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Tyne and Wear HER(4693): Pallion, Doxford and Sons Ltd (West Yard) Shipbuilding Yard - Details

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Pallion, Doxford and Sons Ltd (West Yard) Shipbuilding Yard




Marine Construction Site


Early Modern


Documentary Evidence

The Doxford family were in business as timber merchants in the 1830s and began shipbuilding at Coxgreen in the 1840s. In 1857, they moved to a bigger yard at Pallion to the west of their later yard. This latter site (the ‘West Yard’) was purchased by Doxford in 1869 and five shipbuilding berths were constructed. In 1872, Doxford received his first order from the Admiralty, for the construction of three composite wood/iron gunboats, followed by an order for the corvette HMS Magician in 1875. In general, work in the yard concentrated on steam tramps but with production of fast sailing clippers and liners also carried out. A marine engine and boiler works was added to the yard in 1878. William Doxford died in 1882 and the business was then run in partnership by his four sons. The yard was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1891. Fire destroyed Doxford’s engine works in 1901. The works was replaced almost immediately by a larger and more modern plant with a capacity for producing 30 marine engines per year. In 1902, the shipbuilding berths in the West Yard were scrapped and replaced by three larger berths (with the capacity for construction of vessels of over 12,000 dwt. each) in a new East Yard, which also contained high gantry cranes and a new fitting out quay equipped with a 100 ton radial crane. Both East and West Yards came into full production in 1903/4. W T Doxford died in 1916, having been in charge of the yard for 34 years. In 1919 a majority holding in Doxford’s was taken up by the Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. and the Sperling Group. The Sperling Group, part owners of Doxfords, collapsed in 1924, leading to the temporary mothballing of the yard later that year. The Doxford Pallion yards were constantly upgraded during WW2. A new area was included in the yard in 1946, when John Dickinson and Sons Palmer’s Hill Engine Works on the opposite bank of the river next to Monkwearmouth Bridge was bought by Doxfords. Between 1946 and 1966, 123 ships of all types were built by Doxfords. The company was split into two subsidiaries in 1956; William Doxford and Sons (Shipbuilders) Ltd. and William Doxford and Sons (Engineers) Ltd. Then , in 1961, the parent company joined the Laing and Thompson Yards as Doxford & Sunderland Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. The yards were fully merged as one group in 1966. The Doxford and Sunderland Group was taken over by Court Line in 1972, soon after which the overall company name was changed to Sunderland Shipbuilders Ltd. By 1972, plans were already well advanced to demolish the old East Yard and replace it with a Shipbuilding Hall, big enough to hold two ships of 30,000 tons dwt. under construction at the same time. Work on the new yard commenced in October 1973. The dimensions of the hall were 181 metres long by 50 metres wide and 32 metres high. The first vessel constructed in the new hall was the Cedarbank, was launched in April 1976. Sunderland Shipbuilders Ltd. was taken over by the Government in 1975, who formed Brtish Shipbuilders Ltd. The Pallion Yard merged with Austin and Pickersgill Ltd in 1986 to form North Eastern Shipbuilders Ltd. (NESL). The last vessels produced by the yard, fifteen Danish Ferries, were constructed between 1986 and 1988, when the yard closed in 1988.




<< HER 4693 >> The Archaeological Practice, 2002, Shipbuilding on Tyne and Wear - Prehistory to Present. Tyne & Wear Historic Environment Record; Ross Robertson, 1 Feb 2011, Bulldozers smah-up famous Sunderland shipyard, Sunderland Echo; 28DL Urban Exploration website, Doxford Shipbuilding Drawing Offices Sunderland, 6 March 2008,

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