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Pallion, Sunderland

Short Brothers Ltd. Shipbuilding Yard, Pallion

Last Updated:

8 Jun 2020

Pallion, Sunderland

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'In 1869, George Short transferred his timber ship building business from Mowbray Quay in Hylton to Pallion. The running of the business was transferred to his four sons and became known as Short Brothers in 1871, the same year that iron ship construction was adopted. In 1899, the neighbouring, North of England Shipbuilding Co. was taken over and the following year the firm was incorporated as a limited company, Short Brothers Ltd. At this time, the shipyard employed some 1500 workers. The yard had gained a reputation for quality ships, and thrived on multiple orders placed by relatively few customers, many of them local. Although orders increased during World War One, when 17 ships were built to private order and 14 barges for the admiralty, the inter-war period was one of decline, and the business closed periodically ijn the 1930s due to lack of orders. Government orders during WW2 rejuvenated the business - there were three berths and a workforce of around 900 at the end of 1945 - and the order book remained full throughout the immediate post-war years into the 1950s. Several tankers were constructed in this period when the trend was towards larger vessels. The three years between 1961 and 1963 were the last years of production at the yard, with the last ship completed being the Carlton in January 1964. Closure was made inevitable by the unwillingness, or inability, of the Short family to extend the berths in order to accommodate the increasing size of cargo vessels demanded by the world market. The yard closed with the loss of 300 jobs in January 1964 and was subsequently demolished, but the fitting-out quay was purchased by Bartram & Sons in the same year and remained in use until the 1980s.'

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As seen above in the 1898 and 1921 editions of the Ordnance Survey, Short's Shipyard occupied the site just above the old Pallion Hall on the Wear. Terraced accomodation for shipyard workers were already built by the 19th century, showing how important the shipyard was to Sunderland in promoting employment.

The expansion to the shipyards is evident when we see the second sheet from 1921. The use of railways is well illustrated stretching from Pallion station to the Wear.

Pallion in the 30s and 40s is much the same scene as a decade earlier. The war livened up the business which had been at threat of closure during the 30s, and orders privately and from the state helped maintain employment for the men of Sunderland.


Aerial shot of Short Brothers shipyard in the 1950s. The drydocks are occupied while the works of Steel & Co can also be seen which produced cranes and other engineering products. The site is small compared to others on the Wear and on the Tyne.

Retrieved from Tyne & Wear Archives


Photograph of the gates to the complex in 1963. Behind we can see one of the shipyards cranes hoisted.

Retrieved from Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in Pictures on Facebook.


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