Swan Hunter

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Carpathia , put into service in 1903
Mauretania , built by Swan Hunter from 1904 to 1907

Swan Hunter was a major British shipbuilding company . The shipyard in Wallsend , Metropolitan County Tyne and Wear , went bankrupt in November 2006.



In 1852 Charles Mitchell founded a small shipyard in Walker-on-Tyne , an eastern suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne , which the brothers Henry Frederick and Charles Sheridan Swan joined two years later . The company expanded rapidly and in 1873 acquired additional land in Wallsend, about a kilometer downstream. George Burton Hunter acquired a stake in the company in 1880, now known as C. S. Swan & Hunter Ltd. traded.


Site plan from 1909

By buying up more land and competing shipyards, C. S. Swan & Hunter became the largest shipyard on the River Tyne in 1897 and one of the largest in the United Kingdom. In the same year, the company began manufacturing floating docks as one of the first in the world . At that time, only ships with a maximum length of 170 meters could be built at the shipyard, so that in 1902 the construction of two dry docks with a length of 225 meters began. In June 1903 C. S. Swan & Hunter Ltd. merged. with Wigham Richardson & Company Ltd. whose shipyard Neptune Shipyard and Engine Works in Walker-on-Tyne was founded by John Wigham Richardson in 1860 and specialized in the construction of steamships from an early age .

The new company Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd. ( Swan Hunter for short ) bought several neighboring competitors in the same year. As a result, the previously separate shipyards in Walker-on-Tyne and Wallsend were merged into a single shipyard that stretched for almost two kilometers along the Tyne.


Aircraft carrier Illustrious

Also in 1903 the shipyard received the order to build the Mauretania , which was launched in Wallsend in 1906 as the largest ship in the world at the time. In the following year she won the Blue Ribbon for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic and held this title for 22 years until 1929. To expand the business, Swan Hunter bought the Barclay, Curle and Company shipyard on the Clyde in 1912 , which was responsible for maintenance, repairs and modernization carried out by ships. During both world wars , Swan Hunter built a total of over 100 warships for the Royal Navy , including aircraft carriers and battleships .

In the 1950s, the shipyard began a large-scale modernization program in order to keep up with technical progress. These investments paid off and in 1966 Swan Hunter was able to buy the last independent shipyard on the Tyne and became the largest shipbuilding company in England . The company name was now changed to Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd. changed and in 1967 the Grangemouth Dockyard Company was also acquired, but this stopped shipbuilding five years later. On January 1st, the Furness Shipbuilding Company in Haverton Hill was also taken over. Swan Hunter mainly built oil tankers and container ships , but also warships for the Royal Navy, such as the destroyers of the Blackwood class . In 1973 the company had around 12,000 employees and in 1976 received the prestigious contract to build the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and two years later the sister ship HMS Ark Royal .

Shipyard crisis

Westminster frigate

In order to counteract the onset of the shipyard crisis , the government nevertheless decided to nationalize a large part of the British shipyards on July 1, 1977 in the British Shipbuilders Corporation , including Swan Hunter Shipbuilders. However, this was short-lived as the subsequent government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher privatized the shipyard again in 1983. However, the success of the previous decades failed to materialize and the company was forced to close or sell large parts of the shipyard site. In the late 1980s, the situation seemed to improve, as the yard of the Royal Navy contract to build four frigates of the Duke class and the supply ship Fort George received, but this could only temporarily improve the financial condition of the ailing shipyard. In 1993 Swan Hunter Shipbuilders applied in vain to build the helicopter carrier Ocean and had to file for bankruptcy for the first time the following year.


View across the Tyne to the former Swan Hunter shipyard

The yard was finally taken over in 1995 by the investor Jaap Kroese and renamed Swan Hunter. They now specialized in the construction of oil rigs and supply ships, but tried to continue to get orders from the Navy. On 26 October 2000 Swan Hunter was awarded the contract to build two Docklandungsschiffen the Bay class for the Royal Navy, hoping by this prestigious project the crises of recent years to be able to leave behind. During the construction of the two ships RFA Largs Bay and RFA Lyme Bay , however, there were several delays due to technical problems and massive budget overruns. Ultimately, the construction of the Bay Class brought the yard a loss of over £ 25 million . In 2005, contrary to previous announcements, the Department of Defense finally announced that Swan Hunter would not be involved in the construction of the new Queen Elizabeth- class aircraft carriers , a project that the shipyard had firmly planned.

On September 3, 2005, the Lyme Bay was the last ship launched at Swan Hunter. An attempt to save the company by restructuring and specializing in ship scrapping failed. In November 2006, the yard finally declared bankruptcy. In April 2007 the entire equipment of the shipyard was sold to India .

Known ships


Coordinates: 54 ° 59 ′ 13.7 "  N , 1 ° 31 ′ 42.7"  W.