Berwick upon Tweed
Weatherheads (1950 - 1953), Fairmile Construction Co. Ltd. (1953 - 1972), Intrepid Marine International (1973 - 1979), Tweed Yard Ltd., Coastal Marine Boat Builders
Types built here:
Customers (Not Exhaustive):
After almost 70 years since the closure of the Gowan Shipyard, Messrs Wm. Weatherhead and Sons of Cockenzie and Eyemouth obntained a lease on the Berwick Quayside from Feb 1st. The Weatherheads were already a well regarded builder who were formed in the mid 19th century just north at Eyemouth, with a branch of the family later setting up business at Port Seton and Cockenzie.
Business had been great thanks to a full order sheet after the war, with the Admiralty ordering plenty of landing craft, fishing vessels and cabin cruisers over at their Scottish yard. They did however face logistic challenge, with a shift in demand to larger boards and steel vessels rather than traditional iron which was their bread and butter.
Weatherhead's were encouraged to work with steel due to this, and scoped the possibility of setting up a yard on Berwick Quay. They received full support from the council, who were keen to support the new project. In February 1950, Weatherhead's obtained permission to use the land, convert the pre-existing buildings and construct a whole new slipway suitable for 20th century vessels. This took around 6 months, and the keel of the first vessel was laid in October.
Their first ship at the site, the motor barge "Naughton", took to the Tweed in May 1951. This was the first all-steel vessel to be made at Berwick, and the first Weatherhead had ever been constructed. Workers came from Tyneside and Scotland to do so while the yard was still being built, though progress was slow thanks to shortages of material after the war.
However the first build kick-started further orders. Motor barges and tugs were constructed for both domestic and international companies, and later secured 18 more orders in the same year. While demand was high, their supply was weak. Steel continued to be short and it was almost impossible to keep up with the rate they were intending. At the eve of 1953 just less than 50% of their workforce were laid off due to steel shortages, and in turn caused wider difficulty for Weatherheads. After 3 short years, the yard close and was sold off to the Fairmile Construction Company.
Fairmile were a Surrey company, providing services to various branches of government here and abroad. They retained all of Weatherhead's facilities, and became one of the main employers in the town. The quality of their small craft came known around the work for their quality and workmanship. Fairmile were also working in conjunction with Weatherhead's, established during the war as a technical partnership to bring steel to Berwick.
Various types of vessels were constructed at Berwick during their tenure. Barges, ferries, yachts, tugs and military craft were all built at the small and confined yard outside the walls. Their vessels saw service the world across. Through the late 50s and 60s, much of their production was focused towards the Scottish fishing industry, though this was fast replaced by the luxury yacht sector within a few years. They were in part forced to mould their agenda due to changing market forces which were impacting every British shipyard. This era was the start of British shipbuilding decline, and many of the yards on the Tyne and Wear saw dwindling orders also.
The yard experienced various issues concerning industrial relations but managed to keep trundling along. Orders for tugs from the Corinth Canal Co., helped, as well as lighters for the MoD and ferries for Scotland and Tanzania. In the late 60s and early 70s, further MoD craft and tugs helped keep it going, in part thanks to the high technical skill and adaptability of their workforce.
Their last ever vessel built at Berwick was the trawler Boston Sea Sprite in 1972. A small workforce was retained for maintenance, but much of the 100+ workforce vanished as quick as the yard was constructed. It lay dormant for around 9 months until a new company sought ventures at Berwick.
Inteprid Marine announced plans to open a yard at Berwick as well as potentially a yard at Spittal if it were successful. Their efforts to modernise and build modern facilities come under large scale opposition from the town who disputed the scale against the heritage of the town. The plans to build a large shed were said to have gone against the character of the historic town walls and led to great controversy. The developments were eventually rejected though shipbuilding did continue.
By 1974 four fishing vessels were under construction, but only a few months later the yard went into receivership. The parent company stepped in to pay workers wages to allow work for the four orders to continue. Work did carry on until 1978 when receivership came for a second and final time. The last large build was a 120ft steel schooner, though a few more small fishing vessels were built until the early 90s by Coastal Marine Boat Builders.
Ordnance Survey, 1963
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