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Ritson's Shipyard


55.134888, -1.517886

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Cuthbert Ritson, Ritson's Shipbuilding and Engineering Co.

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Ritson's Shipyard was first mooted in 1919, after purchasing several acres of land from the Thoroton and Crofton Trustees at £1500 an acre to establish a slipway and ship repairing yard. As a result of this the road north of Cowpen Square was diverted to allow the land to be developed. The development was sanctioned and was up and running within the next year.

The yard covered an area of 22 acres, with the shipbuilding portion ending up having a river frontage of 650ft with 6 building berths. The south end of the site was the ship repairing complex, which contained 700ft of river frontage. As per many of the yards on the Tyne, Ritson's machinery was all electrically generated rather than steam powered, so was one of the more modern out of the few on the Blyth.

The yard was originally formed by Messrs. Cuthbert Ritson & Co, but was soon turned into a private limited company under the title of Ritson's Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. to "develop the resources of the older company".

The yard can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map revised in 1921, with dredged river access and a slipway at the south end of the yard. The main complex backs on to the north bank of the river access, with an enclosed yard which likely contained the building berths. There were around 4 other ancillary buildings at the site, mostly on the shipbuilding end.

Little information can be found on the day to day runnings of the yard. Only 1 newspaper excerpt references a ship built here, which was a motor boat involved in a failing after launch. There are no announcements of ships being built. Because of the years in operation and the amount of births, we can estimate at most a few dozen ships were built here. It is worth baring in mind a sizeable amount of their work was ship repairing.

The yard faced financial pressures fairly quickly thanks to a depression in the shipbuilding industry in the early 1920s. In the final years of operation, only a few small repair orders were seen, with a receiver appointed by October 1925. By the same year, Ritson's works were to be dismantled and sold piece by piece after previous hopes of a new buyer for the yard.

In 1926, the yard was acquired by the Blyth Harbour Commissioners to provide waiting berths for the increased number of ships anticipated when new coal staithes were brought into use. This would massively increase capacity and reduce bottlenecks along the quayside., especially as the river was quite narrow in part thanks to the large staiths on either side. The buildings at the Ritson's complex were also saved and used as part of the deal.

The site later became part of the Bates Colliery complex.

There is very likely a relation between Cuthbert Ritson and the Ritson's of Maryport.

'Sketches of The Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham' T.H.Hair, published in 1844

Ordnance Survey, 1922

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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