The Tarsis wharf



The wharf of the town of Tharsis is a particularly symbolic element in Huelva due to its relationship with the recent history of the province. It is also an example of its economic and social evolution. From a scientific and technical point of view, this wharf is a good example of the most modern design and technological progress in civil engineering in Europe of the end of the nineteenth century. The wharf would be a special, unique structure among Spanish ports.

What was the purpose of the loading bay?

The wharf was built to sell and export the great amount of minerals which came from the different mines of El Andévalo, the mining basin of Huelva throughout the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. There were a number of mining companies, such as the Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Co. Ltd., which exploited the area including the towns of Tharsis and La Zarza. To achieve this purpose, it was necessary to build a structure which allowed the fast, efficient unloading of materials from boats in the estuary of Huelva. For this reason, the Rio Tinto Company Ltd. built this wharf few years later.

Who built the loading bay?

In 1866, French engineer Ernest Deligny put Scottish engineers William Moore and James Pring in charge of building a wharf by the Odiel River, opposite to the city of Huelva. The facilities were opened in February 1871. The 873-metre-long structure of the wharf was supported by cast iron bearing piles and had revolving platforms for wagons and cranes, which could load up to 2,500 tonnes of minerals daily. The wharf allowed the berthing of three or four boats simultaneously. 

 In 1915, Sir William Arrol, another Scottish engineer, was chosen by the company for building a new wharf – in fact, an extension of the former one. For this purpose, he added a new forking branch which started at 300 metres of distance from the end of the wharf. This new branch would be destined for loading minerals on boats, while the old one would be used for other types of goods from then on.

The wharf was closed in 1992. After a subsequent, slow process of deterioration, the wharf was declared as “Bien de Interés Cultural” (Estate of Cultural Interest) in 1996. Nevertheless, this honour was not enough to protect the facilities – they were seriously damaged by a fire in 2003.