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Pile's shipyard

Details about Pile's Shipyard

John Pile                                           1853-1857
John Pile & Co.                                1857-1859
Pile, Spence & Co.                          1859-1865
Pile, Spence & Co. Ltd.                   1865-1866
T.H. Pile & Co.                                  1863-1866

John Pile’s family were shipbuilders on the River Wear, a few miles north of Hartlepool. John was asked to set up a shipyard in West Hartlepool by Ralph Ward Jackson, who was developing the docks area of the town. Pile’s first ship launched from the new yard was the Mirage, a wooden sailing ship.  He extended the business  around 1855 by founding the West Hartlepool Rolling Mills. This was an iron works, which supplied materials to build iron ships. The first iron ship to be built at the yard was the Demetrius, launched in 1856. 

Pile, Spence & Co was a partnership between John Pile and Joseph Spence. Both were already successful shipbuilders. They had two shipyards at West Hartlepool. The first was in Jackson Dock, and was known as the North Yard. The other, the South Yard, was in Swainson Dock. By 1861 they employed around 1500 workmen. Around this time they took over the West Hartlepool Steam Navigation Co, which had a fleet of nine cargo and passenger vessels. Although the business was successful, the partnership ended in 1866. The bank which the firm used went out of business, so all their money was lost. The last ship to be launched was the Murton

Thomas Hunter Pile’s family were shipbuilders on the River Wear, a few miles north of Hartlepool. His brother, John Pile, had started shipbuilding in West Hartlepool in 1853. The business was successful, and soon needed to expand. A shipyard nearby became available, and John Pile asked Thomas to run it under his own name. Business was good until 1866. Then the bank it was using went out of business. All the money was lost, and the firm was forced to close. 

A more extensive history of this shipbuilder can be found in "Shipbuilders of the Hartlepools", by local author and former Hartlepool Pilot Bert Spaldin, published by Hartlepool Borough Council in 1986.


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