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Mercantile Dry Docks


54.985243, -1.480599

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Gavin Smith (1885 - 1887), Mercantile Dry Dock Co. (1887 - 1974), Tyne Shiprepair Ltd., Brown & Root (1987 - 1992), Shepherd Brothers

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Over the course of its life of operations, 4 drydocks were constructed for the Mercantile Dry Dock Ltd. To repair ships on the Tyne.

They were partly built on Ballast Hill, with the site being levelled and two more graving docks constructed in their place. In 1885 a fellow named Gavin Smith started here as a ship repairer and constructed the No 1 dock at this time, which became the westernmost of the 4. He gave provision for extension and reserved the land for two future docks.

In 1887 the Mercantile Dry Dock Co. was formed to take over the construction and to raise funds for their completion. Smith was the first managing director, though had resigned soon after they had finished. No 2 dock was completed in 1892 though financial difficulties ensured. A full revamp of the board was seen soon after which led to an improvement in their position to allow for further business.

The two docks were lengthened and by 1908 the yard was fully electrified with a third dock added for a cost of £50k.The yard with 2 docks can be seen on the 1890s Ordnance Survey maps, detailing the sharp incline was Curlew Road above down to the docks. Curiously, a mortuary was also constructed nearby. Planning for a 4th dock commenced in 1956, with ambitions to accommodate bulk carriers in cargo ships, so extra space was needed. The original docks could not be expanded due to limited room, so a dock of 600x85ft costing £1mil was opened at the end of 1960 just eastwards of the other 3.

Operations continued through to 1974, when its parent company Court Line collapsed. The yard was then nationalised then under the guise of Tyne Shipbuilder Repair Ltd. They then closed the yard in 1981, and the site later became the European station for Brown & Root, though they closed in 1992.

Since then the site has been filled in and has become a yard for sea dredged materials. The ends of the docks can still be seen on the river bank.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1918

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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