Shipbuilding in the 1870's.
Shipbuilding in the 1870’s.

Shipbuilding or boat building on a commercial scale must have begun during the second half of the 18th. century. There is a great deal of legend about the number of yards which existed and the number of ships which were built but we will deal only with those for whom I have found documentary evidence, or where undisputed remains exist. You must remember that most ships built were under a hundred tons, perhaps many being keels for the river trade.  That many shipbuilders built only one ship with two or three workmen only. That many of the sites were occupied by several shipbuilders in succession. In spite of all these facts I have been able to establish quite an impressive list of South Hylton shipbuilders.
One at the earliest to be established must have been Gales. The site was in the middle of the village east of the ferry at the bottom of what today is called the Salvation Army Bank. There is a railed enclosure on the site where a water main runs under the river. An account of shipbuilding in the port of Sunderland of March 11th 1814 shows that Gales have a copper fastened ship of 180 tons nearly finished for John White of Greenock.
Shipbuilding was a highly speculative business at the beginning of the last century and John Gales was lucky to have a firm order, and from a Clydeside owner. Of the 31 ships being built in Sunderland in the 1841 account, no fewer than 24 were being built on speculation. Another early builder but at North Hylton was “Squire” Robert Reay. He was building in the 1790’s and his name still appears in 1865.


George Bartram was an orphan who at the age of 11 years in 1811, began his apprenticeship with Gales. He remained 7 years and then went to sea as a ship’s carpenter. When he returned to the Wear he became manager for Dryden who built ships at Biddick Ford. Later he was associated with Robert Reay of North Hylton. Bertram laid his first keel on 14th January, 1838 in partnership with John Lister. The ship, The Crown, was launched for Wm. Thompson, baker, of Monkwearmouth, on 7th July 1838. She could carry 16 keels and Lister & Bertram made a profit of £77. Unless they had paid themselves during the building, this meant that 6 months work brought them about 30 shillings per week. They laid their next keel four days later and she was launched for Wm. Hayman of Rochester. The Lister-Bartram partnership lasted for 18 years and nearly 40 ships. Only one, the John and Mary exceeded 400 tons and she is also noteworthy as being Bartram’s first ship over 100 feet long. It is recorded that in 1864 the brig Charante of 340 tons was ready to leave the ways at Bartram’s, but the launch had to be postponed for a week because the river was frozen over. The site of Bartram’s yard as revealed in an old photograph, was just about 100 yards east of Garden House. Bartram’s left Hylton in 1871 when iron ships were being introduced.

Bartram’s first yard which they left in 1871 for the South Dock .


It must be stated here that the most suitable shipbuilding sites were on the north side and most of the Hylton shipbuilders built over there. South Hylton was the main source of labour and most of the builders and their workmen lived in the village. A small number only would live on the north side. Reay’s yard was the biggest and best developed of the north side yards and it is still possible to see the slipways and quays at the Manor House. After Reay’s death the yard was taken over by Miss Margaret Reay, one of Hylton’s three women shipbuilder’s. Ben Hodgson had a yard at Whiteheugh, west of the Garden House, which was taken over in 1839 by Blakeston and Sabina Stafford.. Later, Sabina was building on her own account and later still it was under the control of Stafford and Forster. Either Sabina had taken a partner or had been succeeded by her son and a partner.


In 1837 a man named John Haswell went into partnership with seven or eight other shipwrights and commenced building at Hylton. This was an early workers co-operative, having very little money they were unable to employ workmen, therefore the firm were the workmen and the workmen were the masters. In summer they began work at 4 a.m. and worked 15 hours. In winter they worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This partnership didn’t last long but then Haswell teamed up with two other men and started again. They continued until 1850 when Haswell began building on his own. He later transferred his yard to Ayre’s Quay and finally retired in 1870.
Shorts started at Hylton in 1850. George Short was a Hylton joiner who served his time on the riverside. They also transferred to Pallion in 1871, thus Hylton lost both Shorts and Bartram’s in the same year. Hodgson and Gardner moved from the north dock to Hylton and were building up to 1876. John Robinson had yards at Hylton and Ayre’s Quay and built nearly a hundred wooden ships ranging from 200 to 700 tons between 1846 and 1868. Osborne Graham opened in 1871. They were the last firm left building ships at Hylton and survived until 1925. There was an Edwin Graham building in 1873 but unsure that he was connected with the later company.

Osborne Graham’s output figures over ten years between 1883 and 1892 reflect the fluctuating state of the industry.

Year1883188418851886188718881889189018911892
Tonnage8,7455,374 2,382 nil1,1504,000 10,000 6,098 8,05111,389

There was an increase in output between 1891 and 1892 of one ship and 3,338 tons and the average register was about 278 tons greater. This indicates the greater capacity of the yard and its capability for building larger vessels.

