Shipbuilding on Film

Every ship launch is an epic. The majestic glide of the colossus into the waiting waters is a spectacle made for filming.

Shipbuilding as a process, too, has long fascinated filmmakers: the slow emergence - over months and years - of the ship's form from its wood and metal skeleton, the awesome investment of labour and craft that brings it into being. As an island nation, Britain has always imposed itself on the seas. But by the 20th century, Britain's shipyards weren't just meeting her own naval and merchant shipping needs - British shipbuilding was a service industry to the world. These films, from documentaries and newsreels to feature films, bring to life the stories of the communities around the UK shaped by the shipyards. This collection is supported by The Chandris Foundation, Community Union, The Eric Anker-Petersen Charity and The Shipwrights Charitable Fund.

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Ship is LaunchedShip is Launched

Industry sponsored film19577 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

The famous Swan Hunter shipyards on the Tyne grease the slipway for another stirring launch in the prosperous 1950s.

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Building and Launch of the "Crepath" at BarnstapleBuilding and Launch of the "Crepath" at Barnstaple

Non-Fiction19185 minsSilent Location: Barnstaple

Barnstaple's experimental concrete-hulled ship gets a visit from a jolly Italian admiral.

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City of ShipsCity of Ships

Industry sponsored film194034 mins Location: Royal Albert Dock

There’s breathtaking footage of the London’s docks at their bustling peak in this informative film celebrating the work of the Port Of London Authority.

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193525 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

Paul Rotha’s brilliant film of the building and launch of SS Orion from the shipyards of Barrow-in-Furness.

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Topical Budget 34-1Topical Budget 34-1

Non-Fiction19122 minsSilent Location: Southampton

Two of the earliest surviving editions of the Topical Budget newsreel, released in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster.

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RMS Queen Mary Leaves the ClydeRMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde

19362 minsSilent

The iconic Cunard White Star liner leaves the shipyard of her birth and ventures seawards for the first time.

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Government sponsored film194010 mins

Shipwrights, plate-fitters and riveters support the war effort as their ships take majestic shape in this tour of British shipyards.

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Building of a LinerBuilding of a Liner

19389 minsSilent Location: Barrow-In-Furness

The precision and beauty of shipbuilding in Britain.

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Circulating Water ChannelCirculating Water Channel

Documentary196911 mins

See naval architects craft new designs for maximum bulk capacity in modern shipping.

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Clydebank. H.M. Ship 'Australia'Clydebank. H.M. Ship 'Australia'

Non-Fiction19271 minsSilent Location: Clydebank

10,000 tons of steel slides into the Clyde in the form of HMAS Australia, a ship that would serve the Australian Navy well in WWII.

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Sounds of the ClydeSounds of the Clyde

Current affairs197127 mins

Glasgow shipbuilders organise a "work-in" in response to being laid off by the liquidators of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS).

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"Princess Margaret""Princess Margaret"

Non-Fiction19311 minsSilent Location: Dumbarton

Shipbuilders admire their craft as the SS Princess Margaret launches in picturesque Dumbarton.

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Fair OrianaFair Oriana

Documentary196128 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

The spectacular story of the building of a massive ocean liner.

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Launch of Canadian Pacific Steamship "Princess Elizabeth"Launch of Canadian Pacific Steamship "Princess Elizabeth"

Non-Fiction19301 minsSilent Location: Clydebank

The steamship Princess Elizabeth glides down the slipway at Fairfield, Glasgow.

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Ross BelchRoss Belch

Cinemagazine197014 mins Location: Clydebank

"The Clydesiders are still a tough lot" - as evidenced in this behind-the-scenes tour of a 1960s Clydeside shipyard.

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Ship Is a LadyShip Is a Lady

Non-Fiction19282 minsSilent Location: Clydebank

The "drunken" Duchess of Richmond is launched at Clydebank - the place that launched a thousand ships.

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Born to BoatsBorn to Boats

195814 minsSilent Location: Henley-on-Thames

From the Norfolk Broads to Cowes, more and more people discover they were born to boats.

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The Modest MillionaireThe Modest Millionaire

Documentary198525 mins Location: Swinton

A genuinely fascinating businessman, with workman’s hands, an old battered Austin, still labouring at 77, and keeping many a church going.

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Bideford ShipbuildingBideford Shipbuilding

Current affairs19781 minsSilent Location: Bideford

Bideford Shipbuilding

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Launch of MV CedricLaunch of MV Cedric

Sponsored film19522 minsSilent Location: Belfast

Enter the spectacular slipways of Harland & Wolff, explore the shipyard that built the Titanic and her sister ships.

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Ships for the World - Built in BritainShips for the World - Built in Britain

Documentary196614 mins

From luxury liner to 60s super-tanker, Britain's shipbuilders big up their export business in a funky and slightly bizarre promotional film.

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Ropner & Co., Shipbuilders, Stockton on Tees (1900)Ropner & Co., Shipbuilders, Stockton on Tees (1900)

Non-Fiction19003 minsSilent Location: Stockton-on-Tees

Hometime for thousands of Teesside shipbuilders.

