Here is the second "position paper" for the 2012 Harbour Research project. Corrections and additions are welcomed. The purpose of the document, with others to come, is to seek people who will undertake serious research on aspects of the history of the harbour. John Rushton 2012.

Scarborough ship building

Ship and  boat  building with their associated crafts eventually almost took over the sand side of the inner harbour at Scarborough. They stretched from the east pier to West Sandgate in the 18th century and eventually beyond to the foot of Bland’s cliff. The stocks on which ships and boats were built were on the sands and do not appear to have been fenced off 

We have hints of 15th and 16th century shipbuilding. Vessels made or repaired at the Botehill were required to pay the bailiffs 12d a week in 1488. A foreign ship brought fifty cok mastes to Scarbrough in c1510-12. William Watson a shipwright is mentioned in 1523 and 1527. John Pierson  another Scarborough shipwright had a great tree lying in Raincliff in1538. Several shipwrights are mentioned during the 17th century. At  Hackness in 1690, they recorded “wood taken down in the last year for building a man of war at Scarborough” (NYCRO Derwent 4/1/17). Blockmakers are mentioned in 1697-8.  

Tradition claims that the earliest Scarborough ship-builders were the brothers John and James Cockerill,  with launchways adjoining Smithy hill. (It is also said that a Cockerill’s shipyard was next to the pier (Buckley 96). An ocean-going vessel is said to have been built by one of the Cockerills in 1685, costing £1200. John Cockerill was churchwarden in 1673. James Cockrill was bailiff in 1688 and in 1690 lived at Paradise House, one of the best houses (B. 99). Richard Allotson, a boat builder in 1684, held part of the Sandhill, adjoining Smithy hill, in 1688. He was followed there by Richard Bilbrough and there is talk of a Bilbrough Hill. William Allatson was boat building in c1688. He had married John Cockerill’s daughter. William Tindall came to Scarborough late in the 17th century. He married Mary Cockerill in 1694.            

We hear of “building places” not shipyards. William Tindall appears 1679-85, and his nephew James Tindall  from 1691 to 1720 at Smiddy Hill, paying a king's rent for one building place and later two. Robert Child was seized of part of Smiddy Hill in 1689, apparently staked out, when there was a Corporation order to dispossess him. (G.1893.p480) (Baker 258). The Bailiffs and Burgesses made a grant of Smiddy Hill, lately occupied by Francis and William Coulson, in 1691 to Robert Maxwell to build ships. They leased Mastus garth, bounding to Smiddy Hill, that year to Dickenson and William Tindall.

There is a good deal more information about the property plots where the shipyards spread. Some is vague. For example, it is said that in 1641 Robert Hudson was owner of part of Sandhil and Mastus hill. Christopher Harrison was owner of the rest of Sandhill, then the Dodsworths. Much is far more specific. It all wants sorting out. Some but not all is given below. There are also some maps at the County Record Office, Northallerton, bearing on the Tindall shipyards, which came to encompass most of the others. We do not yet have local copies of these.

A Corporation order of 3/7/1693 required Robert Dickinson, Coroner Batty, John Cockerill and Richard Allatson to stake and bounder out part of Smiddy Hill for fishing cobles to lay on in safety. The corporation in 1697 required that manure dug and rubbish laid on Smiddy hill and all the staithes from Mr. Porritts to the great pier was to be  moved and none to lay there in future. They were to throw rubbish over the new pier or take it to the” sand stoop”. A mark on one of the early maps may indicate the stoop.

John Settrington’s famous pictorial print showing Scarborough in 1735 displays three ships being built on stocks and  portrays stocks for two more. The “1735 Rental of Town lands” is said to give as those  paying  “rents for building places” etc. messrs. Wear, Leake, Adamson, Wharton, Wood, Owston, Thomas Coulson  (at £1.0.0) and James Tindall (two sites at £2.10.0). Buckley suggests that Coulsons, Owstons, Adamsons,  along with the Hoppers, Dales and Golands, were all active as ship or boat builders at one period.  Wharton’s yard was in front of King Richard’s house. Thomas Coulson sold the hull of a new 400 ton cat or vessel, the “T & S” of  Scarborough, to master mariner Thomas Duesbery for £935 in 1733. William Coulson of Scarborough left to begin a shipyard at the foot of Green Lane near Spital Bridge at Whitby.


