Recently discovered photograph albums of Austin and Pickersgill ships

The two most popular types of shipbuilding records held by the Archives are without doubt ships plans and photographs. I was therefore very excited in early August when I discovered a series of photograph albums of twenty one ships built by the Sunderland firm Austin & Pickersgill Ltd, dating from the late 1950s to the 1970s. There is a separate photograph album for each vessel.

The two earliest albums for the ‘Needles’ and the ‘Baron Kinnaird’ focus on the launch of the vessels, showing the launching party and the vessel sliding down the ways.

The launch of the 'Needles', February 1958 (TWAM ref. 2376 unlisted)

The majority of the other albums concentrate more on the interior of the ships, although usually also include a shot of the overall vessel and some deck views.

The 'Surrey Trader' during sea trials, 1964 (TWAM ref. 2376 unlisted)

Upper Deck of the 'Surrey Trader' looking forward (TWAM ref. 2376 unlisted)

The interior shots often include the wheelhouse, engines and machinery as well as showing the different standards of cabins, dining and recreation facilities enjoyed by the officers and the crew.

Typical seaman's cabin onboard the 'Surrey Trader', 1964 (TWAM ref. 2376 unlisted)

There are albums for the following ships built at Austin & Pickersgill’s Southwick shipyard:

  •  ‘Needles’ (yard no. 355)
  • ‘Baron Kinnaird’ (yard no. 356)
  • ‘Glanely’ (yard no. 362)
  • ‘Iron Ore’ (yard no. 363)
  • ‘Iron Barque’ (yard no. 364)
  • ‘Ravensworth’ (yard no. 365)
  • ‘Longstone’ (yard no. 366)
  • ‘Finnamore Meadow’ (yard no. 378)
  • ‘Vasilios R’ (yard no. 818)
  • ‘Scottish Trader’ (yard no.822)
  • ‘Surrey Trader’ (yard no. 828)
  • ‘Victore’ (yard no. 831)
  • ‘Wearfield’ (yard no. 837)
  • ‘Inishowen Head’ (yard no. 838)
  • ‘Ixia’ (yard no. 839)
  • ‘Exning’ (yard no. 840)
  • ‘Australia Star’ (yard no. 841)
  • ‘Baron Inverforth’ (yard no. 842)
  • ‘Eibe Oldendorff’ (yard no. 893)
  • ‘Catharina Oldendorff’ (yard no. 894)


There is also an album for the ‘Strathdare’ (yard no. 444), built at the old Bartrams shipyard at South Dock.

Although these albums haven’t been catalogued yet, access to them is possible with a few days notice. Please contact me directly if you would like to visit the Archives searchroom at the Discovery Museum to view any of them.

18 Responses to Recently discovered photograph albums of Austin and Pickersgill ships

  1. June Young says:

    I’m searching for information about my Uncle Geoffrey Chapman, who as an apprentice with Austin & Pickersgill, Sunderland in the early 1960’s, had the honour of launching a ship. He was chosen as he was the youngest employee at the time.

    I’m new to compiling my family tree and wondered if you could suggest the way forward in my search for information.

    Thanks June

  2. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks for getting in touch. I’m afraid that I haven’t started cataloguing the Austin & Pickersgill records yet so I can’t say whether we are likely to hold any information about your uncle, Geoffrey Chapman. My impression at this stage is that the records of Austin & Pickersgill do not survive nearly as well as they do for other Sunderland shipbuilding firms.

    We do have photographs taken at launches, particularly within the records of the firm Turners (Photography) Ltd, which took photographs of launches, sea trials and ship interior shots for many local shipyards, including Austin & Pickersgill. Unfortunately, if you’re not sure of the name of the vessel or the year that your uncle launched it then finding an image could take you some time.

    I should start cataloguing the Austin & Pickersgill records within the next month or so and I’ll contact you again if I happen to come across any relevant information.

  3. Hi ,
    I would be very interested to see the other albums of the ships on the slipways /launches etc .
    My father worked on probably every sd14 and b26 that they built from1955 to the mid 1980s.
    I would be particullay interested in a ship called happy Dragon built in 1966.
    this was the first ship built in two halves . cofferdammed then floated together and welded up .
    I was there at the lauch at the Southwick yard . only a boy of 9 years old
    my father took me down right down onto the birth to feel and touch the ship
    the sleepers the grease on the slipway. the morning of the launch .
    the drag chains, piled up the size of your average house. the roar and noise when she went down the silpway,was tremendous . one of my ealiest memories as a young lad with his dad.
    if anyone reading this has any photos i would like to hear from you ?

  4. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for your comment. You’re very welcome to visit our searchroom and take a look at the photograph albums. Our opening times and location are shown on our website

    You seem to have fantastic memories of the ‘Happy Dragon’. I’m afraid that we don’t seem to have any images of that launch. However, we do have 8 slides of the ship on the River Tyne within the John Rippington collection (TWAM ref. DF.RIP/18/18) and there are also photographic negatives of the sea trials of the ‘Happy Dragon’ in our huge Turners collection (TWAM ref. 3396).

    I hope you get the chance to come in and take a look. Incidentally, I wrote a short blog a few months ago about the personnel records we hold for Austin & Pickersgill Ltd Maybe some of those might also be of interest to you.

