British Shipbuilding Yards III – A Book Review

British Shipbuilding Yards Volume 3: Belfast, Merseyside, Barrow and All Other Areas by Norman L. Middlemiss, 1995, Shield Publications

I happened across this publication during the early stages of my research last summer. To someone looking into the history of a single yard, it is a wee treasure trove. However, it also gives detailed insight into other yards in these areas and also around the country as well as an excellent feel for the history of the 20th century shipbuilding industry, its development and decline.

His introduction explains his aim at satisfying a wide readership as the first comprehensive British shipyard study to be published. He shows the decline of British supremacy of the world market from over 80% in 1893 to nil in 1993, pointing out that the major relative decline occurred between 1950 and 1970, with a commensurate decline in shipbuilding employment. In his book he concentrates on yards which built ships above 300grt at some point in their history. He details the ownership of each yard and analyses every type of ship built as well as detailing who the customers were.

I have certainly found it a useful book, as it has filled in some details of the types, gross tonnage and years of build which I did not have for some of the Robb ships. It has also thrown up more questions where his ship names or specifications do not match with information I have from other sources, so Mr Middlemiss has set me a challenge, not just dumped information wholesale into my lap!

The book is well illustrated with photographs of ships, plans of yards and advertisements for various shipbuilders interspersing the text. I would reckon that it works out to be at least one picture for every page of text.

Well worth a look, and a great reference for those with similar interests to my own. Check out your local library, as it is out of print so hard to obtain.

For the curious, Volume 1 covers the North East Coast and Volume 2, Clydeside. These I have yet to peruse, but will be doing so in the not too distant future.

Below is an example of one of his plans, showing the Dundee Shipyards in 1920.

Dundee Shipyards 1920

Location of Dundee Shipyards 1920

Areas and Yards Covered in Volume 3:

Northern Ireland

Harland and Wolff Ltd., Belfast

Workman, Clark and Co. Ltd., Belfast

North of Ireland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Londonderry


Cammell, Laird & Co. Ltd., Birkenhead

Merseyside Yards (Boudler, Chafer & Co., Thomas Royden & Sons, W.H. Potter & Sons Ltd., H. & C. Grayson Ltd., McTay Marine are all referred to briefly on this single page summary).


Vickers – Armstrongs Ltd., Barrow

R. Williamson & Sons Ltd., Workington

East Scotland

Caledon Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd., Dundee

Gourlay Brothers, Dundee

Dundee Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Dundee

Burntisland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Burntisland

Scott of Kinghorn Ltd.

Grangemouth Dockyard Ltd., Grangemouth

Forth Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd., Montrose

Henry Robb Ltd., Leith

Ramage & Ferguson Ltd., Leith

Hall, Russell & Co. Ltd., Aberdeen

Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd., Aberdeen

John Lewis & Sons Ltd., Aberdeen

J. Duthie & Sons Ltd., Aberdeen


Earle’s Shipbuilding & D.D. Co. Ltd., Hull

Goole Shipbuilding & Repairing Co. Ltd., Goole

Cochrane Shipbuilders Ltd., Selby

Richard Dunston Ltd., Thorne & Hessle

Cook, Welton & Gemmell, Beverley

Yorkshire D.D. Co. Ltd., Hull

Drypool Engineering Co. (Hull) Ltd.

Livingstone & Cooper, Hull

Ouse Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Hook

Brown’s Shipbuilding & D. D. Co. Ltd., Hull

East Anglia

Richards Ltd., Lowestoft & Great Yarmouth

Brooke Marine Ltd., Lowestoft

Thames & Medway Yards

3 pages which include mention in varying degrees of Wigram & Green, David Napier, Thames Iron Works & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Westwood & Baillie, (Thames Iron Works, Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd.), Deptford Royal Dockyard, Woolwich Royal Dockyard, Cubow Ltd., Frederick T. Everard & Sons Ltd. of Greenhithe, Yarrow Yard at Poplar, Thornycroft Yard at Chiswick and later Woolston, Chatham Royal Dockyard, Crescent Marine Services Ltd., R. Lapthorn Ltd., Acorn Shipyard Ltd., James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd..

Southampton Area

Vosper – Thornycroft Ltd., Southampton

Day, Summers & Co. Ltd., Southampton

J. Samuel White & Co. Ltd., Cowes

J. Bolson & Son Ltd., Poole

Camper & Nicholsons Ltd., Portsmouth

Devon and Cornwall

Appledore Shipbuilders Ltd., Appledore

Bideford yards (Hansen Shipbuilding & Repairing Co. Ltd. and M.W. Blackmore & Sons)

Philip & Sons Ltd., Dartmouth

Cornish Yards (Harvey & Company and Cox & Co. Ltd. share a page in about equal measure)

Bristol Channel

Charles Hill & Sons Ltd., Bristol

Monmouth Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Chepstow

Atlantic Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., (latterly Newport Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.) Newport

Other Yards

Four further pages with details of yards which do not fit the categories above include: James W. Cook & Co. Ltd. of Wivenhoe, Rowhedge Ironworks Ltd., Aldous Successors Ltd., James & Stone Ltd., W. J. Yarwood & Sons Ltd., Isaac Pimblott & Sons Ltd., Abdela & Mitchell Ltd., J. Crichton & Co. Ltd., William Allsup & Sons, Richard Smith & Company, Lytham Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd., T.R.Oswald & Company, Pembroke Dockyard, Hancocks Shipbuilding Co. (Pembroke) Ltd.. Some are merely mentioned in the passing, others have as much as half to a full page of details about them.


These cover all three volumes listing every ship mentioned in his books – excuse me, I have some more checking to do!

Copyright Ruth Patterson 2010


About Ruth Macadam

Great Granddaughter of Henry Robb. School teacher.
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5 Responses to British Shipbuilding Yards III – A Book Review

  1. DAVID GOLDING says:

    Hi .
    I am looking for information reguarding concrete ship building in britain, links I’m keen to explore relate to naval contracts for concrete tugs and barges during “WW1”. Any suggestion would be greatfully apprieciated.
    Thank you.

  2. Malcolm Perry says:


    Do you know if they is a list of employee’s at the Vickers ship Yard at Barrow in Furness during the first world War

    • I dont, but have put your comment onto my blog in the hope that someone else may be able to help you. Some of the sites to which there are links on my blog may also lead you to others who can tell you. Perhaps the national archive might be a good place to start?

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review – Wordpress’s summary of my first year of the blog | Henry Robb's Shipyard

  4. Hi,

    I am currently researching my fathers merchant navy career and trying to gather information on shipbuilders who built the ships my father sailed on. Any information regarding H & C Grayson Ltd, Merseyside would be appreciated.


    Chris Champion

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