Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,200 pages of information and 245,646 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Smiths Dock Co

From Graces Guide
1910. Hopper dredger Priestman.
1911. Meyer's liquid fuel system.
1914. Meyer-Smith patent liquid fuel system.
c1950. Smith's Dock.
1950. Duke Street.
1951. Smith's Dock.
1950. Wellington Vaults
April 1952.
1959. Motor Oil Tanker "Amastra", 17,800 tons dead weight, for Shell Tankers.

Smith's Dock Co, often referred to simply as Smiths Dock, was a British shipbuilding company of High Docks, North Shields, and later of South Bank in Middlesbrough on the River Tees.

The company developed at North Shields from its predecessor T. and W. Smith who established a major drydock complex there in the late 19th. century. They also built ships under their own name between 1848 and 1890 after which they concentrated on repairs [1].

1891 Company formed[2]

1899 Company reconstructed. The company was registered [3] as result of amalgamation of T. and W. Smith with the Bull Ring repair yards of Harry S. Edwards and Sons and Edwards Brothers.

1899 Public company.

1900 Building of ships resumed under the Smiths Dock name [4].

1907/8 The company's new shipyard and associated drydocks and repair facilities were developed on a completely new site fronting the River Tees at South Bank (also see Tees Docks), a little way downstream from Middlesbrough, with steelworks to east and west [5].

1909/10 The last two vessels launched at North Shields were fitted out at the new South Bank yard in 1909-1910; the sequence of yard numbers began with 417 in continuity from the Tyneside yard [6].

1910 The Yard made its first dredger Priestman followed by twenty small trawlers and drifters, one whaler, two tugs, two barges and three coasters. [7]

1911 55 small trawlers, drifters and whalers were completed. The yard opened its first engine works and fitted its first engine.

1912 The yard began making whale-catchers along with minesweepers and coasters.

1913 Promoted the Meyer-Smith oil fuel system of which Smiths Dock was the only UK manufacturer[8]

1914 Listed as dry-dock owners, engineers, shipbuilders, makers of steam trawlers, steam drifters and tugs. [9]

1914 Directory: Listed as Marine Engineers [10]

WWI The yard's output was 160 small ships.

1920 Mr Lancelot Smith was chairman of the company.[11]

1920-22 The yard began arc-welding along with riveting. Up to 1930 the yard mainly made colliers, tramps and cargo-liners.

1923 Smiths Dock Co granted The Swinney Brothers the licence as sole authorised manufacturers of the Smith's patented oil-burning installations.

1926 As an indirect result of the coal strike, the Tees shipyard of Smith's Dock Company, Ltd., was closed down. The closure of the shipyard did not extend to the engine works or the dry dock, nor was it in any sense due to lack of work. The firm had a fair number of orders to execute, and latterly it had been employing between 600 and 700 men. The stoppage of the local steel works through the coal strike has, however, had the effect of holding up supplies of essential materials -plates, bars, &c., and, as a consequence, the firm had reluctantly been compelled to close an establishment which worked continuously since it was first opened seventeen years ago in 1909.[12]

1929 Acquired the Stockton yard of Ropner Shipbuilding and Repairing Co and refurbished it [13]

1930 The yard entered The Depression with a number of orders on its books. It completed 13 vessels in 1930 and 1931.

1931 The Stockton yard of Smiths Dock Co was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security for closure and dismantling, together with 7 other yards [14].

1932 The worst year for the yard was 1932 when it was only able to launch one motor trawler.

1936 The "Flower" class corvette based on the design of the whale-catcher Southern Pride, made its debut. 19 were made by the yard and 200 by other yards.

1937 The old dry dock was acquired by John Readhead and Sons

1938 In the late 1930s the yard produced large oil carriers and tankers

WWII: Smiths Dock are most famous for preparing the design of the Flower class corvette, an anti-submarine convoy escort of WWII.

1940 A number of yard employees were killed when the French corvetter La Bastiase was lost at sea.

1940s The yard made a number of cargo ships, tramps, colliers and the last case-oil carrier.

1946-1962 The yard focussed on building tankers with 41 being built during this period.

1955 Acquired the assets of Shields Engineering and Dry Docks Co and merged the 2 ship-repair organisations.

1961 Ship builders and repairers. Specialising in building oil tankers, ore carriers, cargo vessels, trawlers and whalers, Canadian Lake vessels and timber carriers. Also install all types of turbines, diesel and steam reciprocating engines. 5,000 employees. [15]

1965 The yard modified a number of oil exploration rigs, one of which Ocean Prince broke form its moorings due to high wind and blew down river for two miles colliding with tankers and bringing down power lines.

1966 The yard was sold to Swan Hunter with the yard becoming part of the Swan Hunter Group later in the same year.

1970s The yard started building partly refrigerated ships, and made a total of 15 such vessels in the 1970s. In the late 70s the yard was a member of British Shipbuilders, and the yard had a number of difficulties with ensuring its ships met contracted service speeds. It received penalty notices on late deliveries, some of which were refused by customers because of poor speed and malfunctioning equipment on board.

1977, the yard was incorporated into the nationalised group British Shipbuilders.

1980s The yard continued manufacturing large tankers and banana ships along with the very complex oil-rig tender / anchor handling tug / diving support ship British Argyll.

1987 The yard closed. Over 900 vessels had been built between 1910 and 1987. It has been used on and off by companies specialising in North Sea Oil work. The dry docks continue to be used.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Tees built ships [1]
  2. The Times, Mar 09, 1910
  3. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  4. Tees built ships [2]
  5. Tees built ships [3]
  6. Tees built ships [4]
  7. British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  8. The Times, Dec 01, 1913
  9. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  10. Kelly's Directory of Durham, 1914 p660
  11. The Engineer 1920/11/26.
  12. The Engineer 1926/06/11
  13. The Times, Jan 16, 1930
  14. The Times, 1 August 1931
  15. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE