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Neptune Yard


54.978557, -1.535488

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John Wigham Richardson Ltd. (1861 - 1903), Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. (1903 - 1963), Swan Hunter Ltd. (-1986)

Types built here:

Paddle Steamer, Barque, Barge, Screw Steamer, Tug, Ferry, Train Ferry, Water Tanker, Tanker, Minesweeper, Cable Ship, Experimental Motor Boat, Frigate, Landing Craft, Bulk Carrier, Destroyer, Frigate

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

Port of Portsmouth & Ryde Steam Packet Co, Commissioners of the Faversham Navigation, London, Brighton & South Coast Railway Co, Shields Steam Shipping Co Ltd, Limerick Steam Ship Co Ltd, George Jopling & Co, Nordenfjeldske Dampskipsselskap, Prussian Government, Commissioner of the Northern Lights, Northumberland Steam Shipping Co Ltd, General Iron Screw Collier Co, Tyne Steamship Co Ltd, Cie Generale Transatalantique, Zodiac SS Co Ltd, Persian Gulf Steam Ship Co Ltd, Soc di Nav Italia Fratelli Lavarello, Blue Anchor Line, Charlottetown Steam Navigation Co, Adria Royal Hungarian Sea Nav Co Ltd, City of Cork Steam Packet Co Ltd, Indo-China Steam Navigation Co Ltd, Archangel Mourman Steam Navigation Co, Deutsch-Australische Dampfs Ges, Soc Generale de Transports Maritimes, Royal Hungarian Sea Nav Co Ltd, Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Co Ltd, Charlottetown Steam Navigation Co Ltd, Union Steamship Co of New Zealand Ltd, Soc Navegacion e Industria, Emerald Steamship Co Ltd, Eagle Oil Transport Co Ltd, Great Western Railway Company, Electric Marine Propulsion Co Ltd, British India Steam Navigation Co Ltd, British Royal Navy, Government of Russia, Government of France, The Shipping Controller, Mexican Telegraph Co, British Tanker Co Ltd, Commercial Cable Co, Eastern Shipping Co, Government of Egypt, Cie de Navigation Mixte, Jadranska Plovidba, Republic of China, Southern Railway Co, Gdynia-America Shipping Lines Ltd, Hopemount Shipping Co Ltd, The Admiralty, Ministry of War Transport, Corporation of the Trinity House, Palm Line Ltd, Bamburgh Shipping Co Ltd, The Indo-China Steam Navigation Co Ltd, Nigerian National Shipping Lines Ltd, Norwegian America Line, Royal Fleet Auxilliary, USSR Novorossiysk Shipping Co

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:

Wood, Iron, Steel



Last Updated:



John Wigham Richardson opened the Neptune Yard in 1860 with family funds, after gaining considerable expertise working for Hawthorns over the river.

When the yard opened it employed around 200 people, with had an output of 2000 tons of ships. The yard became known for its train ferry production, with the first for the Prussian Government in 1865 leading to a notable reputation for their more specialist ships. This continued through to the mid 20th century.

The shipyard in the 1850s can be seen on the Ordnance Survey map as relatively modest, with at least 3 slips and a number of furnaces - iron ships were built at this time. Output continued to grow through the 1870s and 1880s, though a depression meant output stunted and did not rise again until 1896, in the twilight years of the sole Richardson ownership. By 1889 the yard had produced at least 178 ships to at least 60 different customers across the world, including passenger companies, merchants and sovereign governments.

In 1903 the yard was merged with Swan Hunter who were already a dominant force at this part of the river. Upgrades ensued, and became one of the most dominant shipbuilding forces in the world. Most types of vessels were built here for military, leisure and merchant purposes, including the first oceangoing oil-tank steamer. Production eventually dwindled into the 70s and 80s, with some of the last vessels constructed being cable ships.

The site is now occupied by Shepherd Offshore, but remnants of the shipyard can be seen on the riverside.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1947

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

Tyne and Wear: Sitelines

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