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British Shipbuilders

British Shipbuilders Corporation was a public corporation that owned and managed the shipbuilding industry in England and Scotland from 1977 and through the 1980s. The British Shipbuilders Corporation headquarters was in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

The corporation was founded as a result of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977 which nationalised all major shipbuilding companies in Great Britain. The same act nationalised the three large UK aviation companies and grouped them in an analogous corporation, British Aerospace.

The first Chairman of British Shipbuilders, serving from 1978 to 1981, was Admiral Sir Anthony Griffin.[1]

Harland & Wolff, the only shipbuilder based in Northern Ireland was a special political case and remained out of the control of the British Shipbuilders management, despite being in State ownership. British Shipbuilders was privatised in 1983 under the terms of the British Shipbuilders Act 1983. The various divisions that had survived under nationalised ownership were divested throughout the 1980s as the company wound up operations.

The British Shipbuilders Corporation continues to exist in statute[2] in order to be accountable for any liabilities incurred during its operational history, but will finally be abolished in 2011,[3] as part of the Government's 2010 economic and governmental reforms (2010 UK quango reforms), with any remaining liabilities passing to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


Assets subsumed by British Shipbuilders


  • Austin & Pickersgill, Sunderland
  • William Doxford and Sons, Pallion
  • Brooke Marine, Lowestoft
  • Cammell Laird and Company, Birkenhead
  • Falmouth Docks Company, Falmouth
  • R & H Green & Silley Weir and London Graving Dock Company, London (as River Thames Ship Repairers, later renamed Blackwall Engineering)
  • Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers), Newcastle
  • Smiths Dock Company, Middlesbrough
  • Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Limited (including the shipyards formerly owned by Hawthorn Leslie at Hebburn, John Redhead at South Shields and Vickers at Walker), Wallsend (later renamed Swan Hunter)
  • Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group, Barrow in Furness (later renamed Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited - VSEL)
  • Vosper Thornycroft, Woolston and Portsmouth
  • Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company, Wallsend


  • Ailsa Shipbuilding Company, Troon (acquired in 1978, merged with Ferguson Shipbuilders to form Ferguson-Ailsa in 1981, assets transferred to Scott Lithgow)
  • Ferguson Shipbuilders, Port Glasgow (merged with Ailsa in 1981 to form Ferguson-Ailsa)
  • Govan Shipbuilders, Govan
  • Hall, Russell & Company, Aberdeen
  • Scott Lithgow, Greenock
  • Robb Caledon Shipbuilders, Leith and Dundee
  • Yarrow Shipbuilders (YSL), Scotstoun


  • Scott Lithgow - 1981 - individual operating companies dissolved, sold to Trafalgar House in 1984, closed 1993
  • Vosper Thornycroft - 1985 - management buyout, now known as VT Group
  • Yarrow Shipbuilders - 1985 - sold to GEC-Marconi as Marconi Marine (YSL) then to BAE Systems as part of BAE Systems Marine, now BAE Systems Surface Ships
  • VSEL - 1986 - with Cammell Laird as a subsidiary. Acquired by GEC-Marconi in 1995 as part of Marconi Marine, then to BAE Systems as part of BAE Systems Marine, now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions
  • Cammell Laird - 1986 - as a subsidiary of VSEL, finished shipbuilding 1993, now ship repair firm
  • Ferguson Ailsa - 1986 - split and sold, Ailsa to Perth Corporation as Ailsa Perth Shipbuilders and Ferguson to Appledore Shipbuilders as Appledore Ferguson, now Ferguson Shipbuilders
  • Swan Hunter - 1987 - to receivership 1994, bought by Jaap Kroese
  • Govan Shipbuilders - 1988 - sold to Kv rner as Kvaerner Govan, to GEC-Marconi 1999 as part of Marconi Marine then to BAE Systems as part of BAE Systems Marine, now BAE Systems Surface Ships
  • Harland and Wolff - 1989 - sold to Fred. Olsen & Co.
  • Brooke Marine, Lowestoft - management buy-out in 1985.[4][5] Ceased trading in 1992.

The evolution of British Shipbuilders


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