Site of Ropner’s Shipyard c1972

t14306This photograph was taken from the embankment at the terminal of the North Shore Branch Line. It is looking down into the south east corner of what used to be Ropner’s shipyard. By this time, 1972, the footpath which ran down to the river had fallen into disuse, and the fence which protected the shipyard had disappeared.
There was a railway running off the North Shore Branch to this area, and I think that this location would have been where the big sheer legs were built for lifting steel plates and equipment up to the ships.

Photograph and details courtesy of Fred Starr.


10 thoughts on “Site of Ropner’s Shipyard c1972

  1. My mother, who was born in Dugdale Street in the Royal in 1915, told us stories about when they were children and how they played on this site. Apparently she claimed they would hang onto the rope/chain part of the sheerlegs and swing out over the river perhaps after the shipyard had closed down or had no work. No health and safety in those days then! Presumably no watchman either.


    • It was only Dock Gates that were built and launched at the yard of HW’s went only to places on the east and south coast. Any on the west coast were built or repaired on site. Mind I worked on a repair gate at Dover, would be on 1958-59.


  2. Am I right in thinking that the picture shows that two sheerlegs were being used to lift the lock gates? There is a more conventional crane shown on the right hand side of the picture.

    Where were the lock gates going to? Were they transported by ship?

    I don’t suppose anyone has a picture of the huge pressure vessel, built in Stockton in the middle fifties, intended for one of the Magnox nuclear stations. It was floated down river to the sea, to where it was eventually installed?


      • Thanks Jonathan. A superb film, the end of which showing a glimpse of the dock gates made by Head Wrightson under tow by a tugboat past the Malleable. This sequence seems to indicate that all vestiges of the North Shore Branch Line staithes had disappeared. There is a short bit showing pipe manufacture at the Malleable, referred to as the South Durham Steelworks

        The earlier part of the film concentrates on Middlesbrough and its industry and docks, but there are good views of the Newport and Transporter bridges and aerial views of Stockton High Street


  3. The figure in the picture is a 30 year old Fred Starr who is standing amongst the mass of fireweed, which in the old days ran along side every railway track.


  4. Hi Fred,
    Just as a point of reference, readers might like to compare your notes with the internet site “Ropner’s STOCKTON ON TEES Shipbuilding”. The site opens with a well used picture with a north west orientation – the opposite of yours, but roughly the same line. It picks up the sheer legs that you mention plus ships being built at Ropners. The sites other great value (there are similar ones) also lies in it’s list of ships built at the various yards, with dates. The site proved very useful to me when I was tracing a couple of ancestors, one of whom died in an accident on Ropner’s Gladstone.


    • Hello Derek,
      My grandad, Thornaby born Jackson Thompson, was for a time a cook on board Ropner built coaster, ‘London Bridge’. In early 1914, after being re-flagged ‘Demetrios’, it collided with a French liner and foundered off Lisbon. I’ve been trying to find out if my grandad was still on the ship’s company during that incident.
      Best wishes,
      Andy Thompson


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