THE SUNDERLAND SITE - PAGE 017

CORPORATION QUAY

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CORPORATION QUAY

Just a start on a page about 'Corporation Quay'.

The need for a deepwater quay within the harbour at Sunderland, was apparently under discussion as far back as the 1890s. A quay 600 ft. long was originally proposed, but the proposals evolved over the years into a quay 1,150 ft long instead. Apparently Sunderland Town Council lacked the necessary powers to proceed, had they had the money & the will to do so, & an Act of Parliament was necessary to give them the necessary authority. Years passed by however before the decision was made, in 1925, to proceed with the project.

From what I read, I suspect that the project would not have been started at all had a crystal ball been available to permit the 'powers that be' to have seen into the future - to see the Depression looming with its tough economic times & even higher unemployment. To see the continued decline of the coal trade indeed the decline of both shipbuilding & the broad industrial base of the city. But it WAS decided to proceed, empowered by the Sunderland Corporation Act of 1927.

The quay was to be built on the south side of the river, just west of the entrance to South Dock. An area of old & decaying warehouses, gloomy & ruined wharfs, & slum often derelict dwellings. An area both historical & picturesque - many artists were drawn to & painted the scene, including Thomas M. M. Hemy, whose c.1885 work, at the then Ettrick's Quay, is shown below.

The project was the 1930s equivalent of the recent (2008 & after) spending, by Governments around the world, on infrastructure - on projects that are intended to keep people employed in difficult financial times - building or rebuilding roads, bridges, hospitals, sewer systems, etc. indeed public infrastructure generally. Intended to be projects that could be activated quickly, provide long-term benefits, put people speedily to work, & prime the economic pump while economies worldwide recover from the recent astonishing assault upon world society by so many of the world's bankers & investment dealers.

The project, which commenced in 1930, was financed by the British Government's 'Unemployment Grants Committee', set up to counter unemployment after WW1. Can anybody tell us who in fact paid for Corporation Quay? It would seem that the 'Unemployment Grants Committee', may have funded half only of its cost of £450,000. It employed hundreds of workers over 4 years. What was there before was razed, a retaining wall, some 40 ft. high, was built to support High Street East, on the south edge of the project & giant pillars were sunk into the river bed to support the Quay itself. The end product was a deep water (30 ft. of water) riverside quay 1,062 ft. long, equipped with necessary cranes, conveyors (including a coal conveyor), & warehousing to permit both the storage of goods & their rapid onward movement through railway & road transportation links. The new facility was operated by the River Wear Commissioners for a great many years - until 1972 when the Sunderland council-owned Port of Sunderland Authority, took over. It is of course still there today.

I gather that the authorities continue today to dredge the river to a point above the western end of the Quay. Beyond that point, the river is a shadow of its former self, indeed navigation at Queen Alexandra Bridge is today virtually impossible. With some exaggeration, a rowboat would have difficulty proceeding today where giant ocean going ships were until comparatively recently built by 'Doxford', by 'Austin & Pickersgill' & by many others.

To the City of Sunderland, the Corporation Quay project was of a very great significance. Of a significance which the webmaster, perhaps though his lack of local knowledge, likely does not fully appreciate. I rather doubt if a quay 1,062 ft. or about 350 yards long, however well equipped, would be of great note were one discussing the ports of Rotterdam or Hong Kong or New York, or countless other seaports around the globe, including other ports in the United Kingdom. At each of such ports there were then surely many miles of similar deepwater quays.

Thought was given to later extending the Quay, by 500 ft. including a cold store. An extension that would have required the demolition of a pub & a brewery. Parliamentary authority was obtained for the project in 1948 but the Minister of Transport two years later declined to grant his approval for the work to commence. The cost of the extension was then estimated at £500,000. So it never happened.

This page will record such data as comes to the webmaster's attention about Corporation Quay. If you have available data which would enhance the story & this page, do please consider being in touch with the webmaster.

 

Corporation Quay was opened with great ceremony on Oct. 10, 1934. Attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland - Councillor & Mrs E. E. Ditchburn. And by 500 dignitaries/guests, likely a 'who's who' of the then city. The Quay was officially opened by Sir John Priestman, whose activities as a shipbuilder are featured elsewhere in these pages, & who is noted to have been Sunderland's greatest philanthropist. He arrived by boat & formally opened the facility by cutting a red silk ribbon with a pair of silver scissors.

A formal luncheon followed, held on the upper floor of the Quay's new warehouse, featuring 'Real Turtle Soup, Supreme of Halibut, Russian Salad, chicken casserole, galantine of veal, ox tongue & ice cream' - all washed down with a 1925 Liebfraumilch. Toasts were made to King George V, to Sir John Priestman, to Mr. William H. S. (Howard Sandberg) Tripp, the River Wear Commissioner's engineer who designed the Quay, to the contractors, principally Peter Lind & Co. Ltd., of London, & probably to others also. A grand & memorable occasion indeed.

The official programme featured the 9409 ton ship Lochkatrine, owned by Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ('Royal Mail Lines'), which had been the first ship to actually use the new facility, some 4 months earlier, when it arrived from Rotterdam on Jun. 1, 1934, to load binding twine & fertiliser for Vancouver, Canada.

You can see the Lochkatrine image at right in a larger size here.

 

A wonderful image, dated Aug. 5, 1931, of Corporation Quay in course of construction. The image is from the collection of Bill Hawkins who kindly provided the image to 'Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in pictures' as you can see here. Do click on the image below to see it in a giant size.

 

At left is data about Corporation Quay, extracted from the 'Port of Sunderland Handbook' of 1967-1968. If you would prefer to view it in a larger size, click here.

I do not seem to have, at this moment, large images available of Corporation Quay. But I do have the following, a part of a larger 2008 image which I may have found here. The Quay can be seen at lower left in the image. I have identified it in yellow.

Additional images would be welcomed for inclusion on this page.

A fine image of Tongariro, at Corporation Quay, in 1968 or 1969, thanks to Meg Hartford.

Lochkatrine, at Corporation Quay, in 1934. The vessel, a 9409 gross ton refrigerated cargo ship, was built by John Brown & Co. on Clydebank. We thanks 'Anthony' for the fine image ex 'Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in Pictures', at Facebook. Click the image to see the Facebook page, where it is stated 'Lochkatrine, owned by the Royal Mail Lines, berthed at the new Corporation Quay. She was the first ship to use the new Quay. She arrived from Rotterdam on 1st June 1934, to load binding twine & fertiliser for Vancouver, Canada. Notice she is decked out in flags for the occasion.'

Data sources? 1 ('Sunderland Echo', Oct. 6, 2004, article - there would seem to have been a second & later article, apparently not WWW available).

May I suggest that you navigate the site via the index on page 001.PRIOR PAGE / NEXT PAGE

Thomas M. M. Hemy Data Pages 01, 02 and 03 are now on site. Plus all of the other image pages, accessible though the index on page 05.

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