Monday, 17 May 2010

17th May 2010

Continuing on from my last post I thought we'd keep with the theme of Sunderlands history - well a bit of it anyway , for the next couple of posts.

Sunderland has been building ships since at least 1346 and was once proclaimed to be “the greatest shipbuilding port in the world” . By 1840 there were 76 yards. During 1846-54 Wearside produced almost one-third of all ships built in the UK. The last wooden ship was built in 1880, and the last sailing ship in 1893. In the 1880s, steel replaced iron and cargo ships and tankers were the main type of vessel built in Sunderland. Many of these cargo ships and tankers were produced for overseas customers and during 1888-1913 around 22% of the ships built on the Wear each year were made for export.

The 20th century saw many changes to shipbuilding on the Wear. During the two World Wars, Sunderland’s main work was in the production of cargo ships to keep supply lines open and replace those ships lost at sea, although it also undertook a great deal of naval construction and repair work. Demand was so great that women were employed in the yards for the first time. In 1914-18 there were just 16 shipyards on the Wear: a result of the change to iron and then steel construction. In 1939 there were only 8 yards.

After the war, Sunderland continued to lead the way in shipbuilding however production increased worldwide and it became more difficult for British yards to compete. Throughout the 1950s and 60s more yards closed or merged. In 1977, the shipbuilding industry was nationalised and substantial job losses followed. In 1978, 7535 people worked in the yards: by 1984 this was reduced to 4337. The two remaining shipyard groups merged in 1980 but, despite strong opposition, Sunderland’s last remaining yards were closed on 7 December 1988.

Today the river is quiet in comparison but there are several statues and monuments which commemorate our shibuilding history.

Giant nuts and bolts are scattered along the St Peters walkway.

The metamorphosis of a shipyard crane into a steel tree stands on the base of a former crane with its giant shadow captured in the paving stretching towards the mouth of the River Wear.

I've probably battered your heads now with that history lesson so hope you can bear with me for just a tiny bit more.

This is a picture of the bridge from the 1930;s. The smaller bridge behind is the original railway bridge.

This is the view looking from the bridge to the river mouth and shows the path we walked on the left hand side going past part of the University and the Port of Sunderland and the Fish Quay on the right .

I hope you enjoyed that . I think, in fact I know that because of Stamps visit I've learned more things about my city - it really is amazing what happens/happened on your own doorstep.


Bumpkin Hill said...

oh what fun to follow along with Stamps! He is so cute! Loved the tour. Catherine x

Just Original said...

Thanks for the history lesson on Sunderland, enjoyed it very much!

I bet stamp is worn out!

Vanessa x

driftwood said...

a great local history lesson for Stamps - and I just love that crane - tree x

Simone said...

Glad to see Stamp making an appearance! I would love to have seen Sunderland in its shipbuilding heyday. The 1930's photo of the bridge is great and really atmospheric.

Ally Jay said...

It's always good tofind out about different places.

Anonymous said...


Claude said...

The father of my Grand'father,was shipbuilder in Sunderland. Their name was Stamp.
As I try to find records of their lives, I discover your very interesting description of Sunderland shipbuilding history.
If the "Stamps" you mentioned have any thing to do with a Stamp shipbuilder family in Sunderland, please transmit them my e-mail address:
Great thanks and congratulations for your site.