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welding had developed to such a high standard that welded ships superseded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
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.