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Willington Quay

Clelands Yard


54.988851, -1.498686

Useful Links:






H English (1836), William Cleland (1866-1872), William Cleland & Co. Ltd. (1872), Clelands Graving Dock and Slipway Co Ltd., Clelands (Shiprepairers) Ltd (1920-1932), Clelands (Successors) Ltd. (1932-1934), Craggs family (1934), Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. (1967-1977), British Shipbuilders (1977)

Types built here:

Paddle Steamer, Screw Steamer, Barge, Raft, Tanker, Dredger, Landing Craft, Drilling Rig, Yacht, Pontoon, Fishing Vessel, Torpedo Recovery Vessel, Coasters

Customers (Not Exhaustive):

Grimsby Deep Sea Trowage, Petroleum Steamship Co Ltd (BP subsidiary), Tyne Improvement Commission, Ministry of War Transport, Kuwait Oil Co. Ltd., Burmah Oil Co Ltd., Iraq Petroleum Co Ltd, Northern Gas Board, India General Navigation & Railway Co Ltd, African Petroleum Terminals Ltd, Oil Storage Co of Apapa Ltd, Blyth Harbour Commissioners, Shell-Mex & BP Ltd, D'Arcy Exploration Company Ltd, Abu Dhabi Marine Areas Ltd, Cia Shell de Venezuela Ltd, Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service,

Estimated Output:


Construction Materials:

Wood, Iron, Steel



Last Updated:



A shipyard stood at this spot at Willington Quay from at least 1836 until 1983.

It is likely to have been built earlier. The first named owner is H. English, but until 1866 had a number of consecutive owners. In this year, William Cleland took over the land, remaining in his name all the way through to the 1930s. Cleland was originally a Scot who had experience at the Smiths Yard as well as Palmers at Howdon. It began repairing ships, but once William Cleland passed his sons took on the construction of iron and wood vessels claiming to be "the best slipway in the North of England", capable of taking 1000 tons.

On the 1890s maps, two slipways are shown under Potter Street. During his tenure, hundreds of vessels were built here from paddle steamers to landing craft for international customers. In 1934 the yard was bought by the Craggs family, who operated shipyards at Goole, Yorkshire. They primarily built trading vessels and tug boats. Work expanded hugely through the decades, and by the early 1960s this small area employed 700 staff, incorporating their own designs and receiving orders internationally.

The yard was then sold out to Swan Hunters, becoming a small cog in the wider complex stretching from here to Walker. It became part of the small ship division, with their slipways suitable for the tugs and coasters mentioned earlier. Its last years were under the guise of British Shipbuilders.

Since shipbuilding ended here, the site has been converted for oil rig module construction and offshore drilling construction.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1916

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Historic Environment Records

Durham/Northumberland: Keys to the Past

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