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Dockyard Offices

A Grade II Listed Building in Portland, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.5674 / 50°34'2"N

Longitude: -2.4319 / 2°25'54"W

OS Eastings: 369508

OS Northings: 74274

OS Grid: SY695742

Mapcode National: GBR PZ.29CC

Mapcode Global: FRA 57SK.QDF

Plus Code: 9C2VHH89+X6

Entry Name: Dockyard Offices

Listing Date: 17 May 1993

Last Amended: 26 February 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1203099

English Heritage Legacy ID: 381982

Location: Portland, Dorset, DT5

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Portland

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Portland All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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Former dockyard engineer’s offices of 1848 by John Coode, built to oversee the construction of the breakwaters at Portland Harbour. The building was extended and altered in 1890 and 1910, and later.


Former dockyard engineer’s offices of 1848 by John Coode, extended and altered in 1890 and 1910, and with later C20 extensions and alterations.

MATERIALS: the principal elevations are constructed of Portland ashlar with the range to the west rendered. The extensions are built using brick and concrete block. The roofs are covered in slate.

PLAN: the principal historic structure is two adjoining buildings attached in-line. The site is split level so that the south front is of two storeys with basement and the north front is of three storeys.

EXTERIOR: the façade is spilt into two distinct sections. The five-bay eastern façade is a front of 1890 to the 1848 office. It is in the Vanbrughian style with a 2:1:2 window arrangement and the central bay is set back under a pediment. The first floor has 12-pane sashes, but the ground floor has replaced C20 windows, all in raised eared plat-band surrounds with three projecting keystones and plain cills. There are central panelled doors in a slightly set forward plain pilaster portico. There is a small plain plinth, heavy pecked rusticated alternating quoins, a mid string course and a modillion cornice. The return to the right (east) has a plain wall with one replacement window to the ground floor, then, very slightly brought forward, a single-bay unit in rusticated quoins with a 12-pane sash in a surround matching the treatment of the façade above a semi-octagonal bay window with 12-pane sashes to the ground and basement floors. There is a cornice and blocking course, which continues to a basement level. Attached to the north east is a large C20 brick addition, of two storeys.*

The four-bay west section of the façade is rendered and has 12-pane sashes with a panelled door with transom light in the right bay. There is a mid string course, cornice, blocking course and parapet. The west end of the north front has a similar treatment. The three-bay gabled west front carries a small square clock tower of 1910 and has three 12-pane sashes at first floor under a single sash to the gable, and one at ground floor. The ground floor has a projecting bay to the centre and left and is partly concealed by a later addition. The clock turret has a string course, clocks to all faces, and a low pyramidal slate roof on moulded eaves. The openings across the north front have 12-pane sashes and those to the east have decorative architraves including some rustication. There are later C20 additions on the west front and north side.*

INTERIOR: many of the historic fittings have been removed or refurbished although some C19/early C20 joinery remains, but much modified. The few remaining fireplaces appear to be of the 1910 phase. Areas of removed render to the north wall indicate that it is the survival of the original 1848 construction.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a two storey plus attic office addition of late-C20 date is attached to the south-west corner of the main block via a first-floor bridge.*

* Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that these aforementioned features are not of special architectural or historic interest.


The area around Portland Harbour has historically been recognised as an important military strategic location. The advent of a steam-driven naval fleet in the early to mid-C19 necessitated the storage of large quantities of coal, not only at the Dockyards, but also at strategic locations determined by the likelihood of an enemy attack and the limited range of the steamship when using its engines alone. Portland, conveniently situated equidistant between Portsmouth and Plymouth and facing the French naval dockyard at Cherbourg, was established as the first naval anchorage specifically designed for the navy’s fleet of steam-driven warships, and the necessary breakwaters and coaling facilities were an integral part of the scheme. Suggestions for fortifying the anchorage here were first put forward in 1835. An 1844 survey map of Portland, by surveyor John Taperell, shows the proposed breakwater structures of the scheme designed by the Admiralty’s Chief Engineer, James Meadow Rendel. Preliminary works for the breakwaters began in 1847 with the formal construction of the inner breakwater being marked by a ceremony in which HRH Prince Albert laid the foundation stone on 25 July 1849.

In 1859, due to concerns over a possible French invasion, Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister, instigated the establishment of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom which recommended that vital points along the south coast be fortified. As a consequence large scale construction work took place in and around Portland Harbour from the 1860s, including the continuation of the 1840s scheme to build defensive breakwaters. The inner pierhead fort designed by the Admiralty in 1859 was constructed between 1859 and 1862 and the breakwater fort added to the north end of the outer breakwater was built in 1868-1879.

The Dockyard Engineer’s Office was a central focal point during this extended period of construction and the projecting bay at the east end of the building was designed to provide views of the breakwaters. The ground and first floors were an office and model room, and the basement was a waiting room for naval personnel consulting the engineers on construction issues. The Engineer’s Office was noted as being “a very handsome suite” in the London Daily News of 27 July 1849. The office served its original use until 1890 when a new façade, in a sympathetic style, was added. In 1909/10 the building was extended to the west with an adjoining block, and there were further additions and modifications to its internal layout. There were later alterations in 1948 and a large new block and attached single-storey addition was built to the west in the later C20 when the building served as a naval centre. In the early C21 it is vacant and the fabric in the 1848 building and elsewhere has suffered from water ingress.

Reasons for Listing

Dockyard Offices, Castletown, Portland is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* As a dockyard Engineer’s Office dating from the 1840s it is an early example of its type;
* Including some architectural detailing and constructed using good quality Portland stone;
* Despite considerable alteration it still retains its historic core and the changes to its layout are in line with a building that has been adapted regularly to its evolving use.

Historic interest: 
* As the focal point of the historic breakwater construction overseen by James Rendel and realised by John Coode, who designed this building for his own use and for the day-to-day running of the breakwater construction project over decades.

Group Value:
*        As part of a complete naval base of considerable importance, specifically designed as the first safe anchorage for the replenishment of the navy’s fleet of steam-driven warships;
* Portland Harbour and the nearby coast of the Isle of Portland has a significant collection of designated assets associated with the military history of the area, including Portland Castle (Grade I and Scheduled Monument) and the East Weare Defences.

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