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Robert Thompson                                 1797-1860
Signature
  The first child of Robert Thompson and Elizabeth Beaney, Robert was born 21 September 1797 and Christened on 20 January 1799 at Holy Trinity Church of Sunderland. He married Sarah Lowes on 30 August 1818 at Bishopwearmouth Sunderland.
Robert Thompson
Robert Thompson
Robert worked for a short time on the traditional type of vessel for moving coal (the keel) and then became a shipwright's apprentice under James Allison, on the North Sands. Robert built several small craft on his own account in 1819, in the dock berth below Lambton Drops, with the usual technique of launching sideways. One ship was launched prematurely when on a rising tide, she was lifted from the blocks and carried into the river. As so frequently happened with such small scale shipbuilders, over the next twenty-six years Robert alternated between employment as a shipwright, working in small building partnerships, and acting as a shipyard foreman or manager on
  both the Tyne and Wear rivers. He served for a period as foreman for John Brunton building ships at the Saltgrass Dock in the 1820's. His sons frequently moved with him as they learned the shipwright's trade. Robert built his first ship - the barque Wolsingham - at Jarrow, where he was manager at the Patent Slip and Sawmill. That was in 1834. In 1837, Robert was foreman for Mr. John Storey, on the North Sands, when Mr. Thomas Speeding, sailmaker and shipowner of Monkwearmouth, made arrangements with two bachelors of the name of Melvin, ropers of Chaytors Haugh, for the building of a small brig for him. They engaged Robert to build it, so along with his three sons, and brothers John and Thomas, he opened a yard at Washington Staiths (Coxgreen). Eldest son Robert became manager. Here a launching difficulty was experienced, for the vessel dropped over the quay and broke her rudder. A new one was made in a day, and the ship went down-river under the name Iona to be honored as the first ship to enter the North Dock, then known as Wearmouth Dock.

  Another from the same Coxgreen yard was the 400-ton Barnard Castle, capable of doing the run from the Tees to the Thames and back in six weeks under favorable conditions. This ship, designed by John Watson, a Pallion builder, was owned by the Stockton and London Shipping Company, and was black hulled with gilt molding around the topsides.

The May, launched in May 1840 was the last ship from Thompson's Coxgreen yard. The industrial depression, known as the "Hungary Forties" was the reason for the closure not only of the Thompson's, but many more yards in the northeast. Robert went to sea as a carpenter on a Whitby ship trading to America (1841-44). Robert junior went into a Southwick yard which stood on the site later occupied by George Clark's engine works, and the two other sons, Joseph Lowes and John were employed by John Watson at Pallion.

  When trade revived in 1844, Robert senior became foreman at the John Candlish yard, Southwick, and was quickly joined by his three sons. It was not until 13 February 1846 that Robert took over the old Harrison & Oliver yard on the North Sands, and with his three sons in partnership, started Robert Thompson & Sons. The lease for the yard stipulated that, for the haulage of timber, Thompsons should employ horses belonging to the ground landlord, Sir Hedworth Williamson (Bart.), who claimed manorial rights over the foreshore. On a sloping beach and a short quay on the North Sands, the Thompsons began building their first ship, the Pearl, a brig of 240 tons.  They  were  all  shipwrights , and working with four
  employees, they had her finished in eleven weeks. She showed a profit of £200 on the contract. Soon 60 men and boys were employed and ships followed each other in quick succession. Seven were built in 1847, and again the following year. Steadily tonnages increased and in 1850 they launched their first big ship - the Grahams, of 668 tons, built for Edmund Graham, of Newcastle, and classed A.1 at Lloyds for 13 years. It is interesting to note that they accepted the Wolsingham, the first ship he built in 1834, as part payment.

  In 1853 the firm was the builder of the first wooden vessel, built on the Wear, having iron diagonal straps. This was the 936 ton City of Carlisle, built for Edmund Graham, of Newcastle. She was a full rigged ship, the largest built by Thompsons up to that time, and was the fourth order received from the owner. In the next year they built the 1000 ton Edendale for the same line. She ran under government charter with troops and stores for the Crimea. Graham's next ship was the Eskdale, for which he paid Thompson £16 10s. per ton, the highest price they had ever received.


In 1854, son Robert left the firm to start his own shipbuilding yard. Son Joseph Lowes assumed his management position. Wood ships continued to be built in considerable numbers on the North Sands. Helvellyn (1,017 tons), launched in April, 1856, proved to be the largest they ever built. Among those built for William Nicholson and Sons, of Sunderland, was the copper-ore trader Vencedora, launched in 1860.

