ABSTRACT

The standard explanation of the decline of shipbuilding on the Thames is based upon Pollard's (1950) article, which has been widely quoted. The leading shipping historian, Palmer, for example, in her recent analysis of shipbuilding in the south-east from 1800-1913, suggests that the 'Crimean UK Shipbuilding statistics, 1854–59

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(2)

(3)

(4)

UK (no.)

UK (000) (n.t.)

UK tonnage per cent Admiralty

UK tonnage per cent London Admiralty

1854

836

218.3

9.8

9.8

1855

1,191

354.4

8.8

7.3

1856

1,269

294.3

16.9

11.9

1857

1,283

252.3

0.7

0.7

1858

1,000

208.1

0.0

0.0

1859

939

186.0

0.0

0.0

Average p.a.

1,086

252.2

6.0

4.9

Ave. 1847–53

770

149.7

0.9

0.9

Ave. 1832–46

901

126.9

1.3

0.6

Notes:

no. = number of vessels

n.t. = net tons

Displacement tons have been multiplied by 1.125 to convert them to net tons

Sources: Mitchell and Deane (1962, pp. 220–22); Banbury (1971); Lyon (1993); Brassey (1883); P.P. Navy Gunboats (1861); Preston and Major (1967); private listings kindly made available by David Lyon. 48and US Civil Wars boosted business and encouraged the creation of new yards to build iron steamers' and cites Pollard as the basis for the view that 'in 1867, the London industry, reliant on marginal, speculative and foreign orders, collapsed in the wake of the Overend Gurney banking crisis and many yards closed'(Palmer 1993, p. 58). Palmer also quotes the comment made in 1867 by the leading shipbuilder, Samuda, that 'every single establishment that was in existence as an iron shipbuilding establishment on the Thames at the time I began business in 1851, with the exception of my own, had either failed or discontinued work as a shipbuilding establishment' in support of this perspective (1993, p. 59). Samuda's comment, made in evidence to a Royal Commission on Trade Unions is important but is probably rather broader than it at first appears and covers both the crisis of 1866, which was severe indeed in its effects on the London shipbuilding trade and on living conditions in the East End but also the time of the Crimean (or Russian) War, which was an important but under-recognised time of business failure in iron shipbuilding on the Thames.