imported. Includes index to volume.
Extent: c. 25pp
Access Rules: N.A.

   P2/2/34. 17 October 1958-20 February 1969 (DjVu - 11.7 Mb)
    Volume recording imports to Limerick Harbour. Entries divided chronologically into columns. Details recorded include date vessel arrived, name of vessel, type of cargo, name of importer, number of arrival (begins with ‘1’ on I January), and date of departure. Between 1965 and 1967 additional information regarding exports is also recorded.
Extent: c. 90pp
Access Rules: N.A.

(iii) Registers of Vessel

(c) Vessels trading on the Shannon (1945-1953)


   P2/2/44. 2 August 1945-29 August 1953 (DjVu - 18.9 Mb)
    Register of vessels trading on the River Shannon. Entries arranged chronologically by 'arrivals' and 'departures'. The entry for each vessel is arranged under columns titled 'date', 'hour', and ‘tonnage’, ‘from’ or ‘to’, ‘cargo’, berthage and remarks. Entries under 'from', note the port from which ship arrived such as 'Kilrush', ' Ballylongford', and 'Foynes' and 'to' note the destination of departing. 'Cargo' entries include items such as 'general' '60 tons turf' and 'empties'.
Extent: c. 50ff
Access Rules: N.A.

Last update:16/06/2011