  Robert died at West House, Fulwell, on 10 December 1860, at age 63. He was buried at Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery. Sons Joseph Lowes, and John took control of the business, but one year later, John left the firm and opened a yard at the North Dock.
The Launch of The Vencedora
The launch of the Vencedora in 1860
In 1854, son Robert left the firm to start his own shipbuilding yard. Son Joseph Lowes assumed his management position. Wood ships continued to be built in considerable numbers on the North Sands. Helvellyn (1,017 tons), launched in April, 1856, proved to be the largest they ever built. Among those built for William Nicholson and Sons, of Sunderland, was the copper-ore trader Vencedora, launched in 1860.

  Robert died at West House, Fulwell, on 10 December 1860, at age 63. He was buried at Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery. Sons Joseph Lowes, and John took control of the business, but one year later, John left the firm and opened a yard at the North Dock.
The Launch of The Vencedora
The launch of the Vencedora in 1860


Sarah Lowes                                       1796-1863
Sarah was born in West Boldon, County Durham about 1796, of Joseph Lowes and Sarah Willey. She was Christened 6 November 1796 in Whitburn. She married Robert Thompson   at Bishopwearmouth on 30 August 1818. She died on 15 December 1863, at age 67, and was buried at Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery.
They had the following children:
  Robert Born 23 Nov 1819   Monkwearmouth Shore Married Sarah Barbar - Lillias Simpson
Sarah Born 14 April 1821   Monkwearmouth Married James Brown
Joseph Lowes Born 16 Oct 1824   Monkwearmouth Married Thomasin Elliott - Hannah Swan
John Born 11 Jan 1826   Monkwearmouth Married Harriet Johnson
Elizabeth Born 1 Jun 1828   Monkwearmouth Married John Bell - James Robertson
Margaret Born 13 Jun 1831   Monkwearmouth Married Walter Scott Russell
Ann Born abt 1833   South Shields Died 19 Oct 1835 Age 2
Jane Born 8 Aug 1833   South Shields Married George Wood
Benjamin Lowes Born 19 Nov 1837   Cox Green Suffered from epilepsy
Mary Ann Born 28 Sep 1840   Coxgreen  
Martha Ann Lowes Born 15 Jun 1843   Coxgreen Married Matthew Dodds - Charles Stevens

Birth of Parents
Robert Thompson b: 21 Sep 1797  c: 20 Jan 1799   Holy Trinity, Sunderland
1st son of Robert Thompson, Keelman, of this Parish, and Elizabeth Bieney, of this Parish County Durham
Sarah Lowes b: abt 1796  c: 6 Nov 1796   Whitburn, County Durham
daughter of Joseph Lowes and Sarah Willey
Marriage
30 Aug 1818 Marriage
Robert Thompson
Sarah Lowes
Bishopwearmouth, County Durham
Both of this parish, by Banns
Wit: Joseph Lowes, and ??

Children
Robert Thompson b: 23 Nov 1819 c: 16 Jan 1820  Monkwearmouth, St Peter's Parish, County Durham
son of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth, Shipwright
Sarah Thompson b: 14 Apr 1821  c: 25 Dec 1821   Monkwearmouth, St Peter's Parish, County Durham
first daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth, Shipwright
Joseph Lowes Thompson b: 16 Oct 1824  c: 26 Dec 1824   Monkwearmouth, St Peter's Parish, County Durham
son of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth Shore, shipwright
John Thompson b: 11 Jan 1826  c: 3 Feb 1826  Monkwearmouth, St Peters Parish, County Durham
son of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth, Shipwright
Elizabeth Thompson b: 1 Jun 1828  c: 25 Jun 1828  Monkwearmouth, St Peters Parish, County Durham
second daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth, Shipwright
Margaret Thompson b: 13 Jun 1831  c: 2 Nov 1831   Monkwearmouth St Peter's Parish, County Durham
daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Monkwearmouth Shore, shipwright
Ann Thompson c: 22 Sep 1833    St. Paul's, Jarrow, South Shields, County Durham
daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Shipwright, Dunkirk Place
Ann Thompson Died 19 Oct 1835, Age 2,  Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery
Jane Thompson b: 8 Aug 1833  c: 21 Oct 1835     Holy Trinity, South Shields, County Durham
daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson, Shipwright, West Docks   County Durham
Benjamin Lowes Thompson b: 19 Nov 1837  c: 25 Dec 1837   All Saints, Cox Green, Painshaw, County Durham
son of Robert and Sarah Thompson     1837 4Q Houghton le Spring 24 112
Mary Ann Thompson b: 28 Sep 1840  c: 30 Dec 1840 All Saints, Cox Green, Painshaw, County Durham
daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson

1841 Census HO107-312 7 June 1841 Cox Green, Painshaw, County Durham
Cox Green     Born in this County?
Robert Thompson
Sarah
Joseph
John
Elizabeth
Margaret
Jane
Benjamin
Mary Ann
Elizabeth Mason
Age 40
Age 45
Age 15
Age 15
Age 13
Age 10
Age 6
Age 3
Age 9 Mo.'s
Age 14
Shipbuilder








