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Wear Dockyard


54.909553, -1.380085

Useful Links:






William Adamson, Peter Austin, Samuel Peter Austin (SP Austin & Son), Austin and Pickersgill

Types built here:

Snow, Barque, Brig, Screw Steamer, Coaster, Fireboat, Pontoon, Barge, Lighter, Corvette, Landing Craft, Ore Carrier, Bulk Carrier

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

A C de Freitas & Co, Earl of Durham (Lambton Collieries), Johnson Bros, River Wear Watch Commission, Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd, Sunderland Corporation, Adelaide Steam Shipping Co. Ltd., Marquess of Londonderry, County Steamship Co. Ltd., Bennett Steamship Co. Ltd, Denaby Main Colliery Ltd, Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet Co. Ltd., Melbourne Steamship Co. Ltd., Haws Steam Shipping Co. Ltd., Sir James Joicey, Pelton Steam Shipping Co. Ltd., Huddersfield Steam Shipping Co., Stewart Steamship Co., Tyne-Tees Steam Shipping Co., Normandy Shipping Co., The Admiralty, Furness Withy, Cory Colliers Ltd., Gas, Light & Coke Co., The Shipping Controller, Tanfield Steam Shipping Co., Ellerman Lines, South Metropolitan Gas Co., Dover Navigation Co., London Power Company Ltd., Coast Lines Ltd., Ministry of War Transport, Portsmouth Corporation, North Thames Gas Board, British Electricity Authority, Wallarah Coal Co., General Steam Navigation, Newbiggin Steam Shipping Co., Clyde Shipping Co, Atlantic Shipping & Trading Co., Vallum Shipping Co. Ltd, Bamburgh Shipping Co., Falaise Ore Carriers Ltd., Central Electricity Authority, British Transport Commission, Amazon Shipping Corporation, Astoria Shipping & Transport, Manchester Liners,

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:

Wood, Iron, Steel



Last Updated:



William Adamson, a member of the illustrious 19th century shipbuilding family in the town, set up shop at "Pan Quay" between 1820 and 1840. This is very likely to be immediately next door to the Sunderland Glass Company Bottle Works on Pann's Bank at Bishopwearmouth.

The Adamson's were building vessels on the Wear as early as the 1800s. This William started building ships at Monkwearmouth in partnership with William and James. Business moved to the Bishopwearmouth Panns around 1820 and remained here until 1840. The yard was put up for let in the early 1840s, and the family ceased shipbuilding activity for the next decade. The mid 1850s saw William's partner, also called William (very confusing and I cannot verify what relation they were), set up at Pallion under what became the Doxford Yard. To make matters more confusing, a William Adamson part owned the Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Works at Willington Quay near Wallsend ( Whether this is the same figure i'm not sure.

The yard featured a yard, patent slipway, large warehouse and ancillary buildings which was "well calculated for...extensive business in that department". Sadly the earliest maps I can trace are from 1846, and by this point the site had closed and was very likely swallowed up and reconfigured by Peter Austin.

Austin moved here in 1846, and repairing ships on the North Sands. He immediately put his son Samuel in control, and established two building berths and a patent slipway, perhaps Adamson's. A new 300ft graving dock was constructed in 1870. They adopted iron working in 1874, constructing colliers for local coal companies and magnates like the Earl of Durham. This came after a gap of building for a few years, likely due to the economic depression in this decade leading to lack of orders. 2 other slipways were built by 1890.

Land immediately west of the site, previously occupied by the bottle works, was swallowed up for greater capacity. This became the repair shop and complex offices, though a pontoon for 400ft ships was also added by 1903. This was built by Swan Hunter at Wallsend, and was in place until 1966 when it moved to Holland. By this time, the yard continued to build collieries, namely for the London market and the utility companies. The electricity and gas boards on the Thames became recurrent clients, as well as those at Portsmouth and the British Electricity Authority. They did also continue to construct ships for North Eastern coal companies.

The full extent of the yard is shown on the 1919 map, with the Pontoon Dock, original graving dock and a travelling crane reaching from Wearmouth Bridge to Panns Bank.

The war saw continued use from The Admiralty, though the inter-war period saw struggles. After 1929, output reached near nil, with two colliers built here in 1932. These were the only ships built on the whole of the Wear in that year. Despite brief suspension collieries were again produced during WWII, alongside small corvette warships.

The yard merged with Pickersgill of Southwick in 1954, and continued constructing its staple colliers and cargo ships until 1964. The graving dock and outline of the pontoon dock remains, however there is little other trace apart from the riverbank masonry and fragments.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1946

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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