Tyneside Tug Builders in alphabetical order of Surname

























KEY BELOW: D / H / P --- D = basic dimensions shown; H = history given; P = photograph(s) included.

Armstrong Whitworth & Co, Low Walker and its predecessors

Charles Mitchell Co, Low Walker: 1852 - 1882
Armstrong, Mitchell & Co Ltd, Low Walker: 1882 - 1897
Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Low Walker: 1897 - 1928
Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, Low Walker: 1928 - 1968

Mitchell’s Low Walker yard.

The shipyard was founded by Charles Mitchell who was born in Aberdeen on 20th May, 1820. He served his apprenticeship with Simpson & Company, iron founders of Aberdeen, before moving to Newcastle in September of 1842. In Newcastle he worked for John H. S. Coutts, a yard owner, also originally from Aberdeen. Charles worked for Coutts until 1844 before moving to work in London and then travelled extensively in France, Germany and Italy. He then returned to Newcastle in 1852 to set-up his own Low Walker yard next to the Coutts yard.

The yard built over 90 vessels of various types for Russia and Charles Mitchell, together with his business partner Henry Frederick Swan, set up a shipbuilding yard for the Tsarist government at St. Petersburg. Several warships were built there under the company’s direction. In recognition of his services, Tsar Alexander II made Charles a Cavalier of the Order of St. Stanislaus, a rare honour for a British shipbuilder.

In 1882 there was an agreed merger between William Armstrong and Charles Mitchell forming a new company Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. Ltd. William Armstrong had established a company at Elswick in 1847 and had become one of the world's leading armament manufacturers. Plans for a new shipyard to build warships only, next to the Elswick works, were laid in 1883. The Low Walker yard was now to concentrate on merchant shipbuilding, especially of tankers from 1885.

In 1897, during a period of British naval and armaments expansion Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. Ltd purchased and amalgamated with the Manchester based armaments firm of Sir Joseph Whitworth & Company to become Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd.

Charles Mitchell had died in August, 1895 while still active and going daily to work at the yard and there were now no Mitchell’s on the Board. Warship-building at the Elswick yard had increased and a new yard was set-up near the Low Walker Yard which was to become the famous Vickers Armstrong’s Naval Yard.

A lean spell of ship building during and around the depression years meant yards were closed down. The Elwick yard was closed in 1920 and production transferred to the Naval Yard. A disasterous investment in a Newfoundland Power & Paper making facility in 1925 nearly brought the whole company down and it was only saved by a merger with Vickers of Barrow which was completed in 1928.

The new company was called Vickers-Armstrong Ltd and it then aquired the Dobson yard and the Tyne Iron yard, adjacent to their Low Walker Yard. Merchant ship orders were plentiful for a short time but all three Low Walker yards closed in 1931.

The Low Walker was re-opened in 1942 to build standard ‘B’ type Empire tramps of 10,000 dwt. A further few coasters and military oil barges were completed before the yard closed down for the last time in 1948 and all building had by then been switched to the huge Walker Naval Yard nearby.

Compare yard layout on left with an aerial photo taken recently
Ends of the launch ways can still be seen in the river today, also office block on other side of main road.

Additional reading:
British Shipbuilding Yards by Norman L Middlemiss;
Lost Shipyards of the Tyne by Ron French and Ken Smith.
From Walker to the World: Charles Mitchell's Low Walker Shipyard by Dick Keys and Ken Smith;
Charles Mitchell 1820 - 1895 Victorian Shipbuilder by D.F.McGuire.
Charles Mitchell's Shipyard website

The following is a list of tugs built by C Mitchell & Co, Low Walker:

Yd No Year Tug Name D / H / P
69 1859 Karachiff D / H
70 1859 Looga D / H
71 1859 Luban D / H
72 1859 Neva D / H
123 1864 Southland D / H
158 1867 George Crow D / H
197 1869 Angelo D / H
229 1870 Teresa D / H
275 1872 Outka D / H
276 1872 Nicolai D / H
277 1872 Goulob D / H
278 1872 Lena D / H
316 1875 Krutikoff
317 1875 Vladeimer
317a 1875 Goloubka
352 1877 Hercules D / H
356 1878 Simson D / H / P
392 1880 Nora D / H / P
436 1882 Goretz D / H
446 1882 Miraflores D / H
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The following is a list of tugs built by Armstrong, Mitchell & Co Ltd, Low Walker:

Yd No Year Tug Name D / H / P
254 1884 Albert D / H / P
452 1883 Africa D / H / P
455 1884 Victoria D / H / P
594 1892 Le Progres D / H / P
615 1894 Arag D / H
623 1894 Pervoi D / H / P
624 1894 Vtoroi D / H / P
627 1895 Saratovski Ledokol D / H / P
634 1895 Dezhnyo D / H
651 1896 Maria D / H
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The following is a list of tugs built by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Low Walker:

Yd No Year Tug Name D / H / P
831 1910 George V D / H / P
1002 1925 Bertha D / H / P
1003 1925 Glide Lake D / H
1004 1925 Rheda D / H
1005 1925 Joan D / H
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The following tug was built by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd, Willington Quay:

Yd No Year Tug Name D / H / P
1045 1929 Sir William Hoy D / H / P
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