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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 Launched
Ship is Launched
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Ship 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.

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

Non-Fiction19185 mins Location: Barnstaple

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

City of Ships
City of Ships
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City 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.

Shipyard
Shipyard
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Shipyard

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.

Topical Budget 34-1
Topical Budget 34-1
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Topical Budget 34-1

Non-Fiction19122 mins Location: Southampton

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

RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde
RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde
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RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde

19362 mins

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

Shipbuilders
Shipbuilders
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Shipbuilders

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.

Building of a Liner
Building of a Liner
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Building of a Liner

19389 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

The precision and beauty of shipbuilding in Britain.

Circulating Water Channel
Circulating Water Channel
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Circulating Water Channel

Documentary196911 mins

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

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

Non-Fiction19271 mins 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.

Sounds of the Clyde
Sounds of the Clyde
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Sounds 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).

"Princess Margaret"
"Princess Margaret"
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"Princess Margaret"

Non-Fiction19311 mins Location: Dumbarton

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

Fair Oriana
Fair Oriana
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Fair Oriana

Documentary196128 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

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

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

Non-Fiction19301 mins Location: Clydebank

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

Ross Belch
Ross Belch
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Ross 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.

Ship Is a Lady
Ship Is a Lady
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Ship Is a Lady

Non-Fiction19282 mins Location: Clydebank

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

Born to Boats
Born to Boats
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Born to Boats

195814 mins Location: Henley-on-Thames

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

The Modest Millionaire
The Modest Millionaire
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The 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.

Bideford Shipbuilding
Bideford Shipbuilding
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Bideford Shipbuilding

News19781 mins Location: Bideford

Bideford Shipbuilding

Launch of MV Cedric
Launch of MV Cedric
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Launch of MV Cedric

Sponsored film19522 mins Location: Belfast

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

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

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

Non-Fiction19003 mins Location: Stockton-on-Tees

Hometime for thousands of Teesside shipbuilders.

Construction of a Graving Dock
Construction of a Graving Dock
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Construction of a Graving Dock

Amateur film193519 mins Location: Wallsend

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

Duke of Lancaster
Duke of Lancaster
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Duke of Lancaster

Sponsored film19567 mins 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.

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

Industry sponsored film19607 mins Location: Walker

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

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

Industry sponsored film19729 mins Location: Hebburn

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

Launch of the MV Innesmoor
Launch of the MV Innesmoor
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Launch of the MV Innesmoor

Amateur film195416 mins Location: Hebburn

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

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

Industry sponsored film195114 mins Location: Tynemouth

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

Manchester Commerce
Manchester Commerce
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Manchester Commerce

Industry sponsored film19633 mins Location: Middlesbrough

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

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

Amateur film193116 mins 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.

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

Non-Fiction19011 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

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

Walker's Planesailing
Walker's Planesailing
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Walker's Planesailing

News19685 mins Location: Crediton

Revolutionary Sail inspired by Plane

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

Industry sponsored film19706 mins 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.

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

News19781 mins Location: Appledore

The industry where the waves meet the shore

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

Amateur film19868 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

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

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

Non-Fiction19035 mins Location: Barrow-In-Furness

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

Ship There Was
Ship There Was
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Ship 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.

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

Non-Fiction19012 mins Location: Greenock

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

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

Industry sponsored film19509 mins Location: Middlesbrough

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

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

Home movie19302 mins 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.

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

Non-Fiction195913 mins Location: Birkenhead

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

Sea and Ships
Sea and Ships
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Sea 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.

Launch of the Thunderer
Launch of the Thunderer
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Launch of the Thunderer

Non-Fiction19115 mins 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.

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

Industry sponsored film19788 mins Location: Walker

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

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

Non-Fiction1901 mins

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

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

News19801 mins Location: Falmouth

The growth of Cornwall’s Steel and Shipbuilding Industries

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

Amateur film193814 mins 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.

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

S.S. Olympic
S.S. Olympic
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S.S. Olympic

Non-Fiction19108 mins

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

The 'Scillonian' launches
The 'Scillonian' launches
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The 'Scillonian' launches

News19771 mins Location: Appledore

RMV Scillonian Ferry III launches

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

Non-Fiction1929 mins 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

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

Sponsored film19508 mins Location: Wallsend

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

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

Industry sponsored film19625 mins 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.

British Shipping Industry
British Shipping Industry
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British Shipping Industry

Anthology193521 mins

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

Stirling Ash
Stirling Ash
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Stirling Ash

Amateur film19757 mins 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.

SS Oriana
SS Oriana
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SS Oriana

Amateur film19672 mins Location: Tilbury

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

Visit to a Shipbuilding Yard
Visit to a Shipbuilding Yard
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Visit to a Shipbuilding Yard

195115 mins Location: Clydebank

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

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

194413 mins

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

Emmalou's First Year
Emmalou's First Year
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Emmalou'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.

Tyne Lives
Tyne Lives
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Tyne Lives

Documentary197963 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

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

Lightships
Lightships
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Lightships

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.

HMS Eagle’s New Commission
HMS Eagle’s New Commission
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HMS Eagle’s New Commission

News19641 mins Location: Plymouth

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

Farewell HMS Eagle
Farewell HMS Eagle
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Farewell HMS Eagle

News19781 mins Location: Plymouth

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

Farewell HMS Ark Royal
Farewell HMS Ark Royal
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Farewell HMS Ark Royal

News19803 mins Location: Plymouth

The Ark Royal journeys towards its audacious end.

Explore further

Shipbuilding on Film - Professor Hugh Murphy
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.