Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,950 pages of information and 233,606 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
Sunderland was a major centre for shipbuilding and marine engineering, with many yards on the River Wear. For many years it could legitimately claim to be the biggest shipbuilding town in the world (as distinct from the most productive river: tonnage launched on the Clyde was often greater, but the Clyde yards were located in a number of different towns).
During WW2, 1.5 million tons of merchant shipping was produced, 27% of the total output of British yards.
Visitors will struggle to find tangible evidence outside the excellent Sunderland Museum and Sunderland Maritime Heritage. A token effort at outdoor commemoration of the city's proud shipbuilding heritage has been made, in the form of a marker on the riverside walk on the north bank of the Wear (see photo).
Yards shown on marker:-
From east to west
T. W. Greenwell and Co of South Dock
John Blumer and Co of North Dock. Closed in the 1920s.
Joseph L. Thompson and Sons. Closed in 1979, but yard reactivated for specific work, but closed after 1986.
John Dickinson and Sons of Palmers Hill Engine Works, Monkwearmouth (engine and boiler makers). Works bought by Doxford in 1946.
Sir James Laing and Sons of Deptford Yard. Closed in 1985.
Robert Thompson and Sons. Closed 1933.
W. Pickersgill and Sons of East and West Yards, Southwick. Closed 1988. Note West Yard was originally owned by John Priestman and Co, as Castletown Yard, Southwick. Closed in 1933, but taken over by Pickersgill.
William Doxford and Sons of Pallion. Closed 1988.
Short Bros. of Pallion. Yard closed 1964, fitting-out bay bought by Bartram & Sons.
Yards not shown on map:-
(Possibly absorbed into yards listed)
D. Baxter and Co of North Sand Point
Osbourne, Graham and Co of North Hylton. Closed in 1925.
William Pile. Closed in 1873.
Note: Many more shipbuilders are listed in the Sunderland Built Ships website. Many of these will have been makers of wooden sailing vessels. In fact, in 1840 Sunderland produced no less than 251 ships, having an average tonnage of 257.