Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 131,598 pages of information and 209,070 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
Note: This is a sub-section of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson
1903 'A FLOATING WORKSHOP FOR NATAL. The trials of the floating workshop which has been constructed by Swan, Hunter, and Wigham-Richardson, Limited, to the order of the Natal Government, took place in the presence of the consulting engineer for the Natal Government. The following are the principal particulars of this floating factory :—The overall length is 129ft. 3in., the extreme breadth inside the fenders is 40ft., and the depth moulded is 8ft. 4in. It is fitted with twin screw compound surface condensing engines, which have been constructed Messrs Baird Brothers of North Shields, the diameter of cylinders being 12in. and 26in.. with a stroke of 15in. The speed obtained on the measured mile trials was a mean of 7.12 knots, this speed being considerably in excess of what had been guaranteed by the builders. The workshop is very easily handled, and steered remarkably well in the river. On the deck of the vessel and enclosed in a large house is placed the workshop machinery, which consists of punching and shearing machine, lathe, steam hammer, drilling shaping, and screwing machines, smiths fires, straightening blocks, vice bench and anvil, etc., the whole of which is driven by electric motive power, which has been supplied by Messrs J. H. Holmes and Co. The workshop is lighted throughout by electricity and with accommodation for both workmen and crew. A powerful cantilever crane having span of 40 feet and capable of lifting 15 tons is placed the forward end of the vessel. This crane has been made by Messrs Joseph Booth and Brothers, of Rodley. The workshop is to be lifted to-day and secured for the voyage out, on to the deck the new floating dock, which has been built by Swan, Hunter, and Wigham-Richardson, Ltd., to the order the Natal Government.' 
1904-07 Six cargo-liners completed for Hansa Company of Germany and further cargo liners for the Indo-China Steamship Company Ltd.
1906 RMS Mauretania was launched from Wallsend on Tyne on 20 September 1906 to the cheers of huge crowds. She left service in 1935
1909 a new design of train and passenger ferry completed for the Swedish Government. Drottning Victoria travelled between Sweden and Germany with room for 96 first class and 44 third class passengers as well as being able to carry trains. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company of Canada also had a similar sized ferry built by the yard in the same year: Prince Rupert 3379/09 and then a larger ferry two years later Princess Alice 5099/11.
1911 to 1913 – Two liners completed for Cunard plus three others.
1912 Largest floating dock ever completed for the Admiralty. The yard was now the world leader in floating gravity docks, it had a 33,000 ton lift for use at Portsmouth Dockyard. The yard completed pontoons and docks of all sizes to customers around the world.
1913 Tanker sizes increased from 10,000 dwt in 1903 to 15500 dwt in March 1913 - San Fraterno, the largest tanker in the world was launched by Lady Bowring
1913 Reina Victoria-Eugenia, a magnificent Spanish liner of 9726 grt was completed for Cia Transatlantica. 498 feet in length with room for 200 first class, 46 alternate first and second, 100 second class, 80 third class and 1642 emigrants. She was fitted with reciprocating engines and exhaust turbines on separate shafts.
1913-1914 Eight cargo liners with accommodation completed for the British India Steam navigation Company.
WW1 Twenty five large tankers were also completed by the yard before the outbreak of World War 1. They were also tramp owners at this time.
WW1 55 warships with a total displacement of 100,000 tons were built including the cruisers Comus (1914), Coventry (1918), 28 torpedo boat destroyers, the monitor Roberts (1915) and 20 sloops and some submarines. During this period, merchant construction totalled 290,599 grt including a number of different ships, vessels and floating docks.
1918 Cunard liner Aurania 13936/17 with a capacity of 2022 passengers was torpedoed and destroyed on 4th February. Other customers included New Zealand Companies, Federal Steam navigation (Northumberland 12160/15) and Union Steamship Company of New Zealand (Armagh 12159/17). Clan Line Steamers Ltd (Clan Ross – 5897 grt), British Tanker Co. Ltd (British Admiral 6842/17 and British Empress 6847/17). Anglo-Saxon/Shell (Mytilus 5716/16 and Oliva 5694/16) plus others...
1918 The Shipping Controller took control of 18 ‘WAR’ standard cargo ships consisting of 10 ‘A’ and ‘B’ tramps of 8300 dwt one of which was completed as an ‘AO’ tanker, five ‘Z’ tankers of 8800 dwt, one ‘N’ type which was the first of 34 to be completed by British yards as War Climax on 28th September 1918 and one ‘C1’ coaster. The last of these ‘Z’ tankers was completed as the engines-aft War Krishna in November 1919, the only one of its type.
Many other large ships were produced including the Great Central Railway Company’s Immingham 2009/06 with room for 393 passengers and propelled by triple-screw turbine machinery.
