Photographs from Pat Howlett unless otherwise stated.

Shipbuilding has been a feature of life at Hessle Cliff, along Hessle Foreshore and at the Haven for centuries, though it has been an itinerant industry. Some of the Hull shipyards also built at Hessle as it was possible to build larger vessels here. Little remains of what were once thriving shipyards; just a few indications of the industry such as wooden piles and foundations.

John Carmichael painted a scene of Hessle Cliff in 1829 which can be seen in the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.

Livingstone & Cooper's Shipyard on the west side of Hessle Haven. Many remains of the industry can still be found on the Foreshore.

Hessle Cliff:

John Frame 1691-1697. Four vessels are recorded – the fireship Etna; the 60-gun Kingston; and two un-named 80-gun ships. Another vessel, the Humber, was launched in 1693 and a silver tankard made to commemorate the occasion. It bears the inscription: ‘At the launching of their majesties ship March 30th 1693. Built at Hasel Clifts, by John Frame. Burthen 1209 tons, men 490, guns 80.’

Hugh Blaydes 1739 – 1762 launched at least fifteen vessels including the Temple, a 70-gunner in 1758; the Tavistock, 50 guns; the frigate Tweed, 36 guns; the Emerald, 32 guns; the Mermaid, 32 guns; the Ardent, 64 guns.

HMS Hector, 1743 built by Blaydes at Hessle (44 guns).

Blaydes and Hodgson 1815

Barkworth and Hawkes 1810 – 1835 built the Hecla and the Infernal, which were described as bomb vessels, in 1815.

The yard was also known as North Barton. Barkworth & Hawkes also built trading vessels, mainly for the East Indies trade.

HMS Hecla was a Royal Navy Fury-class bomb vessel launched in 1815, along with her sister ship, HMS Infernal. The Hecla was named after a volcano - Hekla in Iceland. She was launched at Hessle Cliff by the firm of Barkworth and Hawkes. The Hecla served at the bombardment of Algiers and later took part in three expeditions to the Arctic.

Hessle Haven (east):

Henry Scarr 1890 – 1932

In expanding his Beverley business Henry Scarr set up a yard on the east side of the Haven in 1890, where ships could be ;launched directly into the Humber. The yard was on site formerly occupied by the Hessle Gas,Light & Coke Company and the brickworks. Scarr built his first iron ship soon after - the KINGSTON.

The Kingston - the first iron ship to be built at Hessle.

Richard Dunston 1932 – 1994

This yard launched a variety of vessels including tugs, barges Nile steamers and specialist craft for the MOD. Dunston’s was taken over by an American concern but continued trading under the old name until closure. It also produced the sail training ship, SS Winston Churchill.

The last ship to be built at Dunston's shipyard, Hessle.

Richard Dunston of Thorne and Hessle

Richards Dunston’s shipbuilding firm began at Thorne on the banks of the Stainforth and Keadby canal in 1858, where they built wooden barges for use on the canal system. In 1902 control of the company passed to his son Thomas and in 1910 to his grandson.

In 1932 the firm took over Henry Scarr’s shipyard in Hessle in order to be able to build bigger vessels. By now most of their work was in iron and steel ships. From here the ships could be launched straight into the Humber.

Until 1961 the Hessle yard continued to trade as Henry Scarr Ltd but then it changed to Richard Dunston (Hessle) Ltd and soon it came to be part of the American Ingram Corporation. The yards were put up for sale in 1985 with the Thorne yard closing and the Hessle yard being taken over in a management buyout in 1986 but over the next eight years the solvency of the company reduced until it was forced to close in 1994, though a repair yard still operates in Hull on William Wright Dock.

During its time the yard built a wide range of vessels from barges to tugs to liquid petroleum tankers to schooners. The SS Sir Winston Churchill was built for the Sail Training Association in 1966. During W W II Dunstons won a government contract to produce TID Tugs which played a role in the Normandy Landings and in the Far East. One of the jobs carried out by the tugs was to tow the Mulberry Harbours into place on the beaches of Normandy. Some of the tugs were sent to the U S Navy. During the war women were employed in the construction of ships at Hessle, among them some of the first women welders.

At least 636 vessels were built by Dunstons at Hessle (1358 altogether) but eventually overseas competition forced them out of business. Many of the vessels built at Hessle are still operating in various parts of the world – a testament to the solidity of the construction and the skill of the men and women who built them.

An archive on the Hessle yard is maintained in Beverley.

Henry Scarr's Shipyard, Hessle Haven (east).

Hessle Haven (west):

Gemmel and Smith 1899 - 1902

Dobson Bros. 1902 - 1906

Livingstone and Cooper 1915-1926.

Livingstone & Cooper bought the yard in 1915. Their first ship was HERRING CATCHER, their last OTAKIA to go to New Zealand. Building ceased here in 1926. They constructed a range of boats from trawlers and trading vessels to hospital ships.

Livingstone & Cooper hospital ship.

Book worth reading on this topic:

Richard Dunston of Thorne & Hessle, M Taylor, Pen & Sword books, 2009.