Charles Palmer: In The Beginning

Published by Shahdaroba Wednesday 22nd February 2012

The son of George and Jane Palmer Charles was born November 1822 in South Shields a town only a few miles to the east of Jarrow. Charles was born into a family of seven sons and one daughter. His father George apart from being a shipowner had previously been captain of a whaler.

His teen years were spent training in shipping in Newcastle and being sent to Marseilles to represent his father’s business interests. He returned to the North East around the age of 21 / 22 years where he was expected to become part of the family business. However, he went to work for John Bowes who is best remembered today as the founder of the Bowes Museum.

A photo of Sir Charles Palmer
Sir Charles Palmer

Charles Palmer went on to be made a partner in John Bowes Coking Company, increasing the sales of the Marley Hill coking company substantially. From being made a partner in John Bowes Coking Company, in 1851 he leased his first shipyard.

The Beginnings Of Palmer Brothers Shipping Co.

Sir Charles Mark Palmer and his brother George set up a shipyard at Jarrow on the south bank of the River Tyne. Jarrow lies between Hebburn and South Shields. The year was 1851 and the new company was opened on the site of an earlier yard, that had built wooden warships for the Napoleonic Wars.

The intention of the two brothers was to open their company in Jarrow, which back then was only a small colliery village, to build ships made from metal rather than wood.

The early 1900s would see the population of this small village grow to a town with more than 40,000 residents. Palmer shipyard would be the backbone of the working community and would become the one most single source of employment in Jarrow. However, sadly in later years to come (the great depression the early 1930’s), this fact would lead to an almost living death for the workforce of this now large town.

The ability to build well-constructed ships soon earned Palmer worldwide recognition. By 1909 as well as having berths for the construction of ships Palmer had to establish blast furnaces, iron and steelworks, and a boiler and engine work on the site. The dock itself Stretched nearly three-quarters of a mile along the southern bank of the River Tyne.

I assume if you have read this far then you may have an interest in the past history of shipbuilding or the mighty industry of Sir Charles and his brother George Palmer who established their shipbuilding industry on the south banks of the River Tyne.

I recommend a visit to the family website of Philip Strong he has some impressive photographs of the Palmer shipyard engineering works, machine shop, a footprint of the Palmer’s Works, 1897/1907 OS maps of the area, aerial Views of Palmer’s Shipyard, photographs of Jarrow back in the 1960s and for those who are also keen on genealogy he walks you through his family tree and shows what can be done when you put your mind to it.

On and off for almost 9 years in the late 1800s, the Palmer Shipbuilding company went on to have the highest output of ships in Britain. During the company’s lifetime of some 80yrs. Palmer shipyard would launch more than 900 ships, keeping careful details of each ship built.

Prior to the construction of the John Bowes launched on the river in June 1852, an iron paddle tug called the Northumberland launched in April 1852, was the first of his ships, small and of little consequence in an industry that would develop into a major supplier of ships.

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