Servant
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
  21 Sep 1797
abt 1796
16 Oct 1824
11 Jan 1826
1 Jun 1828
13 Jun 1831
abt 1835
19 Nov 1837
28 Sep 1840
22 Sep 1827

Martha Ann Lowes Thompson b: 14 Jun 1843  c: 25 Dec 1844  Cox Green, Painshaw, County Durham
daughter of Robert and Sarah Thompson

1851 Census HO107-2398 31 March 1851 Monkwearmouth Shore, County Durham
14 Charles Street

Robert Thompson
Sarah (Wife)
Margaret
Jane
Mary Ann
Martha Ann Lowes
Elizabeth Ann Brown
Plus 1 Servant
Age 52
Age 53
Age 19
Age 16
Age 10
Age 7
Age 10
Master Shipbuilder
Employing 20 men and 15 boys



Visitor (Gr-dau)
Sunderland
West Bolden
Monkwearmouth
South Shields
Cox Green
Cox Green
Cox Green
Durham
Durham
Durham
Durham
Durham
Durham
Durham
21 Sep 1797
abt 1796
13 Jun 1831
abt 1835
28 Sep 1840
14 Jun 1843
14 Mar 1841

Death
Robert Thompson Died 10 Dec 1860   Age 63
at West House, Fulwell, Buried at Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery

DURHAM 16 January 1861                         Probate
THOMPSON, Robert - The will of Robert Thompson, late of Fulwell, West House, in the County of Durham, Shipbuilder, deceased, who died on 10 December 1860 at Fulwell West House, aforesaid, was proved at Durham by the oaths of Robert Thompson, son, of Monkwearmouth Shore, in the said county, Shipbuilder, and John Thompson of the same place, Shipbuilder, the sons, and Walter Scott Russell, of the same place, Commercial Traveler, the Executors.   Effects under £2,000.

Summary of the Will of Mr. Robert Thompson
of Fulwell West House, County Durham
1797 - 1860       Dated 10 February 1860
Trustees and Executors: Sons Robert and John Thompson, and Son in-law Walter Scott Russell
Wife Sarah The residence, all household items, and income from Trust Estate, for life.
Son: Benjamin Twenty Shillings per week, for life, and also such reasonable sums necessary for clothing, medicine, medical attendance, and advice.
After the death of my wife, and son Benjamin, all remaining funds in Trust whose proceeds are in six equal shares;
Daughters: Mary Ann
Martha Ann Lowes
Sarah, wife of James Brown
Margaret, wife of Walter Scott Russell
Elizabeth, wife of James Robson*
Jane, wife of George Wood
£ 70 per year. At age 40, or marriage, full proceeds from one share.
£ 70 per year. At age 40, or marriage, full proceeds from one share.
Full proceeds from one share.
Full proceeds from one share.
Full proceeds from one share.
Full proceeds from one share.
     * Robson should be Robertson

1861 Census RG9-3784 8 April 1861 Monkwearmouth Shore, County Durham
Roker Road back of Terrace
Sarah Thompson (Widow)
Mary Ann
Martha L.
George Bell (GrSon)
Plus 2 Servants
Age 64
Age 20
Age 17
Age 13
Proprietor of Houses


Office Boy
Boldon
Cox Green
Cox Green
Sunderland
Durham
Durham
Durham
Durham
abt 1796
28 Sep 1840
14 Jun 1843
24 Jun 1847

Death
Sarah (Lowes) Thompson Died 15 Dec 1863   Age 67
Buried at Monkwearmouth Mere Knolls Cemetery

ERECTED
TO THE MEMORY
OF

ROBERT THOMPSON
OF
FULWELL WEST HOUSE
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
DECEMBER 10TH 1860
AGED 63 YEARS

SARAH THOMPSON
WIFE OF THE ABOVE
DEPARTED THIS LIFE
DECEMBER 15TH 1863
AGED 67 YEARS
ALSO

BENJAMIN L. THOMPSON
SON OF THE ABOVE WHO
DIED FEBURARY 14 1877
AGED 39 YEARS
ALSO
ANN THOMPSON
WHO DIED THE 19TH OF
OCTOBER 1835
AGED 2 YEARS
Monkwearmouth
MERE KNOLLS CEMETERY
PHOTOS BY T.G. WHITE

PICTURE CREDIT
The photos of the launch of the Vencedora are from the book
"WHERE SHIPS ARE BORN, SUNDERLAND 1346-1946, A History of Shipbuilding on the River Wear" by J. W. SMITH and T. S. Holden. Published by Thomas Reed and Company Limited, Sunderland   1946,
and also from the Tyne and Wear Archives.