Trail: Beverley - Shipyard Voices

Between 1901 and 1963, Cook, Welton & Gemmell shipbuilders launched over 1300 vessels from their yard at Grovehill, Beverley. From this unlikely location 9 miles north of Kingston upon Hull it became a shipbuilding powerhouse of global significance, and at one time was the largest manufacturer of fishing trawlers in the world.

Using this self-guided trail, take a tour around the site of the former shipyard, see back in time to its heyday, and listen to audio clips from interviews with ex-shipyard workers.

(Always be careful of your surroundings when using the app)

(Please note: unsuitable for wheelchair users)

Broadside On

LISTEN: Jack Coates, former loftsman, describes his experience of a launch

The launch of a ship at Grovehill was a huge community event for the town of Beverley and saw people flock in their thousands to witness the vessel slide sideways into the River Hull (known as ‘Broadside On’).  This was an unconventional launch technique for heavy shipbuilding and was due to the narrowness of the river channel.  It caused a tremendous splash when the water was displaced by the launch, and either dodging the wave or getting wet from it was a great source of fun for the spectators.  This particular archive image shows the launch of the ‘Vera’ in 1907.

Cook, Welton and Gemmell itself was liquidated in 1963.

That’s the end of the trail!  Visit for more information about the ‘Trawling Through Time’ project and Cook, Welton and Gemmell Shipbuilders.

Ready To Go

LISTEN: John Cooper, former welder, describes the squads and how they fitted into the construction process

Cook, Welton and Gemmell built 1317 vessels here at Grovehill, mostly trawlers, which went on to travel the world on the high seas.  Here is one example, the ‘Boston Weelsby’.  Built for Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Limited (Grimsby), it was launched 20th March 1961.  As with all vessels built here, the hull of the ship was floated down river to be fitted out at Kingston upon Hull in the yard of C D Holmes Limited.

The ‘Boston Weelsby’ fished in Icelandic waters, but after sustaining serious damage was eventually sold to Irvin Johnson Limited (Cape Town, South Africa) on 19th September 1969.  The ship was eventually scuttled off Robben Island (Cape Town, South Africa) on 26th July 1984.


Launch Day

LISTEN: Alan Rawson, former plumber & pipe-fitter talks about good wages, especially for boiler-makers

The launch of a ship was always attended by the company directors and their wives, and the traditional duty smashing of a bottle against the side of the ship was always performed by a lady, whether that be a director’s wife, or female member of staff.  Our archive image from around 1960 shows some of the directors and wives on their way to a ship launch.  In the background, you can just make out the building now occupied by ‘Riverview Café’.


Progress Inspection

LISTEN: Alan Rawson, former plumber & pipe-fitter, tells us about the pace of construction during the Second World War

Our archive image shows company directors (or other officers) inspecting the shipbuilding work in the 1940s.  The large shed in the background was built to accommodate work for the Admiralty during the Second World War, when many orders were placed for the construction of minesweepers and other Royal Navy vessels.


Bring Your Own Clothes

LISTEN: Bruce Grozier, former plater, talks about the clothing policy

There were no uniforms or special overalls for the shipyard workers.  Here is an image of two carpenters, at work in their own clothing!  A vast number of trades were involved in building these ships, including riveters, welders, caulkers, platers, blacksmiths, burners, as well as the engineers, draughtsmen, tracers, and other office clerks needed for producing the designs & technical drawings.


On The Stocks

This trail was produced as part of ‘Trawling Through Time’, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project from East Riding Archives. Interviews by Dr Alex Ombler.  Audio and Images selected and compiled by Olivia Northrop, Trainee (Bridging The Digital Gap).

It begins on Riverview Road, near the junction with Grovehill Road.

(You will need to access the site by car.  Limited parking is available on the roadside, but take care to park safely and not obstruct the various business premises.  The café car park is for customers only.  Some more parking is available in a lay-by (turn left after crossing Weel Bridge).

Use ‘View on map’ from the trail’s homepage to reach point ‘1’ and the start of the trail.

LISTEN: Jim Tanton, former draughtsman explains what kind of ships were built here.

This image shows a vessel in production circa 1950.  Cook, Welton and Gemmell produced trawlers for the large fishing ports of Hull, Grimsby, Aberdeen, Fleetwood, and beyond.  At one time it was a linchpin of the UK fishing industry, but it produced many other vessel types as well.