The Yorkshire inland boatyard that launched a thousand ships to sail the world

Decades ago, onlookers standing on the banks of the River Hull in Beverley could watch an awe-inspiring ceremony.

A 'broadside' trawler launch creates a huge wave in the 1950s
A 'broadside' trawler launch creates a huge wave in the 1950s

They would gather to witness the floating of the vessels built by the town's shipyard, Cook, Welton & Gemmell.

This inland industrial behemoth launched ships into the world's seas, where they played pivotal roles in warfare, trade and exploration.

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Historic fishing trawler Arctic Corsair to be at the centre of new Hull tourist attractionOver 1,300 trawlers, tugs, minesweepers, cargo ships and pleasure craft were produced between 1901 and 1963, when the company went into liquidation.

The Vera is floated in the 1940s

The 'floating' that marked the completion of a new vessel would see it hit the water sideways, creating a huge wave that proved a popular spectacle.

The ship would then be sent downriver to Hull or Grimsby docks, where its seafaring career would begin.

Hundreds of workers were employed at the Grovehill shipyard, which continued to operate under several subsequent boatbuilders until its final closure in 1977.

Hull's Old Town to feature in new Dickens movie starring Dev PatelNow, the company's heritage is to be celebrated with the showing of a film about its history at the Parkway Cinema in Beverley in August.

The documentary, titled Trawling Through Time, includes old footage collated by 40 volunteers from the East Riding Archives and received Heritage Lottery funding.

The Beverley ships that plied the globe

Although the 'bread and butter' for Grovehill was the fishing trawlers that worked out of the Humber, they received orders from over the world.

Iceland and South Africa were among their international clients, and at one point they were even commissioned to build whalers when the bloody trade was at its height.

During the wars, they supplied anti-submarine trawlers and minesweeping vessels to the Royal Navy, and some patrol gunboats. One vessel, Farfield, was bombed by the Luftwaffe and sunk in the Irish Sea with the loss of all crew.

One unusual commission was for the Antarctic exploration ship William Scoresby, which completed several oceanographic survey missions and also recorded whale populations.

The Iron Age hill fort in Yorkshire that was discovered by accidentSadly, many shipwrecks scattered around the oceans began their lives in Beverley. One is that of the Viola, now the world's oldest surviving steam trawler, which was built in 1906.

She was part of a North Sea fishing fleet that stayed out at sea for most of the year, transferring their catch to faster 'courier' vessels which would shuttle the fish back to shore.

During the First World War, she was requisitioned and patrolled the Shetland Isles as a minesweeper. She even sunk a German U-boat off Whitby in 1918.

After the war, her owners Hellyer's were left with a depleted North Sea fleet, and decided to sell off their remaining trawlers. Viola was later converted into a whaling vessel by a Norwegian owner and worked the coast of Africa.

In the 1920s, she was renamed Dias and moved to the whaling station at South Georgia, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic, and used for seal hunting. She also served as a support vessel for several expeditions.

The whaling station closed in 1964 and the ship was abandoned and beached. A campaign to bring her home to Hull is underway.

The Arctic Corsair, the last of Hull's 150-strong fleet of sidewinder trawlers that is now a museum ship, was also built at Grovehill.

Where once people could have been swamped by the waves from the launched ships, there is now a modern industrial estate and just one small-scale boatyard.

Film screening

Trawling Through Times will be shown at the Parkway Cinema in Beverley on Friday August 16 at 7pm. Admission is £2 including popcorn and a soft drink. A presentation by maritime historian Dr Robb Robinson will be given at the start of the programme.