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A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons): Chapter 8

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The Main Offices. 1915
New Plumbers' Shop
Joiners' Shop
Polishing Shop
Woodworking Machine Shop
Recreation Ground and Pavilion

CHAPTER EIGHT. Linthouse — 1932

THE present-day works of Messrs. Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited form a complete and compact combination of the various yards and shops required for the entire construction and repair of ships of all types and sizes. The shipbuilding yard, engineering and boiler shops, and such auxiliary departments as the joiners', plumbers' and sheet-iron shops, are all situated on the Linthouse estate, on the south bank of the Clyde, near the western boundary of the city of Glasgow.

The land now held by the Firm, including the original Linthouse estate, purchased in 1870, and various areas more recently acquired, totals 46 acres - 34 acres in the main yard and works and 12 acres to the east of Holmfauld Road. The whole estate is practically level, and consists of a sandy subsoil with a foundation of boulder-clay, affording a clean, dry surface for shipbuilding purposes. The majority of the building berths are laid with concrete foundations for the construction of the large vessels of to-day.

The river-frontage of the main shipyard is 1,140 feet, while the eastern portion possesses a frontage of 375 feet. The use of these frontages is unrestricted as, the ancient towing-path along the river bank having disappeared, the rights of way have also been extinguished.

The Clyde Trust Wharf of Shieldhall, used for the fitting-out and completion of Linthouse-built ships, extends westward from the end of the shipyard, while the dry-docks and 130-ton crane of the Princes Dock are within convenient distance eastward of the works. The dwelling-houses and recreation ground for the Firm's employees are within a few minutes of the shipyard and works, while the main road from Glasgow to Renfrew and Greenock, passing behind the yard, affords ample facilities for entrances and exits at all convenient points. Cross-river communication between Linthouse and Whiteinch is provided by a vehicular ferry, plying from Holmfauld Road, a main thoroughfare between the works and the land which is held for future development.


The head offices of the Firm, situated in a modern building fronting on to the Holmfauld Road, are convenient to both the shipyard and engineering works. This building, erected in 1914-15, when the original mansion of Linthouse was vacated, is designed to ensure ample light for all administrative and executive departments. Three storeys high, and of ferro-concrete construction, it provides facilities for the addition of a fourth storey, should such an extension be required.

On the ground floor are situated the commercial departments, including the counting-house, secretarial offices, and directors' rooms. The first floor contains the shipyard drawing office, designing office, decorators' and repair departments, while the engine drawing office, tracers' office, print and plan rooms occupy the second floor. All departments are thus in close contact —a vital necessity in a firm handling the construction of first-class vessels, wherein shipbuilding and engineering are so closely combined.

Adjacent to the head office is the main entrance to the yard, complete with time office, workers' entrances, welfare supervisor's office, canteen and dining-rooms for officials and men, and a fully-equipped ambulance room.

The plumbers', sheet-iron, tinsmiths' and paint shops, situated at the eastern side of the yard, are all new buildings, erected in 1930 and containing a number of modern machines, installed to cope with the increased work and more massive construction of to-day, including a large-size "Bonn" bending machine, which bends pipes of all sizes cold; a latest type A1 automatic electric machine for flash-welding flanges on pipes, and a large "Marden" machine for screwing flanges. The shops are also equipped with electric arc welding sets, high speed saws, oil fuel fires, etc.

Adjacent to these buildings is the smithy, which occupies only a part of the original brick structure erected in 1870, as complicated smithwork for sailing-ships is a thing of the past, much hand-wrought smithwork being now replaced by drop forgings and castings. The surplus area of the smithy has been utilized for the finishing shop, which is completely equipped with all machinery necessary for the speedy and economical finishing of smithy products, and the machining of the numerous castings, etc., required for ship construction. Within the same shop is situated an up-to-date store, with supply-windows (from which the riveters, drillers, caulkers, etc., receive their various tools), facing the building berths.

The above building forms the eastern end of the steelworkers' shed, which runs parallel to the river, at the head of the building berths. Half of this shed was re-erected and modernized in 1923, and the whole shed occupies the original site, chosen in 1870, which is still found to be in the most convenient position for the steel work of the ships, despite the increase in the size of vessels from about 300 ft. to 600 ft. or more in length. This shed has been recently rearranged, so that each squad has its special area and necessary machinery; amongst the modern tools installed may be mentioned the following:

  • Set of heavy rolls, capable of rolling plates up to 35 ft. in length.
  • An electrically-driven planing machine.
  • A flanging machine, capable of flanging cold plates 33 ft. in length by 1.125ins. in thickness.
  • Four Endert-Curchin, or "one man," punches.