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Construction of a Graving DockConstruction of a Graving Dock

Amateur film193519 minsSilent Location: Wallsend

A construction project looks to the future at a Swan Hunter’s Tyneside shipyard in the 1930s.

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Duke of LancasterDuke of Lancaster

Sponsored film19567 minsSilent Location: Belfast

Experience luxury afloat as the Duke of Lancaster embarks on its maiden voyage. Behold the splendour of the ill-fated Funship during it’s heyday with the British Railways fleet.

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Launch of TSS Principe Perfeito 22nd September 1960Launch of TSS Principe Perfeito 22nd September 1960

Industry sponsored film19607 minsSilent Location: Walker

Hard graft and champagne at the successful launch of a Portuguese cruise liner, built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson.

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Launch of M.S. Joseph R. Smallwood 11th July 1972Launch of M.S. Joseph R. Smallwood 11th July 1972

Industry sponsored film19729 minsSilent Location: Hebburn

The Swan Hunter shipyard celebrates the launch of a tanker built to serve the Come By Chance oil refinery in Newfoundland.

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Launch of the MV InnesmoorLaunch of the MV Innesmoor

Amateur film195416 minsSilent Location: Hebburn

Explore the gleaming new interiors of the Tyne-built cargo ship Innesmoor.

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M.V. Ceres Built by Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, Haverton HillM.V. Ceres Built by Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, Haverton Hill

Industry sponsored film195114 minsSilent Location: Tynemouth

The Tyne river front is at its bustling peak in this record of sea trials for the Ceres container ship.

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Manchester CommerceManchester Commerce

Industry sponsored film19633 minsSilent Location: Middlesbrough

A Tees-built ship embraces new surveillance technology on its sea trial.

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Oil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat DestroyerOil Tanker Wellfield; HMS Bulldog Torpedo Boat Destroyer

Amateur film193116 minsSilent Location: North Shields

The casual heroes of the shipyards – workers and the ships they build on Tyneside are captured in beautiful monochrome by an early cine club.

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Employees Leaving Messrs Vickers, Sons & Maxim in Barrow (1901)Employees Leaving Messrs Vickers, Sons & Maxim in Barrow (1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent Location: Barrow-In-Furness

Edwardian workers file out of a naval shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness.

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Walker's PlanesailingWalker's Planesailing

Current affairs19685 mins Location: Crediton

Revolutionary Sail inspired by Plane

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Launch of M.S. ManoraLaunch of M.S. Manora

Industry sponsored film19706 minsSilent Location: Wallsend

A brass band serenades guests in the rain at aTyneside launch of the towering MS Manora cargo ship from Swan Hunters shipyard in Wallsend.

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Large Freighter is being Built at Appledore ShipyardLarge Freighter is being Built at Appledore Shipyard

Current affairs19781 minsSilent Location: Appledore

The industry where the waves meet the shore

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Tall Ships: Newcastle Maritime Festival 86Tall Ships: Newcastle Maritime Festival 86

Amateur film19868 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

The Queen visits a magnificent maritime spectacle on the Tyne as Newcastle hosts the Cutty Sark Tall Ships regatta.

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Royal Visit to Barrow and Launch of HMS Dominion (1903)Royal Visit to Barrow and Launch of HMS Dominion (1903)

Non-Fiction19035 minsSilent Location: Barrow-In-Furness

Princess Louise comes to Edwardian Barrow in Furness to christen the battleship HMS Dominion.

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Ship There WasShip There Was

Documentary195225 mins

A heart-warming tale about a Tyneside shipyard worker who dreams of a cruise on the luxury ocean liner he helps to build.

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Workforce of Scott & Co. Shipyard, Greenock (1901)Workforce of Scott & Co. Shipyard, Greenock (1901)

Non-Fiction19012 minsSilent Location: Greenock

Unruly shipworkers defy direction from Mitchell and Kenyon's showmen partners.

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Launch of the "Athelsultan" Built to the Order of Athel Lines Ltd, London by Smith Docks Ltd, Southbank-on-TeesLaunch of the "Athelsultan" Built to the Order of Athel Lines Ltd, London by Smith Docks Ltd, Southbank-on-Tees

Industry sponsored film19509 minsSilent Location: Middlesbrough

Grandeur, excitement and pride for a Middlesbrough crowd at the Smiths Dock launch of a ship for the Sugar Line.

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Launching of Genetta IV at Dickies Yard BangorLaunching of Genetta IV at Dickies Yard Bangor

Home movie19302 minsSilent Location: Bangor

The yacht, Genetta IV, takes to the water at Dickies Bangor, where she was made, bedecked with bunting, cheered by crowds and launched by a woman in a flowery hat.

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Names and Launches RMS Windsor Castle 38.000 tonsHer Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Names and Launches RMS Windsor Castle 38.000 tons

Non-Fiction195913 minsSilent Location: Birkenhead

The launch of a majestic liner, and a triumph for British shipbuilding skills.

