An early postcard of the 'Austin' pontoon by Hills of Sunderland. I read that 'in 1958, more than 600 ships underwent repair at the yard of Wear Dockyard, adjacent to the Wearmouth Bridge.'Austins have always specialised in building colliers and coasters, the demand for which has been falling off in recent years, so that now (early 1961 perhaps in that context) Austins are building a luxury yacht, the first, they hope, of many to come. 1959, but was reopened 6 months later to build Radiant II, a luxury motor yacht. Which postcard was sold for GBP 6.00 via e Bay in Mar. The vessel was not identified on the rear of the postally-unused card. I am advised that the tower cranes of Austin's Shipyard were dismantled in about 1968/69, and one of them fell into the river blocking it to traffic for 14 days or so - 'which cost the contractor dearly'. Miramar lists, 11 pages, (highest hull number on each page). The yard would seem to have been known as the 'Wear Dockyard'. It would be good to be able to provide on this page some images of the early members of the Austin family, from contemporary prints or from other sources. The 'pontoon' is under Westburn, the vessel at right, built in 1929. I understand it was a giant platform which essentially rested on the bed of the River Wear & could raise a vessel out of the water & lower it back down again. 'Imagine' calls it a 'submersible barge' in their page re 'Austin's Pontoon, Sunderland', which features a print (of unknown date) by Herbert William Simpson (1907-1972). For service from Sunderland to Whitby in 1851/52, from London to the West Indies in 1852/53 & 1853/54, from Sunderland to the Mediterranean from 1854/55 thru 1859/60 & then for service as a Liverpool coaster. The Mercantile Navy Lists of 1861 thru 1876 list the vessel as registered at West Hartlepool ('WH'), certainly, from 1865 owned by Isaac Bedlington of WH. The vessel is Lloyd's Register listed from 1856/57 thru 1886/87 (as far as I have checked) and probably is listed after that edition. For a number of years was on the London to Australia route.
I am advised, (thanks John Rowson), that the pontoon was built by Swan Hunter. ) shows 'Austin's pontoon' with a ship on it - in 1962. It is of an 'Austin' launching party at Wear Dockyard in the 1950s but the name of the ship being launched is not known. The image was kindly provided by Tom Millar, whose father, Thomas (Tom) Millar, was General Manager of 'Austins' from about 1950 through 1957/58. The vessel is Lloyd's Register ('LR') listed from 1849/50 thru 1869/70 & from 1874/75 thru 1876/77. Austin of Sunderland, presumably builder related, likely built on speculation. At 4 p.m., Darss Point, Germany, was 4 miles distant, & the vessel followed a course to pass through Femern Belt (Fehmarnbelt). The seas broke violently over the ship & the crew took to a boat & sheltered to leeward of the hull until daylight.
The images I have seen do not, however, date from 1903 - or 1904 for that matter. And here is the Herbert Simpson print:- When other quality postcard or other images of the pontoon become available, I will add it them in also. I think that the main 'Austin' yard may have closed in early 1960 & the business was relocated to Pallion. Tom's father and mother are both in the launching party - his father 8th from the right & his mother 5th from the left. For service from Sunderland to the Mediterranean, with J. The ship was then abandoned & became a total wreck. The Court concluded that Beane had caused the loss of Mora by neglecting to verify the vessel's position by the frequent use of the lead.
And in 1874/75 Lloyd's Register, the owner is recorded as being G.
13, 1875, the vessel, under the command of Alexander Oppen & with a crew of 13 all told, left Demerera, (South America, now Guyana) bound for London with a general cargo.
That edition is the last Lloyd's Register record of the vessel that I have available. In subsequent years the vessel would seem to have served South America out of the ports of Liverpool & Swansea also.
Ord & Co., of Sunderland, to trade with South America.
The Austin 'pontoon' was located on the south bank of the River Wear, just east of the railway & road bridges. Part of the above text originates with a paper written by J. 138, 171, 203, 233, 263, 303, 324, 354, 384, 414, 420.
Visible to all who crossed that bridge, since they just had to look down to see the pontoon & its activity laid out before them. There must be hundreds if not thousands of photos of the pontoon, 'out there' somewhere, taken by passers-by over 60 or more years. In a snippet of data, I read that the yard made a net profit of 51,900 in the year to Apl. And on this site, at page 140 is a list of 'Austin' built vessels, starting in 1831 & ending in 1959. A 2 masted sailing ship carrying square sails & a trysail on a small jackmast.
And perhaps, if it is replaced, consideration might just be given to improving the wording? The 'pontoon' used to be located at bottom left of the image that follows, parallel of course to the river bank.
The sign is affixed, I believe, to the railing that is visible at dock side. Of 'Austin' workers walking up to the bridge in the early 1950s.
22, 1875, the vessel struck three times on a reef to the westward of Dog Island, maybe at West Cay. The pumps were manned but the vessel had 2 feet of water 'in the well' which rapidly became 6 feet.