A fascinating new project is taking shape in Wallsend, one which aims to uncover the stories of women who worked in the shipbuilding industry in the North East during the First World War.
With many of the North East’s shipyard workers away fighting, local women volunteered to keep the region’s maritime industry afloat. Between 1914 and 1918, they took on highly skilled engineering roles in shipyards including Swan Hunter in Wallsend and Palmers in Hebburn. However, when the war ended, they were pushed out of these roles to make room for the men returning from the conflict.
Spearheaded by Historic England, the Women in Shipbuilding project has launched with a pop-up exhibition at Wallsend’s Forum shopping centre. The images, sourced from Imperial War Museums’ collection, will act as a focal point for people to contribute their own family stories, photographs and memorabilia relating to this neglected area of the region’s history. People will also be able to make contributions via email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the exhibition.
The resulting materials, together with the original exhibition images, will be used to create a short film which will be released in spring 2024 as part of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s Rewriting Women into Maritime History initiative. By increasing awareness of the role that women played in shipbuilding and marine engineering in the North East during the First World War, it is hoped that 21st century women will be inspired to consider a career in marine engineering.
The exhibition runs until November 19, 2023. The Forum Shopping Centre is open daily. Check here for opening times.
An 8,000 tone steamer at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear. ©Crown Copyright.
Main image: A woman at work in a shipbuilding yard. Crown Copyright.