1750  Ship Building  between  Blands Cliff and East pier - East to West

- (Buckley 95)

- Stephen Wharton’s yard, stocks, blockshop, mast and timber yard, ropery, metal shops, bleach house. He fitted out the ships he built. At his death 100 were thrown out of work

- Smiths boat builders, later Salt’s, west of Whartons 

- John Fowlers, west of Smith’s, held Fowler hill, John Fowler Ship builder. Built  the “Commerce" 1786, ”Nautilus” 1791

- Hopper’s block and mast shop, west of Fowlers. 

- Tindalls at Tindalls hill ship yard, west of Hoppers.

- Sedgfield Dales yard, west of Tindall Hill. Later went to his nephew George Smith

East Sandgate came here

- William Henry’s yard, west of Dale’s. 

- Hewards or Howards stocks, opposite the old long room 

West Sandgate came here 

- J. Skelton’s boat yard, at Skelton’s cliff   

but eventually there were three building places 

- Willam Newhams

- George Ribys 

- John Shores, in front of Hendersons cliff


Schofield said that the late 18th century ship building industry employed a great number of hands, not so much for the home trade as for sale and hiring out. Five or six sailing vessels were on the stocks when he wrote, excluding small boats, one being of 50 and one of 600 tons. Axe, saw and caulking malet sounded along the front. There was a large house for weaving sail cloth as well as sail makers. From 1785 to 1800 between five and fourteen ships a year were built, ranging from below 600 to over 2600 tons. There were busy and less busy years. Baker claims that from 1785 to 1797 123 ships were built at Scarborough of which five were 1000 to 1500 tons, one of 2014 and one of 1681 tons. Launches were made from cradles or stocks on the slope when the tide was in.


Rents of Building places, yards, and erections on the sands 1791

A Corporation rental  shows the many structures on the sands in 1791. At that time there was an associated “plan in hall” but this is not apparently extant. This document was “approved by vote 15.6. 1791”. The list goes from west to east. The phrase “building place” means a place for building ships.

John Hopper

- Part of timber yard, the breadth of the corporations cliff, extending north from the line (parallel) of the north wall of Mr. Hinderwell’s garden. Corp.Corp. John Hopper 2s6d

Major Child.

- Warehouse belonging Major Child -w-e 35 ft by 14 ft ,without the steer

                                                                                                Major Child, Major Child     1s

Dickinson & Dewsbury.

- Warehouse blg Dickinson & Dewsbury-w-e 35ft by 6 ft,without the steer. 1s

George Hopper. 

- Warehouse belonging George Hopper -35 ft by 6 ft,without the steer        1s

Mary Howson. 

- Building belonging Mrs. Mary Howson  -33ft by 14ft                                       1s

Mrs. Elizabeth Kirby 

- Building belonging Mrs.Elizabeth Kirby - 15ft by 14ft                                       6d

Anthony Ruston 

- Encroachment, w-e 16ft n-s 6 ft.                         Anthony Ruston. Corp.       6d

Mr. Otby; Customs collector.

- Building & warehouse belonging Mr. Otby - w-e16ft .distant from steer at west end

5 ft ,at east end 15ft.                                               Collector of Customs         6d      

George Masterman in occupation of Sam Ombler 

-Plank stage, adjoining east of last, claimed by George Masterman & occupied by Sam Ombler, w-e 28ft, from steer 15ft                           Corp. George Masterman  9d

Anthony Nessfield (oppsite Keld)

- Stage, west east 24 ft , 28ft from steer. opposite Richard Keld’s house

                                                                                    Corp. Corp.Anthony Nessfield.1d


- William Pattison.Encroachment 33ft e-w,14ft n-s.Corp.William Pattison           1?

