The earliest Act of Parliament giving direct reference to the Port of Lancaster was passed in 1750, during the twenty third year of the reign of George II. Lancaster had been a port since before Roman times, but due to the tortuous and ever-changing nature of the navigable channel to Lancaster, a group of Lancaster merchants and ship owners approached parliament, which led to an ‘Act for Improving the Navigation of the River Loyne, otherwise called Lune, and for building a quay or wharfe near the Town of Lancaster in the County Palatine of Lancaster’.
The first meeting of the Lancaster Port Commissioners was held on 30th April 1750 at The Exchange in Lancaster, and on the following day, they met on the Vicarage Lands by the river to discuss the building of the quay that would become St George’s Quay (formerly St John’s).
Much work was done in the river to straighten and clear the skears in the navigable channel, but as ships became larger, it became clear that a safe harbour was needed nearer the mouth of the river. A survey report was made to the Commissioners on 20th January 1780 recommending Glasson as a ‘very eligible situation to make a convenient and safe reception for ships of burthen to lay in great safety’.
Land was purchased from the Dalton Family of nearby Thurnham Hall, and construction work on the first structure, the Pier (now part of the East Quay), began in 1782. The enclosure of the dock by the North Quay and dock gates was completed by early 1787 and the first Byelaws were approved in August of that year.
Since then, several additions have been made including the link to the Glasson Branch of the Lancaster Canal in the 1820’s, the building of the Graving Dock in 1837, the extension of the East Quay to accommodate the railway in the 1880’s, the construction of the West Quay in the 1950’s, and the widening of the dock gate and construction of the North Wall river berth in the 1980’s.
In 1789, the land at the south end of Walney Island was surveyed for the erection of a lighthouse there, and Haws Point was chosen. The light was first lit on 1st December 1790, and helped guide shipping into all the ports in Morecambe Bay. The original timber structure burned down in 1803, but was rebuilt in stone and remains today. Still-operational, Walney Lighthouse was the last manned lighthouse in England, but was finally automated in 2003.
St George’s Quay was gifted to Lancaster Corporation in the 1950’s as it was no longer accessible by commercial vessels, and Scaleford Quay (below Carlisle Bridge) was sold to the Lancaster City Council for development in 2007. New Quay, Lancaster, which was built in 1888 to service Williamson’s Mills at Lancaster Marsh, is still in the ownership of the Lancaster Port Commission but is currently unused.