Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Robert Thompson and Sons

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1891.

Robert Thompson and Sons, ship builder of Sunderland

1854 Robert Thompson Junior left the Thompson family yard (see Joseph Thompson and Sons) in 1854 to move to Southwick in order to start trading under his own name. He purchased the patent slipway and shipbuilding yard of John Candish at Southwick, and soon after began building ships.

1864 The first ship was a wooden barque was Graces; 21 ships followed this until the first composite ship was built in 1864.

1868 Thompson was one of the pioneers of iron construction, the first of which was the full-rigged Ireshope.

1870 The first iron steamer produced by the yard was Canadian.

1871 The yard focused on only building in iron from this year onwards.

1881 The yard became Robert Thompson and Sons Ltd when Robert went into partnership with two of his sons. 12 ships were launched in this year, giving the yard the third highest output on the river.

1888 Steel replaced iron in both Thompson yards, and a number of steel tramps were built at the yard. Also during this year, the yard purchased the Bridge Dockyard, mainly for repair work. Later, ships were launched broadside from this yard, because of the narrowness of the site.

1891 Advert. Iron and steel shipbuilders and repairers. [1]

1900 Output of both yards was 15,260 tons.

1901 The Southwick yard was extended and modernised.

1901 Built the SS Refah, a Turkish cargo steamer of 3,512 tons.

1903 Admiral l'Hermite was built and launched by Robert Thompson at the Bridge Dockyard.[2]

1906 The business became a limited liability company

1910 The yard was known for medium-sized tramps, and continued with these up to and following, the death of Robert Thompson in 1910.

1914 Directory: Listed as Ship Builders (Steel) of Southwick Yard, Southwick and Sunderland and Bridge Dock Yard, Sheepfolds, Sunderland. [3]

1914 Makers of cable and oil boats, ship repairing, engine repairing (oil vessels) and lengthening vessels, copper pipe outfits, brass work. [4]

WWI The yard produced ten ships, nine barges and two patrol vessels for the Admiralty. Tramps were also built to private order. The Shipping Controller ordered six standard WAR types: three "A" and three "C" types.

1920 28+ tramps and colliers were made by the yard until it closed down in 1930.

1930 The yard closed.

1931 The yard re-opened briefly to build two Portuguese trawlers Descobridor and Corte Real launched in April and May 1931. The owners defaulted on payment and the trawlers remained in dock for two years before being sold to French owners in 1933.

1933 The yard was wound up after having built 341 ships under the Thompson name. The yard was bought up by National Shipbuilders Security Ltd and demolished.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  1. Post Office London Trades Directory, 1891
  2. Sunderland Museum.
  3. Kelly's Directory of Durham, 1914 p771
  4. 1914 Whitakers Red Book