Maritime heritage preserved as North East’s last traditional boatyard saved

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.
North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

Part of South Tyneside’s maritime heritage has been preserved after the last remaining traditional boatyard in the North East was saved.

The yard, in South Shields, had been run by boat builder Fred Crowell for over 25 years, and has now been leased by the North East Maritime Trust (NEMT) following his retirement.

It is a relic of a bygone era, when yards of its kind could be found across the river’s riverbanks, and wooden boats were common.

The yard has a slipway into the Tyne, allowing boats to be winched out of the river for maintenance and repair.

With the trust now having control of it, they will be able to increase their capacity to maintain wooden boats and offer the traditional boat building skills to those interested in learning them.

Jerry Dudman, secretary of NEMT, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to keep alive another part of the maritime heritage of the region.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

“If we hadn’t managed to agree the 30-year lease with the landlords South Tyneside Council, it’s highly likely that the land would have been put to another use and the boatyard facility gone forever.

“We’ve now got a big job clearing out what has gathered inside since Victorian times, but we don’t want to lose the historical interest of the place because it’s part of the history of this river.”

However, the building is in a poor state of repair, with the trust now launching an appeal to raise £28,000 for a new roof and other changes.

It is hoped that a GoFundMe online appeal will raise a large portion of the total needed, with the remainder coming from grants and foundations.

This is a wonderful opportunity to keep alive another part of the maritime heritage of the region

Jerry Dudman

The NEMT is staffed entirely by volunteers, and is dedicated to maintaining traditional craft skills.

The trust runs courses in traditional boat building at their yard on Wapping Street, in South Shields, which is next door to the boatyard.

The boatshed will be open to the public on Saturday between 11am and 3pm, when volunteers from the NEMT will be on hand to show visitors around the yard.

Graham Bell, director of North of England Civic Trust, said: “North East Maritime Trust’s acquisition of this historic boatshed is truly welcome news.

It is the last remaining traditional boatyard in the North East.

It is the last remaining traditional boatyard in the North East.

“The Trust is a champion of all that’s good about the region’s maritime traditions – not just its heritage, but the skills that keep it alive.

“The boatyard will be a workshop where tradition is alive and well.”

Boat builder Fred Crowell had run the yard for over 25 years until his retirement.

Boat builder Fred Crowell had run the yard for over 25 years until his retirement.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.

North East Maritime Trust director Dave Parker in the newly leased workshop, in Wapping Street, South Shields.