Jonas Sutton 

- Building place.w-e 25ft, n-s 34ft.                                     Corp, Corp.,  Jonas Sutton.5d 

Benjamin Heward.

- Building place (west of West Sandgate)                        Corp, Corp.Benjamin Heward.5d

James Heward

- Building place& plank stage (rent fixed in 1782) Corp,Corp.James Heward        15s

George Johnson.1791

- Mast Yard  (west of East Sandgate)                   Corp. Corp.George Johnson.4s

Benjamin Adamson 

- Building place(shed on it) w-e 50ft n-s 53@ft. Corp,Corp.BenjAdamson  .12s

George Dale 

- Buildingplace, w-e 90ft n-s 90ft                           CorpCorp.George Dale      15s

                        (from East Sandgate to opposite the west wall of the Towns Hall)

John Tindall

-Timber yard(from east side of last, 52ft east)  John Tindall                          £2.2.0

John Tindall

- Building place,(from east end of Mr Robert Duesbery’s house (Mrs Garbutt tenant)

            to west wall of Mr. Wharton’s house. length 175 ft       John Tindall

Thomas Wharton 

- Shed (from breadth of front of his house, w-3. 30ft).Corp,Corp.Thomas Wharton.7s6d

George Moorsome now John Fowler 

- Building place (opposite Mr.Francis Coulson’s) (from west side Mr. Wharton to Mr.                                Hopper) on east  length 45ft w-e)            Corp,Corp.Mr.George Moorsome,15s.0

John Hopper 

- Stage (below his house, west-east 24@ft)       John Hopper                        7s6d

John Smith 

- Encroachment into harbour, below house of John Smith. w-e 31@ft n-s 10@ft

                                                                                    Corp.Corp     John Smith   7s6d

George Moorsom,now John Fowler

- Plank stage.w-e 66@ft n-s (at w) 24@ft (at e)39@ftGeorge Moorsome     6s                                                       (adjoining the hill.Thomas Wharton)       now john Fowler     

Thomas Wharton 

- Stage and building place w-e 87@ftCorp, Corp.Thomas Wharton(later Samuel) 15s

Skelton Fowler 

- Stage and shed on it.e-w 21ft ,n-s 31ft  Corp, Corp.Skelton Fowler.           7s

                                                                        (late Chr. Leakes)(later Richard Wilson)                        George Fowler 

- Stage. w-e 28ft ,n-s 21 ft               Corp, Corp.Skelton Fowler  now George Fowler

John Hopper  

- Mast Yard. w-e 40 ft                                   Corp, Corp.John Hopper   .           10s

Thomas Wharton 

- Mast Yard     w-e 10ft                                  Corp, Corp    Thomas Wharton    .10s


- Erection for building boats (extending from Anthony Rustons encroachment                                          to south 7 ft   and e-w 17ft              Corp. Corp .Newham                     1s


Scarborough ship construction shrank to an average of 600 tons a year during 1801-3. This was still mostly  for outsiders. The 100 feet keel ship “Centurion” was launched on 14/6/1803 . William Church was killed by "celestial fire"under a ship building for John Tindall in the summer of 1805. From 1804-1812 demand fell further. The average annual tonnage built sank to 550, with far fewer distant buyers. It was said that Napoleon’s Berlin and Milan decrees and the activities of the French frigates and privateers made profitable employment for ships  harder to find. The end of the French Wars in 1815 marked a water shed.


Accounts for buidinga ship and its first voyage

The ship “Promise” kept an account book “to records disbursements” starting with first cost and outfit in 1813. The value of the ship ready for sea was £8495.4.3, held by three partners H. Pantland, J. Tindall and Fenwick Brown. At Newcastle 129 chaldrons of coal were taken on at £162.9s.0., 16 keel dues were £15.4.8  and Custom house charges £53.7.0. All charges made £231.1.6 .

