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St Peters, Byker

St Peters Works, Byker

Last Updated:

11 Mar 2021

St Peters, Byker

This is a

Engineering Works

54.965959, -1.572845

Founded in 

19th Century

Current status is


Designer (if known):


Now the St Peters Marina development.

'In 1817 Robert Hawthorn at the age of 21 began business as a general engineer in colliery machinery. With his brother William and four workmen, his enterprise prospered and in 1820 R and W Hawthorn's first marine engine was built.

In 1831 they produced their first steam locomotive for the S&DR, later expanding their locomotive works becoming second only to Robert Stephenson down the road. By the 1870s over 1,000 locomotives had been built. When R and W Hawthorn received their first order for Naval machinery the firm had already built about 100 sets of marine engines.

St Peters solely became a ship works in the 1870s, divorcing the locomotive business. Stephenson later amalgamated this division.

Initially ships were launched at Hebburn then taking to St Peter's to have the engines fitted there, but in later years floating cranes were used to bring engines down river to Hebburn. All engines would be assembled in the St Peter's works and then run to make sure all was well. They would then be dismantled, transported to Hebburn and fitted bit by bit into the ship's hull whilst fitting out took place.

In 1954 two subsidiaries were set up - Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) and Hawthorn Leslie (Shipbuilders) Ltd to operate the engine works and shipbuilding yard respectively. The shipyard became part of Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilders Ltd when it came into existence in 1968. Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd became a member company of British Shipbuilders in 1977, later merging with George Clark and NEM to form Clark Hawthorn Ltd in 1979.'

Words adapted from

Listing Description (if available)

The Ordnance Survey maps illustrated above present the area south of Byker in 1864 and 1921. The first, further up, shows St Peters as a standalone area, seperated by fields from Byker Village. There were terraces, even a public house named 'The Dog Inn', and neighbouring were the areas of Mushroom and Dents Hole. A small tramway makes its way down what is now Raby Street from the top of Byker hill. It was likely rope-hauled as it's extremely steep.

The second map from 1921 illustrates an entirely different scene. The whole area is developed and industrialised, with a neighbouring chemical manure works where the forces facility is nowadays. The Riverside railway branch has also been constructed, allowing industries on the Tyne to reach the mainline at Byker. Worthy of note is the fact terraces are now sprawling the whole area, eventually encompassing what is now Walker.

Between the 20s and the 60s little else has changed, apart from the infill of an old quarry atop the banks of St Peters , and the demolition of some terraces to make way for the expansion of the works. It seems the Dog Inn survived though, potentially under a different guise. There is little information on this tavern, so let us know if you know.


Photograph of St Peters, undated. This aerial image shows the true extent of the works, and how compact the site was between the river and the railway line. At this point, the site was primarily utilised for marine engineering, and engines were then sent on to Hebburn to fit into ships.

Source: Tynetugs


Photograph of the Hawthorn works along the quay. The main shed is in the background, but on the right just against the banks of the Tyne is 'Titan II', one of the floating cranes that took parts and engines over to Hebburn to fit into the ships. They were placed directly into the vessels from the crane.

Source: Tynetugs


This photograph illustrates Titan II at work, picking up assets for the vessels and transporting them to South Tyneside.

Source: Tynetugs

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