Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co

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1854. The Baltic Fleet.
1867. Monitor for the Indian Government.
1868. Greek Ironclad "King George".
1868. Ironclad for Greece.
1886. HMS Benbow.
1895. The board room and Mr. Mackrows office.
1895. The drawing office and timber yard.
1895. View from one of the engineering towers.
1897. Building of a Warship.
1898. Japanese Battleship Shikishima.
1906. Six-cylinder chassis.
1906. Engines - Armoured Cruiser Black Prince.
Express Coal-Bagging Lighter. 1906.
1907. Thames car. 10-12 h.p. 10-15 cwt. converted.
April 1908. 14 h.p. cab.
November 1909.
1910. Aeroplane engine.

Thames Ironworks of Blackwall was an established shipbuilder in the southeast of London.


1835 Thames Bank Ironworks at Blackwall was established by Thomas Joseph Ditchburn and Charles John Mare as Ditchburn and Mare for shipbuilding and civil engineering. This site had been used for shipbuilding for many centuries.

1846 Ditchburn retired; Mare extended the works to the west side of Bow Creek, as C. J. Mare and Co

1857 The firm became insolvent and was taken over by Mare's father-in-law, Peter Rolt, and renamed Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. The yard occupied sites on both banks of the River Lea at the point where it joined the Thames, with 30 acres in West Ham and 5 acres in Blackwall.

1860 The SS Mooltan was built for Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co with engines by Humphrys, Tennant and Co[1]. The yard built the first ironclad battleship HMS Warrior.

1866 Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co failed.

After 1865 Thames Ironworks concentrated mainly on warships, for the Royal Navy and foreign governments; merchant shipping was mainly cross-channel packets, Thames river steamers, and tugs.

1868 Three five-masted ironclads were completed.

1868 Built the ironclad 'King George' for the Greek Government (see illustrations). Designed by George C. Mackrow.[2]

1871 Frank Clarke Hills bought a controlling interest in Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Co

1872 the firm became a limited liability company. It was one of the largest and most productive shipyards on the Thames

By the 1880s all the Thames shipyards were facing increasing competition from the shipyards on the Clyde and in north-east England.

1880s During the 1880s more battleships were made.

1897 Site is 28 acres and they employ 3,000-4,000 workmen

1898 Disaster at the launch of the HMS Albion when 34 persons were killed. A. F. Hills was the chairman of the company [3]

1899 The Thames Iron Works, Shipbuilding and Engineering Co was registered on 15 July, to take over the business of the Thames Iron Works and Ship Building Co, with which was amalgamated the undertaking of John Penn and Sons. [4]

1900s The company went on to build a number of coasters, tugs, riverboats and lighters as well as naval vessels.

1903 "Completed a twin-screw tug for the Portuguese Government of 39 tons, fitted with engines of 150 indicated horse-power; and have in hand a single· screw steamer for the War-office of 170 tons, and about fifteen lifeboats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution."[5]

1912 It closed.


1905 The first bus chassis was built.

1906 Produced a six-cylinder engine for buses. Also produced a four cylinder engine of 24/30 hp.

In 1910 they were concentrating on 40 hp coaches.

1913 A semi-forward-control double-decker was constructed which resembled a stagecoach without the horse. One of these is exhibited in the National Motor Museum.

May have built a few railway locomotives.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Oct 06, 1860
  2. [1]'Engineering' 22 May 1868
  3. The Times, Thursday, Jun 23, 1898
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. The Engineer 1903/01/16 p 78
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • Buses and Trolleybuses before 1919 by David Kaye. Published 1972
  • Ian Allan - British Buses Since 1900 - Aldridge and Morris
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • Biography of Alfred Frank Hills, ODNB