Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Blackwall Shipyard

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Blackwall Shipyard (est. 1612) was founded by the East India Company for the building and repair of its ships. It was the first shipyard to be built on the left bank of the Thames.

c.1650 The East India Company sold the yard which passed into the hands of Sir Henry Johnson and his family, under whom the Perrys became involved. The yard estate included a 17th-century wet dock. Adjacent land used for storing timber and grazing allowed expansion and the sale of various parts over the years. The Perrys and, later, the Greens also lived on the site.

1708 ...Perry started to manage the shipyard.

From the mid-18th century up to 1815 Blackwall was the largest private shipyard in the world. Warships for the Navy, Indiamen and other vessels were built there. In addition to wet- and dry-docks, there were timber yards, saw pits, cordage works, rigging shops, draughtsmen's offices and foundries - all employing hundreds of craftsmen.

1782 George Green was apprenticed to John Perry

1789–90 To the north of the original basin, John Perry excavated the Brunswick (or Perry’s) Dock. He built its flanking 120-foot mast house – a major Thames landmark until its demolition in 1862.

1797 Perry’s two sons by his first marriage and George Green were made partners. The firm became Perry, Sons and Green.

1798 Half the business was sold to John and William Wells, junior, formerly Deptford shipbuilders, becoming Perry, Wells and Green.

From 1782 to 1806 some fifty ships were recorded as having been built in the shipyard, 21 of which were for the British Navy.[1]

1803 At John Perry’s retirement, part of the Blackwall estate was sold to the East India Dock Co for the new docks, which opened in 1806. His remaining half share was sold to the Wells brothers.

Part of the yard was sold to the East India Company in 1803

1805 Sir Robert Wigram bought a large share and the firm became Wigram, Wells and Green.

During the Napoleonic wars it was the place of embarkation for regiments going overseas, and ships were built there for the navy: in 1813 alone, ten frigates were built there.

1810 The Wells brothers sold the property to Wigram, with John Wells retaining a quarter share, but with no active role, until he sold it to Wigram in 1813.

By 1813 Sir Robert Wigram had taken over all of the Wells' interests and the company became Wigram and Green. Wigram owned half the business, his sons Money Wigram and Loftus Wigram a quarter, and Green the remaining quarter.

1819 Robert Wigram retired and sold his half of the business to the other partners, Money and Loftus Wigram, and George Green. The firm became Wigrams and Green

1821 Wigram and Green launched the first steam vessel to be built at Blackwall Yard

1843 The shipbuilding partnership of Wigram and Green expired - the shipyard was divided down the middle. Money Wigram and Sons retained the western half and the Greens the eastern half, later becoming R. and H. Green and Co.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1899/01/27
  • Federal Line [1]
  • Biography of Sir Robert Wigram, ODNB