Small charges arose on the voyage at Gravesend, including bolts, a handline and dead eyes. Pilotage from Gravesend to the downs was £11.5.0. At Portsmouth a man looked at the ship’s bottom. At Scarborough sailmaker Parkin supplied four hammers for 7s. The account ended at £11.135.3s.2d. Each partner received £500 in 1824. The ship took coal to the Cape of Good Hope in 1825, and general cargos to Bombay, including brandy and hollands.

To Sundry  Disbursements for First cost anmd Outfit of the ship Promise.1813;main items

John Tindall & co for the hull                     £3605

Samuel Bottomley & Son for Rope            £1325

Terry & Hill raff bill                                       £262.  9.0     

Terry & Hill  block bill                                  £270   7.0

Terry & Hill transport extra outfit                £50.   11.0

Wm Smith,shipchandlers stores                £12     4.0                 

Bye-tinman                                                 £21.   17.0

Wm.March, for iron work                            £187. 0.0

Cobb & Evans, for iron work                      £175.10.0

Chris Smith boat builder                            £58.   6.0

Robert Morwan.Allowance to workmen     £99.  12.0                                         

Robert Morwan, for cooper’s work            £21.  19.6

Richard Foster, for tallow & c                     £11.  10.0

Edward Smith. glazier                                £25.  11.0

Joihn Wardale,joiner’s work                       £27.  10.0

Brown & Lund, joiner;s work                     £70.  13.0

Wharton & Armitage, for canvas               £346.12.0

John Sleightholme,painter                                    £46.   2.0

George Fowler, sailmaker                         £60.  17.0

Thomas Parkin, sailmaker                         £63.   9.0

J. Jones, for lead lines 7 co                       £10.   1.0

Hawks & Co, anchor smiths                      £100.

Copper bolt bill                                          £122. 1.1

James Clark.,for sheathing                        £23.  2.0

copper sheathing bill                                  £404.2.5

Bailey’s bill for guns & carriages                £104.4.6        etc .etc.


John Tindall  acquired  all  the major yards  at Smithy hill, Sandhill, and  Mastus hill , except  Whartons and that was purchased in 1806. The only sizeable ships on the stocks at Scarborough were Tindalls. He carried on  building ships  for his own  fleet , and  kept his men on in hard times .  He died on 20.11.1809,  having  launched 110 ships. Hinderwell  wrote of the miseries of the lower orders  and of the 1811 winter collections to relieve them. (Hinderwell 250).The next year, the counter blockade of Europe  proved  in some measure effective. Average production rose to 900 tons, with  most vessels once again  built for outside buyers.There was also ship repair work of which little is recorded. The 1824 reciprocity treaties  were blamed  for  an  emerging situation, where ships could be built , manned and victualled overseas, at half the prices prevailing here. (B.109).

There was conflict between  the fishing and collier interests using the harbour and the ship builders. Hawson said that the Corporation had allowed 400 yards by 20-40 yards to be taken from the harbour. The ship builders had erected stages to to put their timber on but had planked them inside and laid so much rubbish  as to raise it above high watermark .The Harbour Commission took action against the  shipbuilders  at York courts in 1831 but lost due to the time that had elapsed.

Captain Hawson Herbert spoke of Tindall, Heward, Wharton, William Newham,John Skelton,George Dale Smith and G. W. Porritt as ship builders.The yards and their ancillaries stretched from Blands cliff  to Ivy House. Early 19th century directories  give George.Woodhiouse.Porrit, George Riby, John Skelton. Robert .William & James  Tindall  at Sandside,  George Dale Smith at East Sandgate and William Newham at KingStreet. Thomas Armstrong, Robert Skelton, James and Thomas Smith, appear with  James  & Robert Tindall in 1840. .John Skelton had land at the bottom of West Sandgate, where he built fishing luggers and five men boats .Robert Tindall had  44 workers in his yard in 1851. 

