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British Industrial History

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C. S. Swan and Hunter

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August 1899.
1899.
1899.
1902. Floating dock for Durban.
1902. Cunard Line Liner Carpathia.
1902. Floating dock for Bermuda.

C. S. Swan and Hunter was a major shipbuilding company based at Wallsend.

1874 After the failure of Coulson, Cooke and Co, the Low Walker yard was managed by Charles Mitchell’s brother-in-law Charles S. Swan and his brother Henry F. Swan. They had worked at St Petersburg between 1862 and 1870 on a Charles Mitchell and Co contract to build five Russian warships.

The Swan brothers were two of the initial directors of the Wallsend Slipway Co set up by Mitchell in 1871.

30 small tramps and colliers were completed at the Wallsend yard, together with tugs launches and barges.

1878 Charles Swan was making arrangements with George Burton Hunter of Austin and Hunter at Sunderland to join him. Hunter, a young Wearside shipbuilder, had earned a reputation on the North East Coast.

1880 Burton negotiated with Charles Mitchell and Henry F. Swan a new partnership with Charles Swan's widow C. S. Swan and Hunter, with Hunter as managing director [1]

Early 1880s - The boom years; the yard had a workforce of 600 men and a 270 foot river frontage.

1883 The original West Yard was expanded from 6.5 acres to 22.5 acres. This extra 16 acres created the adjacent East Yard. The workforce increased to 900 men.

1880-1883 40 iron steamers up to 2,500 grt in size were built.

Even in the mid 1880s slump four to seven ships were being made every year.

1889 Eleven ships were completed in 1889 including the first tanker, the Circassian Prince (3220 dwt) for Prince Line of North Shields owned by James Knott.

1890 The first refrigerated steamer built at the yard, Maori (of 2711 grt), was built for a New Zealand meat company. A larger refrigerated steamer Westmeath 6237/93 was the first of many produced during the 1890s.

1893 Seven ships of 31,088 grt were manufactured and the yard was the top Tyneside builder for the first time.

1893 Notable ships included Venus 1067/90 for Bergen Line, which sailed regularly between Newcastle to Bergen from June 1893.

1893 Mexican Prince, a large tanker of 4330 dwt was also built in 1893

1894 Antwerp Exhibition. Details of their display

The first two steel ships built at Wallsend were sisters Burrumbeet and Corongamite (both 2420/85) and Elingamite (2585/87) for the cargo/passenger trades - Huddart, Parker and Company of Melbourne.

The last sailing ships built at the yard were the three-masted barque Flottbek 1888/91 for Knohr and Burchard, and the four masted Milton Stuart 3177/92 for the Milton Stuart Shipping Company of London. However, many other tramps and small passenger steamers for tropical rivers were produced for owners all around the world.

1893 The Yard was the head of the river for the first time with an output of 31,088 tons of ships.

1895 The partnership became a limited liability company C. S. Swan and Hunter with total acreage equaling 23 with three berths in each yard.

1897 Schlesinger, Davies and Co was purchased by C.S. Swan and Hunter Ltd for the exclusive construction of floating dry-docks. Prior to this older style pontoon docks had been built but the first steel self-docking floating gravity dock was built at Wallsend in 1897 for the Spanish Government. This dock had a specified lift of 11,000 tons and was built, launched and towed to Havana within 11 months!

1898 Larger docks were built for Cardiff and Stettin

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

1900 Purpose built liner Ivernia manufactured for Cunard with space for 200 first-class and 1700 third class passengers.

1901 A 17,000 tons lift dock was towed to Bermuda.

1902 Docks also supplied to Russian and Chinese Governments. Updated liner for Cunard, Carpathia, launched in August 1902, powered by two sets of quadruple expansion steam engines with 9000 indicated horsepower driving twin propellers at 15 knots. Slipway extended to accommodate the two Cunard ships and the Eastern end of the Roman Wall was discovered during this work.

1903 The yard merged with Wigham Richardson and became known as Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson

22 passenger liners were produced in total during the life of the yard.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson [1]
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • The Engineer of 16th February 1900. p183
  • The Engineer of 21st September 1894 p248