All the machines are equipped with powerful hydraulic and electric cranes, capable of handling the heaviest plates.

At the western end of the steelworkers' shed is situated a brick building containing the joiners' shops on the ground floor and first floors, with the moulding loft on the second floor. This is also an early building, serving the purpose it was originally designed for, save that the joinery department, having increased during the years, has taken over the spar shed, which has become unnecessary in these days of steel masts and spars. The joiners' shop, when fully employed, accommodates about 200 workers, and the machine shop, situated on the ground floor, has been recently rearranged and fitted with the latest machinery, among which the following are worthy of special mention:

  • Double spindle vertical moulding machine.
  • Continuous-feed glue jointing machine.
  • Scraping or planing machine.
  • Sandpapering machine.
  • Tenon and scribing machine; also
  • The only automatic vertical chain mortiser fitted in any Scottish shipbuilding establishment.

Behind, and connected with the joiners' shop, is the polishing department, capable of producing highly-finished panelling and furniture of all types; included among its equipment is a spraying-plant for finishing articles with cellulose. Beneath the polishing shop is the boat-building shed, alongside which, on the western boundary of the yard, lies a large area containing sheds, stores, and racks for the storage of timber.

Beyond the joiners' shops are situated the power houses, containing the hydraulic pumps, air compressors and electrical convertors. Slightly beyond these is a Babcock boiler, fired by refuse conveyed by a special suction-plant from the joiners' shop and saw mill.

Adjoining these buildings is the saw mill, convenient for supplying decks to the ships and timber of all description to the joiners' shop, shipwrights' department, etc. The machinery of the mill is capable of converting all materials from the "log" as required by the various departments.

The foregoing buildings form the frontage of the shipbuilding works, the space between them and the river being occupied by the building berths. Since the war these berths have been reduced in number from eight to six, and rearranged to take advantage of a long bend in the Clyde, giving ample room for launching the largest ships down-river. This latest arrangement of the berths was completed in 1927, when the ground under many was concreted and a complete new series of electric cranes erected. The latter, are 120 ft. from ground to underside of jib, with outreach of 70 ft. and a working load of 6 tons.

Behind the steelworkers' shed is a large area, equipped with hydraulic and travelling steam-cranes, for the stowage of the steel-plates and sections, brought directly into this part from the L.M.S. Railway at Shieldhall, via the tram lines on the Renfrew road. A traffic office, with weighbridge, has been placed at the south-west corner of the yard to deal with all heavy rail-borne traffic.

The above description deals with about two-thirds of the Linthouse yard, the remaining one-third being devoted to the engine and boiler shops, which are fed with raw materials, castings, etc., by the same rail system. The latter buildings are divided into two main structures — the engine and boiler shops, both in direct contact with the shipyard.

A comparatively new building, close to the engine shop, is the aircraft shed, erected during the War for the construction of aeroplanes; this is now used partly for the electrical department's shops and offices, and partly as a general store for all perishable materials. In this south-eastern corner of the yard are also the Linthouse Buildings, a block of dwellings erected by the Firm for the housing of its workmen.

With these improvements the shipyard has completed in one year a total of about 60,000 gross tons. The berths are now angled so that the longest one can take a vessel of 600 feet or more in length.


Messrs. Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited have ever shown a deep interest in the welfare of their employees – an interest which in recent years has taken practical form in the provision of a canteen, ambulance room, club rooms and recreation grounds. The Firm has also initiated educational, thrift, safety and suggestion schemes, as outlined below.

COILA PARK. As the welfare department developed, it was felt that a playing field and recreation ground would be greatly appreciated by the Linthouse employees and their families. In 1920, therefore, the Firm purchased, for £12,000 a ten-acre area adjacent to the works. These grounds, which formed part of the park surrounding the old Mansion House, Shieldhall, have a very attractive setting with some fine old trees. A pavilion and house for the head green-keeper were erected, while the grounds were laid out in four tennis courts, two bowling greens, football and hockey pitches, putting and croquet greens, a children's corner, etc.

The scheme has met with great success, a large number of the employees taking advantage of these facilities for healthy recreation amid ideal surroundings. The sports club is managed by its own committee, so that its success, after the initial arrangements by the Firm, is entirely in the hands of the members.

RECREATION: In addition to the provision of facilities for social events in the canteen, the Firm in 1917 purchased "Cressy Hall," since named the "Stephen Apprentices' and Boys' Club."

