A story of Yorkshire's shipbuilding heritage - brought to life for Bristolians

Tue, 23 Apr 2019

Maritime travel was one of the first ways in which we made connections between communities across the world and opened the door to global trade. Over the centuries, the British Isles have played a major role in this, and many of our coastal cities share and enjoy a rich maritime heritage; none more so than Bristol.

Of surprise to some, however, may be the contribution made to maritime industry by a small inland market town, nine miles north of another great port city, Kingston upon Hull, in East Yorkshire.

The town of Beverley is today perhaps more characterised by its relaxed café culture and regular horse-racing than by heavy industry, but this picturesque town was once a shipbuilding heartland that provided a crucial supply of vessels to the fishing industry.

Between 1901 and 1963, the shipbuilders Cook, Welton & Gemmell built over 1300 vessels, mostly fishing trawlers, at its shipyard in Grovehill, Beverley, one of the few yards to launch its ships ‘broadside on’ (sideways). The company’s production of ships’ superstructures launched from rural Yorkshire and out into the ocean waves across the globe. At one time Cook, Welton & Gemmell was the largest trawler manufacturer in the world.

The company, and the vessels it built, have quite a story to tell, and that story is coming to Bristol in May, when maritime historian Dr Robb Robinson (University of Hull) brings his lecture to Bristol’s capital maritime heritage attraction, Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

The lecture is part of the East Riding Archives service’s ‘Trawling Through Time’ project (www.trawlingthroughtime.org) sponsored by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Archivist and project coordinator, Sam Bartle said: “We want to bring the story of Cook, Welton & Gemmell back to life by educating mainstream audiences and creating access to its rich archive of ships plans. It’s a story that has worldwide significance, and we’re delighted to be bringing it to one of the nation’s centrepieces of maritime heritage, the SS Great Britain.”

Dr Robinson will be giving his talk at Brunel’s SS Great Britain on Thursday, 9 May at 6.30pm.

Admission to the talk is free; reserve a seat by calling the Brunel’s SS Great Britain on 0117 926 0680or visit ssgreatbritain.org for details.