Belfast Harbour Commissioners Records

Records of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, 1660-1977. Containing a wide range of documents, volumes, correspondence, maps, plans and drawings etc, the collection comprises the extant business archive of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, charting the history and development of the Port of Belfast and its environs from the 17th century onwards. Officially established by the Belfast Harbour Act of 1847, the Belfast Harbour Commissioners are imbued with special responsibility for the development and administration of the port and harbour of Belfast, taking over from the Belfast Ballast Board, which was originally set up in 1785. As such important series to be found include extensive runs of Board and Committee Papers, 1884-1949, annual reports, statements of account, minutes of meetings, financial records, 1836-1893 and engineering reports, 1869-1962, etc. Large runs of significant correspondence on a wide variety of subjects impacting on the Harbour are also to be found, including for example, papers relating to the Belfast Improvement Bill of 1884. There is also much statistical data recorded such as the amount of tonnage registered at the port. Of material featured in the Engineer’s Department, important series include books of reference, maps and plans, files of correspondence, notices to tenants etc, about the reclamation and compulsory purchase of lands in the harbour area from such named individuals as Lady Shaftesbury and Dr Ritchie. Other sections concern the activities of Workman, Clark & Co., Shipbuilders, 1871-1935, and the leasing, maintenance and improvement of Belfast City Airport, 1938-52. There are also distinct parts of the archive pertaining to the harbour during times of conflict such as the 1st World War, the Anglo-Irish War, the Irish Civil War and the 2nd World War. These include: correspondence and papers about the installation of torpedo nets, possible saboteurs in the harbour and plans for the detention of ships, 1912-17; minutes and papers of the Port Emergency Committee and correspondence with the Ministry of War Transport, 1939-45; reports of violent sectarian incidents in the Harbour Estate and general correspondence about policing, 1920-23.


The collection is strong because of the wealth of information it provides about the work and development of Belfast Harbour, a port of major international importance particularly during the 2nd World War.

Physical characteristics

c.20,000 items, 1660-1977, comprising a range of documents, volumes, plans and drawings and printed publications and occupying c.520 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference HAR/1 for catalogue of the papers. The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


Accrual Policy
Accrual Method
Accrual Periodicity

As regards accrual, the papers have been deposited as a Non-Departmental transfer.

Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 08 February 2018