Photograph of Patrol boat P-31 on sea trials, 1916 (TWAM ref. DS.RDD/4/PH/2/1/3). This vessel was built by John Readhead & Sons, South Shields. Patrol boats were built under the Emergency War Programme to relieve destroyers of patrol and escort work and submarine hunting.
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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