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British Industrial History

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Charles Mitchell and Co

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Charles Mitchell and Company were shipbuilders at Newcastle from 1853-1882

1820 Charles Mitchell was born in Aberdeen on 20th May 1820.

He served his apprenticeship with Simpson and Co before working for John H. S. Coutts in September 1842. He worked there until 1844 before moving to London and then travelling extensively.

1852 He returned to Newcastle and set up his own Low Walker yard next to the Coutts yard.

His first vessel Havilah was launched in February 1852 (a coaster for the Australian trade).

1854 Another notable ship was Hesperus which was ordered for German owners but on completion in 1854 was bought by the Admiralty and sent with a cargo of iron rails for the Crimean War railway.

1855 C. Mitchell and Co, iron ship builders, Low Walker yard [1]

1856 Three ships launched in a unique triple launch at the yard; an event never repeated again on the Tyne.

1856 Raylton Dixon left Coutts and Parkinson and completed his apprenticeship at Mitchells[2].

1858 Two ‘kits’ for screw steamers were supplied for erection on the Volga under the supervision of Charles S. Swan. Henry F. Swan joined the yard as an apprentice at this time too.

1864 Henry was sent to St Petersburg to build five small warships. Many orders from Russia were taken at the yard.

1865 See 1865 Tyne Shipbuilders for detail of the tonnage produced at Low Walker and St Petersburg

1867 The first British gunboat was built at the yard (Staunch of 1867) followed by 27 similar gunboats built as the ‘Ant’ class up to 1881.

1871 The first undersea telegraph cables were being laid. The Hooper Telegraph Company ordered a ship to lay 5000 miles of cable off the South American coast. Hooper 4935/73 was built in 100 days.

1871 Public company, the Wallsend Slipway Co, was formed by a group of Newcastle shipowners, and one shipbuilder, to repair the vessels of their respective fleets. Yard established by Charles Mitchell; named after two 300 foot slipways to be used for the sole purpose of repairing ships. The company was registered on 2 October[3].

1871 acquired a small site at St. Peter's, further up-river towards Newcastle. At this site, 2 of his associates began building ships under the style of Coulson, Cooke and Company[4]. OR

1873 Charles Mitchell purchased a site at Wallsend to deal with excess orders from his Low Walker Yard. John Coulson, yard manager from Low Walker, and Richard Cooke, were placed in charge.

1873 Coulson, Cooke and Co moved to a larger site, some 6.5 acres in area, at the river-front of Wallsend and bordering the shipyard of Schlesinger, Davies and Co[5]

1874 That firm ran into financial difficulties and it became necessary for Mitchell to take over the Wallsend yard. He entrusted it to the management of his brother-in-law, Charles Sheridan Swan, who continued the work of the firm through mixed fortune until his untimely, accidental death in 1879.

1877 A 1,000 ton floating dock was built for the Dutch Government and towed out to Java.

1878/80 George Burton Hunter, a young Wearside shipbuilder, had dissolved his partnership with a S. P. Austin and Son and entered into negotiations with Charles Mitchell and H. F. Swan. The outcome of this was a new partnership with Charles Swan's widow C. S. Swan and Hunter, with Hunter as managing director [6]

The backbone of the Low Walker yard was tramps for British owners, with 16 being produced for a number of different owners.

1882 450 ships were completed during the life of the yard. The company then merged with W. G. Armstrong and Co to form Armstrong, Mitchell and Co

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  1. History, Topography & Directory of Northumberland, 1855
  2. Northern Echo, 12 October 1889
  3. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  4. Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson [1]
  5. Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson [2]
  6. Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson [3]