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.

44 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,


  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

    If you can identify plans that you would like copied please send an e-mail to our enquiry service ( 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,


  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

    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 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?

    • John Foster says:

      My grandmother also launched a ship at Bartrams she was a mrs Eastick
      The ship I believe was the “Jersey city”. It was sunk at sea I don’t know if it was ww1 or w22. I believe she was invited to do this as her her husband. Thomas Eastick had started work there when he was 12 years old, and eventually went to the age of 74, and only quite after being injured in a taxi acident.

      John Foster Canada

    • Wayne Burke says:

      I am a marine pilot in Brisbane Australia. My first ship was the Montreal Star joining in 1974 as a cadet officer. I was wondering if your mother posted any of the photos of the launching her launching.

      Regards Wayne Burke

  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 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,


  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 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,


  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

    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 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

    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,


  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

    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 and we’ll let you know the cost.

    Best wishes,


  18. karl Hymphries says:

    I have a friend who discovered a safe many years ago, after getting it open it was full of paper work relating to Bartrums ships, with plans and deeds of ships. He’s keep them for about 10 years was wondering if you would like some pics to see what they are.

  19. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Karl,

    Thank you very much for getting in touch about the Bartrams documents. It’s very thoughtful of you. I’ll forward your message to one of my colleagues and I’m sure that they’ll get back to you shortly.

    Best wishes,


  20. Andrew Grahamslaw says:

    I joined the Halifax Star as deck cadet in June 1964 and sailed on her maiden voyage around the world.In 1965 I drew plans for that ship and started to build a 1:96 balsa wood model.The hull frames and plating was constructed,but 50 years later I am in the process of completing the model! Are the accommodation ,boat,bridge and upper deck plans available as some detail was not drawn by me! ?Any information would be much appreciated. best regards ,Andrew.

  21. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    The Archives has a number of plans and other documents relating to ‘Halifax Star’ within the Bartrams collection. You can see a full list of these by searching our online catalogue, entering the ship’s name in the any text field.

    You’re very welcome to visit us to have a look at the documents we hold If that’s not convenient then you could always order copies of the documents. To get a quote for any copying just send us an e-mail to, listing the items that you’re interested in. I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,


    • Jim says:

      Hi Alan

      Hope you are well, have you come across anything to do with a War Memorial plaque from any Sunderland Shipyard, documents or the like. there is suppose to been a plaque dedicated to a shipyard, we think Greenwells, but unconfirmed, have Thompsons recorded. Also on the lookout of the Moor Line War Memorial see

      Have not seen you for a while hope you are well.


  22. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for getting in touch – it’s great to hear from you.

    I’m not aware of any documents in our collections relating to war memorials for Sunderland shipyards. If I come across anything, though, I’ll certainly get back to you.

    If you haven’t already done so then it might be worth contacting Sunderland Museum to see whether they know of any plaques. You can find contact details on their website

    Best of luck with your research,


  23. Gert Vlaanderen says:

    Approx 2 years ago you helped me out as well. May be this time again. I was looking around in your website in ref. of SD14 ships ( again ) I found a book (-let?) named: SD14 Hull and machinery, published by Austin & Pickersgill themselves. I think I will find it very interesting. The reference of the museum is: TWCMS: F831. I tried to find it but failed.
    Possible to inform me a little bit about this book?

    Gert Vlaanderen, Lunteren, The Netherlands.

  24. paul jack says:

    I’m trying to find some information about my great grandfather who was Harbour Master in Sunderland some time in the late nineteenth century. His name was Thompson but I don’t know his first name.
    Three years ago you posted this guidance “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” Unfortunately this link no longer seems to work. Can you help me please.

  25. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for getting in touch. The advice I gave before still holds true. You can find our user guides here The one you’ll need is ‘Maritime Trade and Navigation’.

    You’re very welcome to visit our searchroom and look through the records we hold. You can find details of our location and opening times here I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,


  26. paul jack says:

    Thanks Alan, I’ll try to fit in a visit before long

    Best wishes


  27. Geoff Geary says:

    Dear Alan,
    I am researching my family on my mother’s side. According to family history we are related to George Burton Hunter the engineer and ship builder. It is possible that he is my great, great grandfather. However I have found that finding information is not easy since I now live in Melbourne Australia and there is surprisingly very little about this Hunter family on the web.
    My mother’s surname is Hunter. Her grandfather William Hunter (grandmother mother Rose) came to New Zealand in the late 1880’s / early 1890’s settling in Coromandel. The family story is that William Hunter was delivering a ship for his father (ostensibly George Burton Hunter but possibly another Hunter) to New Zealand, but rather than return to the UK, he decided to stay in New Zealand, possibly because he had met his future wife Rose. There is also a suggestion that there was a stepmother who he did not particularly like. I don’t think that Annie Hudson (GBH’s wife) was his mother but was thinking that William might have resulted from a previous relationship. I just don’t know.
    Anyway, I thought that I would write to you in the hope that you might be able to provide me with additional biographical information or some leads.
    Kind regards,
    Geoff Geary

  28. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Geoff,

    Many thanks for getting in touch.

