History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd.

1960s Logo

Based at the Neptune Works, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd. built cable ships for many of the world's cable companies.

Swan & Hunter was formed in 1880, and in 1903 merged with Wigham Richardson (founded by John Wigham Richardson as Neptune Works in 1860), to bid for the contract to build the Mauretania for the Cunard company. Their bid was successful, and the new company, Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, went on to build the Mauretania and many other ships.

This advertisement for the company was published in the January 1957 special Transatlantic Telephone issue of the Post Office Electrical Engineers' Journal. It lists and illustrates the fleet of cable ships built at Neptune Works up to that date, 23 ships in all.

Cable ships built by Swan, Hunter (as of January 1957)

Alert (2) (1918) Iris (2) (1940)
All America (1921) John W. Mackay (1922)
Ariel (1939) Lord Kelvin (1916)
Bullfinch (1940) Marie Louise Mackay (1922)
Bullfrog (1944) Monarch (3) (1916)
Bullhead (1945) Monarch (4) (1946)
Cambria (1905) Patrol (1903)
Colonia (1902) Recorder (1954)
Dominia (1926) St. Margarets (1944)
Edward Wilshaw (1949) Stanley Angwin (1952)
Emile Baudot (1917) Telconia (1909)
Guardian (1907)  

HMTS Monarch (4) from a company brochure produced for
the 1960 British Exhibition at the Coliseum, New York

After many mergers and takeovers, nationalisation and de-nationalisation, the Swan, Hunter name continues in the ship-building business today, but the firm now specialises in offshore platform and naval work.

Perhaps the last cableship built by Swan Hunter was the Sir Eric Sharp, launched in 1988. Named after the chairmain of Cable & Wireless, the ship is still in service today, but under the new name of CS IT Intrepid after its purchase in 2004 by IT International Telecom.

The photographs and descriptions below from the launch of the ship were kindly provided by Kathleen Robson. Miss Robson worked at Swan Hunter for many years and was secretary to Ian Pike, the shipbuilding manager in charge of the Sir Eric Sharp during its construction at the Wallsend Shipyard.

The photographs are reproduced by permission of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, which holds the Swan Hunter archives. The Swan Hunter material may be searched in the archives catalogue.

CS Sir Eric Sharp on the Tyne after launching
Image courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

Management team in charge of the ship, Ian Pike at the right
Image courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

Kathleen Robson (left) presenting a bouquet to Lady Sharp
on the occasion of the launch in 1988
Image courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums


Cableships Index Page

Last revised: 1 July, 2014

Return to Atlantic Cable main page

Search all pages on the Atlantic Cable site:

Research Material Needed

The Atlantic Cable website is non-commercial, and its mission is to make available on line as much information as possible.

You can help - if you have cable material, old or new, please contact me. Cable samples, instruments, documents, brochures, souvenir books, photographs, family stories, all are valuable to researchers and historians.

If you have any cable-related items that you could photograph, copy, scan, loan, or sell, please email me: billb@ftldesign.com

—Bill Burns, publisher and webmaster: Atlantic-Cable.com