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British Industrial History

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Northfleet Dockyard

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1788 Thomas Pitcher was a successful Thames shipbuilder who established Northfleet Dockyard in 1788, which became one of the largest on the river.

1857 The Northfleet Dockyard was taken over by Henry S. Pitcher who would commence iron shipbuilding.[1]

1859 The Northfleet Docks and London Quays Company issued a prospectus for major programme for building a docks complex at Northfleet[2]

1860 Launched a steam corvette for the Russian Navy, quickly followed by one for Greece; engines as usual were by Maudslay, Sons and Field[3]

1861 Launch of the Amalia, the 191st vessel launched from the Northfleet Dockyard, of which 130 were built for British and European governments.[4]

1865 Dockyard for sale.[5]

Northfleet Dockyard, a most important and valuable freehold property, situate on the south bank of the Thames, at Northfleet, in the county of Kent; together with the great dry dock, slips, and engineering works, fitted with costly plant and machinery, the same being in the occupation of Mr. Charles John Mare. The dockyard has a total river frontage of 850 feet, and occupies a site of about 184 acres. At the western end is the great dry dock, about 350 feet long by 74 feet wide; two pumping engine houses, with engines and pumps, saw pits, spacious mould loft, joiners' shops, landing wharf, six slips for building ships of the first class, one with a corrugated iron roof. The buildings, which are very substantially erected of Kentish rag-stone, with Caen stone dressings, comprise a castellated building giving the principal entrance to the yard, and used as offices and for a principal's or manager's residence, expensively finished; the engineers' factories, four, lofty ground-floor buildings, arranged as the great and small turneries, coppersmiths' shop, brass foundry, boiler makers' shop, smiths' shop, and general fitting shop, the great forge and smithy, stores of various descriptions, yard, foreman's offices, saw pits, range of joiners' shops, six workmen's cottages, partly fitted; and, on a raised terrace, with sloping pleasure-gardens surrounded by a stone wall and approached by flights of steps, is a row of eight brick-and-flint dwelling houses, one of which is in carcase. The works generally are fitted with costly machinery, consisting of numerous steam engines and boilers, lathes, planing, drilling, shaping, slotting, screwing, punching, and shearing machines, steam hammers, furnaces, forges, cranes, steam kilns, and other fixed plant, requisite for a large ship-building and engineering establishment. The outlay in the formation and construction of this very complete establishment has exceeded £100,000. The situation of the property is peculiarly eligible for iron ship-building. It has an advantage over any existing yard on the Thames, being beyond the radius No. 22955. D within which the City, coal dues, are payable, thereby affording an important saving in the price of coal; and the Tilbury line of rail way,...the terminus of which is nearly opposite the works, and by which the City may be reached in an hour, is in direct communication with the Midland and Northern districts; while the English timber-growing districts are accessible by the South-Eastern Railway. Many thousand tons of shipping have been built and launched in this yard. During the Crimean war, fifty-eight gun and despatch boats were built and launched within the short space of thirty months. Large ships have been also built for the Royal West India Mail Company, for the Russian, Brazilian, Spanish, Greek, and Turkish Governments, and also for many private firms. The premises are let, including the use of the machinery, to Mr. Charles J. Mare, from January 1st, 1864, subject to the rent of £3,250 per annum, and in consideration of Mr. Mare having expended £1000 upon improving and repairing the property, and undertaking to expend the further sum of £1000, if his tenancy be continued beyond January 1st, 1865.

Lot 2. A freehold plot of laud adjoining the eastern end of the Dockyard, having a frontage of 98 feet next the Thames, and occupying a site of about IA. 2a. A range of covered saw pits, and five cottages in course of erection; let to Mr. C. J. Mare, at a rental of £100 per annum.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Gravesend Reporter, North Kent and South Essex Advertiser - Saturday 10 November 1860
  2. The Engineer 1859/03/18
  3. The Times , Sept. 6, 1860
  4. Illustrated Times 12 January 1861
  5. The London Gazette Publication date:7 April 1865 Issue:22955 Page:1953