Smith's Dock Company, Limited, often referred to simply as Smith's Dock, was a British shipbuilding company.

Smith's Dock Company
SuccessorSwan Hunter
HeadquartersSouth Bank, UK

History edit

The company was originally established by Thomas Smith who bought William Rowe's shipyard at St. Peter's in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1810 and traded as William Smith & Co.[1][2] The company opened its dock in North Shields in 1851.[1] One of the first ships to be launched at the yard was Termagent in 1852.[1] The company changed its name to Smith's Dock Co. in 1891.[1]

The company became associated with South Bank, North Riding of Yorkshire, after opening an operation there in 1907.[3] Smith's Dock increasingly concentrated its shipbuilding business on the River Tees in South Bank, with its North Shields Yard being used mainly for repair work (in particular oil tankers) from 1909 onwards.[4] Despite the shift of focus, The company's headquarters remained at North Shields.

Smith's Dock built many ships that served during the Second World War, including trawlers that the Admiralty requisitioned and converted to armed trawlers of the Royal Naval Patrol Service such as HMT Amethyst, or HMT Arab, in which Lieutenant Richard Stannard (RNR) won the Victoria Cross.

The yard also built Tree-class trawlers for the Royal Navy including HMT Walnut, which later became a famous refugee ship in Canada.[5] Of the 20 of this class built for the Royal Navy, 4 were built by Smith's Dock.

Tree-class trawlers
Name Pennant Laid down Launched Completed
HMT Rowan T119 13 June 1939 12 August 1939 14 December 1939
HMT Walnut T103 15 June 1939 12 August 1939 13 December 1939
HMT Wisteria T113 19 July 1939 10 November 1939 16 February 1940
HMT Whitehorn T127 25 July 1939 10 November 1939 28 February 1940

Flower-class corvettes edit

1941 Flower-class corvette

Smith's Dock are perhaps most famous for preparing the design of the Flower-class corvette, an anti-submarine convoy escort of the Second World War celebrated in the novel The Cruel Sea.

In January 1939, William Reed of Smith's Docks Co. was approached by the British Admiralty with a request for a design of a cheap and simple multi-role warship capable of being built in the multitude of small civilian shipyards not usually accustomed to building to naval standards. Smith Docks was highly regarded by the Admiralty because it had designed the Z-class whaler during World War I and was famed for its reputation for the construction of whale-catchers. Reed's resultant design suggestion was based on a larger version of the company's new whaler, Southern Pride, with a number of modifications. The length, for instance, was increased by 30 feet to give a higher speed, and two marine oil-fired boilers were to be fitted as these could be supplied in about 16 weeks instead of water tube boilers which would not be available for at least seven months.

On 27 February 1939 the British Admiralty approved William Reed's sketch design and, with war becoming ever more likely, a bulk order was placed with the aim of creating a viable anti-submarine force where none had existed before. The first order, for twenty-six vessels, was soon followed by others, and by the end of 1939 no less than 110 vessels of this kind were under construction at various shipyards around the country (including by some large ones, such as the Harland and Wolff yard at Belfast). Smith's Dock built 12 of the total of 196 built of this class.[6]

French Flower-class corvettes edit

At the outbreak of World War II the Marine nationale (French Navy) needed ships for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and, following the Royal Navy (RN)'s example, placed orders from Smith's Dock for four corvettes. Following this the Marine nationale ordered a further 18 ships, to be built at a number of British and French shipyards. These were identical to the British Flower-class corvettes except that French 100 mm (3.9 in) and 13.2 mm anti-aircraft guns were to be fitted.[7]

The Fall of France in June 1940 brought a drastic change to these building programmes. Of the original four French Flower-class corvettes, La Bastiaise was mined on builders trials and the others were taken over by the RN on completion.

Of the second group, the 12 ships ordered from British yards were taken over by the RN and re-armed with British ordnance; all were renamed and given Flower names in keeping with the class.[8]

First order
Ship Builder Completed Fate
La Bastiase Smith's Dock 22 June 1940 Sunk by mine, 22 June 1940
La Malouine Smith's Dock 30 July 1940 Transferred to RN as
HMS La Malouine (K46)
La Dieppoise Smith's Dock 26 August 1940 Transferred to RN as
HMS Fleur de Lys (K122)
La Paimpolaise Smith's Dock 26 September 1940 Transferred to RN as
HMS Nasturtium (K107)

Orders for six of the second group were placed with Smith's Dock.

