Fairburn-type crane, Wellington Dock


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Dover (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 31894 40911


Fairbairn jib crane,180m ESE of No.125 Snargate Street.

Reasons for Designation

A jib crane is a type of crane with a projecting arm, usually one that can be raised and lowered, to lift heavy goods. They were often placed at dockyards to enable cargo to be lifted on and off vessels. The Fairbairn type jib crane was designed by Sir William Fairbairn (1789-1874) in the mid 19th century. Sir William Fairbairn was a Scottish structural engineer of considerable repute. Amongst many other accolades he was appointed President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1854 and gained a baronetcy in 1869. Fairbairn assisted Robert Stephenson with the design of tubular bridges over the Menai Strait and River Conwy. He utilised the same understanding of the mechanics of the box girder, used in the design of the bridges, in the construction of his jib crane. The crane is sometimes referred to as the ‘Swanneck Crane’ given its similarity in form to the vertebrae of a swan. It was built of wrought iron plates revetted together in a cellular construction with the back, or convex, side holding the tension and the front, or concave, side resisting the compression. The base was set in a cast iron cylinder and the crane revolved on a circular plate supported by rollers. Both the height of the winch and the direction of the crane could be controlled by hand. The Fairbairn crane had the advantage over existing designs in that the shape allowed it to reach further into the hold of a ship, bulky items could be lifted higher since it was not obstructed by a diagonal stay, and it was relatively light compared to the weight it could lift. Fairbairn type jib cranes were built at Keyham, Devonport, Birkenhead and Southampton. There are now few examples of this crane still extant. The last surviving steam-powered example, built by Stothert and Pitt of Bath in 1874-5, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in Bristol (BS7).

The Fairbairn jib crane at Wellington Dock, Dover is a rare surviving example of its type, which remains in its original setting. The crane is a significant example of the Fairbairn principles of box girder design that were utilised on major bridges such as the Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait. It provides a testament to Dover’s history as an important cross-channel trading port, when heavy goods were transported on and off vessels in the dockyard.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 3 September 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a jib crane situated on the east side of Wellington Dock at the Western Docks of Dover harbour. The crane is a small hand-driven rotary crane with a swan-necked jib of riveted box frame construction. It was built by William Fairbairn and Sons of Manchester in 1868. It was once used by the Ordnance Department and was originally capable of lifting 50 tons. This would have saved time and labour in unloading cargo from vessels that came into the dock. It was later de-rated to 20 tons and used for lifting yachts out of Wellington Dock. The crane is shown on an OS Map (1:2500) published in 1898 and has remained in its original setting since the late 19th century.

It is Grade II listed as part of Wellington Dock.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
KE 326
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Fairbairn, W, Useful Information for Engineers, (1860)
‘Fairbairn jib crane’, accessed from http://thesaurus.english-heritage.org.uk
‘Fairbairn, Sir William, first baronet (1789–1874)’, accessed from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/9067
Kent HER TR34SW79. NMR TR34SW79, TR34SW505. PastScape 467986, 1335986. LBS 507159,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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