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Quay  Watermen’s Association

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Quay Watermen’s Association

We are a voluntary organisation established by local residents, boat enthusiasts, and local fishermen.  

The Connah’s Quay crest is a sailing ship and six salmon, reflecting the history of the town as a working port. In recent years, the town has lost this strong link with the river. We want to reconnect the town with its heritage and waterfront.

Our base is the Kathleen and May Heritage Centre, which we have restored, situated on the stone dock.  We welcome new members and are always looking for volunteers to help with our educational activities, heritage days, events and work parties.

Until the early 1700s the  riverside was undeveloped and Golftyn was just a small fishing hamlet. The port of Chester had been the principal port in north west England until Tudor times when silting caused difficulties for large ships sailing up to the city.

A survey in 1674 found the river was ‘choked with sands....the trade of Chester is much decayed and gone to Liverpool. The old great city is in danger of being ruined if the River Dee is not made navigable ...’

It took many years before the plans to cut a fresh channel along the Flintshire shore were implemented but in April 1737 the New Cut was opened, from Golftyn to Chester. A small port soon developed at Goftyn, developing into the town of Connah’s Quay.

The river was notoriously difficult to navigate, with its shifting sands and uncertain weather. It took the lives of many  sailors and fishermen and remains treacherous to this day.

The great storm of 1890 raged for two days and hit the community very hard. The local minister wrote,  ‘almost every door in Connah’s Quay had a wreath on it, forty vessels having left the dock that fateful morning...’

The working port is long gone and salmon fishing has ended but the river is still well used. Local fishermen can be seen casting their nets for plaice and flounders and Airbus still transport aircraft wings by barge along the river to Mostyn. Many people enjoy walking along the riverside, watching the birdlife and enjoying the everchanging river.

Ferguson and Baird’s shipyard alongside the dock had a reputation for building fine wooden sailing ships. Their most famous ship, the three-masted schooner the Lizzie May, was built in 1900. She was commissioned by local shipping company, Coppack Bros, and named after the daughters of Capt John Coppack, the largest shareholder. She sailed nearly 40,000 miles for Coppack Bros transporting cargoes such as bricks, coal, stone and cement between Connah’s Quay, the West Country, the South Coast and South Wales.

She was sold in 1908 to join an Irish coal-shipping fleet. Her new owner renamed her the Kathleen and May after his daughters. She was later sold to a Devon sea captain, continuing to carry cargoes until 1960. In 1970 she was rescued and fully restored in 1999. She is now moored in the Albert Dock in Liverpool, the last working 3-masted top sail wooden schooner in Britain.


River Dee New

Cut completed.

Connah’s Quay

was born!


Chester to

Holyhead railway

opened, bringing

more cargoes to

the docks.


Ferguson and Baird

opened a shipyard

west of the docks

building wooden

sailing ships.


Buckley Railway

opened linking

the brickworks

and collieries to

the docks.


The present stone

dock was built

along with a

second wooden

dock and wharves.

1890s -1915

The peak of port

activity, mainly

exporting coal and

bricks using both sailing

and steam ships.


The docks now

idle and silted, but

river still used by



Quay Watermen’s Association

running boat trips on the

river and working to make

the waterfront a focal point

for the town once again.


Chanel silting up, dock use declining as other transport took over.