Newcastle Shipbuilding Co Ltd 1919- 1921
The site was just west upriver of Hebburn Ferry Landing. The Firm was founded by Mr. John Crass of Newcastle in August 1919, taking over the small slipway/ship repair yard of the Huntley Ship Building Co bought out from Mr. Huntley early in 1918. The Directors were to be Mr. J Crass, Mr. H Hunter Doeg and Mr. H Merrylees.
Late 1919, some 10 acres of adjoining land was acquired for expansion of the original scheme, giving a river frontage of 1600 ft and a depth of 1000 ft to the site. This would allow 4 extra Berths to take up to 4000 tons dead weight, in addition to the three small original berths.
Work on this started Feb 1920 but as the oil tanker orders were obtained, further expansion was necessary & the old Hebburn Argyle football field was leased for this purpose. Two levels were devised for the site & the task of excavating two old Ballast Hills undertaken. Some 60,000 tons of sand & gravel it was calculated.
This then resulted in a final layout of 7 Berths in addition to the 3 small berths on the old Huntley slipways...
The oil tanker contracts for 10,250 ton dead weight vessels meant heavy piling on the 3 large berths which was completed by December 1920.
The first two Keels had been laid in Feb 1920, with three others in March, June & July and two more in Dec 1920.
On Dec 23rd 1920 there were two Events. The official opening of the yard by Rear Admiral Sir Edward Inglefield KBE and the launching of the first vessel by Mrs. TW Rowe the Mayoress of Newcastle.
The Admiral was from a famous Naval family & had been a hero in Sudan 1884 & was still ‘at it’ in 1942 running a WW2 Aircraft spare parts factory.
That first vessel was named the SS Zabalbide and built for ‘Companhia Maritima Bilbao’ of Spain. She was 331 ft long & 46 ft wide and 25 ft 6ins in depth, 5200 tons DW & 3300 tons gross.
Three other vessels were laid for Norwegian owners of 4500 tons DW and were due for launch between January & March 1921. Three Tankers were also laid down on the larger berths of 10,250 tons DW & it was hoped they’d be ready by late 1921.
In April 1921 it came as a shock to read that the ‘newly established Shipyard of Newcastle S.B.Co has had to discharge its staff & was meeting creditors.
On April 9th 1921 it was decided to wind up the Firm & the Company Secretary George F McGregor was appointed Liquidator.
Thus ended a brave new venture. The pot war boom of 1919 -20 had slumped & potential buyers had cancelled orders. The Yard having been encouraged to expand on the strength of orders paid the penalty. In the North East the 1920 launchings total of 210 fell to 89 in 1923.
With the yard now being in Liquidation the ‘Zabalbide’ could not be completed so the contract went to Irvine Shipbuilding Co of West Hartlepool. She ran trials for them in Oct 1922.
Legend has it that Newcastle Shipbuilding Co was a one ship yard but later sources name these ships built there.
‘MOD’ 8000 tons for Ivor Christensen of Christiana
‘MODUM’ 7000 tons for the same above owners
‘CADORE’ 9150 tons for Venetian (Trieste) owners
‘RAVNEFJEL’ (Norway) completed by Forth S.B. & Eng Co ??)
On the 23rd/24th Sept 1925 the land, plant & buildings of Newcastle Shipbuilding Co were auctioned off. The site of 18 acres, offered at £5000 had no bids. Plant & machinery was sold piecemeal at low prices. The ownership & use of the property in the next twenty odd years is obscure. The slipways fell derelict but the buildings in the upper portion of the site became the new home of Reay Gear Works of Gateshead. Later it was sold to George Angus Gears and later again RW (Richardson Westgarth) Transmissions.
The lower portion where the 7 main slipways were is now landscaped but at the rivers edge the ends of the ways are still visible at low tide.
(This was researched by Mr. Ron French )
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