The Preston Guardian contained a report on recommendations for overcoming problems on the Ribble, since only a few years after the opening of Preston Dock, the problems of navigating the narrow and shallow river channel were becoming of great concern to the Corporation.
Even before the dock opened in 1892, the corporation was wrestling with the difficulty of keeping the Ribble open to shipping. The solution arrived at in 1885 was to order two bucket dredgers, two steam tugs and twelve dumb hopper barges. The dredgers were named the ‘Gilbertson’ and the ‘Walter Bibby’.
The corporation, in the words of the historian of the Ribble navigation, James Barron, ‘had now embarked on a dredging scheme which they little dreamed would reach such magnitude as it ultimately did’.
The steam tugs, named ‘Ribble’ and ‘Douglas’, proved to be failures, but the dredgers and barges were so successful that, when not needed on the Ribble, they were rented out for dredging work around the country, from Dumbarton on the west coast of Scotland to Dover on the south coast. One of the tugs was later sunk at Freckleton to plug a gap in the embankment when the Ribble burst through. It is still there.
The dredging problem never went away. In 1975 45% of the dock’s income was spent on dredging operations.