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South Shields

Pilot Street, Shipbuilding Yard

South Shields

55.005655, -1.434196

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Robert, Thomas & John Wallis (1720 - 1869), Nicholson & Horn (1790-1811) G. Rennoldson, JP Rennoldson & Sons (1863-1926)

Types built here:

Snow, Schooner, Barque, Paddle Steamer, Screw Steamer, Fishing Vessel, Salvage Lighter, Trawler

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

Clyde Shipping Co, Mayor and Corporation of Sandwich, Tyne Dock Co, AG Vereinigte Bugsir und Frachtschiffahrts Gesellschaft, Goole & Hull Steam Towing Co Ltd, Imperial Tramways Co Ltd, Manchester Ship Canal Co, Tees Conservancy Commissioners, European Commission of the Danube, NV Sleepdienst Hoek van Holland, FC Svorono & Sons, Societe de Remorquage et de Sauvetage, North Eastern Railway Co, The Admiralty, Gas, Light & Coke Co, Cie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, Government of Russia, British Channel Islands Shipping Co Ltd

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:

Wood, Iron, Steel



Last Updated:



A shipyard was established on this site by at least 1720 by the Wallis family.

Wallis constructed a shipyard here after defying the claims of the Freemen of Newcastle that no vessel should be constructed at Shields except by them. Wallis commenced repairs and construction of ships on a patch of land adjoining the coble landing on Pilot Street.

According to Tynebuiltships, the Corporation of Newcastle sent down an Alderman with officers to force the suspension of work. The shipyard gang actually shoved the officers off the landing into the river. Wallis later successfully defended his claim to work here and therefore ended the monopoly at Shields.

Wallis' yard included a patent slipway, but after financial difficulties leased the yard to Nicholson & Horn and later sold in 1816. It was eventually absorbed into the Rennoldson shipyard in the 1860s. The history at this point is slightly murky due to the mergers and amalgamations of shipyards on the lane. On the 1857 Ordnance Survey, a patent slip and smaller slipway is shown at the site, alongside a saw pit, crane and smithy.

While the Rennoldson family owned an engine works next door, this shipyard was consumed by JP Rennoldson with a patent slipway added. Work continued to repair and build wooden vessels and was extended in 1872, though two years later there was a significant fire which caused damage to the engine works. During Rennoldson's tenure the yard primarily produced paddle and screw steamers for fishing, merchant and military purposes. An engine shop was constructed at the site also.

By the 1890s the Engineering Works where the Rennoldson's found their prosperity was disused. Upon the death of JP Rennoldson the firm was carried on by his two sons Joseph Middleton and Charles under the guise of Messrs JP Rennoldson & Sons. They adapted the yard for iron ships and some were composites of that and timber. Readhead's Engine Works were later added to the site as the last major extension in 1896.

By 1897 the output of the works more than doubled. The first 15 years of the 20th century were their most prosperous - They built salvage tugs for the Dover Harbour Board which were renowned. In 1913 the brothers split - JM kept it as an engineering works and Charles moved to a yard closer to the Groyne.

After JM passed, the engineering works were managed by Charles Ross, his son-in-law until 1929 when it closed down due to the depression. The site is now part of an industrial lot.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1898

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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