Ships built at Scarborough

1838               Tindalls                                 Bee                 snow              106

1838               G.Sheader & T.Armstrong Ebenezer       yawl                23

1838               G.Sheader & T. Armstrong            Fidelity           lugger                        22

1838               R.Skelton                              New mar??   sloop              26

?                      J & W.Smith                          Integrity          yawl                22

1838               J & W.Smith                          Diligent          yawl                20

1838               J & W. Smith             Jerome          yawl                22

1838               J. Skelton                              3 Brothers     yawl                23

1838               Tindall                                                Persia                        ship                ?

1838               Sheader & Armstrong         Glen-Roy       sloop              28

1839               Tindall                                                Orion              barque           316

1839               Tindall                                                Rising sun    yawl                21

1839               Tindall                                                Ant                  brig                 112

1840               J & W. Smith             Happy Return.yawl              35

1840               J. Skelton                              Two friends   yawl                24

1840               J & W smith                          Willing mind yawl                26       ?

1840               Tindall                                                Sumatra        barque           354                

1840               Thomas Armstrong             Faith               yawl                21

1840               J & W. Smith             Charity           yawl                26

1840               Robert Skelton                     Pearl              yawl                26

1840               J W.Smith                              Three brothers.yawl                        27

1840               J. Skelton                              Hope              yawl                26

1840               R. Skelton                             Robert & Mary.yawl  29

1840               T. Armstrong                         Sarah             yawl                28

1840               Tindall                                                Emerald        ketch              101

1841               R. Skelton                             Two brothers. yawl              25

1841               W. Wear                                 Duncan dunbar.schooner 67

1841               Tindall                                                Diamond       barque           290

1841               N. Sheader                           Undaunted    lugger                        23

1841               R.Skelton                              Paragon        yawl                80

1841               J & W Smith                          Friends          yawl                26

1841               J & W. smith                         Thomas & William,yawl     28

1842               Tindal                                     Fortitude        ship                640

1842               Tindal                                     Alert                brig                 107

1843               R. Skelton                             Three brothers.yawl                        34

1844               R.skelton                               Diamond       yawl                28

1844               Tindall                                                Arabia            barque           263

1845               Tindall                                                Reindeer       barque           213

1845               M.Smith                                 Ino                  yawl                30

1845               Tindall                                                Medway         ship                654

1847               Tindall                                    Leontes         barque           222

1847               W.&.B &R.Wilson                 Venue            schooner       50

1847               Tindall                                                Severn           ship                536

1848               Wm smith                             Concern        yawl                34

1848               R. Skelton                             York                lugger                        41

1849?            Tindall                                                P erseverance,barque        281

1849               Tindall                                                Trent               barque           236

1850               Tindall                                                Albemarle     ship                714

1852               Tindall                                                Coaster         brig                 144

1852               Tindall                                                Water lilly       schooner       51

1852               Tindall                                                Aries               barque           234

1853               Tindall                                                Nimrod          ship                1002

1856               Tindall                                                Avon               ship                645

1859               Tindall                                                Mile                 brig                 164

1859               Tindall                                                T..vboil?         barque           433

1860               Tindall                                                Tay                  brig                 186

1861               Tindal                                     Thames         barque           445

1863               Tindall                                                Clyde  brig                 186

1873               John Edward                                    Violet              ketch              56

1879               James Frank                                    Caprey           schooner       23      

Robert Tindall was followed by  Richard Harris Tindall as manager, a fine designer ,with more modern ideas.. The barque “Teviot”  marked his coming into authority with  a  departure from their  older type of ships..However  the advent of iron and steam ships  changed their situation. Tindalls continued till 1863 building collier brigs and snows for the coal trade,with  larger barques and ships for the distant trade ..  R.H. Tindall  was keen to construct steel ships but the  harbour was silting up  and was  unsuitable for large vessels. Sir Edward Harland, founder of the Belfast firm of iron shipbuilders served his apprenticeship with the Tindalls.The Scarborough yard closed in 1862.(B.96) Materials of Tindalls yard were sold to shipbuilders and shipmasters mainly from northern ports . (MM.18.4.1863) The Tindall fleet continued, operating from London,but emplying many Scarborough mariners.

