GGAT First World War Project: Visiting National Shipyard No.1, Chepstow

As part of GGAT’s First World War Project, our Senior Project Archaeologist, Johnny Crawford and Outreach Officer, Paul W Huckfield (wearing his Military Specialist hat) are visiting the site of the National Shipyard Number 1, at Chepstow this afternoon.

The National Shipyards were proposed, and partially completed, by the coalition government led by David Lloyd George during the latter years of the war and were built in order to counter the large losses of British merchant ships being destroyed by German U-boat attacks in the Atlantic Ocean.

The shipyards were to be built so as to construct large numbers of “standard” cargo ships as rapidly as possible. In accordance with the Protection of the Realm Act, all Chepstow shipbuilding companies therefore came under government control and were expanded to form National Shipyard Number 1 (Chepstow). Shipyard Number 1, was one of three great shipbuilding centres established in the area, the others being Beachly and Portbury. Eight slipways were laid down in order to build ships of up to 600 feet (180 m) in length and of up to 300 tons.

The construction however was not restricted to just the shipyard, as over 6,000 skilled workers came to the Chepstow area from other shipbuilding areas in Britain. New housing was provided at three new Garden City sites at Hardwick, Bulwark and Pennsylvania (concrete blocks used to construct the houses and slipways being produced in part by German prisoners of war). Camps were also built for the workers, along with workshops, a power station and a new hospital in Chepstow.

In 1925 Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd bought and later dismantled the shipyard. In due course the company became Fairfield-Mabey Ltd who now specialise in steelwork for bridges and other structures.

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