A history of Tyne Tugs, their builders and owners

































Above: Select the required Tug Owner by using the initial letter of the Owner's Name eg: Batey, Lawson or Tyne.
KEY BELOW: D / H / P (D = basic dimensions are shown; H = a history is given; P = one or more photographs are available)

Tug Owner: Tyne Dock Company, South Shields

A Tyne Dock Company had been formed as early as 1839, with a capital of 150,000 and the authority of an Act of Parliament, to build a new dock at South Shields. The dock was to be on the same site as the current Tyne Dock and tenders had been invited for the whole of the works. Unfortunately, the Tyne Dock Company chiefly consisted of shareholders of the Stanhope and Tyne Railway Company, which at that time was fast drifting into financial difficulties. It was no doubt owing to these difficulties that the works of the dock were never begun.

However after the River Tyne Improvement Act was passed by Parliament in 1850, there was a rapid increase in ships using the river, particularly colliers loading and waiting to load coal. To provide more space to handle the increased traffic, the Tyne Dock plans were started again.

Work had actually started in 1849 but was soon suspended and did not resume until 1855 when the company was under the ownership of the North-Eastern Railway Company (NER). On the 3rd of March 1859 the dock officially opened for business. To reduce the costs of operations, the waggons, instead of being drawn to and from the coal spouts by horses and pilot engines, ran in both directions on self-acting inclines.

The dock, as completed, consisted of a basin of 50 acres, with a depth of 24 feet 6 inches at an average spring tide, affording accommodation for 400 or 500 vessels, a tidal basin 9 acres in extent, a main tidal entrance 80 feet in width in the clear, and a lock, 300 feet long by 100 feet wide, with iron gates 60 feet in width and weighing between 500 and 600 tons

The dock was designed by local engineer Mr T Harrison and was acknowledged as the largest coal dock in the world from its opening until late in the 19th century. Coal was delivered by rail over arches which spanned the Jarrow to South Shields road, and was poured into colliers from four staiths, using 42 spouts.

The following photograph, kindly sent in by Kevin Blair, was taken in 1918 by Gladstone Adams and clearly shows the 4 staiths and the extensive marshalling yards in the background. The large building on the left is a warehouse for the Co-operative Society and the main Jarrow to South Shields road ran across the head of the dock, just behind the other large building to its right.

At its height in 1913, 7 million tons of coal were exported from Tyne Dock and in the period between 1859 and 1934 it had shipped a total of 323 million tons.

Imports were also handled at the dock and iron ore, pit props and sawn timber were all unloaded. The goods were unloaded by crane and then transported in rail wagons to the various importers, mainly timber yards and also the large steel works at Consett.

The extent of the dock can be seen in the following photograph from the Newcastle City Libray collection. This photo dates from 1949 and it can be seen that 2 of the 4 coal staithes were already reduced to dock level. In the background there is another enclosed dock, this was the Northumberland Dock built to handle coal from the collieries north of the Tyne. The NER owned staithes in this dock as well.

But 1997-1998 saw the redevelopment of the Port of Tyne’s Riverside Quay, a 750-metre long straight riverside facility which could handle large vessels and parts of Tyne Dock were then gradually reclaimed.

In 2010 the rest of Dock was infilled by using spoil from the construction of the second Tyne Tunnel.

Prior to 1881 it appears that the Tyne Dock Co tugs were unregistered, however in 1881 they were transferred to the parent company North Eastern Railways Co, headquartered at York. Up to 1881 the Tyne Dock Company had employed numerous vessels named TYNE DOCK most of which had a number suffix. Records exist for numbers 1, 2, 3, 33 and 34 and it is thought that numbers 4 to 32 probably also existed but remained un-registered.

The following tugs were owned or operated by the company:

Tug Name Year D / H / P
Tyne Dock No 1 1859 D / H
Tyne Dock No 2 1866 D / H / P
Tyne Dock No 3 1876 D / H / P
-------------------- ----- ----------