An overview of the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners history.


The first reference to statutory powers for the Cattewater was in an Act of Queen Anne (1708) which provided for the “Clearing, preserving and maintaining of the Harbour of Cat-water”.

In 1847 the Harbours, Docks and Piers (Clauses) Act codified the general powers of statutory ports and harbours.  In the same year the Commissioners Clauses Act codified the duties and responsibilities of statutory bodies, which were appointed to administer, inter alia, certain statutory ports and harbours.

The Cattewater powers were substantially repeated in 1874 which constituted the Harbour Commissioners with an “Order for the construction, maintenance and regulation of a breakwater and pier on the Batten Reef of rocks at the entrance to Cattewater in the port of Plymouth, and of approach roads thereto, and of the harbour of Cattewater, in the County of Devon”. 

This act incorporated various sections of the Harbours Piers and Docks (Clauses) Act and the Commissioners Clauses Act in order to give statutory powers to the Harbour Master, acting on behalf of the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners and permit them to make byelaws for the better regulation of the harbour. 

Subsequent orders, of which those of 1915, 1950 and 1986, 1988 & 2005 only are extant, updated duties and other powers (such as borrowing limits).  However the duties and responsibilities of the harbour authority have been added to by many acts, orders and regulations not only stemming from Ports and Harbours Acts but also Merchant Shipping; Health and Safety; Dangerous Substances; COSHH; IMO Codes and many others.  In addition they are enjoined to work in consultation and subject to the over riding powers of the Queen’s Harbour Master in matters affecting the safe navigation of Her Majesty’s ships and vessels. 

In 1988 the Pilotage Act followed by the Cattewater Harbour (Pilotage) Revision Order gave the Commissioners responsibility as Competent Harbour Authority for Pilotage within the Plymouth Pilotage District, acting as pilotage authority on behalf of all three civil harbour authorities. 

The Cattewater Wreck

The Cattewater Wreck lies between Queen Anne’s Battery (Coxside) & Mount Batten. It was discovered after a dredger recovered timber and fragments of 2 guns in 1973.

Survey and excavation work carried out between 1977 and 1978, suggested that the ship was a Merchantman, possibly Spanish, of 200-300 tons lost around the year 1530. It was the first wreck designated under the Historic Wrecks Act of 1973 and the first wreck excavated and fully published by professionals in the UK.