1920 – the yard was fully occupied completing ‘B’ types. However a large liner called Giulio Cesare which had been ordered by Navigazione Generale Italiana of Genoa for service to South America, was launched on 7th February 1920 and completed in March 1922. This was a large liner of 22576 grt, with room for 2530 passengers (244 first class with deluxe staterooms featuring private baths, showers and oak parquet flooring and tiled luxury bathrooms. 306 second class,1800 third class passengers who had cabins and public rooms comparable with first class on other liners. She could reach a speed of up to 20 knots powered by geared turbines manufactured by Wallsend Slipway Co. Other liners completed by the yard in the early 1920s included two for Cunard, and three others for French companies.
1920s Major customers were Ellerman Lines and British India Line owned by P&O: 13 liners were manufactured including:
1922 - City of Paris (10839/22) – 349 passengers; City of Canterbury (8431/23 – 178 passengers; Commonwealth and Dominion Line (later to become Port Line in 1936) also ordered five cargo liners. William Milburn also had five ships built by the Company (he had been a key customer in the 1880s) marking a shift to motor ships. Two French cargo-liners were also manufactured and a variety of vessels were made for France, Holland, Indo-China. A pair of motor driven cargo-liners were placed by Silver Line: Silverpine and Silverlarch (both 5122/24) and Shaw, Savill & Albion Ltd; Coptic 10629/28 and Zealandic 11300/28. These latter two ships were powered by twin 6-cylinder 2SCSA Sulzer oil engines by Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Co. The former pair were in the three-quarters aft position. Further vessels were made for T&J Harrison (for their West-Indies to London route) and Greece and Australia.
1923 The company completed 50 Great lakes grain-carrying steamers with Glen Line ordering six of these engine-aft bridge-forward ships of 2000 grt, all with names beginning Glen for their feeder services. These orders kept the company afloat for much of the 1920s.
1924 Floating dock sizes rose to 55,000 tons with ones for Singapore Docks and the Admiralty plus five other small ones.
1928 The car-carrier Seatrain (7624/28) was completed for Overseas Railway Inc of the U.S.A. and was a fore runner of the huge slab-sided car carriers of the present day.
1929 The twin-funnelled Frenchliner Campana was completed in 1929 for Soc. Generale de transportes Maritimes with accommodation for a total of 1305 passengers. She was of 10816 grt and 528 feet length and turbine-powered to twin propellers. Two other high class passenger ferries were completed for Swedish Lloyd (Britannia and Suecia both of 4631 grt). These were single screw turbine steamers with room for 201 first class and 40 second class passengers on the London to Gothenburg service.
Between 1919 and 1931 over 50 tankers were completed: the largest was San Florentino (18000 dwt in 1919 and Pan Scandia (14750 dwt in 1931)
1930s The twin funnelled whale factory ship Vikingen (14526/30) which was completed for the Viking Whaling Co. Ltd would return to the Wallsend Dry Docks at the end of each whaling season throughout the 1930s for overhauling. Usually, in the company of the whale factory ships Sir James Clark Ross and C.A. Larsen.
1932 The depression years saw the yards completing existing orders for Norwegian tanker owners as well as three destroyers Codrington, Brilliant and Bulldog and three sloops Folkestone, Scarborough and Hindustan for the Admiralty.
The passenger and cargo liner El Kantera (5213/32) for Cie Na de Mixte of France was a valuable order along with the Norwegian cargo ship Fjordheim (4114/30) for Nils Rogenaes. The Chinese train ferry Changkiang (2362/32), the Norwegian fruiter Crawford Ellis (2161/30) for H. Staubo. Four small cargo ships of 2000 grt were completed leaving only the Stephenson Clarke collier Sir Russell 1548/33 and a cargo-liner for Commonwealth and Dominion Line on the order book.
1933 There were very few completions during this year. Port Chalmers of 8535 grt in December 1933 and six small orders. However, the small coaster Peter G. Campbell, launched on 13th April 1933 was significant as she was the first all-welded ship from the yard. During 1933 the total tonnage amounted to only 11,033 grt with almost every shipyard worker laid idle. It was only the yard’s ability to build every type of ship that kept it going.
1934 There were three orders for twin-screw turbine-driven car ferries for the Southern Railway Company, which kept some of the workforce in the Neptune Yard busy. In addition the Admiralty building programme of orders for two destroyers and an Australian cruiser also kept the yards busy during 1935 too. Two small cargo liners were made for China Merchants S.N. Co. Ltd.
