Tuesday 15 November 2022 – Robert Anderson Memorial Talk – The Story of the Barmouth Moles

Lawson`s Bridge (a)

  Robert Anderson Memorial Talk for Coleraine Historical Society

The Story of the Barmouth Moles

15 November 2022


November 2018 saw the untimely death of Robert Anderson, previous Chairman of Coleraine Historical Society.  As a tribute to Robert, the November talk was thereafter designated The Robert Anderson Memorial Talk.  Robert always had an interest in the sea and as well as serving as Harbour Master at Portrush, for many years he was skipper of the dredger Bar Maid.

This year, the talk will be given by present Chair, Geoff Warke, who has chosen a title that surely would have pleased Robert not least as it was a subject he covered in volume 14 of the Bann Disc.

Geoff grew up in Castlerock and although he now lives in Coleraine, maintains a close association with the village.  After a career with the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland, on retirement he developed an interest in heritage and history, joining Coleraine Historical Society in 2017 and becoming Chair in 2018.

`The Story of the Barmouth Moles`

The great moles that project out into the sea at the mouth of the Bann came about as result of two separate schemes, the first in the 1880’s and the second during the 1930’s.

In the 19th century, as the carrying capacity of ships grew and they drew more water, the ever-shifting sand bar at the Barmouth increasingly affected trade at Coleraine Harbour.  In 1878, the Commissioners asked Sir John Coode, recognised as the preeminent Victorian harbour engineer, to advise them on how the mouth of the river might be improved.  Sir John`s report envisaged two retaining walls that would narrow the channel and thus scour the riverbed.

Rock would be sourced on the east bank of the river at Carnanee Quarry and brought to the Barmouth by tramway.  In late 1880, the tender of Glasgow contractor, George Lawson, of was accepted.  Lawson proved an energetic and able contractor and by mid-June the following year, the tramway from Carnanee was completed and work well underway on the moles.  A temporary wooden bridge was constructed to bring rock to the Castlerock side and by mid-1883, most of the work was completed.  A short section of Lawson`s Bridge can still be seen on the Castlerock bank.

By the turn of the century however, the moles had begun to subside, and in 1929, a second scheme was begun to strengthen and extend them.  Carnanee Quarry and the tramway were brought back into use and an overhead cableway, known as the `Blondin` was erected to transport materials from the east bank.  The 1930`s scheme saw the moles covered with the concrete `apron` we are familiar with today and which created the promenade piers we so enjoy.  It is also interesting that the bulbous points of the piers were constructed as hollow caissons on the Castlerock bank and floated into position.

Geoff`s talk will give insight into some of the challenges faced by the builders and cover some of the controversies that accompanied construction of these impressive structures.


The doors will open at 7.30pm when the new edition of The Bann Disc volume 28 will be available to buy, cost £10.

The talk is 8.00pm – 9.00pm at The Sandel Centre 6 Knocklynn Road,

Coleraine, BT52

Please check the Face Book page – Coleraine Historical Society NI | Facebook for any updates.

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