Dry Docks Department
June 1903, an amalgamation between C. S. Swan & Hunter Ltd. and the neighbouring firm of Wigham Richardson & Company Ltd., operating the Neptune Shipyard and Engine Works at Walker formed the Company of Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd. The new Company acquired a controlling interest in the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd., marine engineers and ship repairers, situated some half a mile down-river to the east. Later in the same year the Tyne Pontoons & Dry Docks Company Ltd., whose installations lay between the Wallsend West Yard and Neptune Works, was purchased by the new company, to form what became to be known as the Dry Docks Department. This latter acquisition gave the company an unbroken river frontage of some 4,000 feet, and works covering nearly 80 acres. The 1903 amalgamation enabled the firm to contract for and build the famous ‘Mauretania’ which held the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, for 22 years. Not only was the Company now able to deal with all aspects of shipbuilding activity, namely, the design and construction of the hulls and machinery installations, but was able to concern itself with the repairs, overhauls and renewals necessary to keep ships in the highest condition to meet the demands of sea-going commerce, which 'tolerates no make-shift'. It was at this time that the works of Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., began to take form and appearance which they kept for the next fifty years.
After the formation of ' Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.' in 1903 the firm went forward from strength to strength. In 1912, the company acquired Barclay, Curle & Company Ltd., shipbuilders, repairers and engineers on the River Clyde. During two world wars, the company contributed the full extent of its power to the construction, repair and conversion of all types of tonnage, naval and merchant to meet the ever increasing demands of these emergencies.
Between the wars, when many shipbuilding businesses succumbed to the difficult economic conditions prevailing at that time, the Company continued to trade. By keen and competitive prices, by keeping abreast of and often sponsoring the latest technical developments and by the pursuit of forward looking policies by the Directors, the Company maintained its position in the vanguard of shipbuilding enterprise. With the conclusion of the second world war, when it became apparent that the shipbuilding industry in Britain was about to embark upon a massive replacement programme of shipping lost in that conflict, it also became clear that the layout and equipment of the shipyards would be inadequate if the Company were to remain at the forefront.