1935 On the 4th April the Australian coastal line Duntroon (10346/35) was launched with room for 366 passengers for the Melbourne Steamship Co. Ltd along with two coasters for Polish Steamship Line (Puck and Hel both 1065 grt). Work began picking up from late 1935 with three cargo-liners completed for three different companies leading to further orders. These were: Umtata (8141 grt) for Bullard, King; Explorer (6295 grt) for T&J Harrison; and Port Townsville (8661 grt) for Port Line. The follow on orders were Umtali (8135/36) and Umgeni (8180/38) both had accommodation for over 100 passengers on their South African run. Inkosi (6618/38) had room for 60 passengers on the West Indies run and the Port Line cargo-liners Port Halifax (5820/37) and fully refrigerated Port Jackson (9687/37)
From the mid 30s the renewed demand for oil reinvigorated the tanker building programme with 20 tankers built between 1935 and 1939. The largest were Thiare and Torinia, built for Shell at 15260 dwt. The trio of vessels made for Bowring ( Regent Lion, Regent Panther and Regent Tiger) could carry 14540 tons of petrol. A number of tramps were also manufactured which were ideal as grain carriers as they had steel, centre line bulkheads in their six holds, and plenty of portable wooden grain boards and trunks for their 9700 ton cargo. They had four cylinder Doxford-type opposed piston oil engines constructed at the Neptune Works, except for Hopestar which was experimentally turbine-powered.
1936 – The Admiralty further built up their strength from 1936 with six destroyers completed over the next three years: Hunter, Hyperion, Janus, Khartoum, Somali and Tartar. This also coincided with the abandonment of Treaty limitations on battleship size.
1937 The Admiralty placed an order for a 30,000 ton destroyer.
1938 Dominion Monarch (27155 grt) a flagship for Shaw, Savill and Albion Co. Ltd was launched on 27th July, it was completed in January 1939 and sailed on her maiden voyage to Wellington on 17th February 1939. She was powered by four Doxford oil engines linked to four propellers and at times made 20 knots during her maiden voyage which took 24 days to complete. Dominion Monarch carried 517 first class passengers as a one class ship and a full load of 16,400 tons of cargo was loaded at London with passengers embarking at Southampton. Ports of call were Tenerife, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington. The Monarch became famous in 1955/56 when she laid the first Transatlantic telephone cable between Oban and New Foundland. The weight of this cable and repeaters was so great that Monarch had to make three loadings on her drums to complete the task.
1939 – A second liner was completed for Polish Ocena Lines as sister for their Chrobry of 1939. The liner was launched as Sobieski of 11030 grt as a twin-screw motorship and was completed during 1939 with room for 44 first-class, 250 third-class and 850 emigrants. Her service speed to New York was 17 knots and she also had some refrigerated cargo capacity. Three passenger cargo liners were also completed at this time for British India with accommodation for 130 cabin-class passengers and 2000 Indian deck passengers. All three were powered by six steam turbines driving twin screws.
WW2 Just before the outbreak of war, extensive orders were in hand, and some 55 ships were completed for private owners up to early 1946 under Government licence. Warship construction was intense including the battleship Anson (June 1942) along with four cruisers ordered in 1937: Mauritius (1940), Newfoundland (1941), Gambia (1942) and Superb (1943). Other vessels included 30 destroyers and destroyer escorts including 16 of the Hunt class.
1943-46: 18 cargo liners were produced for Ellerman Lines including Ellerman Wilson Line and Port Line. Notable liners included: Port Napier (9847/40) was requisitioned by the Admiralty and completed as a minelayer to carry 500 mines for barrage work. Port Sydney (9847/43) was completed as the escort carrier Vindex in December 1943 with a flight deck of 495 length and complement of 18 aeroplanes. Vindex survived the war and was reconditioned by the yard between August 1948 and June 1949 when she was renamed Port Vindex.
A total of 17 tankers were completed by the yard during the war and up to early 1946. Other orders were completed for the Belgian Government, Polish Ocean Lines and the Turkish Government among others. At the end of hostilities the combined yards covered 80 acres with a river frontage of 4000 feet and seventeen building berths of up to 1000 feet and three dry-docks.
1949 – Compania Nacional de Navegacao, Lisbon took delivery of the twin-screw passenger and cargo liner Mocambique of 12976 grt for their service between Portugal and Angola and Mozambique. The Mocambique had been launched in 1st December 1948 and had accommodation for 93 first class, 141 second class and 102 third-class passengers. The vessel could also carry 9243 tons of cargo. The first-class entrance hall featured an overlay marquetry panel of the world over the staircase so passengers could trace the course of the ship. There was also a veranda cafe, music room, smoking room and de-luxe suites. Her twin Doxford-type oil engines constructed by the yard gave her a speed of 18 knots.
1950 – the Shell ‘supertanker’, Velutina was launched in 1950 by Princess Margaret at the Wallsend Yard, which also launched the much larger supertankers Solen, Narica and Nacella in the 1960s also for Shell.
