Ship repair and shipbuilding is to restart in Bristol’s historic Albion Dry Dock as part of a new partnership between the SS Great Britain Trust and Bristol City Council.
The SS Great Britain Trust is working in association with the Albion Dock Company to provide repair, maintenance and shipbuilding services for larger vessels from within Bristol Harbour and beyond.
This milestone comes as the SS Great Britain celebrates her 175th anniversary and follows the successful opening of Being Brunel in March. The first vessel will be welcomed into the dry dock next week.
The Albion Dock Company has been established by experienced maritime manufacturer Martin Childs along with Paul and Steve Beacham who run Sharpness Shipyard and Dry Dock at the head of the Bristol Channel.
As the city’s biggest dry dock, large Bristol-based ships are likely to have priority for repair and maintenance. Ships from outside Bristol are also expected to use Albion services, further boosting the harbour economy and supporting jobs for skilled maritime craftspeople.
Matthew Tanner, Chief Executive of the SS Great Britain Trust, says: “This is an important first step in re-establishing the Albion Dry Dock as a vibrant and economically active part of the harbour next to the SS Great Britain. The dry dock itself, built in 1820, has a rich industrial history having been home to the UK’s oldest shipbuilders, Charles Hill & Sons, for over a century.
“Working with Bristol City Council and the Albion Dock Company, the Trust will continue its role helping to restore and care for the city’s maritime heritage. At a later stage, we’d like to explore increased public access, so people can see and learn about maritime engineering skills close at hand. However, our current focus is ensuring a successful start to this new chapter of shipbuilding in the Albion Dry Dock.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Getting this facility back into use is great news for Bristol, the harbour and our many local boat owners. I want to see a thriving working harbour which supports maritime jobs as well as leisure activities and tourism, this project supports all of that. The dry dock and our harbour is an essential part of the fabric of our city and I’m confident that the SS Great Britain Trust and Albion Dock Company share our commitment to maintaining its heritage.”
Martin Childs, Director at the Albion Dock Company, says: “Together with the services already offered by the Underfall Yard and the Bristol Marina, a functioning Albion Dry Dock will mean that Bristol can support an even broader range of high-quality maritime services. We are looking forward to welcoming our first customers."
Notes to editors
The Albion Dry Dock
The 540ft-long Grade II listed Albion Dry Dock was originally dug in 1820 and was the largest in Bristol. It was created by Charles Hill and James Hilhouse who built many ships on the site until Bristol City Docks were closed to commercial traffic in 1977. Abels Shipbuilders continued to build small ships in the dock from 1980 onwards, while the Bristol Marina was created across the rest of the Charles Hill yard. The dry dock has been derelict since the retirement of David Abels in 2016.
About Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is Bristol’s number one visitor attraction, as voted by the public on Trip Advisor. It is home to the world’s first great ocean liner, the SS Great Britain, Being Brunel, and the Brunel Institute, which houses one of the world’s finest maritime and Brunel collections. The charity that manages and maintains Brunel’s SS Great Britain and collections is the SS Great Britain Trust.