Progress update from the Sunderland Shipbuilding archives project

I’m delighted to report that work is going very well on the Sunderland Shipbuilding archives project. Colin and I have nearly finished cataloguing the very extensive records of Bartram & Sons Ltd and hope to make the completed catalogue available to researchers in the near future.

Many of the firm’s ships plans have been unavailable to researchers since they were deposited here in the 1970s. Colin has already catalogued over 800 of these and during the course of this work he’s come across a number of very interesting plans, some of which have featured in previous blogs. Of particular interest this month are the plans of the ‘Mimis N. Papalios’, the first SD14 ship ever launched (the name SD14 stands for ‘Shelter Deck – 14,000 tons deadweight’).

Bartrams built the ‘Mimis N. Papalios’ and her sister ship the ‘George N. Papalios’ under licence from the nearby Sunderland shipyard of Austin & Pickersgill Ltd, who developed the SD14 design in the mid-1960s. It was designed as a replacement for the surviving ‘Liberty ships’, built by American yards during the Second World War. By the 1960s these vessels were fast approaching the end of their working lives.

The Bartram & Sons collection includes over twenty plans of the ‘Mimis N. Papalios’, including a profile and decks plan, an accommodation plan and an unusual survival – a grain loading plan.

Part of a standard SD14 general arrangement plan (TWAM ref. 2376)

While Colin has been busy with ships plans, I’ve been cataloguing the other Bartrams operational records. These include a large quantity of hull and machinery specifications dating from the late 1890s to the mid 1970s and over 100 ships cost books covering the period 1939-1978. Also of interest is a large series of ships files dating from 1937 to 1978. These include many correspondence files between Bartrams and the shipowners they built for. As well as letters these files often include notes of discussions held and provide a fascinating insight into the very important relationship between the shipyard and its customers.

I’ve also been cataloguing a small but interesting set of publicity and marketing records for Bartrams. These include publicity articles about the firm’s modernisation work in the 1950s and 1960s, press cuttings and articles about the vessels built by the firm and a small number of photographs of the shipyard. Among the photographs are a number that seem to have been taken at the firm’s annual sports days. These stirred a few happy personal memories of school sports days but more importantly reflect the social side of the shipyard’s activities. I’ve included several images in this blog and if anyone recognises themselves or attended one of these sports days and could tell us more about them then I would be delighted to hear from you.

Crowd of children at Bartrams Sports Day, c1961 (TWAM ref. DS.BM/5/5/1)

Boys race at Bartrams Sports Day, c1961 (TWAM ref. DS.BM/5/5/6)

Picking lucky straws at Bartrams Sports Day, c1961 (TWAM ref. DS.BM/5/5/21)

One very noticeable absence in the Bartrams collection is a real lack of ships photographs. The firm would have arranged for thousands of these to be taken but only a handful were deposited with us by the shipyard. However, Bartrams was one of many shipbuilders to use the photographic company Turners (Photography) Ltd and fortunately the Archives holds a very large collection of Turners photographic negatives, dating back to the late 1940s. This collection was featured in a recent blog.

If you’re looking for an image of a vessel built by Bartrams (or another North East shipbuilder) then it might well be worth checking the Turners collection. For example, here’s an aerial shot of the ‘North Devon’, taken during sea trials in May 1958.

Aerial photograph of the 'North Devon', 1958 (TWAM ref. 3396/19828)

Bartram & Sons were very proud of the fact that the vessel was launched only 11½ weeks after the keel was laid. One of our volunteers is currently indexing the ships photographs in the Turners collection and when that work is complete it will dramatically improve access to it.

19 Responses to Progress update from the Sunderland Shipbuilding archives project

  1. V.Rooke says:

    I have photographs from the 1970′s of the area around the dock where a relative worked. These show ships in the background and the general layout of some of the the shipyards.

    • Alan Hayward says:

      Thanks for your comment. If you ever get the chance to bring the photos along to the Archives at the Discovery Museum then I would delighted to take a look at them.

      Best wishes,

      Alan

  2. Hello,

    I am an cardboard- and plastic (ship-) modeller. In 2004 I bought the SD14 cardboard model at scale 1:70. Since then I am following their history plus photographs as much as possible.
    Very pleased to hear that you found quiet a lot of plans from two of the early SD14 ships.
    Is there any possibility to buy(?) a copy of these plans? A couple of years ago I bought 4 drawings from a Maritime Museum in Britain of the Cosmocrat. But now there seems to be a bigger number of drawings, with definitely much more details.

    Hope to hear from you and keep going the good works, it is an interesting area where you are dealing with.

    Gert Vlaanderen,
    Lunteren, the Netherlands

  3. Alan Hayward says:

    Thank you very much for your kind message. I’m sure that we can supply you with copies of many of these plans. The best way to proceed would be for you to identify which plans you are interested in. You can see details of all the plans we have for the ‘Mimis N. Papalios’ and ‘George N. Papalios’ by searching our online catalogue under those names http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/tyne-and-wear-archives/catalogue-amp-user-guides/catalogue.html.

    If you can identify plans that you would like copied please send an e-mail to our enquiry service (archives@twmuseums.org.uk) and we will let you know the cost. It would be helpful if you could let us know in your e-mail whether you would like the plans sent as paper copies or as electronic copies (in JPEG format).

