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Stanlee Shipbreaking Yard

(Stanlee Ltd./A.O. Hill Ltd./British Industries Ltd./Dover Industries Ltd.)

The Admiralty began to dismantle ships at H.M. Dockyard, East Cliff (renamed Eastern Docks in 1948), during the First World War. The Stanlee Shipbreaking & Salvage Co. Ltd. took over as a commercial ship breakers in 1920, their first ship being the battleship HMS Duncan brought into the yard on 18 June 1920, although HMS Colne was already in the yard, since November 1919. The company HQ was at Dover but they also had yards at Felixstowe and Cardiff.


Stanlee Shipbreaking Yard, Eastern Docks, 1921

Another salvage company, The Dover Shipbreaking Co. Ltd, was established in 1922 on The Esplanade (Harry Hopwood of 11 Eastbrook Place, company secretary), either as a rival to or as an off-shoot of Stanlee. It didn’t last long and in 1925 its assets were sold to Stanlee, including the tugsBiter, Wrangler, Ruby and Clincher.

Stanlee was owned by Wilfred Shirvell of Guernsey until 1926, when it was taken over by Austin Hill and became A.O. Hill Ltd, who also traded as British Industries Ltd. From 1931, under the directorship of Mr E. P. Hills, it was also known as Dover Industries Ltd.

Under the Hill’s the yard became massive, occupying the entire seafront from Athol Terrace to the Camber. After the Second World War the business became more general scrap and also began to shrink in size, with other businesses, such as Parker Pens, taking over parts of the yard. Even more yard space was taken by the development of the car ferry berths from 1953. Finally, in 1964 Dover Harbour Board required the land to develop a new car ferry terminal and associated passenger services and the business closed on 31 December 1964

Dover Industries Ltd Shipbreaking Yard, Eastern Docks circa 1950

The main business was the dismantling of ships, machinery and large plant. By 1926 there were 800 men employed there and the yard occupied almost all of the Eastern Docks. Many of the ships were naval ships from First World War. In 1921 the yard won a Board of Admiralty contract to break up 120,000 tonnes of the Royal Fleet Reserve.

Known ships dismantled by the yard are:

  • 1920 HMS Colne
  • 1920 HMS Duncan(1901)
  • 1920 HMS TB6 (HMS Gadfly 1906)
  • 1920 HMTB No. 87Torpedo Boat
  • 1920 HMS Venerable Battleship (1899)
  • 1920 HMS Canopus Dreadnought (1898)
  • 1920 HMS London Minelayer (Battleship 1899)
  • 1920 HMS SwiftsureBattleship (1904)
  • 1920 HMS H11 Submarine (1918)
  • 1920 HMS Ghurka Torpedo Boat (1892) (RIM No.7 1888)
  • 1920 HMS C1 Submarine (1916) (resold to Sunderland 1921)
  • 1921 HMS Landrail Torpedo Boat Destroyer (1919)
  • 1921 HMS Lucifer Torpedo Boat Destroyer (1919)
  • 1921 HMS Halcyon Minesweeper (1916)
  • 1921 HMS Haldon Minesweeper (1916)
  • 1921 HMS Eglantine Sloop (1917)
  • 1921 HMS Temeraire Dreadnought
  • 1921 HMS St Vincent Battleship
  • 1921 HMS G14 Submarine (1917)
  • 1922 HMS Medusa Cruiser (1888)
  • 1922 HMS Laertes Torpedo Boat Destroyer (1919)
  • 1922 HMS Caerleon Minesweeper (1918)
  • 1922 HMS H12 Submarine
  • 1922 HMS IndomitableBattleship
  • 1922 HMS Inflexible Battleship
  • 1922 HMS Pomone Cruiser (1897)
  • 1922 HMS Superb
  • 1922 HMS Croome Minesweeper (1917)
  • 1922 HMS Convolvulus Anchusa Class Sloop (1917)
  • 1923 HMS G14 Submarine (1917)
  • 1923 HMS Vengeance Battleship (1899)
  • 1923 HMS Victorious
  • 1923 HMPMS LingfieldPaddle Minesweeper
  • 1928 RMS Celtic (II) Trans-Atlantic Liner (1901) (Broken up in situ on rocks near Cork Harbour)
  • 1947 HMS Tiara Submarine (1944)
  • 1948 HMS Caledon Cruiser (1916)
  • 1948 Tanganjika Woermann Line Steamer (1922)
  • 1949 Biarritz Channel Steamer
  • 1950 War Sepoy (1918) Tanker (DHB Blockship)
  • 1950 Empire Flaminian Cargo Ship (1917) (Stevedore Training Ship 1947)
  • 1951 Solent Queen Pleasure Steamer (HMSMelton 1916/Queen of Thanet 1929)
  • 1952 Lorna Doone Paddle Steamer
  • 1952 Ancient Naval Paddle Tug
  • 1953 Empire LongfordTroop Transport (1913)
  • 1955 Ragunda Finnish Steamer (Lena 1901)
  • 1956 Hythe British Rail Cargo Ship


Shipbreaking Yard shortly before its closure in 1964, the Eastern Docks Car Ferry Terminal behind

The naval contracts began to dry up in 1923 and the yard began to take general scrap as well as ships. In 1927 A. O. Hill Ltd were also responsible for dismantling Dover Promenade Pier. The Pier was opened in 1893, offering proper promenade facilities and summer concerts. During WW1, the Navy took it over as a Landing Stage.

Kent Coalmines were also visited and redundant machinery (underground as well as above ground) was dismantled. After the Second World War, Anti Aircraft Guns at Dover, Lydd, and Sheerness were dismantled by the yard and there was a brief revival in the dismantling of surplus naval vessels.

The scrap produced was sent to N.E.Coast, Scotland, and Port Talbot in South Wales (for the large steelworks). Some was also exported. In the early years the scrap was taken by train along the seafront to be shipped from the Western Docks. Over the years, the yard was forced to shrink as the Car Ferry business increased. However they diversified into ship repairs and they created a foundry producing brass boat fittings (Lurline Boat Fittings Ltd). Their public weighbridge was used by many, including Banana Boats from the West Indies. When forced to close in 1964, there were some 30 people employed.

Text © Dover Museum




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