The 1892 output as follows:

Name of ShipPort of RegistryTonnageEngine
MeditteranioLussinpicola1,804150 hp.
GertoLondon2,399180 hp.
MiramarGlasgow2,415190 hp.
HindustanSunderland2,421200 hp.
AureolaLondon2,350 180 hp.

Meditteranio was for an Austrian firm and had a speed of over 10.5 knots.

Miramar was for Raeburn and Verel of Glasgow.

Hindustan for J. W. Squance & Co., of Sunderland; she had a cellular double bottom for water ballast and spare berths for passengers. They were all fitted with Dickinson tri-compound engines.

On February 18th 1849 a ship was destroyed by fire at Hylton Carr’s shipyard, the workshops were also destroyed with damage estimated to be in excess of £2000. a great deal of money in those days, but, as you will see from the following lists, he was still in business in 1867.

Lists of Hylton Builders between 1834 and 1869.

1834 Edward Brown, Robert Reay, John Mowbray Gales.

1841 Rodham Joshua and Joseph, Wm Naisby, Wm. Carr, John Haswell, Geo.  Bartram, Blake Stafford.

1847 Hylton Carr (lived in Union Street, South Hylton), Wm. Carr, John Mowbray Gales, Lawson Gales, Thomas Gales, Wm. Naizby, John Rodham, Joseph Rodham,  John Rogerson, Wm. Spower & Co.

1856 Wm. Briggs & Co., George Bartram, Todd & Brown (Carr Brown lived in Ferryboat Row), Hylton Carr, Forrest & Jackson, Gales, Hodgson & Gordon, Lightfoot, John Lester, Wm. Naizby, Robert Reay, J. & J. Robinson, J. & T. Robson, Thomas Seymour, John Rogerson, George Short, Sykes, Talbot & Co., and Wm. Taylor.

1863 Sykes, Talbot & Sykes, M. Chilton, Lawrence Wheatley, John Rodgerson, Wm. Richardson, George Bartram, Gray and Young, Gibbon & Nichol, Todd & Brown, John Lister, John Gibbon & Sons, Reay & Naisby, Benjamin Hodgson, Wm. Naizby, Liddle & Sutcliffe, Robson & Proudfoot.

1864 George & Robert Bartram, Hylton Carr, 3, Union Street; Wilson Chilton, lived at 50, Brougham Street, Sunderland; Forrest & Jackson, Low Ford; Gibbon & Nichol, John Lister, George Naisby, Wm. Naizby, Reay & Naisby, Thos. Robson, Claxheugh; John Rodgerson, George Short, Mowbray Quay; Sykes, Talbot & Sykes.

1867 Bartram (George & Robert), Hylton Carr, Gibbon & Nichol, John Lister, Wm. Naizby, Short Brothers, Lawrence Wheatley.

1869 Liddle & Sutcliffe, Gibbon & Nichol, J. & J. Gibbon, Spours & Co., Chilton & Co., Benjamin Hodgson, John Lister, Lawrence Wheatley, Reay & Naisby, Wm. Richardson, Bartram & Sykes, Talbot & Sykes.

From these lists it appears that the peak of activity came between 1856 and 1863. It is impossible now to know the location of all the yards but the following were on the north side:- Briggs, Todd & Brown, Hylton Carr, Hodgson & Gordon, Lester, Reay, Seymour, Sykes, Talbot & Co., Taylor, Wheatley, Richardson, Grey & Young, John Gibbons & Sons, Benjamin Hodgson, Liddle and Sutcliffe, Chilton and J. J. Gibbon. Lightfoot built at Low Ford Dockyard at the bottom of Hylton Dene below Dawson’s Pottery. Naizby was at High Ford Dockyard just east of the ferry, the site later occupied by John Wigham & Sons Ltd. This site was occupied in 1863 by Reay & Naisby (note the changed spelling of Naisby). Robson & Proudfoot were at Claxheugh. The famous Sunderland Shipbuilder Wm. Pile, served his apprenticeship with Thomas John Lightfoot in Hylton Dene. Shorts were at Mowbray Quay east of Claxheugh Farm.

In the 1841 census there were 7 shipbuilders, 58 shipwright’s and 29 apprentice shipwright’s registered in the village. The many shipwright’s of Hylton built themselves a Shipwrights Hall. in Church Street in 1856. This building later served in the 1920’s as Hylton’s one and only cinema. It later became a Billiards Hall and was finally demolished after the last war.

Before leaving shipbuilding it is interesting to compare the ships being built at Hylton of around 180 tons at the beginning of the last century with the largest ship built in Sunderland at that time. She was the Lord Duncan built at Southwick by a local man Thomas Havelock of Ford Hall. She was launched on the 2nd March, 1798 and was 143 ft. 10 ins, long, and 39 feet broad, with a tonnage of 925 tons, five times as big as the average Hylton ship.

