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Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co

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June 1898.
August 1899.
February 1901. HMS Bat.
Torpedo Boat Destroyer Wear. 1906.
1923. Cable ship Faraday.
1923. Cable Ship Faraday.

Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited of Jarrow, often referred to simply as Palmers.

Based in Jarrow, in Northeast England and also had operations in Hebburn on the River Tyne. The latter yard was later absorbed by Vickers-Armstrongs and formed into Palmers Hebburn Co, a ship repair establishment with the largest graving dock in the North East of England. [1]

1852 British shipbuilding company established by Charles Mark Palmer and his elder brother George Robert Palmer. They were the sons of George Palmer, a prosperous South Shields businessman and ship-owner. Charles initially worked for his father before establishing his own shipyard at Jarrow. The land for the yard was leased from Mr Carr-Ellison of Hebburn in order to build steam colliers to ship coal to London. [2]

1852 Palmer Brothers and Company launched their first ship, a paddle tug called Northumberland.

1852 First Sea going screw collier – the John Bowes - was launched on 30th June 1852, the yard’s second ship. It had a very long life under the Spanish flag before foundering as Villa Selgas in 1933. The Yard built 25 colliers of 12,210 grt in the two years following the launch of John Bowes

1854 First rolled armour plates – were produced in 1854 for warships. Terror of 1856 was built to destroy the Russian forts at Cronstadt.

1865 Incorporated as a Public Limited Liability Company.

1872 First double bottoms for water ballast used in Vaderland, Nederland and Switzerland between 1872 and 1874 for carrying oil.

1853 Palmer started an engineering side to the business to build engines for his vessels.

1856 The Yard was a major builder of warships for the Royal Navy manufacturing 20 warships plus many small torpedo boat destroyers.

1860 Output increased to 22,000 tons. Charles Palmer purchased 14 collieries to safeguard his coal supply and leased land in North Yorkshire and set up the Grindle Park Mining Company in order to mine it. He also built a harbour at Port Mulgrave near Staithes to ship the ore back to Jarrow and also had interests in the Tyne Plate Glass Company to supply ship’s fittings and the Bede Metal Company to supply copper.

1860 A yard was purchased at Howdon, last used by Charles Mitchell. The Howdon Yard was used for a high percentage of total output.

1861 Palmer secured a contract from the Italian Government to build mail steamers.

1863 In August, Charles Mark Palmer launched four ships, one better than the triple launch of Charles Mitchell in 1856 at Low Walker.

Between 1863 and 1873 Palmer played an important part in establishing the National Line along with Thomas Ismay, owner of the White Star Line.

1865 The company was established. [3] Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co. Ltd was incorporated as a limited liability company. Manchester interests held most of the shares with Palmer as Chairman and Managing Director.

1865 See 1865 Tyne Shipbuilders for detail of the tonnage produced at Jarrow and at Willington Quay

1870 Charles built Palmers Memorial Hospital for the exclusive use of shipyard employees. A bronze statue of him was placed in the hospital grounds in 1903 following his death. It was then moved to the river-front at Jarrow where it can still be seen today.

1874 Charles Mark Palmer was elected M.P. for North Durham and made Mayor in 1875. George retired form the business and Charles carried on.

1883 The peak year for Palmers: 15 out of 33 ships were built at Howdon

1884 Five sailing ships were built along with a number of tramps, coastal steamers and coastal liners.

1886 Tankers figured prominently in the yard output. Up to 1906 the yard had the second highest output in the North East.

1889 Hall Brothers paid tribute to Sir Charles Mark Palmer by naming their last tramp built by him as Lady Palmer completed in October 1889.

1889 May. Paris Exhibition. Showed models of ships built. [4]

1893 Charles resigned from the company, aged 71 following heavy losses of £33,000 in 1890/91.

1894 Antwerp Exhibition. Details of their exhibits including a model of a triple-expansion engine of 1,100 hp. Awarded Diploma of Honour in the metallurgy section. [5] [6] [7]

1899 See 1899 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced.

c.1902 Christopher Furness acquired the interests of Sir Charles Mark Palmer in Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co (Limited) and was appointed chairman. Acquired for Palmers a lease, with an option of purchase, of the new graving dock at Hebburn-on-Tyne belonging to Robert Stephenson and Co (Limited).

