Christmas message from the workers

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When: 24 December 1943

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Christmas message from the workers of John Readhead & Sons Ltd, South Shields as they prepare to launch the cargo ship ‘Empire Curzon’, 24 December 1943 (TWAM ref. 1061/1053).

This set celebrates the achievements of the shipyard of John Readhead & Sons. The firm has played a significant role in the North East’s illustrious shipbuilding history and the development of South Shields.

The company began in 1865 when John Readhead, a shipyard manager, entered into business with J Softley at a small yard on the Lawe at South Shields. Following the dissolution of the partnership in 1872, it continued as John Readhead & Co on the same site until 1880 when the High West Yard was purchased. After Readhead’s four sons were taken into the business in 1888 the company traded as John Readhead & Sons becoming a limited company in 1908. In 1968 the company was absorbed by the Swan Hunter Group and in 1977 became part of the nationalised British Shipbuilders. In the same year the last vessel was launched and the site was sold off in 1984.

Readheads was prolific and built over 600 ships from 1865 to 1968, including 87 vessels for the Hain Steamship Company Ltd and over forty for the Strick Line Ltd. The shipyard also built four ships for the Prince Line, founded by Sir James Knott. The firm built vessels, which were involved in the major conflicts of the Twentieth Century. During the First World War they built patrol vessels and ‘x’ lighters (motor landing craft used in the Gallipoli campaign) for the Admiralty. During the Second World War the firm built tankers for the Normandy Landings.

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Owner: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
Source: Flickr Commons
Views: 26430
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    optimal chicken

    • 23/Dec/2015 12:35:52

    The photo shows the staggering engineering which went into making ships. Each rivet needed a hole drilled to accomodate it. Then red hot rivets were shoved in and flattened over. That's aside from the actual cutting and shaping of each plate - every single one was different. All that but before they could do it they had to melt steel to make sheet. To make steel they had to mine ores and fuels.. The process of ship building is an incredible story from start to finish.