Report - - The last of the SwanHunters cranes - Wallsend | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The last of the SwanHunters cranes - Wallsend


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Swan Hunter is internationally renowned as a world class shipbuilder. During a 130 year existence, Swan Hunter built over 1,600 ships of various types including more than 400 naval vessels. The Swan Hunter name is synonymous with innovative design and quality and the river Tyne shipyards of Swan Hunter have been the birth-place of many fine ships of almost every type and size for more than a century. This magnificent record includes ships for practically every nation including ships like the ' Mauritania' which was built at Swan Hunter in 1906.

The name of 'Swan Hunter' has world-wide associations with shipping and maritime commerce. Historically a number of different dates suggest themselves as a starting point for the story of Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. but is generally accepted that it all began in 1860 when John Wigham Richardson, 23 years old son of a distinguished Yorkshire family of Quakers, armed with a little paternal capital and a brave desire to become a shipbuilder, purchased a small shipyard at Walker-on-Tyne.

Wallsend Shipyard
The Wallsend Shipyard was the first in the world to construct tankers of over 250,000 tons on a slipway. The first of these tankers was launched in May 1969. The association of this yard with the Royal Navy commenced with the destroyer ‘Hope’ in 1909 and since then over 100 warships were built. Production also included the aircraft carriers ‘Illustrious’ and ‘Ark Royal’. Part of the yards sucess at winning such large contracts was its at the time market leading steel working equipment, effectively making SwanHunters one of the worlds most capable shipyards.

After de-nationalisation and some difficult trading conditions in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s many of the facilities of the Group were sold or closed down. In 1994 the Wallsend Yard of Swan Hunter was put into the hands of the receiver. In 1995 Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd was established by Mr Jaap Kroese who then acquired the shipyard which then diversified into offshore oil & gas construction as well as naval shipbuilding.

For the next decade under his stewardship the company was successful in obtaining both offshore vessel conversion work, including the conversion of a bulk carrier into the worlds largest pipelaying vessel the ‘Solitaire’ as well as new buildings for the Royal Navy in the form of the LSDA’s ‘Largs Bay’ and ‘Lyme Bay’. However, with no fresh orders after 2007 and severe competition from Far East shipyards, the yard construction facilities were eventually closed down and the majority of the land sold the North Tyneside Council and One NorthEast in 2009. However, Swan Hunter still continues to operate but now only in the design and engineering field, providing design and management support to shipyards and ship owners via the engineering group that still occupies the management offices on the site. (http://www.swanhunter.com/index.html)

Snappel & Dweeb conquered the most characteristic Wallsend cranes, the elegant goosenecks back in 2007, and I really wish I'd bothered my arse to do some more of the yard back then, when it was virtually complete. As of today the only buildings left at the yard are the main front office/ reception building and some drawing offices adjoined with security sat downstairs (friendly knowledgable guys who worked there when the yard was in full swing).

Most of the gear has made its way to Bharati shipyards in India, theres a site somewhere with photos of gear at auction at the Wallsend site, and then it rennovated and in place or in use in one of the Bharati sites, can't seem to find it!​
Having a bit of spare time from uni work I hit out at the north bank of the tyne, deciding to spend a few days checking out every lead and searching for new starting at the coast and working my way inland toward Newcastle I obviously pretty quickly came across what was left of the Swanhunter yard, and oh boy, was there bugger all left.

Standing at the huge metal gates, I stood agasp at the desolate concrete yard infront of me, not a single shed left and only 2 cranes, the remaining hammerhead cranes. Amazed at how much had gone over the previous 6months (in a typically very quiet manor). Took a quick shot on the TLR before heading for a talk with the security guys, good fellas, obviously worked there when the yard was in use.




awwww shiiiiitt its SECURITY SHIP!!!
I kid ye not.
Not minutes after I'd got to the first 'landing' as it were on the taller crane, I noticed something moving.
Yup this red cable ship decided it was going to turn around right below me! And they had noticed me, a number of people on the lower deck and near the heli pad saw me via bino's and decided to wave, great :p


Curious Metal Box
After moving on up the rusty ladder way's the first thing you are greated with is the turntable, the crane top sits 'inside' a framework with a huge circular bearing at the top, talking 5-8m across, and atop an upside down pylon like structure with another bearing almost at the base of the crane. Manourvering beyond that gets you upto the cabin level. Many a crane operator would have spent hours couped up inside this metal box, far removed from the danger and mayhem of the work below.


Lonely Chair Conversation


what was left
From the height of the crane cab you can still can't quite see to the sea at Tynemouth nor all that much of Newcastle city centre only just the taller buildings and outline of stadium. but whats more immediatly apparent is the poor state of whats left of the Tyneside shipbuilders. A&P still struggles on just over the water doing mild refurb's for various civilian & naval ships, and all the other yards are dormant or desolate, with only weeds, broken tarmac, and 2,500 ford fiesta's parked up. Virtually nothing else remains, a real sad sight, and sitting up in this cab is the view of the bare expanse of empty concrete slabs where the construction sheds of SwanHunter once stood.


Lost Cause




everybody has...


no signs of life - she responds to nothing - she is dead to me


a life story in duck tape


cranes can haz depth gauge
Bet you never knew cranes had depth gauges! I guess this indicated the travel of the hook, especially for places where the operator could not see. THis pair of hammerheads was located right on the Wharf, I guess used mainly for the unloading of materials for works as well as manouvering items to be fitted onto ships afloat in the river (please say if I'm wrong!). Another derelict yard in the background on the south side.


your services are no longer required


got to have a go haven't you!!!
After way too many photos were taken inside, I moved outside as the morning light on a grumpy spring morning was looking really good.


't3h (geordie) birdz'
All photos of an industrial nature are made between 55-486% better by the inclusion of birds with slight hint of movement. BrickFact. Original 't3h birdz' .... (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brickman_photos/3256599416/)


krusty walkway
By now the time was getting on past 6am, and a solitary pickup truck made its way gingerly across the vast expanse that was once SwanHunters, yup, geezer in HiVis, can't be security.. It wasn't. It was the first contractor of the day, with demolition day looming the guy had come to scope out the crane for himself before his team arrived. He seemed very interested in the buildings below the Swanneck crane rails. I took refuge inside the motor room for a while.


WindR House
After a 15min stuff food into face whilst trying not to clear out pigeons, I gave up trying to hide from the lone O'Briens contractor and strode out taking shots and boldly waving as he glanced up. He wasn't bothered, either it was too much hassle fetching security, or as most contractors would he believed I was equally supposed to be there.


oh hai
can you see him?

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