    Best wishes,


  5. Norman Hill says:

    I am trying to obtain a lines and body plan drawing for the Austin & Pickersgill built SD14 cargo vessels.
    I am a shipping model maker of over 40 years, now retired but active again in the field of model ships.
    I do hope you can help or advise what other leads I can persue.
    Thank you in anticipation,
    Norman Hill.

  6. Alan Hayward says:

    Thanks for getting in touch. We have lots of plans of SD14 vessels built by Bartram & Sons Ltd and Austin & Pickersgill Ltd. You can see details of all the Austin & Pickersgill plans by searching our online catalogue under the reference number DS.AP/4/PL. I’m afraid that we don’t seem to have any lines plans but I hope there are some others that you might find interesting.

    You’re very welcome to visit the Archives to take a look at any plans that interest you and details of our location and opening times are given on our website If you’d like to order copies of any items please send details of the plans you are interested in to our main e-mail address

    Best wishes,


  7. shaun conley says:

    hi Alan im tring to trace my time served lines and certs from when i was an apprentice 1984-1988 finding it very difficult to find who would have a copy
    thanx shaun

  8. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Shaun,

    All the Austin & Pickersgill records we have are catalogued and you can see a list of the personnel records by searching our online catalalogue entering DS.AP/2 in the RefNo field.

    Sadly we don’t have any apprenticeship registers or certificate. As you’ll see we only have two items for the period that you’re interested in. There’s a register of starters, leavers and transfers covering the period January 1984-January 1985 (TWAM ref. DS.AP/2/21/5) and also a file of movement of labour transfers covering December 1980-July 1987 (TWAM ref. DS.AP/2/22). These records contain some sensitive personal information about employees and so aren’t open to the public. We can search them for you, however, through our paid research service and further details of that service can be found at If you’re interested in using the research service then please do send an e-mail to

    Best wishes,


  9. Neil Howe says:

    Hi Alan,

    Is it possible to buy prints of any of these pictures? I’ve been after some images of industrial Sunderland to frame for a while now…



  10. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for your question. We certainly can provide A4 or A3 prints of those images as well as the many thousands of others we hold for Sunderland’s shipyards. If you’d like to make a thorough search of our collections then the best way would be to pay us a visit. Details of our location and opening times can be found on our website

    If a personal visit isn’t convenient then you could always take a look at some of the images that we’ve put on flickr. There are some great aerial shots of Sunderland as well as views of shipyard workers in the following flickr set There are some more images of shipbuilding on both Wear and Tyne in a set produced to celebrate the addition of our shipbuilding collections to the UNESCO Memory of the World It might also be worth taking a look at a recent set of images of Sunderland shipyard workers

    If you’re interested in ordering copies of any of these then do get in touch (e-mails to giving a short description of the image and its reference number. We can then get back to you with the costs etc. I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,


  11. Harry Anthony Crosby says:

    Hi I am an ex app, supervisory and manager from A&P I won the app of the year in something like 1977. I worked with many of the guys mainly on the construction of the fwd and aft units in L-Bay of the SD14, 15 B26 barges and the ferries etc some names i remember: Billy Tate, Joe Tate, Alfie Roberts, Mick McGuigan, Billy Walker, Andy Mc Naught, Keith Fisher, Jackie Harris, Joe Ford, Harry Shelldrake, Joe McMahon, Tommy Walker, Cookie (plater in B-Bay) there are lots more………Ernie Howe, I was there from 1970 to 1988 when I took redundancy. Anyone out there get in touch

  12. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Harry,

    Thanks for your message. I really hope people spot it and get in touch.

    If you haven’t already done so then it would also be worth contacting the Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding Facebook Page – it’s a great group and with a bit of luck the members might help you to connect with a few old friends.

    Best wishes,


  13. Laurent Gontier-Versailles says:


    Even I didnt find any records of those ships on your site, I’d like to know if you may supply copies of shipyard plans and eventually pictures of the three sister-ships built in 1909-1910 built by the William Pickersgill & sons LTD shipyard, for the belgian “Antwerpsche Zeevaart Maatschappij. – D’ Haene J. & Co.”, those ships being “Ambiorix” (yard number 164), “Boduognat” (Y.N. 165) and “Indutiomare” (Y.N. 166).

    Those pictures would be used to do a painting.

    Many thanks


  14. Pavel says:

    I am currently looking into refitting a ship built by this yard, called Radiant II. Would it be possible to get some more information on it. There are plenty of info on internet that I found, but I am sure this boat has many stories around it. It would be very interesting to here any of them. I would like to restore it in its original shape, as much as possible and explotate it as floating art gallery and museum.

  15. Alan Hayward says:

    Hi Pavel,

    Thanks for getting in touch about the luxury yacht ‘Radiant II’.

    The Archives has a number of documents about the vessel and you can see general details of some of these by searching our online catalogue and entering the vessel’s name in the AnyText field.

    We also have a significant number of images of ‘Radiant II’ in our Turners photographic collection (these do not yet appear on the online catalogue) and if you’d like further details of the images please send us an e-mail to

    We’ve also put three images of her launch on Flickr, including his rather nice one I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,


  16. Can I join the group

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