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William Cleland, Willington Quay (1866 - 1872)

William Cleland & Co Ltd, Willington Quay (1872 - 1876)

Clelands Graving Dock & Slipway Co Ltd, Willington Quay (1876 - 1932)

Clelands (Successors) Ltd, Willington Quay (1932 - 1956)

Clelands Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Willington Quay (1957 - 1967)

Clelands Shipbuilders Ltd, Willington Quay (1967 - 1983)

Above map, dated 1897, is copyright of the Ordnance Survey

The above photo of the Clelands yard in 1947 is copyright of Newcastle City Libraries

William Cleland established his yard at the Willington Slipways in 1866. This yard had previously been operated by a number of shipbuilders before he moved there. Thompson Smith started there, succeeded by brother Charles, then Thomas Brown and then the Adamsons until 1866 William Cleland had Clyde origins and was initially a manager for T & W Smith of North Shields. In the 1860s he left Smiths and moved to the yard of Palmer Brothers at Willington Quay. However after Palmers became a limited company in 1865 he left to begin business for himself. Cleland started up in 1867, as a repair slipway and the firm became William Cleland & Company in July 1872. William died in 1876, aged 54, leaving two sons, Thomas (27) and Mlliam (20) and a brother James (47) an iron shipbuilder, who between them may have carried on the family connection in the firm. An 1867 a Newcastle Journal advert describes the company as being a Shipbuilder, with Patent Slipway, Gridirons and Sawmills, capable of repairing Iron and Wood ships. The Slipway claimed to be the best in the North of England, some 600ft long and capable of taking ships up to 1000 tons. In 1890 the firm was renamed Clelands Graving Dock & Slipway Company Ltd, but there is no evidence that they ever built a graving dock, to go with the title. From 1894 they built some small steel vessels, but after 1900 they concentrated on repair work. In 1932 they had reached the end of the road, financially, and were offered for sale. It was purchased for £3,250 by the Craggs family from Goole. Craggs were the owners of a similar yard, Goole Shipbuilding & Repairing Co Ltd and they named their new company Clelands (Successors) Ltd. The yard at Willington Quay, which by this time consisted of two slipways for shiprepairing and one building berth, reopened for business in 1934. By 1939 the firm was on a good footing and was called upon to construct Admiralty salvage tugs. To meet this and other wartime needs a second building berth was laid down in 1940. In 1967 the Craggs family sold both their yards to Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd as part of the Geddes inspired rationalisation initiative. Clelands would then join the Goole shipyard and Grangemouth Dockyard as part of Swan Hunter Group's Small Ship Division. The yard was nationalised with the rest of the Swan Hunter Group on the 1st of July 1977 and became part of British Shipbuilders' Small Ship Division. Clelands eventually closed in mid-1984 and by the autumn, William Press Ltd (later to be AMEC) announced that they would use the site to build oil-rig modules begining in 1985.