Swan Hunter is internationally renowned as a world class shipbuilder. During a 130 year existence, Swan Hunter built over 1,600 ships of various types including more than 400 naval vessels. The Swan Hunter name is synonymous with innovative design and quality and the river Tyne shipyards of Swan Hunter have been the birth-place of many fine ships of almost every type and size for more than a century. This magnificent record includes ships for practically every nation including ships like the ' Mauritania' which was built at Swan Hunter in 1906.
The name of 'Swan Hunter' has world-wide associations with shipping and maritime commerce. Historically a number of different dates suggest themselves as a starting point for the story of Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. but is generally accepted that it all began in 1860 when John Wigham Richardson, 23 years old son of a distinguished Yorkshire family of Quakers, armed with a little paternal capital and a brave desire to become a shipbuilder, purchased a small shipyard at Walker-on-Tyne.
A Mr. Coutts had first laid down the Walker Shipyard in 1842 and had built what might be regarded as Britain's first steam collier, the Q.E.D. Despite a promising beginning, Coutts' venture did not succeed. The yard was taken over by a London firm but with no better results.
Mr. Wigham Richardson's business at his 'Neptune Works' began modestly enough. In 1860 the shipyard had three berths, covered no more than four acres of ground, had a river frontage of just over a hundred yards and gave employment to about 200 men. Wigham Richardson appointed as manager of his new enterprise another gifted young man named Charles John Denham Christie, the grandfather of one of the Directors of Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. until the formation of Swan Hunter Group Ltd. Together these two men, who eventually entered into partnership, steered the firm through many early difficulties. That the business eventually succeeded in stabilising itself was mainly due to Wigham Richardson's indefatigable questing for new orders, combined with Christie's first- rate knowledge of ship design and construction.