Shipbuilding and Repair
- in the East End featured on old picture postcards -

The Thames Iron Works

The Thames Iron Works & Ship Building Co Ltd was the biggest, most important concern on the Thames. It was more than capable of undertaking the largest contracts up to a capacity of 25,00 tons of warships and 10,000 tons of 1st class mail steamers at the same time. On the civil engineering side, the firm's work ranged from bridges and roofs to dock gates, iron ships' masts and bouys for Trinity House. The bulk of this work was carried out on the Essex side of the River Lea where the firm expanded from just under 10 acres in 1856 to nearly 30 acres by 1891. Although Orchard Place remained the co's registered address until 1903, it's presence was greatly reduced by that time. It's decline due to a heavy reliance on building warships for the Admiralty - which increasingly patronised the less expensive northern yards. A brief resurgence in its fortunes came in 1909-11 with the construction of many  Dreadnoughts. After the launch of the HMS Thunderer, the banks refused further loans and the receivers were brought in. The firm's closure in 1912 deprived the Thames of its last major shipbuilding concern at the height of the greatest naval shipbuilding boom Britain had ever had. 

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Mr Arnold F Hills, President of the Thames Iron Works,
builder of the Thunderer


Yarrow Works

The shipbuilding firm of Yarrows was one of the most successful businesses in Cubitt Town in the late nineteenth century. It was established by Alfred Fernandez Yarrow in the mid-1860s on leased land between the river & the Folly Wall. As the firm expanded, so too did it's range of vessels constructed. It specialised in the production of  river steamers and gunboats, especially for service in Africa and S. America. It was also a leading builder of torpedo boats and destroyers.
The firm moved to a larger site, London Yard, in 1898. But it also suffered badly during the 1897-8 engineer's strike. The high London rates + the increasing cost of labour and materials made it more and more difficult to compete with the firms on the Clyde and Tyneside. Between 1906 and 1908 the yard was wound down and the firm moved to Scotstoun in Glasgow, with most of it's machinery and 300 workforce.

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Destroyer 'Mode' built for the Swedish Government.
-  off Island Gardens, 1902


The London Graving Dock Co

The prohibition on shipbuilding and repair within the West India Dock could not be justified after the Victoria, then the Millwall docks allowed integral ship-repair facilities in the 185os and 60s. It became convenient  for shipowners to use dry docks within the wet docks. The dry dock was established on the south side of the Blackwall Basin and extended to Prestons Road. The site suffered severely during ww2. 
When the ship repair industry was nationalised in 1977, the London Graving Dock Co was acquired by British Shipbuilders and made part of River Thames Shiprepairers. However, the dry dock depended on the continued use of the wet docks. With the docks in decline, the dry dock was closed in 1979. A permanent bridge was erected across the graving dock in 1988 and the premises redeveloped for housing.

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