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British Industrial History

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Sir James Laing and Sons

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Laings of Deptford Yard, Sunderland was a shipbuilder

1793 Company founded.

1794 The company was started by two brothers Philip and his brother John who were also joined by David (son of John). Their first ship was called Horta and it was completed in 1794 on the harbour sands.

1796 David died.

1818 The Company used a number of locations to begin with, and John left the partnership in 1818. Philip started his own yard at Deptford in the same year. The first ship produced by him was Anne.

1844 James Laing took control of the Deptford yard and Agincourt, the first ship he oversaw was launched on 19th January. This was the first commission by Duncan Dunbar for whom over thirty ships were built during the next 20 years.

1849 Philip Laing, James Laing's son, joined the family yard.

1853 James Laing was the first Wear shipbuilder to build in iron for the steamer Amity. Many of the iron steamers then produced were used as transports in the Crimean War.

1862 James Laing Junior joined the family firm.

1865 The Laing family were shipowners as well as builders. They had a two-masted auxiliary sailing ship Hiogo launched on 19th December. Sadly, she was wrecked on her maiden voyage but the family had many other ships built for them, including eight tramps for their Laing Steamship Co Ltd between 1886 and 1905 and the Turret built by Doxford.

1866 Construction of wooden ships at the yard ceased although composite ships continued to be built until 1875.

1871 Hugh Laing, son of James Laing Snr, joined the family business and became a Director of the yard.

1873 The yard manufactured two passenger/cargo ships for P&O and then went on to build a number of cargo-liners for well known companies.

1875 Torrens, a composite full-rigger, was the most famous sailing ship to be built at Deptford. Launched in 1875, Joseph Conrad later sailed as Second Mate for two years, between 1891 and 1893. He described her as 'a ship of brilliant qualities'. She broke the record for sailing from Britain to Adelaide in 64 days, and served on that route until 1903. She was fianlly broken up at Genoa.[1]

1884 Victoria, a liner built for Companhia Mexican de Navegacao won first prize at an exhibition for passenger/mail steamers.

1892 Hugh Laing was involved with the construction of the first oil tanker, Turbo, at the yard for Marcus Samuel, the founder of Shell.

1894 Antwerp Exhibition. Showed model of ship built in 1850

1897 James Laing was knighted.

1898 Private company.

1898 The name of the yard was changed to Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd. The cargo liner Anatolia was the first ship built under the new title.

1899 See 1899 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced.

1900 The yard was the head of the river in terms of tonnage with 40,307 tons.

1901 Sir James died. He had played a very important role in the development of shipbuilding on the Wear and was chair of a number of important organisations. Philip and Hugh Laing retained management responsibilities but after Philip's death in 1907 the yard had financial difficulties.

1909 Sir James Marr was appointed to the Board to assist the company overcome its financial difficulties. Not a single ship had been launched in 1909.

1914 Directory: Listed as Ship Builders (steel) of Deptford yard, Sunderland

1914-18 The yard now had five building berths and a graving dock arranged around the the inner side of the bend of the river at Deptford. It had the highest tonnage of any Wear yard between 1914-18 with 18 ships of 109,924 tons as well as six small naval craft.

World War 1 - During the War, the yard produced a number of tankers along with twelve 'WAR' standard ships (of which seven were tankers). However only three of these had been completed by the end of the war. As with many other yards, King George V and Queen Mary visited the yard on 15th June 1917 to boost morale and encouragement productivity The U-Boat had sunk or damaged a number of Admiralty ships.

1920s Over twenty tankers were completed during the 1920s as well as a number of cargo liners and tramps.

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

1930 After completion of the tanker Longwood, the yard closed down with only indentured apprentices kept on. The apprentices built the cargo ship Dore by themselves, but this was a long, slow process.

1935 The Government introduced the Scrap & Build Scheme. The yard received orders for two cargo ships which broke the drought. Other orders for similar ships came in

1937 Tramp building restarted. Eidanger and Alar formed the basis of the standard "Norwegian" class of tankers built by the yard and the Furness yard at Haverton Hill during the War. These were significant ships for the yard.

World War 2 - The Deptford yard produced 41 ships, 32 of which were tankers between 1939 and 1946. Private orders were also manufactured along with eight tramps. There were five building berths operating at the yard at the end of the war.

1946 The Deptford yard now had an outstanding reputation for tanker building. On 30th April British Princess was launched and Princess Elizabeth herself paid tribute to the yard and its workers.

1954 Laing’s merged with Thompson’s, the Crown yard and the repairer T. W. Greenwell and Co as Sunderland Shipbuilding, Dry Dock and Engineering Co.

1955 The yard built a series of ten ore-carriers between 15500 dwt and 19500 dwt for completion over the following six years.

1960 The bulk-carrier came into service as the bulk cargo industry demanded larger and larger ships.

1961 Shipbuilders, repairers and brassfounders. 1,543 employees. [2]

1946-66 - Over 36 tankers were built by the yard during this twenty year period each one larger than the last.

1966 - The Laing yard became the Deptford yard of the Doxford and Sunderland Group on 1st April. The Deptford and North Sands yards concentrated mainly on Panamax sized ships for the next ten years. The yard built a total of 17 bulk carriers ranging in size.

1973 In addition to the Panamax vessels, the yard also produced four cargo-liners and three tankers.

1977 The yard was nationalised on 1st July and built five more bulk ships of Panamax size.

1979 The yard shared in the building of 12 cargo-liners with two other companies.

1981 A B30 bulker was completed for an Indian company.

1983 Two B35 ships were built for a Greek company.

1984 One B45 ship was built for an Hong Kong company.

1985 A final pair of B45 ships were completed for a Mexican company with Mitla being the last ever launch by the yard on 3rd May. The Deptford yard was never used for shipbuilding again.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'Where Ships are Born: Sunderland 1346-1946', by J W Smith and T S Holden, Thomas Reed & Co 1946
  2. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • Kelly's Directory of Durham, 1914 p771
  • The Engineer of 21st September 1894 p248