Objects | Industry


Bust of William Pile Shipbuilder, about 1875

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne and Wear


1800 – 1899

In the 19th century Sunderland became known throughout the world for its shipbuilding so much so that in the 1840s it became known as the largest shipbuilding town in the world.

It had many capable shipbuilders but one of the best naval architects was William Pile. Pile was born in Sunderland in 1823. In 1860 he went into partnership with Richard Hay and there was a change from building wooden ships to iron ships. Perhaps the best known ship to us built during this partnership was the City of Adelaide, now one of only two surviving clippers in the world.

During his working life Pile was involved in the building of over 200 wooden and iron ships. Now hardly spoken of, at the time he was thought to be the greatest ship designer of his age. However, he was not the most astute business man and debt dogged him most of his business life.

By W Borrowdale

On display at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, near entrance

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