Tyne and Wear HER(5022): Wallsend, The Neptune Yard - Details
Wallsend, The Neptune Yard
Marine Construction Site
John Wigham Richardson, a Quaker, had gained considerable experience in ship construction whilst working in the drawing office at Hawthorns on the Tyne. He started up a yard at Wallsend in 1860 with family funds. His manager was the Scot, C J Denham, who became a partner in 1862. When first opened, the yard's workforce was only about 200, which turned out an annual average of about 2000 tons of shipping. An important order, leading to the production of a number of similar vessels, was that for a train ferry for the Prussian Government, the PS Ruhr in 1865. During the 1870s, annual production at the yard increased to around 6,000 tons per year. In 1870, the first of a total of nine vessels for the Laverello Line was launched from the yard. Output again into the 1880s, with an average of 13,500 tons produced by the yard over the years 1880-84 and 25,000 tons produced in the boom year of 1883. The scale of vessels increased, also: In 1888, the steel-hulled passenger-liner Alfonso XII weighed just over 5,000 tons. This was not much short of the total annual production of the yard in the early 1870s. With the depression in the shipbuilding industry over the mid 1880s, the massive production total of 1883 was not surpassed until 1896. By 1889, however, the yard had produced 178 ships, totalling more than 200,000 tons and had sold these vessels to more than 60 different customers, many of them abroad. In 1903, the Neptune Yard was amalgamated with Swan Hunter. Upgrading of the facility had already been envisaged over the late 1890s and was mooted constantly over the next decade, but few significant changes actually occurred. Despite this, the thirteen years from 1901-13 saw Swan Hunter with the amalgamated Neptune Yard achieve an annual average output of 93,000 tons, 'a feat unequalled by any other firm in the world' (Clarke 1997, 222 vol 1). SS Gluckhauf was the first oceangoing oil-tank steamer to carry oil in the hold. The keel was built at the Walker Shipyard. Launched 16 June 1886. The first cargo took oil from New York to Geestemunde. The famous "Mauretania" was built by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, launched in 1906. Her maiden voyage across the Atlantic on 6 November 1907, with a consignment of £2.5 million worth of gold from the Bank of England to the US Treasury took 5 days, 5 hours and 10 minutes.
<< HER 5022 >> 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; The Archaeological Practice 2011, Neptune Yard, Walker, Historic Building Recording; The Archaeological Practice 2010, Neptune Yard, Walker, Archaeological Assessment; The Archaeological Practice 2009, Neptune Yard, Walker, Archaeological Watching Brief