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Ayres Quay

Ayres Quay, Shipyard


54.915734, -1.393815

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William R Abbay

Types built here:

Barque, Schooner, Snow, Brig, Brigantine

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:




Last Updated:



William Abbay opened a small shipyard in the mid 1840s at Ayre's Quay. He operated here until at least 1858, and it is known he built around 25 ships at this site.

The yard was east of the now infilled Saltgrass Dock before the large Deptford Shipyard was constructed. Shipyards are illustrated on the 1850s shipyards at the top end of the peninsula above the Ballast Hills Bottle Works. This is the most likely location of the site, given he was still operating in 1855 when this map was drawn up.

The 6 inch map is not clear on its facilities. It appears the yard likely featured building berths as opposed to its own dock, though a feature is shown on the western extremity that could represent this. It was the likely neighbour of the Laing Brothers who commenced operations in 1843. They eventually absorbed the whole site, and we can imagine they bought up the land once Abbay ceased operations after the 1850s.

The majority of his vessels were sailing barques, catering for general cargo merchants both in the North East and in Yorkshire. He was born at Little Ouseburn nr Harrogate in 1820 and appears to have retained some links given a few his ships ended up being registered at Whitby, Bridlington and Goole. The vast majority however worked the routes to the continent from the North East. Sunderland to the Med, India and Barcelona are referenced.

William remained at Sunderland until at least the 1870s. He died in 1886 at Park Villa, Knaresborough aged 67. Any other references of him are scant, but it isn't unreasonable to suggest the Abbay Street in Southwick is named after him.

Today, the site in its entirety is consumed by Liebherr, and no trace remains unless scant traces on the riverbank.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1862

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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