Tyne and Wear HER(5015): Byker, Charles Mitchell & Company, Low Walker Yard - Details
Byker, Charles Mitchell & Company, Low Walker Yard
Marine Construction Site
In 1852, Charles Mitchell, from Aberdeen, set up a shipbuilding yard next to Coutts’ shipyard at Low Walker on the River Tyne. The first vessel launched from the yard was the passenger ship Havilah in 1854. In the same year, Mitchell married Ann Swan, the daughter of a Newcastle businessman. His two brothers-in–law, Charles and Henry Swan, both subsequently played parts in developing his shipbuilding concerns; Henry eventually became managing partner at the Low Walker yard, whilst Charles took over the management of his yard at Wallsend. A variety of passenger, freight and military vessels were constructed at the Low Walker Yard, including a large number for Russian, German and other international owners. Over the 1860s and 70s a link developed between the Low Walker yard and the armaments company of William Armstrong of Elswick (established in 1847 to produce cranes and other hydraulic machinery, but soon specialising in ordnance). In 1867, the first naval vessel, the Royal Naval Gunboat Staunch was built at Low Walker and armed with Armstrong’s 9’’ Muzzle-loading gun. This was the first of 28 RN gunboats launched from the yard, all armed by Armstrong’s. In 1882 the two companies amalgamated as a limited liability company under the name of Sir W G Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. Ltd. The first joint vessel produced by the yards’ was the Chilean Cruiser Esmeralda. Launched in 1884 , the ship was designed by George Rendel, Managing Director of the Elswick Yard. She was constructed at Low Walker. Thereafter, the Low Walker Yard concentrated largely on merchant shipping, particularly the new bulk oil carrier, the oil tanker: The first of this type of vessel, the Gluckauf, was launched from this yard from 1885. In 1896 the company changed its name to Sir W G Armstrong & Co. Ltd. and the following year, during a period of British naval and armaments expansion, amalgamated with a Manchester armaments manufacturer, Sir Joseph Whitworth & co. Ltd. to become Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. During the First World War a variety of tankers and other merchant ships was produced, and orders were numerous into the 1920s, with a significant upturn in 1928/9. However, the Depression forced the closure of the yard (along with the Dobson and Tyne Iron Yards also under the Armstrong-Whitworth name) in 1931. The yard re-opened in 1942 for the production of tramps. The Low Walker yard, by then under the name of Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. (Shipbuilders) Ltd., went into voluntary liquidation in 1956.
<< HER 5015 >> The Archaeological Practice, 2002, Shipbuilding on Tyne and Wear - Prehistory to Present. Tyne & Wear Historic Environment Record.