What is a Dockyard?

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What is a Dockyard?

Essentially a dockyard is a yard filled with dry docks. The Crown owns a Royal Dockyard and uses it for building and repairing the sovereign's ships. Commercial shipyards build ships, but do not necessarily maintain them. Royal Dockyards differ in another way from commercial shipyards because Royal Dockyards need to be prepared for peace and war. They maintain facilities and machines that allow for expansion in wartime.

Dock Numbers 12-15
Dock Numbers 12-15 (PRDHT)

The organisation of the Royal Dockyards was independent from the Royal Navy. They were part of the Ministry of Defence Navy Department and under the control of the Admiralty Board. The Admiralty Board were responsible for the day-to-day management of both the Royal Navy and the Royal Dockyards until the Royal Dockyards were closed in 1984.

The Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth can trace its origins back to the charter granted by King Richard I in 1194 to the town of Portsmouth. In 1212 King John ordered the Sheriff of Southampton to build a wall around the dock. Over the centuries Portsmouth Dockyard has remained at the forefront of technological development; from the construction of the world's first dry dock in 1495 to Brunel's steam powered blockmaking factory in 1808. The twentieth century continued this trend of firsts.

Blockmills housing Brunel's Machinery
Blockmills housing Brunel's Machinery (PRDHT)