Meditteranio was for an Austrian firm and had a speed of over 10.5 knots.

Miramar was for Raeburn and Verel of Glasgow.

Hindustan for J. W. Squance & Co., of Sunderland; she had a cellular double bottom for water ballast and spare berths for passengers. They were all fitted with Dickinson tri-compound engines.

On February 18th 1849 a ship was destroyed by fire at Hylton Carr’s shipyard, the workshops were also destroyed with damage estimated to be in excess of £2000. a great deal of money in those days, but, as you will see from the following lists, he was still in business in 1867.

Lists of Hylton Builders between 1834 and 1869.

1834 Edward Brown, Robert Reay, John Mowbray Gales.

1841 Rodham Joshua and Joseph, Wm Naisby, Wm. Carr, John Haswell, Geo.  Bartram, Blake Stafford.

1847 Hylton Carr (lived in Union Street, South Hylton), Wm. Carr, John Mowbray Gales, Lawson Gales, Thomas Gales, Wm. Naizby, John Rodham, Joseph Rodham,  John Rogerson, Wm. Spower & Co.

1856 Wm. Briggs & Co., George Bartram, Todd & Brown (Carr Brown lived in Ferryboat Row), Hylton Carr, Forrest & Jackson, Gales, Hodgson & Gordon, Lightfoot, John Lester, Wm. Naizby, Robert Reay, J. & J. Robinson, J. & T. Robson, Thomas Seymour, John Rogerson, George Short, Sykes, Talbot & Co., and Wm. Taylor.

1863 Sykes, Talbot & Sykes, M. Chilton, Lawrence Wheatley, John Rodgerson, Wm. Richardson, George Bartram, Gray and Young, Gibbon & Nichol, Todd & Brown, John Lister, John Gibbon & Sons, Reay & Naisby, Benjamin Hodgson, Wm. Naizby, Liddle & Sutcliffe, Robson & Proudfoot.

1864 George & Robert Bartram, Hylton Carr, 3, Union Street; Wilson Chilton, lived at 50, Brougham Street, Sunderland; Forrest & Jackson, Low Ford; Gibbon & Nichol, John Lister, George Naisby, Wm. Naizby, Reay & Naisby, Thos. Robson, Claxheugh; John Rodgerson, George Short, Mowbray Quay; Sykes, Talbot & Sykes.

1867 Bartram (George & Robert), Hylton Carr, Gibbon & Nichol, John Lister, Wm. Naizby, Short Brothers, Lawrence Wheatley.

1869 Liddle & Sutcliffe, Gibbon & Nichol, J. & J. Gibbon, Spours & Co., Chilton & Co., Benjamin Hodgson, John Lister, Lawrence Wheatley, Reay & Naisby, Wm. Richardson, Bartram & Sykes, Talbot & Sykes.

From these lists it appears that the peak of activity came between 1856 and 1863. It is impossible now to know the location of all the yards but the following were on the north side:- Briggs, Todd & Brown, Hylton Carr, Hodgson & Gordon, Lester, Reay, Seymour, Sykes, Talbot & Co., Taylor, Wheatley, Richardson, Grey & Young, John Gibbons & Sons, Benjamin Hodgson, Liddle and Sutcliffe, Chilton and J. J. Gibbon. Lightfoot built at Low Ford Dockyard at the bottom of Hylton Dene below Dawson’s Pottery. Naizby was at High Ford Dockyard just east of the ferry, the site later occupied by John Wigham & Sons Ltd. This site was occupied in 1863 by Reay & Naisby (note the changed spelling of Naisby). Robson & Proudfoot were at Claxheugh. The famous Sunderland Shipbuilder Wm. Pile, served his apprenticeship with Thomas John Lightfoot in Hylton Dene. Shorts were at Mowbray Quay east of Claxheugh Farm.

In the 1841 census there were 7 shipbuilders, 58 shipwright’s and 29 apprentice shipwright’s registered in the village. The many shipwright’s of Hylton built themselves a Shipwrights Hall. in Church Street in 1856. This building later served in the 1920’s as Hylton’s one and only cinema. It later became a Billiards Hall and was finally demolished after the last war.

Before leaving shipbuilding it is interesting to compare the ships being built at Hylton of around 180 tons at the beginning of the last century with the largest ship built in Sunderland at that time. She was the Lord Duncan built at Southwick by a local man Thomas Havelock of Ford Hall. She was launched on the 2nd March, 1798 and was 143 ft. 10 ins, long, and 39 feet broad, with a tonnage of 925 tons, five times as big as the average Hylton ship.

Source:

T.F. Hunter

“A History of South Hylton – The Growth of an Industrial Village”