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Stanlee Shipbreaking Yard

The Stanlee Shipbreaking & Salvage Company and their Role in 1920s Dover.

During the First World War, the Admiralty began to dismantle ships at H.M. Dockyard, East Cliff in Dover.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 and thus there was always a lot of business.

In 1920, the Stanlee Shipbreaking & Salvage Company Ltd took over as a commercial ship breakers in 1920. The first ship they dismantled was the battleship HMS Duncan, which was brought into the yard on 18 June 1920. The company headquarters was at Dover but they also had yards at Felixstowe and Cardiff.

In 1921 the yard won a Board of Admiralty contract to break up 120,000 tonnes of the Royal Fleet Reserve.


Stanlee Shipbreaking Yard, Eastern Docks, 1921

In 1922, a rival salvage company, The Dover Shipbreaking Co. Ltd, was established on The Esplanade. This did not last for long and in 1925 it closed and its assets were sold to Stanlee, including the tugs Biter, 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.

In 1927 the company was responsible for dismantling Dover Promenade Pier, which had  opened in 1893, offering proper promenade facilities and summer concerts. During the First World War, the Royal Navy had taken the pier over and converted it into a Landing Stage.

From 1931, under the directorship of Mr E. P. Hills, the company was also known as Dover Industries Ltd.

During this period redundant machinery from the Kent Coal Mines was dismantled and following the end of  the Second World War, Anti Aircraft Guns at Dover, Lydd, and Sheerness were dismantled by the yard.

The scrap produced was sent to the North East Coast of England, Scotland and to Port Talbot in South Wales, where it was used in the large steelworks. Some scap was also exported and in the early years it was taken by train along the seafront to be shipped from the Western Docks.

Under Hills, the ship dismantling yard grew exponentially and soon it occupied the entire seafront from Athol Terrace to the Camber. After the Second World War the business began to not only dismantle ships but also to dismantle general scrap.

The business did begin to shrink in size in the 1950s, as other businesses, such as Parker Pens, took over parts of the yard. In 1953, even more yard space was taken by the development of the Car Ferry berths.

As the Car Ferry business increased, the Ship yard became increasingly smaller. The company did diversify into ship repairs, however, and they created a foundry producing brass boat fittings known as Lurline Boat Fittings Ltd. Their public weighbridge was used by many, including Banana Boats from the West Indies.

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



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


Known ships dismantled by the yard were:

  • 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



Text © Dover Museum




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