Portsmouth Royal Dockyard


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Shipwrights were the senior trade in the dockyard. They controlled most of the work which went on in the dockyard. They were responsible for the watertight integrity of the ship. Shipwrights worked on the structure of the ship originally in wood and later in metal. Most of the internal fittings came under the shipwrights.

Shipwrights built the internal ship fittings such as mess lockers. Other trades worked inside the ships such as plumbers and electricians. They had control of the compartments they were working in. If they wanted to come out of the compartment, or go up, down or through the decks, they had to get the sanction of the shipwrights. This meant that shipwrights were in control of everything that went on.

Changes in shipbuilding meant that over the twentieth century the everyday work of the shipwright changed. At the beginning of the twentieth century riveted ships were the norm. However, after the second world war welding had developed to such a high standard that welded ships superseded riveted ships. The technique of constructing riveted ships is completely different to welded ships. A riveted ship is built with frames or ribs. Shipwrights manufacture welded ships using long beams which travel the length of the ship making it stronger. Welders construct pre-fabricated units in workshops. The shipwrights assemble all the units on the slipway and launch the ship once it is complete.

The shipwright department had specialisms just like many other trades in the dockyard. The shipwrights had a department called the Shipwrights Gunnery Shop. They handled all matters relating to gunnery, they worked on all the magazines and all the lockers where the shells or missiles were stowed.

Shipwright liners had the responsibility for docking ships. They would mark out the docks with blocks. When a ship was dry docked, the water was drained out of the dock and the ship would come to rest on the blocks which had been placed in the bottom of the dock with extreme precision, to allow for any underwater fittings.

Shipwright liners were also responsible for testing. They tested the anchor and cable arrangements and internal fittings such as food lifts. Shipwright liners were also in charge of the ship's markings. This included the waterline, the draft marks and pennant numbers. They also worked on the markings for helicopter landings on flight decks.

Shipwrights also built and maintained ships' boats in the boathouses. Ships' boats are used to transport people ashore when the water is too shallow for the ship to dock. They also transfer people between ships or play a part in man overboard rescues.

Source: http://www.seayourhistory.org.uk/content/view/97/186/1/1/