Browse by Records Creators

Joseph L Thompson & Sons Ltd, shipbuilders and repairers

This page summarises records created by this Business

The summary includes a brief description of the collection(s) (usually including the covering dates of the collection), the name of the archive where they are held, and reference information to help you find the collection.

Date: 1846-2000
History: Established at North Sands in 1846 as Robert Thompson & Sons. The original partnership consisted of Robert Thompson and his sons Robert, Joseph Lowes and John. In 1854 Robert Thompson junior left the firm to set up his own company in Southwick. Robert Thompson senior died in 1860, leaving his second son Joseph Lowes Thompson in control. In 1870 the shipyard completed its last wooden vessel and was then adapted for iron shipbuilding. In the following year the firm changed its name to Joseph L. Thompson. By 1880 the firm had expanded its operations over much of North Sands and in 1884 completed the construction of Manor Quay, which served as fitting out and repair facilities. In 1893 Joseph Lowes Thompson, Senior died and control of the business passed to his eldest son Robert. In 1894 Joseph L Thompson & Sons Ltd became a limited liability company. For many years in the late nineteenth century the yard was the largest, in terms of output, in Sunderland and in 1894 was the fourth leading shipyard in the world in that regard. In 1901 Sir James Marr became managing Director of the firm and was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Board. He held that position until his death in 1932 and was succeeded by Major Robert Norman Thompson. The Depression affected the firm severely in the early 1930s and no vessels were launched from 1931 to 1934. However, during those years the company undertook research work to develop a hull design giving greater efficiency and economy in service. In 1935 the first vessel built to this new design 'Embassage' was launched. During the Second World War the shipyard built numerous standard cargo vessels but was to make an even greater contribution to the war effort. In 1941 Robert Cyril Thompson, Managing Director of the firm headed an Admiralty Merchant Shipbuilding Mission to the United States. The Mission's purpose was to organise the construction by American yards of cheap and economical vessels for the British Government to a prototype designed by Joseph L. Thompson & Sons. This proved successful but the Mission was to have even greater unforeseen consequences since the prototype proved so popular that it was used by the US Government as the basis of over 2,700 ?Liberty ships? built at American shipyards between 1942 and 1945. Shortly after the War in 1946 the company took over John Crown & Sons Ltd. In 1954 the firm joined with several other companies including Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd and became a subsidiary of Sunderland Shipbuilding, Dry Dock & Engineering Co Ltd. In 1961 that company merged with William Doxford & Sons Ltd to form the Doxford and Sunderland Shipbuilding and Engineering Group. In 1966 the parent company absorbed all of its subsidiaries and Joseph L. Thompson & Sons ceased to exist as an independent company. The firm's North Sands shipyard continued to operate until its closure in 1979.
  • Sunderland, Durham
Functions, occupations and activities: Engineering: Mechanical > Shipbuilding and marine engineering
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C120028 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/B6708 )
Number Description Held by Reference Further information
1846-1970: minutes, ledgers, production records, etc
Tyne and Wear Archives
See HMC Records of British business and industry 1760-1914 metal processing and engineering, 1994
20th cent: ships plans
National Maritime Museum: The Caird Library and Archive
See LA Ritchie, The Shipbuilding Industry (1992)
1880-1956: ship plans and specifications
Discovery Museum
See LA Ritchie, The Shipbuilding Industry (1992)
1872-1877: album of newspaper cuttings
Tyne and Wear Archives