1906 Electric overhead trolley cranes on elliptical-shaped gantries were introduced on the berths. The production of tramps and cargo-liners was speeded up.

1911 The seven-berth shipyard of Robert Stephenson and Co at Hebburn was leased in 1911 together with their 715 foot dry dock.

1912 The Stephenson Yard was then purchased in 1912 for merchant ship production. The Stephenson Yard produced one battleship, one cruiser, three monitors, 198 destroyers and two submarines. Merchant ship output included four cargo-liners, five standard WAR ‘Z’ tankers, five ’B’ type dry-cargo ships.

1912 The Howdon Yard was closed.

1914 Shipbuilders, Marine Engineers and Manufacturers of Steel and Iron. [8]

1914 Directory: Listed as Iron Ship Builders. Palmers (Hebburn) Shipbuilding and Iron Co of Hebburn and Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co of Ellison Street, Jarrow. [9]

WWI the yard made one battleship, one cruiser, three monitors and two submarines. The Company purchased the small yard of the Amble Shipbuilding Co. Ltd at Amble, Northumberland during the War

After the War the Company started to manufacture cargo liners with many of these being turbine propelled with turbines built at the Amble Yard.

1922 Early in the year Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co decided to form a ship-repairing establishment at Swansea and for that purpose the subsidiary company was formed under the title of Palmers (Swansea) Dry Dock Co.[10]

1922 a 560 feet dry-dock was operated from Swansea from 1922.

1923 The large British cable-layer Faraday was completed in April having been launched in February. However tankers predominated in the post WW1 years with over fifty being made between 1921 and 1930.

1924 Advert says they are shipbuilders and engineers, boiler makers, iron and steel manufacturers, forgemasters, galvanisers and iron & brass founders. Also ship, engine and boiler repairs. Works are at Hebburn and Jarrow. [11]

1926 The oil tanker British Inventor was handed over to the British Tanker Co following successful trials.[12]

1927 - April. The Palmer Shipbuilding Company' at Jarrow-on-Tyne restarted two of its five blast-furnaces. The whole plant had been idle since the miners' strike in 1921, except that two furnaces worked fro four months in 1923.[13]

1927 The first bracket-less tanker designed by Sir Joseph Isherwood, the Beaconstreet was completed in July. It had a triple expansion steam engine.

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

1928 The largest warship built after WW1, the 8” gun cruiser York was launched on 17th July by the Queen Mother. It was later sunk by German dive-bombers during the invasion of Crete.

1930 The tanker Peter Hurll was the thousandth ship launched by Palmers on 24th July.

1931 The last merchant ship built at the yard was the tanker British Strength completed on 28th April.

1932 The last launch took place on 19th July: the destroyer Duchess.

1933 The complete closure of the shipyard, engine works, blast furnaces and rolling mills had a devastating impact on Jarrow as the yard had been the main employer. The yard was rescued for a further 18 months thanks to the efforts of Sir John Jarvis, High Sheriff of Surrey.

1935 The Palmer Shipyard was acquired by National Shipbuilders Security Ltd in 1933 and demolished in 1935.

The Hebburn dry-dock was taken over by Vickers-Armstrongs and continued to trade as Palmers (Hebburn).

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wikipedia
  2. British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  3. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  4. The Engineer of 3rd May 1889 p362
  5. The Engineer of 21st September 1894 p248
  6. The Engineer 1894/11/02 p387
  7. The Engineer 1900/02/16 p183
  8. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  9. Kelly's Directory of Durham, 1914 p714
  10. The Engineer 1924/05/16
  11. 1924 Naval Annual Advert page xxxvi
  12. The Engineer 1926/07/16
  13. The Engineer 1927/04/08