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British Industrial History

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National Shipbuilders Security

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In the First World War and the immediate postwar boom the capacity of British shipyards expanded and employment in the industry rose to 300,000 workers. Yet this was also the time that foreign rivals began to make significant progress. The difficult trading conditions of the interwar period reduced the demand for new ships and this slump in demand hit all shipbuilding nations, but especially Britain. The British government first came to the aid of the shipbuilders during the 1920s when financial guarantees under the Trade Facilities Acts encouraged construction in British yards.

As depression deepened in the early 1930s the government assisted tramp shipowners in obtaining new tonnage through a scrap and build scheme. The shipbuilders also tried to help themselves. Sir James Lithgow approached Montagu Norman (Governor of the Bank of England) to set up the National Shipbuilders’ Security Ltd (NSS) in 1930 with the intention of reducing capacity by closing redundant yards. NSS secured a core price for the building rights of any yard going into liquidation.

1930 Napier and Miller's yard was the first yard to be bought by National Shipbuilders Security. The contents of the yard were sold off and the yard demolished.

1930 The efforts of both government and industry did no more than see the shipyards through bad times. There was little hope of modernisation. Indeed William Beardmore and Co's Dalmuir yard, perhaps the most modern shipyard in Britain when opened in 1906, was one of the first to be closed by NSS in 1930.

1930 The south yard of Ardrossan Shipbuilding Co was purchased and closed by National Shipbuilders Security.

1931-37 Lithgows had controlling interests in nine Clyde yards with the Lithgow Brothers themselves maintaining interests in five of these. In effect, the Lithgow Brothers used NSS to carry out their own process of business rationalisation at Port Glasgow. Consequently, they received a substantial amount of compensation when the Lithgow-owned Inch yard was sold to NSS in 1933 and the site was then closed for forty years.

1931 Other yards purchased by NSS[1] included Cleveland Shipbuilding Co Ltd, which was purchased in 1931 for closure and dismantling, together with 7 other North-East yards:

1932 A. Macmillan and Son was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security in April.

1932 Bow, McLachlan and Co went into liquidation; the yard was closed; the Thistle Works was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security.

1932 the Earle’s yard was acquired by National Shipbuilders Security and dismantled, with the yard's fitting-out crane sold to the Kowloon Dockyard in Hong Kong.

1933 Dunlop, Bremner and Co's yard was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security in March. A restrictive covenant was placed on the yard banning shipbuilding there for forty years.

1934-36 The unwanted Harland and Wolff yards on the Clyde were sold to National Shipbuilders Security together with parts of the Queen’s Island site for other uses.

1935 Due to falling orders, Caird and Co stopped shipbuilding and was sold to National Shipbuilders Security.

1935 The Lithgow brothers purchased the Govan Fairfield yard using the compensation money, preventing it from closing.

1935 D. and W. Henderson and Co's Meadowside yard was sold to National Shipbuilders Security and the company went into receivership on 4th April.

1935 Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Co's yard was sold to National Shipbuilders Security and dismantled in the same year.

1935 Workman, Clark and Co went into receivership. The North yard was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security and dismantled during World War II by the Lagan Construction Company. The South Yard started shipbuilding again at the beginning of the war under Harland and Wolff.

c.1936 Ayrshire Dockyard was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security. The yard's main function became that of a ship repairer which it continued doing throughout the 40s and 50s.

1936 William Gray and Co's Egis Yard was purchased by National Shipbuilders Security.

1937 National Shipbuilders Security placed a covenant on Fairfield's Chepstow yard against shipbuilding[2]

1938 National Shipbuilders Security Ltd bought the Irvine's Ship-building and Dry Docks Company (1930) Ltd, dismantled the berths but left the dry-dock and fitting-out quay which was then used extensively during World War II.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 1 August 1931
  2. The Times, Oct 23, 1937