    Unfortunately, restrictions on staff time mean that we’re unable to carry out any research free of charge. However, the Archives does offer a paid research service and that would be one way that we might be able to help you. If you’d like to use that service then you can find further details and an application form on our website

    Best of luck with your research,


  29. So delighted to come across your site and see a photo of the mv North Devon on her sea trials in May 1958. I have searched high and low for a photo of this
    ship in her original Hugh Roberts,(North Shipping Co) colours.
    I was an Apprentice Deck Officer with Hugh Roberts from 1953 to 1957 so would
    like to obtain a photo of her for my collection, The only photos I have seen up todate of this ship has been in Common Bros colours or in a sad rusty state in

  30. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m really glad that you’ve found an image of interest. We have eight aerial views of the ‘North Devon’ on sea trials (TWAM ref. DT.TUR//6/19828) and can certainly send you a copy of one or more of them as prints or as digital copies. If you send an e-mail to our searchroom team ( then they’ll give you a quote and explain how you can pay.

    Best wishes,


  31. Don says:

    Hi. Just to say theres an interview with the SD designer on You Tube. I always thought SD stood for Standard Design but according to him the SD is an abbreviation for Sunderland. Hope this helps. All the best.

  32. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks, Don. I’ll take a look. I’ve read a few contradictory accounts of what the abbreviation SD stood for. It’s a debate that will probably continue for some time to come.

    Best wishes,


  33. Hello Alan
    I would like to bring to the attention of your viewers if I may a new web site launched in March by the Shipping and Shipbuilding Research Trust, “Sunderland Ships” – This data base will provide information on all vessels built on the River Wear from about 1780 to the present.
    While most yards from 1860 onward are nearly complete, work on the period 1780 to 1860 continues. The work is being carried out by a small number of volunteer editors. Please pay us a visit and send some feed back to
    Sunderland Ships is a sister to the already successful Clyde Ships

    Best Regards

    Mick O’Rourke
    Shipping and Shipbuilding Research Trust

    • Alan Hayward says:

      Hi Mick,

      Thanks for the link to the website. I’m sure it will be very well used.

      Best wishes,


  34. Susan Jones says:

    Hi Alan

    I am one of the children in the ‘Sports Day’ photograph above (ref TWAM ref. DS.BM/5/5/1). I have a copy of this photograph at home and used it in an exhibition of my own photographic work about five years ago. I am very easy to find – in the centre of the image there is a girl with something in her mouth – probably a lolly of some kind – this girl is carrying me in her arms but I have no idea who she is – presumably the daughter of one of my Dad’s workmates.

    My Dad worked as a Plater at Bartrams Shipyard. I am too young to remember the day when this picture was taken, but I do remember going to these sports days as I got a bit older.

    I think they were held at Whitburn on a big field out in the countryside – I remember the smell of the cut grass and being inside the big marquees and there must have been Coconut Shy because I remember my uncle breaking open a coconut that he’d won. I think there must have been buses to take us there, we didn’t have a car at the time.

    Best wishes


    • Alan Hayward says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your memories – it’s a great photo. We don’t have all that many images of the social side of shipyard life so that one is a bit special.

      Best wishes,


  35. R Richardson says:

    hello im interested in the photo files regarding Ixia 639 & Exning 640

  36. Barrie Stevens says:

    I knew the Papalios family that owned the “Mimis Papalios and “George N Papalios”. My late father Ken Stevens was their shipbroker for many years with Aegis Shipping in London and I worked for them as well. Papalios had many SD 14s built also in Greece. “Mimis” is short for Dimitri and the eldest son was/is Dimitri N Papalios. George N Papalios was second son and became a famous film director with many awards likewise his wife Mary Papalios. Dimitri N Papalios qualified in naval architecture at Sunderland Tech College during the time these ships were built. George’s son Nicholas D Papalios named after his grandfather also became a shipowner but the company I think it was Soleym Carriers failed in recent years (2010 and then was reinvented) Dimitri “Mimis” Papalios lives in West London retired now but his stepson is the society photographer Luke Foreman. His daughter Suzy Papalios does interior design and décor etc with Rosso ie Suzy Rosso…All this is on line. Aegis Shipping that owned the SD14s closed about 1986. I left an archive about my father Ken Stevens with Tyne and Wear Archives. He and ourselves as a family were closely involved with Newcastle owners R S Dalgleish and Stephen Sutton. My late father was also their broker for 17 years. I remember the “minty” Black Bullets I received when ever there was a lunch!

  37. Luca De Rosa says:

    Good morning,
    i’m an italian engineer and an historical researcher, i live in Calabria at South of Italy where a steamer last name Bengala of 1500 grt is shipwrecked in the 1889. I have discovered that was built at Sunderland GBR with name Mecca in 1871 The most ship data are here

    I’m doing an historical research of this steamer
    This steamer was built at Sunderland so probabily somewhere there are photos, naval plans or other about. Do you have a naval plan of this vesse? (mecca launched 06.05.1871 from dock 41 in Sunderland

    To tank you very very very much i send my best wishes.
    An hello from Italy

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