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It has been like a sort of nightmare on the society of the city. Worse than politics, because more bitterly fought, more personally fought...[the dock struggle has been allowed] to break up old acquaintances, to chill conviviality, to make men look pale and spiteful at each other.

Bristol Times, 1864

In the 1860s, no one could agree about the port's future but in 1864 Parliament voted to allow two private companies to build new docks and railways at Avonmouth and Portishead. They opened over a decade later, Avonmouth in 1877 and Portishead in 1879. Fierce competition between the new docks and the city ensued, with all three suffering high losses in the process. Clearly this couldn't continue, and in 1884 the Lord Mayor, Charles Dodge Weston, brokered a deal whereby the city bought out the private companies and then ran all three docks.

Unfortunately the Docks Committee was dominated by individuals with considerable vested interests in the old city docks and consensus about the future could not be reached . Charles Wills, a clothing manufacturer was eager to expand Avonmouth Docks, but William Proctor Baker, who had invested in warehouses near the Floating Harbour was not. In 1899 after years of bitter infighting between the two factions, involving resignations and undignified public battles, both contenders left the scene.  The council then voted to build Royal Edward Dock at Avonmouth, which opened in 1908.

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