Small Scarborough yards, Edmond Franks and Thomas Walker’s  continued to build smacks,yawls  and luggers. Walker’s yard was between the warehouse of the Newcastle Coal company  and the slip way opposite the Golden Ball. (Buckley 98)..A new Salvage boat “George Appleyard” appeared from Walker’s yard, a mule coble in 1870.(Merc 1.1.1870).This  was the last yard to close, in 1885

Appendix.Documents bearing on the Tindall shipyards,and those before them

Scarborough Corporation felt it necessary  to compell the Tindalls to acknowledge themselves tenants of the Corporation  in the courts in 1819... Scarborough Corporation  gave Robert Tindall  notice to quit Smiddy Hill that year. There was a long dispute about the ground ownership ,in the courts ,which lasted  till 1822. The family wouldn’t agree that they were tenants of the Corporation for certain properties. Tindalls won a suit  against the  Corporation claiming that they had been in possession of Smith hill opposite the little island piers as kings tenants at least since 1691.They were awarded costs.

(Documents prepared for the case ,Tindall against Scarborough Corporation (ZYZ)

-“John Tindall bought off William Coulson and others(representatives of the late Thomas Coulson) the  property marked yellow  together with several houses adjoining.

The property on Sandhill Thos Coulson bought in 1724 off William Cooper, and in which family it had been for nearly 100 years before, as by the chain of conveyances appears.”

-“He(John Tindall  bought part called  Mastus hill together with the houses adjoining, ,descended from the Dodsworth family and has a chain of conveyances up to 1652 for most of it, to 1684. ( a Corporation grant )

-“The hills or pieces of ground was occupied by Thos Coulson as places to lay timber and formed part of his shipyard”

-“Kings rent 18s5d paid for Moorsom’s house , part of Sand hill property and 6s for plank stage built in front  of those adjoining harbour .1737-part of property Ann Cooper” .-“Waste adjoining masthouse garth was conveyed in 1652.This must be the piece now called Masthouse hill.A fine was levied in 1653 by Dodsworth  for Masthus hill adjoining Masthus garth”.

-”William Coulsons building place. Couper suffered a common recovery in 1723 of Masthus hill and ThomasCoulson’s portion of Sand Hill “. In1733 Thomas Coulson, for the kings rents, from parcels late Mr William Coopers and for the parcels late Ann Coopers £6.0.8.”

Tindall’s hill(Lawyers draft)

The property extending from the letter A to B can be proved to be in the possession of the Tindall family for upwards of 60 years by the evidence of Thomas Yeoman, Anthony Ruston and that it has the same boundaries as it at the present time has, and that William Awenack can well recollect his being put by his uncle William Calvert who was a farmer, to learn to load in carts and waggons for a long time together the ...thy of which Tindalls hill is composed-that it served the purpose of manure-that he is not sure whether his uncle had asked leave of John Tindall or not but his uncle and John tTndall were friendly -he was but a boy at the time  about 15 or 20 years old-that they dug into the hill to a considerable extent insomuch that there was a breast of upwards of 6 feet height , that after having  dug it to a great extent  John Tindall (grandfather of the present) desired him not to take any more away as he found it inconvenient for his shipbuilding purposes.The deforciants say there has been no rent paid to the corporation for the ground extending along the whole extent of the  premises  above the edge of the harbour defined in the plan by the purple marke-   but that they have paid to the Corporation of Scarborough two guineas per annum for a licence  for the extention into the harbour of the two building places marked by the figures I and II (That the amount of this rent for one building place they have ascertained by the Corporati

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