    Best wishes,

    Alan

  4. Hello,

    Thanks a lot.
    The catalogue gave a lot of information.
    I will send a message to the archieves today.

    Regards, from a very sunny Holland,

    Gert Vlaanderen
    Lunteren – the Netherlands.

  5. anton van drumpt says:

    i am searching for a photo of the SS Countess of Durham. She sunk in 1881 in the North Sea.

    We found the wreck and some more information to help with the indentification.

    who can help me?

  6. Alan Hayward says:

    Thank you for your e-mail. The ‘Countess of Durham’ was built by the shipyard of Richardson Duck at Thornaby-on-Tees in 1855. I’m afraid that we don’t hold any records of that firm as we only cover the Tyne & Wear area.

    The only surviving records for Richardson Duck & Co. Ltd that I’m aware of are held by the National Maritime Museum. It may be worth contacting them to see whether they can help you. Further information can be found on their website http://www.rmg.co.uk/national-maritime-museum/.

    I hope that this helps.

  7. I am responsible for the hydrodynamic modelling for Warsash Maritime Academy’s bridge simulators and was recently presented with John Lingwood’s book on the SD14 with a query as to whether there is enough information to build a simulator model. What I really need is sea trial data and I wondered if you had such in your collection.

  8. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid that we don’t appear to have any sea trials data for Austin & Pickersgill Ltd. You can see details of the records we hold for that firm by searching the RefNo field in our online catalogue http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/tyne-and-wear-archives/catalogue-amp-user-guides/catalogue.html using the reference number DS.AP. I’m sorry that I can’t give better news.

  9. Mark Etheridge says:

    My mother has a few photographs of the launch of the ‘Montreal Star’ in 1962. My mother worked at Bartrams and presented flowers to the VIP who launched the vessel, and thus appears in some of the photographs. My father also worked at Bartrams. Does the archive hold any staff records?

  10. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks for your question about Bartrams staff records. The Archives holds staff weekly salaries registers covering the years 1938-1946, 1951 and 1959. We also have two registers of employees covering the period 1923-1949 and well as records of starters, 1945-1978. You’re very welcome to visit us to search these and details of our location and opening times are given on our website http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/tyne-and-wear-archives/visiting-us.html. I hope that we can tempt you into paying us a visit.

  11. Derek miller says:

    I am trying to find information about Kish’s shipyard and the ships built by this yard.
    Can anyone point me in the right direction.
    Derek Miller

  12. sheena brown says:

    hi i am interested in sunderland port where i beleive my relative was a skipper on the stella polaris i have had no luck tracing this boat thank you in anticipation

    • Alan Hayward says:

      Dear Sheena,

      Thanks for your question. There have been quite a few vessels with the name ‘Stella Polaris’. Can you give me a few more details about your relative – name, when he served as skipper? Also is there any particular piece of information you were looking for about the vessel?

      Best wishes,

      Alan

  13. Alan Hayward says:

    Dear Derek,

    Thanks for your question. We only seem to hold one document relating to the Sunderland shipbuilding firm of Kish Boolds and Company. This is an agreement with William Doxford & Sons for a pair of compound engines and boilers, dating from 10 January 1882 (TWAM ref. DS.DOX/5/35/3).

    The Miramar Ship Index website http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz/ lists 23 vessels launched by the yard between June 1882 and March 1887. The shipyard seems to have been very shortlived and from 1885 the firm’s name changed from Kish Boolds to Boolds Sharer. If you’re looking for a particular piece of infromation please feel free to get in touch again and I may be able to advise you further.

    Best wishes,

    Alan

  14. sheena brown says:

    thank you so much for your reply my great grandfathers name was william reay and he was skipper of the stella polaris and harbour master i am still trying to put the history together any info would be much appreciated regards sheena brown

  15. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks for your further message. I’m afraid that restrictions on staff time mean that I can’t carry out any research for you. However, if your great grandfather was a ships captain then he might be mentioned in Lloyds Captains Registers, which are kept at London Metropolitan Archives. A guide to these is available on their website http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/london-metropolitan-archives/Documents/visitor-information/50-lloyds-of-London-captains-registers-and-related-sources.pdf.

    If your ancestor was harbour master at Sunderland then there’s likely to be references to him within the records of the Sunderland Port Authority (formerly known as the River Wear Commissioners). General details of those records can be found on our website in user guide 6 http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/userfiles/UG6.pdf. You’re very welcome to visit us to search these records in our public searchroom and details of our location and opening times can be found on our website http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/tyne-and-wear-archives/visiting-us.html.

    If you can give me an idea of when your great grandfather was skipper of the ‘Stella Polaris’ then I’d be glad to try and offer you more advice about the vessel. I hope that this is of some help.

  16. James Steele says:

    Hi, I am researching the Sunderland Steamship Dawdon, Short Bros 1878. Would you have any information or advice that would help me locate any information/plans relating to this?

    Many thanks,

    James

  17. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your question.

    We do have a machinery arrangement plan for the ‘Dawdon’ (TWAM ref. DS.WP/4/PL/1/93/7). You’re very welcome to visit us to take a look at it and details of our location and opening times can be found on our website http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/tyne-and-wear-archives/visiting-us.html.

    If you’re not able to visit us then we should be able to supply you with a copy by post or by e-mail. If you’re interested in that option please drop the Archives an e-mail at info@twarchives.org.uk and we’ll let you know the cost.

    Best wishes,

    Alan

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