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Submarine Heritage Centre
Registered Address:
53 Red Oak Avenue
Cumbria, LA13 OLJ, UK
Tel: 01229 820993
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The Iron Shipbuilding Company was founded in 1871 by James Ramsden, General Manager of the Furness Railway Company who became first mayor of the new town of Barrow-in-Furness in Lancashire (now Cumbria). However, on registering the new company in 1872, the name was changed to the Barrow Ship Building Company (BSBC) when it was realised that there was already another company building iron ships further down the coast at Birkenhead.
To view further information on how Barrow Shipyard and Submarines developed over the years click on a date area in the timeline...  

First naval vessel 1877; First submarines 1886
In the first thirty years of its existence, Barrow shipyard built a wide range of surface ships of all types. They received their first naval vessel order from the British Admiralty in 1877 and cut their submarine-building teeth in 1886 on two steam-engined boats for the Swedish industrialist and arms dealer Thorsten Nordenfelt. These were ultimately sold to Turkey and Russia. The Turkish boat, Abdul Hamid, was dismantled for delivery by ship
Abdul Hamid
Turkish Boat - Abdul Hamid

and re-erected at Taskizak Tersanesi shipyard, Istanbul. She achieved fame as the world's first submarine to fire a torpedo underwater. The submarine for Russia never reached her customer, foundering on the Jutland (Danish) coast on her delivery voyage.

The shipyard earned a growing reputation for quality-built naval ships and in 1888, having bought out the gun interests of the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns & Ammunition Company, was renamed the Naval Construction & Armaments Company.

1897 - Bought by Vickers
The company was bought by the Vickers family steel business of Sheffield for just £425,000 in 1897. In that same year, they also bought out Maxim Nordenfelt completely for £1,353,000. This acquisition enabled the company, now renamed Vickers, Sons & Maxim Limited, to proudly claim at the turn of the century that they were "the only shipbuilder capable of designing, building, engining and arming their own vessels."

1901 - The Royal Navy's First Submarine
The company was awarded the contract for the Royal Navy's first five submarines built to the latest design from the Irish-American John P Holland. The first submarine (officially Her Majesty's Submarine Torpedo Boat No.1 but not named at launch and usually referred to as Holland 1) was built with every secrecy at Barrow and launched 'as an experiment' without ceremony on October 2nd 1901. By the outbreak of war in 1914, Britain had the largest, most advanced and best supported submarine fleet in any world navy and Vickers had been responsible for 94% of the 74 submarines available. Since that time, throughout the Second World War and
Holland 1 launch
Holland 1 Launch
thereafter submarines continued to grow in status to become the capital ships in the Royal Navy's inventory… and Barrow shipyard has had an ongoing involvement in their design, build and development.

1960 - Into the Nuclear Age
Britain's first nuclear submarine 'Dreadnought' and first Polaris-armed ballistic nuclear submarine 'Resolution' were both built here as have been all but three of the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine fleet. From 1993-1999, Barrow was entrusted with the major programme to build the UK's four Vanguard Class Ballistic Nuclear Submarines that carry Trident - the ultimate strategic nuclear deterrent. These submarines perform a round the clock defence patrol 365 days a year, working unseen and undetected to maintain
HMS Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought
our country's peace and protect our freedom. The 'eternal vigilance' service has been maintained continuously since 1968.

266 RN Submarines from other Builders...
Over the past century, four Royal Dockyards and 16 other shipyards and engineering companies built a total of 266 Royal Navy submarines in the 80 years from 1913-1993. Of these, the last three were actually Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Limited (VSEL) Barrow orders, built post-Nationalisation by VSEL at the former Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead prior to its closure in 1993.
309 RN Submarines from Barrow...
Since 1993, Barrow shipyard has been the sole remaining builder of submarines for the Royal Navy and the company's submarine build total for the Royal Navy far exceeds that of all the other builders put together. The shipyard has 309 Royal Navy submarines to its credit, including every nuclear submarine currently in service.
HMS Resolution
HMS Resolution

…and a further three on order
Three Astute Class submarines (Astute, Ambush and Artful) are currently ordered from Barrow, and the first is already under construction. Unlike previous nuclear boats, each of the Astute Class submarines will never require to be refuelled throughout its projected 30-year service life. The first three Astute Class boats will bring the build total at Barrow to 312 submarines for the Royal Navy
Astute Visualisation
Astute Visualisation
and a further 26 built over the years for foreign navies. Further Astute Class submarines may be ordered in due course. Barrow shipyard has also built 373 merchant ships and 148 naval surface ships but that's another story.

2001 - A Century of RN Submarine Building
Barrow's reputation for innovation and quality in submarine design and build has been maintained and strengthened over the last century. The shipyard, now owned by BAE SYSTEMS, celebrated the RN Submarine Centenary and Barrow yard's 100 years of RN submarine building in 2001. The Submarine Service was bestowed with the Freedom of the Borough of Barrow -in-Furness during the celebrations, testimony to the enduring association between the town and the Royal Navy.
HMS Vengeance
HMS Vengeance
Barrow Shipyard in 2002.
Today, Barrow shipyard with its sister yards at Scotstoun and Govan on the Clyde form Marine - the shipbuilding business sector within the Sea Systems Group of BAE SYSTEMS - the global defence company innovating for a safer world.

Tony Salter-Ellis for the Submarine Heritage Centre - Barrow
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  © 2006 Submarine Heritage Centre Limited  
The Submarine Heritage Centre is a Registered Charity No. 1088820