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Palmers Hebburn Co Ltd, Hebburn (1912 - 1931)

Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, Hebburn (1935 - 1972)

Above map, dated 1912, shows the location of the yard. Map is copyright of Ordnance Survey

The Palmers' drydock at Hebburn, which had been built by Robert Stephenson & Co, had closed with the ending of shipbuilding at the Hebburn yard by Palmers in 1931. It then lay idle during the dark days of the depression until purchased by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd in June 1935 and became known as Palmers Hebburn Co Ltd. It then took until October of 1936 for the dock to be refurbished and for the rest of the yard space to be redeveloped as a facility for producing structural steelwork and a hot galvanizing plant as described in the press release (below).

Above photo dated 1936 is copyright of Britain from Above

Above photo dated 1936 is copyright of Britain from Above

Newcastle Journal, Friday, 30/10/1936

During WW2 the company prospered and continued to trade as a repair and conversion yard throughout the wartime period and also built parts of ships for other shipbuilders. It also built 3 Admiralty Floating Drydocks, 6 salvage vessels and the major parts of 5 floating cranes on its own account. See details HERE.

However a repair yard with a single dry dock was at a distinct commercial disadvantage, so in 1960 an additional dock which was wider, deeper and longer than the original was begun alongside it. When completed in September of 1962 the dock was the largest on the North East coast and at 850ft in length and 145ft wide at the entrance, one of the largest in the UK. It could accommodate 80,000dwt tankers and was designed so that it could be easily extended to 1000ft in the future for the expected growth in tankers that would be built. At about this time they also closed the smaller Jarrow dock and yard for good.

Above map, dated 1960, is copyright of Ordnance Survey

The new dock also had an extensive platers shed for the construction of new steelwork modules. Two 15ton travelling cranes traversed the length of the shed and working together could take a 30ton structure out of the end of the dock, where it could then be picked up by the drydock cranes and lifted into the dock.

Above photo dated 11/1959 is courtesy of Kevin Blair & shows the new dock under contruction with the old dock behind.
CLICK to enlarge/BACK to return

Above photo dated 11/1961 is courtesy of Kevin Blair. CLICK to enlarge/BACK to return

In March 1970 the largest ship to dock, the DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE a new 100,350 ton bulk carrier was docked with inches to spare, even after her stern was trimmed by her builders at Haverton Hill to allow her to squeeze into the dock.

Above map is courtesy of South Tyneside Council. CLICK to enlarge/BACK to return

In April of the same year Vickers announced that the yard was to close by the end of June 1970. It was said that a major contributory factor leading to the closure was the high costs of investment that had been put into the yard in recent years. £200,000 of Government aid had been used up but the yard was losing £500,000 per year.

In March 1972 Swan Hunter Group agreed to purchase the yard from Vickers-Armstrongs with a view to redeveloping the dock to handle 300,000dwt tankers but this would cost £15m and would need to include Government assistance. However by June 1973 Swan Hunter had an order book for 62 ships including the Maritime Fruit Carriers orders and berths were needed, Hebburn dock was seen as an immediate asset to use.