Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Short Brothers of Sunderland

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Short Brothers of Sunderland was a medium sized shipbuilding yard known as the 'local' yard as it built more ships for local ownership than any other in that area

1850 The yard was founded at Hylton by George Short. Short had previously been a foreman at John Watson's yard.

1859 The yard built small wooden sailing ships and traded as timber merchants.

1869 The yard was transferred down river and Short's four sons, George, John Young, Thomas and Joseph also joined the newly located yard.

1871 The yard's first iron construction High Stretfield was the first such ship to be produced by the yard. The yard then became known as Short Brothers from this point onwards.

1870s John Y. Short built up a reputation as a designer of ships. His designs for cargo ships were considered to be outstanding: they had better lines and greater beam which in turn gave greater stability and seaworthiness.

1877 Short received a gold medal in London for the best designed steamer and another at the Paris Exhibition in 1878.

1882 The yard won further medals for steamer models at an exhibition held by the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights. This, along with the many local links that the company had, helped to seal its reputation as a manufacturer of quality ships.

1883 Short's began a long association with James Knott of North Shields resulting in 37 cargo-liners being built for Prince Line between 1883 and 1918.

1892 John Y. Short introduced the eight hour day for his workers and also sets up an Institute for them

1895 John Y. Short invested a substantial sized shareholding in the Nitrate Producers Steamship Co. Ltd, owned by Colonel John Thomas North. The first ship built for the company by the yard was Col. J.T. North and the yard had a complete monopoly of ships for the company with all thirty built by them

1897 From this period onwards, Short's received orders from a number of Newcastle shipbuilders.

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

1900 On 24th January, John Y. Short died in his office, aged 56 years. The shipyard had a workforce of 1,500 workers. His brother, Joseph, took over management of the yard. The partnership was turned into a limited liability company: Short Brothers Ltd. The company had also taken over the neighbouring yard of the North of England Shipbuilding Co and output this year reached 26,017 tons.

WWI The yard made 17 ships of 86,391 tons and 14 barges for the Admiralty. In addition, a tanker, four small oilers, eight standard WAR 'B' types.

1918 War Seagull was launched in late December 1918 in total darkness in the early hours of the morning. The yard had completed an output of 34,967 tons in this year which was a record.

1914 Directory: Listed as Iron Ship Builders of Pallion and 58 John Street, Sunderland

1920-1930 During this ten year period, the yard produced 36 tramps and cargoliners. The company also made its first turbine-propelled ships: Sandown Castle and Sandgate Castle. These had a service speed of 14 knots.

1923 Strikes affected the yard and orders dropped due to the Depression.

1926 A second wave of strikes further affected the yard and orders dropped to near zero.

1930 The yard closed down completely after finishing Haberton in June of this year.

1933 The yard reopened again and began building the first of three new tramps to the "Arcform" hull shape. This was designed by Joseph Isherwood. The cross section was shaped like a wine cask standing on end. The widest beam was just below the waterline and 10% bigger than a normal tramp. The outcome of this was the ship Arcwear. The ship was launched on 2nd November.

1934 On the Arcwear's maiden voyage, fuel consumption was lower and the ship itself was faster than planned. However, the ship suffered with heavy rolling in heavy weather, and jerky motion in calm weather. This resulted in seawater halfway up her hatches and the whole foredeck submerged under water. Understandably, this placed the future of the design in doubt. However, several Arcform tramps were built along with some Arcform tankers. On evaluation, the design was not considered to be very successful.

1935 The Scrap & Build Scheme led to six ships being ordered five of which were colliers.

1937 One of the above ships was a tramp which became the single-decker Biddlestone which were fitted with the new White twin high-speed compound steam engine exhausting to a low pressure turbine. She was launched on 10th May 1937.

1938 After completing seven more tramps, the yard closed again due to lack of orders.

1939 The yard reopened again in the Summer. Two Maierform hull tramps were completed (one had been built prior to closure).

WWII The yard's output was 28 tramps, two small motor tankers and a tank landing craft for the Admiralty.

1944 Towards the end of 1944, the Government encouraged a move away from ships built on Short's own prototype towards partially-prefabricated 'C' type ships. The yard had a workforce of approx. 900 workers at the end of the war.

1946 John H. Short was the Chairman of the company and he was joined on the Board by the great-grandson of the founder, H. S. Short.

1950-1960 The yard received orders from British, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch and Greek companies.

1961-1963 These were the last years of production at the yard. Notably the ship Carlton, was a Universal Bulk Ship which had four upper holds at the junctions of the five main holds and having separate hatches which were further divided longitudinally into three departments. This made a total of seventeen cargo spaces which meant that it was easier to carry grain cargo. Carlton was the last launch on 17th October.

1964 The yard closed with a loss of 300 jobs in January on the completion of Carlton. The Short family did not want to invest in their company to extend the berths of the yard. The yard was demolished, but the fitting-out quay was purchased by Bartram and Sons in late 1964.

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