History of Richard Dunston, Ltd.
.... almost a Century of Shipbuilding ( Author unknown)
ALTHOUGH Thorne is many miles from the sea, shipbuilding has been carried on there for centuries, due to the many navigable inland water ways in the district. Today, it connects with the sea through a canal to the Rivers Trent and Humber, but even prior to the opening of this canal in 1797 ships were constructed at Thorne Quay on the River Don. As early as 1820 a paddle steamer named Rockingham was constructed for the carriage of goods and passengers from Thorne to Hull, coaches from the surrounding districts making a connection with this completely new form of transport. This was the first steam vessel built in the Humber district, and indeed must have been one of the earliest steamships in Great Britain, as the famous Comet was constructed only five years earlier.
Wooden craft, both sailing and steam, were built steadily up to the year 1890, when this shipyard closed down due to the silting-up of the river, and the building of fixed bridges over the Don.
In the year 1858 a stranger to the district, Richard Dunston, arrived in Thorne from Torksey in Lincolnshire, where he had operated a small wooden shipbuilding yard on the Foss Dyke, and commenced building wooden barges on the bank of the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. This canal was later extended to Sheffield and joined by locks with the River Trent at Keadby, about 12 miles east of Thorne, and from there to the sea, a distance of approximately 45 miles.
The new shipyard, in its original form, was kept busy constructing wooden vessels of up to about 80 tons carrying capacity for use in the Humber and its tributaries. In those days of sail, rigging played such an important part in the construction of the vessel that it was customary for small shipyards to be completely self-contained making sails, ropes and running gear. The Thorne shipyard ropery developed into quite a small independent industry which supplied coir, hemp, manilla and even cotton ropes to the surrounding country.
The ships' chandlers of Hull and Grimsby also found this shipyard their principal source of supply for ships' blocks, masts, spars, boat hooks, boat oars, sails and covers. In those days it was the proud boast of this inland shipyard that they supplied everything that a sailing ship required from the keel of the vessel to the truck that was fitted on the mast head.
On the old wooden hulls, repairs made an important part of the shipyard trade, and the production of new ships was a matter not to be undertaken lightly. When a third new ship was launched in a year, this was recorded as quite an event, contrasting greatly against the Company's best output in recent years of 108 ships in one year.
The timber used for the construction of these craft was grown locally, brought into the yard and sawn by hand, and it was some considerable time before the conversion of timber was done by power saw. Ships were mostly clinker built, as it was only in the later years of wooden shipbuilding that carvel form of construction became popular.
Towards the end of the 19th century the sizes and types of new barges began to standardise into what became known as the " Sheffield Keel," and a square rigged barge of 90/100 tons, and the somewhat larger " Humber Sloops."
In 1902, the founder, Richard Dunston, died and control of the shipyard fell to the lot of the son, Thomas Dunston. No notable change appears to have taken place in the shipyard until Thomas Dunston died in 1910, and at the young age of 20, the present Chairman, the grandson of the founder, assumed control.
It did not take many years for him to appreciate that the days of the wooden barge were rapidly coming to an end and sweeping changes in the shipyard were soon made by the erection of buildings and plant designed for the construction of iron and steel ships. Such must have been the enthusiasm at this time for " new ideas " that only one further wooden vessel was constructed by the Company, and a new era of progress commenced. Each year brought an increase in the size and variety of craft constructed, and the demand developed from being local to international. In the passage of years it soon became apparent that this more widespread demand was calling for ships which could be constructed by the shipyard, but which could not pass through the canal to the sea. Canal locks would not pass vessels with a beam of more than 21 feet, and after straining this capacity to the limit, the present Chairman, in 1932, acquired the shipyard of Henry Scarr, Ltd., of Hessle-on-Humber, where vessels with no dimensional limitations could be launched directly into the River Humber, thus enabling the Company to develop the construction of larger ships. It is interesting to note that a number of wooden men-of-war were once constructed at Hessle, and records show that the first, named the Humber, an 80-gun ship, was built in 1693.
The Hessle yard was completely remodelled. Two of its nine berths were covered in and the remaining seven berths and slipways were reconditioned. The skilled personnel was developed, as in the Thorne yard, to be able to complete not only the hull of the vessel, but the joinery and fittings, and installation of the main and auxiliary machinery and electrical equipment.
