Although certain features of port history have received and are receiving attention from historians, the civil engineering aspects have been somewhat neglected. The developments which took place in Kingston-upon-Hull between the middle of the eighteenth and the middle of the nineteenth centuries furnish an interesting case study, for not only was the first wet dock at Hull one of the country's earliest, but there were considerable technical problems for which many of the great engineers of the day, Smeaton amongst their number, offered advice. It is the purpose of this paper to trace the engineering arguments advanced during the construction of the first three wet docks at Hull and to examine the success of the works and something of their subsequent performance.