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Walker, Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co, Walker Naval Yard
Marine Construction Site
In the years leading up to the outbreak of World War One, warships of increasing size were being demanded by the world’s competing navies. It was in response to this that a new naval yard was established on a 70 acre site at Bill Quay, Walker by Sir W G Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. Ltd. The yard was equipped with nine building berths, the largest measuring 1000 feet by 120 feet, with 10 ton cranes on the intervening concrete piers. A fitting out quay 2133 feet long, with 32 feet depth of water, was located downstream of the building berths. Production was gradually transferred there from the company’s existing naval yard at Elswick. In October 1913 Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, laid the keel of the first battleship, and by 1915 the yard employed some 3500 men. Like the Low Walker works, ownership of this company was subsequently transferred, successively to Sir W G Armstrong & Co. Ltd. And Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. In 1928 the yard closed due to the scarcity of naval orders, and in the same year a partial merger with Vickers Ltd. Of Barrow led to the yard’s transfer to the ownership of the new company, Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. After six years of almost continuous closure, the yard re-opened in Autumn 1934 in response to an increase in orders leading up to, and during World War Two. Warship production during the war was on a large scale, with one battleship, four aircraft carriers, three cruisers, 24 destroyers, one monitor, 16 submarines and many motor and tank landing craft being completed. Production at the Walker Naval Yard switched to merchant shipping during 1946, but naval warships and frigates continued to be produced and fitted-out in smaller numbers up to the mid-1980s. In January 1968 the works became the Walker yard of Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd., being used mainly to fulfill orders for large container ships and bulk carriers. Following completion of the fitting-out of the Ark Royal in June 1985, the original shipyard offices were demolished (by 1988) and the yard put on a care and maintenance basis in preparation for its proposed sale for industrial redevelopment. There is now little surviving evidence for the shipyard. The SS Grantula and The Younder were built at the Low Walker Yard of Sir WG Armstrong Whitworth & Co in 1903 for Adelaide Steamship Co LTD. The yard was noted for its merchant ships and oil tankers but it also made several medium sized (2000-3500 ton) passenger steamers.
<< HER 5023 >> The Archaeological Practice, 2002, Shipbuilding on Tyne and Wear - Prehistory to Present. Tyne & Wear Historic Environment Record; F. Atkinson, 1980, North East England at Work; Tyne and Wear Museums Archaeology, 2012, Nelson Road, Walker - Archaeological Assessment; Plan showing lease of land to Armstrong Whitworth, 1912, TWAS D.NCP/19/39; Armstrong Whitworth illustrated company history TWAS DX1319/1/2; Plan of the Armstrong and Walker Shipyards, c.1920 TWAS DX1319/1/1