Tugs of up to 1,200 h.p. were soon being constructed, coasters up to 600 tons D.W., and lighters up to 1,200 tons D.W.
This formed a great advance of the maximum size of those vessels constructed at the Thorne yard, which had been 700 b.h.p. tugs, 300-ton D.W. coasters and 300-ton D.W. lighters.
The year 1942 saw a further notable change. The many advantages of electric welding had been realised by the Company for some considerable time, and welding had become part of the normal processing, but a policy
decision was then made to lay aside a portion of the yard specially for the construction of all-welded ships which were at that date somewhat of a novelty. In this way the shipyard became the pioneers in this country of the construction by bulk production methods of all-welded ships of the smaller type. During the war they built on production lines for the Admiralty, no less than 159 all-welded steel tugs of one type. On these war-time tugs, by careful production control, the completed ships, including the installation of steam machinery and auxiliaries, were produced at a rate which permitted vessels to leave the shipyard at six-day intervals. Many other types of craft were built during the war for the Admiralty, and for Foreign Governments after the cessation of hostilities.
The first all-welded trawler to be built in this country came from this yard, and the great majority of tugs ordered for the Thames since 1936 have come from either the Thorne or Hessle yards.
Progress in modernising and equipping of the yards continues, and under the more specialised methods which are now arising, the control has become more and more technical, and checking of quality of production more complex.
It is a vastly different picture from the peaceful shipyard of the founder, and in these days of impersonal combines, it is of considerable interest to note that the progress to be made in the immediate future will still be directed by the direct line of the founder, his great-grandson, the present Managing Director.
1943-1953 - 55I Vessels of all Types.
In 1933 it was found that all-welded fabricated steel counters for Thames tugs were equal to and lower in cost than the cast steel type previously incorporated. When it was seen that the welded counter was able to withstand the arduous working conditions encountered on the River Thames, it was obvious that here was a form of construction which should be developed. Progress in welding at both the Thorne and Hessle yards has continued steadily ever since.
From the welding of small assemblies to the completely welded vessel has, of necessity taken many years, principally due to the cautious attitude of both the shipbuilder and the shipowner. It was not until 1942, when the Admiralty placed orders for 12-220 i.h.p. steam tugs that the first all-welded vessel was constructed. These craft proved to be most successful, and subsequently orders were completed for a total of 159 steam tugs, 36 diesel tugs, an, 36 400-ton D.W. coasters.
In 1948 two all-welded 570 b.h.p. diesel tugs for operation on the River Thames were built. These have been most successful and subsequently a further two sister ships were ordered. It is interesting to note that these were the first all welded tugs to be built for operation on the Thames.
Since 1949 five all-welded drifter-trawlers, the first of their kind, have been constructed for operation in home waters. These vessels were so successful that contracts for three all-welded Trawlers for the North Sea were received.
In 1946 it was decided that the London swim barge was an ideal type for construction by welding and both yards were laid out for the rapid production of barges, and by the end of 1953 218 had been produced. Where numbers are ordered an appreciable saving can usually be shown; for example, a Thames barge of 220-tons D.W. is cheaper to construct than a riveted barge of the same dimensions. Apart from first cost there are other features which command attention, such as reduced repair bills; the welded structure has greater strength and resistance to damage which tends to remain localized, and when too severe to be faired up can be cut out and a new complete section welded into position. Quicker construction is obtained due to reduced handling and the fewer number of trades involved. Large pre-fabricated sections are constructed away from the berth, and as a result of this the time taken to assemble and launch is very much less than that required for a riveted vessel. The reduction in the weight of the light ship gives greater carrying capacity for a given displacement and a smooth hull is obtained which reduces water resistance.
The following vessels completed during the past few years give an indication of the progress of the all-welded vessel, 40-300-ton D.W. river tankers, one 500-ton D.W. river tanker, one 300-ton D.W. tanker, four 125 ft. B.P. hopper barges, seven motor lighters, and one floating dock.
At the Thorne and Hessle Yards space has been laid out for the accurate fabrication and erection of tugs, barges and other vessels required to be shipped overseas in either units or plates and sections and over a long period of years a special technique has been developed to facilitate erection abroad.
Text from ... almost a Century of Shipbuilding - Richard Dunston
With thanks to Civil Engineering Publications Ltd.
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