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High Shields

Fairle's Dock

South Shields

54.999773, -1.439323

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Nicholas Fairles (1791 - 1800s), Laing Family (1807 - 1822), Messrs Witherby & Ihler

Types built here:

Brigantine, Barque, Snow, Brig

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:




Last Updated:



Nicholas Fairles and the Laing family operated a shipbuilding yard at a dock on Long Row.

It was in use from 1791, when there was an advert for the dock after Nicholas inherited it from his grandmother. For sale was two quays together where there was room for "making a dry dock and building or repairing ships".

The quay may already have been used for building ships, but indicates the room for expansion and development. A single dock was developed within the next decade as the Blackburne Plan of 1798 showes a "Mr Fairles Dock". Fairles continued to produce wooden vessels until 1812 when he was announced bankrupt. The yard then passed to the Laird family, making use of the "double dock". It was effectively one dock with double capacity, where ships could slip into the other side of the blocks and allow a second ship. This was probably one of the few of this type on Tyneside.

James, John, Philip & Paul Laing operated at this site from the 1800s until the 1820s, producing rigged barques, snows and brigs for themselves and various merchants. They originally had a yard at North Sands, Sunderland in 1793 and were the largest yard on the Wear in the early 1800s, but the partners began at South Shields in the 1800s utilising the Laing Dock. However the partnership was dissolved in 1822 and Philip moved to the Lawe. The other partners may have continued to produce vessels at this site as the last recorded ship built by Laing in South Shields is 1845.

After this time, the Stanhope and Tyne Drops took over much of the site, and later became the Stanhope Drops Saw Mills. Amy Flagg also notes Messrs Witherby & Ihler had a very short stint at Fairles Dock, though little is known about them.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1857

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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