The Alfred Graving Dock in the Williamstown Dockyard.
The Alfred Graving Dock was constructed by contractors for the Victorian Government between 1864 and 1873 at a total cost exceeding £300,000. It was the largest works undertaken by the Victorian government at that time and was of international importance both as a facility for shipping and as a work of engineering. In 1913 the dock was incorporated into a new dockyard owned by the Victorian Government and known as the State Shipbuilding Yard. In 1918 the Commonwealth Government purchased the site and in 1924 the Melbourne Harbor Trust (MHT) purchased the dockyard. After the outbreak of World War II the MHT used the dockyards for the conversion of merchant vessels and trawlers for war purposes and the construction of naval vessels. The Royal Australian Navy requisitioned the dockyard in 1942. The dockyard was sold to a private company in 1988 and in 2009 was owned by BAE systems. Although major alterations have been made to the wider dockyard area, the Alfred Graving Dock remains substantially intact. It has been in continual use for ship repair since 1874.
The Alfred Graving Dock is an excavated pit, approximately 126 metres in length and 30 metres wide. The pit is lined with closely interlocking basalt blocks, with most blocks generally measuring a metre cubed. It is built in the form of an inverted arch. A floating caisson or dock gate is located at the seaward end of the dock. There are capstans at the land (2) and seaward (2) end of the Dock. In 1987, 188 basalt blocks ranging in size from 50x30x70cm to 200x30x70cm were removed from the base of the dock and mortared together to form a patio at the north of Nelson Place. Two large iron plates in the dock indicate their original location. The Alfred Graving Dock is located within an extensive dockyard complex on Nelson Place, Williamstown.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Yalukit Wilum people.
How is it significant?
The Alfred Graving Dock is of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria. It satisfies the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history.
Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria's history.
Why is it significant?
The Alfred Graving Dock significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Alfred Graving Dock is historically significant as one of the greatest public works constructed in Australia in the nineteenth century and as an expression of the technical skill of Victorian architects, engineers and stonemasons. It provided an essential shipbuilding and repair facility in colonial Victoria when the colony was almost entirely reliant on maritime transport for economic development and population growth. It was an installation vital to the defence of Victoria in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century and important to the naval defence of Australia in the twentieth century. As a key component of the Williamstown dockyard, it has made a vital economic and social contribution to a working-class community employed principally in maritime related activity. [Criterion A & F]
The Alfred Graving Dock is architecturally significant as an example of the work of the distinguished architect and Victoria's Inspector-General of Public Works from 1861 to 1878, William Wilkinson Wardell. Wardell also designed Government House, St Patrick's Cathedral, and the Gothic ANZ Bank on the corner of Collins and Queen Streets. [Criterion H]