This club, at 6 Cressy Street, Govan, is open for membership to apprentices and boys employed by the Firm and it has proved a convenient meeting place and recreation centre for all the young employees. A large gymnasium has been equipped with the usual apparatus, and boxing and other physical training is carried on by special instructors. Baths (hot and cold) are available, also a photographic dark room and a large games room, fitted with billiard and bagatelle tables, card tables, and most indoor games. A reading room, supplied with a good library and weekly and monthly magazines, is provided, and dances, whist drives and social evenings are periodically arranged.

The club is managed by a committee widely representative of the employees and staff. In addition there is an "Apprentices' Representative Committee," elected from and by the members, who meet regularly to make suggestions to the senior committee upon which they are represented by their chairman, vice-chairman and secretary.

In connexion with this club, arrangements are made each year for a HOLIDAY CAMP which is held during the customary ten days of the Fair holidays. This has proved a great success, enabling the young employees to visit various Scottish and English summer resorts which would have been otherwise beyond their means.

THE WELFARE DEPARTMENT, inaugurated during the War, under a supervisor, and originally intended to cater for employees during working hours only, has gradually expanded until it now includes facilities for sport and recreation.

The movement commenced with the provision of dining facilities in a canteen installed in the old mansion of Linthouse, already mentioned elsewhere. When the house was demolished, in 1919, large canteen premises, fully equipped with the latest cooking appliances, were erected near the main entrance; these new premises, soon became the centre not only for refreshment during working hours, but for evening recreations and social events connected with the works.

SAFETY FIRST AND AMBULANCE: The firm attaches the utmost importance to accident prevention. Posters and notices warning employees to exercise the greatest care are displayed in the various departments and other prominent places throughout the works. Committees meet regularly, to devise ways and means of reducing the number of accidents by a stricter observance of "safety first" principles, and the training of employees in ambulance work is encouraged.

In addition to the ambulance boxes required by statute, a well-equipped ambulance room is always maintained. A fully-trained man is on duty all day, and every facility is given the employees for the daily dressing of such wounds as do not prevent them from following their occupations, thereby considerably reducing the incidence of sepsis for minor wounds.

A SUGGESTION SCHEME is in operation by which suitable rewards are given to employees for suggestions both for reducing accidents and increasing the efficiency of the works.

EDUCATIONAL SCHEMES: While employees, irrespective of age or sex are encouraged to attend classes organized by the local authorities, special encouragement is offered the apprentices by the payment of weekly bonuses on their achievements of the previous winter. The welfare department has been instrumental in establishing local classes, to suit the particular requirements of the various departments, and these have been greatly appreciated.

APPRENTICE TRADE EXAMINATIONS are held each year, and although these are voluntary, upwards of two hundred apprentices present themselves for examination. Each trade is divided into four groups, viz., (1st year), (2nd), (3rd), (4th and 5th), and the heads of departments prepare examination papers covering the work performed by each group. The examination (which is of course a written one), is held in the works canteen towards the end of April of each year. The papers are corrected by the management and returned through the foremen to the apprentices, when faults and mistakes are indicated. Cash awards to the value of approximately twenty-five pounds are made annually.

The advantages of these examinations are twofold. They enable the apprentices to realize how far they have advanced in their training, and how much they have still to learn, while keeping the head foreman and management in touch with the training of the apprentices.

In addition to these examinations, the welfare department is responsible for the selection and engagement of all apprentices and young workers. Careful records of the apprentices' time-keeping, conduct and general efficiency are kept, and when trade conditions permit, bonuses are awarded to those with sufficient marks. Apprentices are also advised as to the classes and schools most suited to their trade requirements and bonuses awarded on the results of the session's work.

On the general question of training, while each department is expected to carry this through in a systematic manner, it has been found advisable in certain departments to appoint special instructors, whose main duty is the supervision of apprentice training.

THRIFT: One large savings scheme, in which sums are accepted on deposit at 5 per cent. interest, is available to all departments, and it is gratifying to know that even in these hard times hundreds of the workers and the staff take advantage of this scheme. Accounts may be withdrawn in whole or in part at holiday times, and as much as £9,000 has been paid out to subscribers, although the amount disbursed each year varies with trade conditions.

In the works savings bank, which also pays 5 per cent interest per annum, the total amount at the credit of depositors is £1,800.

There is also a staff pension scheme in addition to the above saving facilities.

WORKS MAGAZINE. This publication was inaugurated in 1919, in order that the Firm's employees might keep in touch with all the welfare and recreational activities organized upon their behalf. Although the magazine originally appeared as a quarterly, exigencies of trade reduced its issues to two per year in 1928, and one issue in 1931. The magazine, however, has always been well received and supported by the employees, who contribute matter for publication as and when required.

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