Flower-class corvettes – Marine nationale* & Royal Navy
Name Pennant Laid down Launched Completed
HMS Snowdrop* K67 10 April 1940 19 July 1940 16 January 1941
HMS Sunflower K41 24 May 1940 19 August 1940 25 January 1941
HMS Tulip* K29 30 May 1940 4 September 1940 18 November 1940
HMS Verbena* K85 29 June 1940 17 October 1940 19 December 1940
HMS Veronica* K37 9 July 1940 17 October 1940 18 February 1941
HMS Wallflower* K44 23 July 1940 14 November 1940 7 March 1941
HMS Zinnia* K98 20 August 1940 28 November 1940 30 March 1941
Flower-class corvettes – Wartime orders under the 1939 and 1940 UK War Programmes
Name Pennant Laid down Launched Completed
HMS Stonecrop K142 4 February 1941 12 May 1941 30 July 1941
HMS Vetch K132 15 March 1941 27 May 1941 11 August 1941
HMS Sweetbriar K209 4 April 1941 26 June 1941 8 September 1941
HMS Thyme K210 30 April 1941 25 July 1941 23 October 1941
HMS Snowflake K211 19 May 1941 22 August 1941 22 August 1941

Before the ship was commissioned there would be a brief "Contractors Trial" which was followed by "Acceptance Trials"; two days later, on completion of trials, the ship would be formally commissioned, then fully stored and take to sea. These ships could be constructed and commissioned in, on average, just six months.

Merger edit

In 1966 Smith's Dock merged with Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson to form Associated Shipbuilders, later to become Swan Hunter Group.[9]

In 1968, the company completed the first British-built and owned container ship, Manchester Challenge of 12,039 gross register tons, for operation on Manchester Liners new container service to ports on the St Lawrence Seaway, Canada.[10] By 1971, the company had delivered three further ships of this design to Manchester Liners.

In 1983 to 1984 Smith's Dock delivered two roll-on-roll-off ships for Brazilian owners.

The South Bank shipyard on the River Tees finally closed in February 1987.[11]

Legacy edit

The yard at North Shields, which had grown over the years to encompass a large site on the north bank of Tyne but was derelict by the 1990s, was then reclaimed when Places for People bought the land in 2006.[12][13][14] New housing, as of 2023 comprising the Plateau, a crescent of townhouses, the Smokehouses, two apartments blocks, and a further row of low-rise contemporary terraced homes, has been completed so far.[15][16][17] The plan is to eventually construct up to 850 homes, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession in the UK has delayed any immediate further development.[18][19]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c d "From bustling docks to a new community". Evening Chronicle. 13 February 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Smiths Dock Co – Graces Guide". Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  3. ^ "The Sound of Silence". Evening Gazette. 18 April 2002. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  4. ^ Smith's Dock Monthly. April 1924. pp. 186, 193. {{cite magazine}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "SS Walnut 1948 – Voyaged to Freedom". Ship Statistics. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  6. ^ "World War II Database".
  7. ^ Chesneau 1980, p. 277.
  8. ^ Elliott 1977, p. 188.
  9. ^ "Fears for Tyneside tradition as Swan Hunter ship is towed to Govan for completion". Guardian. 15 July 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  10. ^ Stoker 1985, p. 43
  11. ^ "Kirkleatham Museum". Archived from the original on 26 September 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Plan to revamp historic Smith's Dock shipyard in North Shields". BBC News. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  13. ^ "Smith's Docks Co. Ltd. (1977)". Remembering the Past. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  14. ^ Morton, David (1 March 2021). "North Shields' Smith's Dock employed thousands – it's now a housing development". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  15. ^ Morton, David (2 February 2016). "Smith's Dock in North Shields before the 21st century housing developments began". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  16. ^ Tulip, Kate (27 November 2019). "North Shields Fish Quay Transformation Continues as Smith's Dock Declares Development Now Over 90% sold". Business Up North. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  17. ^ Media, Insider (8 May 2017). "Smith's Dock development 'just the start' for North Shields | North East Property News". Insider Media Ltd. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  18. ^ Sharma, Sonia (20 October 2016). "Smith's Dock in North Shields is set to be transformed with up to 850 new homes". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  19. ^ Sharma, Sonia (18 February 2020). "Aerial footage shows how former shipyard is being transformed". ChronicleLive. Retrieved 17 May 2023.

References edit