The clang, bustle and sparks of the welders pave the way for the stirring drama of a launch for the largest cargo liner working West African trade routes, built for the Palm Line. More than 1,600 ships were constructed at the Tyneside shipyards of Swan Hunters, including the famous Mauretania liner launched for Cunard, ‘queen of the ocean’ and a transport marvel at the time.
In the 1960s Swan Hunters embraced the era of the mammoth tanker in Wallsend with the launch of the 253,000-ton Esso Northumbria. This was the largest ship ever built in Britain at the time, so large that it took up 2 berths and had to be launched side-on into the Tyne. The Glasgow Herald reported that, as the ship gathered speed, 1750 tons of drag chains and seven anchors were needed ‘to keep her from forming an instant bridge to the other bank of the river’. Since Swan Hunters’ demise in 2007, the giant cranes, which once dominated the Tyneside skyline, have been slowly dismantled, and towed to Indian shipyards in 2014. The iconic link to shipbuilding on the River Tyne has finally disappeared from the landscape.
North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.