Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company

Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company Limited, often referred to simply as "Palmers", was a British shipbuilding company. The Company was based in Jarrow, County Durham, in north-eastern England, and also had operations in Hebburn and Willington Quay on the River Tyne.

Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company
FateCollapsed 1933
SuccessorArmstrong Whitworth
HeadquartersJarrow, UK


Early history and growth

The company was established in 1852 by Charles Mark Palmer as Palmer Brothers & Co. in Jarrow.[1] Later that year it launched the John Bowes, the first iron screw collier.[1][2] By 1900 the business was known as Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company.[3][Fn 1] At that time, besides building ships, it manufactured and processed its own steel and other metals, and its products included Reed water tube boilers and marine steam engines.[6][Fn 2] By 1902 Palmers' base at Jarrow occupied about 100 acres (41 hectares) and included 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometres) of the southern bank of the River Tyne, and employed about 10,000 men and boys.[8] In 1910 Sir Charles Palmer's interest in the business was acquired by Lord Furness who, as Chairman, expanded the business by acquiring a lease over a new graving dock at Hebburn from Robert Stephenson and Company.[9] In 1919 Palmers laid down the SS Gairsoppa, which was sunk by a German U-boat in 1941, causing the loss of 84 lives and 200 long tons (203 tonnes) of silver.[10][11]

Depression and collapse

The Great Depression, which began in 1929, all but destroyed the shipbuilding industry, which would not rebound until the Second World War. In 1931, Palmers posted a loss of £88,867 (equivalent to £5,931,000 in 2018). The company received a moratorium from its creditors in order to extend repayment. In January 1933, the majority of the company's unsecured creditors met in London and agreed to extend the moratorium a further six months.[12]

However, Palmers' was unable to survive and collapsed by the end of the year. The company's blast furnaces and steel works—which covered 37 acres—were put up for auction.[13] The Jarrow yard was sold to National Shipbuilders Securities, which closed it down in order to sell it, causing much unemployment and leading to the Jarrow March.[14] After the shipyard closed Sir John Jarvis used the engine shop as a steel foundry, the steel coming from the breaker's yard that scrapped the White Star liner Olympic and the Berengaria.

The company retained the yard at Hebburn and was subsequently acquired by Armstrong Whitworth, becoming Palmers Hebburn Company.[15] In 1973, Vickers-Armstrongs, successor to Armstrong Whitworth, sold the Palmers Dock at Hebburn to Swan Hunter and developed it as the Hebburn Shipbuilding Dock.[16] This facility was acquired in turn from the receivers of Swan Hunter by Tyne Tees Dockyard in 1994, which sold it to Cammell Laird in 1995. When the latter entered receivership in 2001, the dock was acquired by A&P Group.[17][18] The yard remains in use as a ship repair and refurbishment facility.[19]

Ships built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company

Ships built by Palmers included:






River gunboats

  • HMS Dee Royal Navy (1877)
  • HMS Don Royal Navy (1877)
  • HMS Esk Royal Navy (1877)
  • HMS Medina Royal Navy (1876)
  • HMS Medway Royal Navy (1876)
  • SMS Planet Austro-Hungarian Navy (1889)
  • HMS Sabrina Royal Navy (1876)
  • HMS Slaney Royal Navy (1877)
  • HMS Spey Royal Navy (1876)
  • HMS Tay Royal Navy (1876)
  • HMS Tees Royal Navy (1876)
  • HMS Trent Royal Navy (1877)
  • HMS Tweed Royal Navy (1877)

Merchant and leisure

Cable ships

Cargo ships

Oil tankers

  • British Ardour British Tanker Company (1928)
  • British Aviator British Tanker Company (1924)
  • British Captain British Tanker Company (1923)
  • British Chemist British Tanker Company (1925)
  • British Chivalry British Tanker Company (1929)
  • British Corporal British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Freedom British Tanker Company (1928)
  • British General British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Honour British Tanker Company (1928)
  • British Industry British Tanker Company (1927)
  • British Inventor British Tanker Company (1926)
  • British Justice British Tanker Company (1928)
  • British Light British Tanker Company (1917)
  • British Loyalty British Tanker Company (1928)
  • British Mariner British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Officer British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Premier British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Science British Tanker Company (1931)
  • British Sergeant British Tanker Company (1922)
  • British Splendour British Tanker Company (1931)
  • British Strength British Tanker Company (1931)
  • British Yeoman British Tanker Company (1923)

Passenger ships

Steam yachts


  • PT Northumberland G. Wascoe, Shields, 1852 Yard number 1[20][21]

See also



  1. Some 19th-century and later sources refer to the company as "Palmer's Shipbuilding and Iron Company", with an apostrophe, but in Some Account of the Works of Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company Limited, which was compiled by the business's company secretary Malcom Dillon and published in 1900, the name is given throughout as "Palmers ...", without the apostrophe.[4][5][3]
  2. "A speciality of [Palmers' engine works] is the manufacture of the 'Reed' water-tube boiler, the invention of Mr J. W. Reed, manager of the engine works department, which has been adopted with well-known results in ... high-speed [torpedo boat destroyers] ..., and also in vessels constructed for the Admiralty on the Clyde. It may be observed that nearly 25 miles [40 km] of tubes are used in the manufacture of the boilers and machinery of each 30-knot destroyer."[7]


  1. "Building for the world". The Journal. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  2. Dillon 1900, pp. 16–7.
  3. Dillon 1900.
  4. Gibbs 1896, p. 8.
  5. Anon. 1899, p. 475.
  6. Dillon 1900, pp. 28–50.
  7. Dillon 1900, pp. 33–4.
  8. Anon. 1902, pp. 613, 616.
  9. "Christopher Furness, Obituary". The Times. 11 November 1912. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  10. "Shipwreck of SS Gairsoppa reveals £150m silver haul". BBC News. 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 26 November 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  11. C. Michael Hogan (Lead Author); Peter Saundry (Topic Editor) (21 May 2012). Cleveland, Cutler J (ed.). "SS Gairsoppa recovery". Encyclopedia of Earth. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  12. "Palmers' Moratorium". Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. 14 January 1933. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  13. "Steel Works to be Sold at Auction". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 10 July 1934. p. 11.
  14. Charles Palmer Archived 8 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Crockett, Margaret; Foster, Janet (October 2005). "Report on the Access to Shipbuilding Collections in North East England (ARK) Project" (PDF). Tyne & Wear Archives. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  16. "Swan Hunter History: Naval ships". 2010. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  17. "Shipbuilder: Palmers Hebburn Co Ltd, Hebburn (1934 – 1973)". Tyne Built Ships. n.d. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  18. "UK north east yards extend dock capacity". Motor Ship. 1995. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  19. "New owner for A&P Tyne shipyard". The Journal. 2 March 2011. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2017.


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