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Charles Mitchell

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Charles Mitchell (1820-1895) of Charles Mitchell and Co‎ and Armstrong, Mitchell and Co, Shipbuilders

He was an Aberdonian who founded major shipbuilding yards on the Tyne. He became a public benefactor who funded notable buildings that still survive today.

He attended Aberdeen University.

1842 After an engineering apprenticeship in London, he became a ship designer working for John Coutts' Newcastle-upon-Tyne yard.

1844 Went to London to work for a company of marine engineers

1852 He became a shipbuilder in his own right at the Low Walker yard on the Tyne

1854 May 9th. Charles married Ann Swan, and gained two brothers-in-law in Charles Sheridan Swan and Henry Frederick Swan.

1856 of Low Walker Iron Ship Building Works

From 1857 he built ships for Russia

1862 he set up shipyards in St Petersburg. He received a diamond studded snuff box worth 3,000 guineas and a national decoration for his work for Russia.

1871 Living at Jesmond Towers Hall (age 50 born Scotland), Shipbuilder. With wife Ann (age 42) and son Charles William (age 16). Also two sisters-in-law Julias Swan (age 30) and Sarah Frances Swan (age 23). Nine servants. [1]

He was a benefactor of the University of Aberdeen after whom the Mitchell Tower (1895) and Mitchell Hall are named. His university conferred on him an Ll.D. degree.

He was decorated with the Imperial Order of St Stanislaus, 2nd class (normal for foreign nationals), which may be seen in the coat of arms over the door of Jesmond Towers.

1882 Joined in partnership with the Armstrong yard to form Armstrong Mitchell in 1882.

In 1887 Mitchell commissioned the art nouveau church of St George, Jesmond from Thomas Ralph Spence (1848-1918), secretary of the Newcastle Arts Association.

1891 Living at Jesmond Towers, Northumberland (age 70 born Scotland), Shipbuilder. With wife Annie (age 62 born Walker, Northumberland). Also sister-in-law Jules(?) Swan (age 50) and grand-daughter Kathleen H. Mitchell (age 3). Fourteen servants. [2]

1895 August 22nd. Died

Until his death at the age of 75 he directed the ship building activities of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell and Co.


1895 Obituary [3]

CHARLES MITCHELL was born at Aberdeen on 22nd May 1820.

After receiving his early education at a school in the Questrow, and at the Grammar School, he entered as a premium apprentice the engineering works of Messrs. W. Simpson and Co., predecessors of the firm of Messrs. Hall, Russell, and Co.

He matriculated as a student at the Marischal College, and in 1840 was first prizeman in the chemistry class.

In 1835 considerable additions were made to Messrs. Simpson's' workshops, and he assisted Mr. John Coutts, an architectural draughtsman, in preparing the drawings, &c. Some time previous to the completion of his apprenticeship in 1841 he gave drawing lessons in the evening to the late Mr. Andrew Leslie, who at that time was foreman boilermaker with Messrs. Bowman and Vernon, shipbuilders and engineers, and who afterwards became a shipbuilder at Hebburn on the Tyne.

On the completion of his apprenticeship he entered as draughtsman the employment of Mr. Coutts, who had left Aberdeen and had taken in 1840 a building yard on the Tyne, previously used by Mr. William Reay for building wooden vessels, and now forming part of Messrs. Wigham Richardson and Co.'s establishment. Here he commenced on 24th September 1842, the day after the launching of the paddle steamer "Prince Albert," which was the first iron steamer built on the Tyne.

Two years later he obtained an engagement with Messrs. Maudslay, Sons, and Field, with whom ho remained until 1852, when he commenced a ship-yard at Walker-on-Tyne upon a piece of ground which was then in process of being reclaimed from the river; and the yard was afterwards largely extended by the acquisition of other property.

His first vessel, the "Havilah," was launched in 1853, and is still afloat in Australia.

In 1862, when the Russian government determined to commence the construction of armour-clads in their own country, they entrusted his. firm with the conversion of their wooden dockyards into iron shipbuilding establishments. He accordingly visited St. Petersburg, where he received an order for an ironclad, soon followed by others; and his brother-in-law, Mr. H. F. Swan, resided there for some years as the representative of the firm. In recognition of his services the decoration of the Order of St. Stanislaus was conferred on him.

In 1865 for the sake of health he withdrew from the active part he had hitherto taken in the business, and went to reside near London for a time.

Subsequently determining to return to Newcastle, he purchased in 1869 the Jesmond Towers estate. His firm having been engaged for many years in building was vessels in conjunction with that of Sir W. G. Armstrong and Co., an amalgamation took place in 1882, the name of the new firm being Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell and Co. The University of Aberdeen benefited largely by his generosity. In addition to aiding in the extension of the buildings, he gave a grand organ, and provided means to heighten the tower of the Marischal College, which now forms one of the principal architectural features of Aberdeen. In recognition of his munificent bequests, amounting to about £30,000, the Senate of the University conferred on him in February 1893 the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

His death occurred at his residence, Jesmond Towers, after a few days' illness, on 22nd August 1895, at the age of seventy-five.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1856.


1895 Obituary [4]

CHARLES MITCHELL died at Jesmond Towers, Newcastle, on August 22, 1895. Than he, no one has had a more distinguished career in connection with shipbuilding in the North of England. Born in 1820, he was a native of Aberdeen, and, having selected engineering as his profession, he was placed as a premium apprentice with William Simpson & Company, engineers and ironfounders, Footdee, predecessors of the existing firm of Hall, Russell, & Company. He left Aberdeen in 1842, and made his way to the banks of the Tyne, where his first engagement was with Messrs. Coutts, who at that time had begun a shipbuilding business at Hebburn.

Afterwards he determined to perfect his knowledge of marine engineering, and in 1844 went to London, where he became connected with Maudsley, Field, & Company, with whom he continued until 1852.

In that year he returned to the Tyne, and started business for himself as a shipbuilder at Low Walker, where, by the energy, perseverance, and administrative ability which characterised his career throughout, he soon established one of the most flourishing shipbuilding undertakings in the country.

In 1862 the Russian Government decided to convert some of their dockyards into iron shipbuilding establishments. The carrying out of this important work was entrusted to Mr. Mitchell's firm. The conversion of the dockyards and the construction of several ironclads were so well carried' out that the Tsar and the High Admiral presented Mr. Mitchell with a snuff-box, set in diamonds, valued at 3000 guineas. Later on, in recognition of his services in designing additional war vessels, the Tsar conferred on him the decoration of the Order of St. Stanislaus.

In 1882 the firm of C. Mitchell & Company was amalgamated with that of Sir W. G. Armstrong & Company, of Elswick-on-Tyne. Mr. Mitchell was well known for his philanthropy. He presented a hospital to the Low Walker district; he ga4e St. George's Church, in 1887, to the Jesmond district, the church, organ, and bells being estimated to have cost over £30,000. To his native place he was very generous. He gave £30,000 towards the extensions of the Marischal College, Aberdeen. In recognition of his merits as a man and as a generous benefactor, the University bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1870.


1895 Obituary [5]



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1871 Census
  2. 1891 Census
  3. 1895 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  4. 1895 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  5. Engineering 1895 Jul-Dec: Index: General Index