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Sea and ShipsSea and Ships

Amateur film196014 mins Location: Largs

Join a family of 1960s holiday makers as they tell the story of their colourful adventure on the high seas of Scotland, steaming around the Firth of Clyde and beyond.

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Launch of the ThundererLaunch of the Thunderer

Non-Fiction19115 minsSilent Location: Canning Town

HMS Thunderer is launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury's wife, in a ceremony attended by thousands of dignitaries and most of East London.

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Launch of HMS Exeter, Neptune Yard, 17.15 Tuesday 25th April, 1978Launch of HMS Exeter, Neptune Yard, 17.15 Tuesday 25th April, 1978

Industry sponsored film19788 minsSilent Location: Walker

Royal Navy top brass at the launch of the HMS Exeter destroyer from the world famous Swan Hunters shipyard on Tyneside.

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Ship Departing from Port (c.1901)Ship Departing from Port (c.1901)

Non-Fiction19011 minsSilent

A large liner draws away from the quay, but where is she headed?

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F Parkin and Son Ltd Engineering SuppliersF Parkin and Son Ltd Engineering Suppliers

Current affairs19801 mins Location: Falmouth

The growth of Cornwall’s Steel and Shipbuilding Industries

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Launch of the Queen Elizabeth; Launch of HMS Edinburgh; Launch of Dominion MonarchLaunch of the Queen Elizabeth; Launch of HMS Edinburgh; Launch of Dominion Monarch

Amateur film193814 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

On the brink of war, Royal Navy destroyers assemble ominously on the Tyne - and a chain of ship launches are celebrated from Glasgow to Newcastle.

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Home and Away No. 20Home and Away No. 20

Industry sponsored film196013 mins Location: Renfrew

Is that a dinosaur in the shipyard? A new Jurassic-looking crane arrives on the Clyde, plus a look at tyre making and a Scottish regatta.

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S.S. OlympicS.S. Olympic

Non-Fiction19108 minsSilent

The construction and launch of the S.S. Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic.

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The 'Scillonian' launchesThe 'Scillonian' launches

Current affairs19771 minsSilent Location: Appledore

RMV Scillonian Ferry III launches

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Britain's Largest Motor Ship Empire News Bulletin No. 342Britain's Largest Motor Ship Empire News Bulletin No. 342

Non-Fiction19290 minsSilent Location: Belfast

A ship off the old chocks! White Star's third liner to bear the name Britannic launches from Harland & Wolff's shipyard in Belfast

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The Launch of the Punta Medanos at WallsendThe Launch of the Punta Medanos at Wallsend

Sponsored film19508 minsSilent Location: Wallsend

Tyneside shipyard Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson turns out a beast of a tanker for the Argentine Navy

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Launching of M.V. British CavalierLaunching of M.V. British Cavalier

Industry sponsored film19625 minsSilent Location: Sunderland

Cloth caps at the keel blocks, bowlers on the platform, tug boats at the ready for the launch of the British Cavalier tanker on the River Wear at Sunderland.

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British Shipping IndustryBritish Shipping Industry

Anthology193521 mins

From US colonialism to UK shipbuilding via anti-strikebreaking measures - this issue of the American newsreel has it all.

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Stirling AshStirling Ash

Amateur film19757 minsSilent Location: Beverley

An atmospheric film of a dry dock, the welding of the hull, primitively held by timber supports, before the ship plunges sideways into a river.

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SS OrianaSS Oriana

Amateur film19672 minsSilent Location: Tilbury

Join the greeting party on Tilbury dock to wave home relatives disembarking from a trans-Atlantic cruise

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Visit to a Shipbuilding YardVisit to a Shipbuilding Yard

195115 minsSilent Location: Clydebank

A party of children take an eye-opening tour of John Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank.

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M.A.C. ShipM.A.C. Ship

194413 mins

The story of an oil tanker, rebuilt to fight back during WWII.

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Emmalou's First YearEmmalou's First Year

Amateur film196517 mins Location: West Itchenor

A lovingly crafted home movie charting the maiden voyage of the Brown family's new yacht.

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Tyne LivesTyne Lives

Documentary197963 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Tynesiders speak up - three talk on camera about their lives.

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Documentary197014 mins Location: Cromer

The history of the lightship, including the recollections of retired mariner Charlie Moll, and archive footage of fisher girls at Yarmouth.

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HMS Eagle’s New CommissionHMS Eagle’s New Commission

News19641 minsSilent Location: Plymouth

HMS Eagle receives its fifth commission with RAF 899 Squadron assigned to it.

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Farewell HMS EagleFarewell HMS Eagle

News19781 minsSilent Location: Plymouth

The aircraft carrier HMS Eagle sets out on its final journey to the breakers yard.

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Farewell HMS Ark RoyalFarewell HMS Ark Royal

News19803 minsSilent Location: Plymouth

The Ark Royal journeys towards its audacious end.

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Shipbuilding on Film - Professor Hugh Murphy
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Shipbuilding on Film - Professor Hugh Murphy

Excerpts from the extended essay by Professor Hugh Murphy gives a contextual grasp of the British shipbuilding industry for a large part of the twentieth century.