1950 – In August, Provence of 15889 grt was launched at the Neptune Yard for Soc. General Transportes Maritimes (SGTM) as a replacement for their Campana built at the Neptune Yard in 1929. This was the tenth ship completed for SGTM and reached speeds of 19 knots in early 1951. She sailed on her maiden voyage on 30th March 1951 from Marseilles to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires via Barcelona and Lisbon. Provence had room for 139 first class, 113 tourist class and 1052 third class passengers.
Other SGTM vessels: Sidi del Abbes of 5226 grt (1948 – 95 first- class, 226 tourist-class, 573 third-class passengers, President de Cazalet (an exact sister ship also built in 1948 for the Cie de Navigation Mixte fleet). The Mixte Company also ordered Djebel Diro (4180/48) – 56 first class, 100tourist class, 100 tourist class and 430 third class passengers. He ship was turbine powered as were her sister ships. Two more high spec cargo-liners were completed for the Chargeurs Reunis fleet: Brazza and Foucauld both 9095/48 and twin-screw motor-ships with room for 103 first-class, 78 second-class and 400 third-class passengers.
1954 The light aircraft carrier Albion was completed, having lain incomplete since being launched at the yard in 1947. She was later converted into a commando carrier.
1956 Norwegian America Line took delivery of their new Transatlantic liner Bergensfjord in May 1956, having been launched by Princess Astrid of Norway in July 1955. The ship featured an all-welded aluminium superstructure for lightness and was one of the first liners to make use of this metal. She carried 730 tourist class, 125 first-class passengers. The public rooms featured tapestries, paintings, mosaics and glass-panelled walls. Her twin stork engines gave her a speed of 20 knots but could also cruise in Winter and later became a single class liner. Princess Astrid had travelled to the launching from Norway on Leda (6670/53) of Bergen Line which she had also launched at the yard on 3rd September 1952. Leda began her twice-weekly run to Stavanger and Bergen from the Tyne in April 1953. It could carry 119 first-class and 384 tourist-class passengers. It was powered by two sets of steam turbines by Wallsend Slipway Co to give a speed of 22 knots. Bergen Line’s main competitors Swedish Lloyd previously took delivery of Patricia 6644/51 form the Neptune Yard for their Gothenburg to London service.
1959/60 The cruiser Lion was completed, having lain incomplete since the War. She was completed with four six inch guns as main armament. Along with her two sisters Blake and Tiger (completed on the Clyde), these ships were the last Royal Navy Cruisers
1961 The Portuguese liner Principe Perfeito of 19,393 grt was delivered by the Neptune Yard in 1961. She was the largest Neptune ship when launched in September 1960 for Cia Nacional of Lisbon. Her Parsons turbines built in Wallsend propelled her at 20 knots on a regular run between Lisbon and Beira, with room for 1000 passengers and 200 troops. She could also carry 8600 tons of cargo and was sold for cruising in 1976. Palm, Line and Ellerman Lines were the major customers of the yards during this period, they commissioned 22 cargo-liners in total including Ilorin Palm (5442/60) which launched 17 weeks ahead of schedule in 1960. She was fitted with one of the last Swan Hunter-built Doxford oil engines as the Neptune engine works ceased production shortly afterwards. British India Line and Clan Line were also good customers, commissioning 11 cargo-liners including, Dwarka (4851/47). Dwarka was powered by Doxford oil engines and had accommodation for 50 passengers in cabins as well as many Indian deck passengers on her voyages to the Persian Gulf. Another notable vessel was Sirdhana (8608/47) which had room for 83 passengers in cabins. Port Line also took delivery of four refrigerated cargo-liners for their Australian meat trade and Shaw, Savill & Albion took delivery of three cargo-liners for their New Zealand trade. These included Gothic (15911/48) which had spacious accommodation for 85 first class passengers in 53 cabins of which 36 were single-berth, while 23 had their own private bathroom, The public rooms were of such a high standard thatship acted as a temporary Royal yacht for a tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1953. Cunard Line took delivery of a cargo-liner for Transatlantic services. Scindia Line of India, Black Star Line of Ghana, Nigeria National Line, Indo China Steam Navigation Co. and Union Castle Mail Co also took delivery of cargo-liners. The latter Company received Good Hope Castle and Southampton Castle (both 10,538 grt). Southampton Castle was launched by Princess Alexandria and reached speeds of 23 knots and this one vessel replaced two passenger liners on the weekly South African schedule. Both ships were fitted with powerful oil engines by Wallsend Slipway Co. These two ships were super cargo-liners and had much of their cargo spaces refrigerated and they could carry 11,034 tons of cargo.