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Diary of a Sunderland Ship-builder

 
Diary of a Sunderland Ship-builder by BARTRAM, Robert Appleby (1889)
Author: BARTRAM, Robert Appleby
Title: Diary of a Sunderland Ship-builder
 
Year: 1889
Publisher: T and J Smith, Son, & Downes
Place: London
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: No
 
Price: £350
 
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Added under Manuscripts  

pp 350 + blanks. Business and personal diary of a hyper-active Sunderland shipbuilder and proprietor of Bartram and Sons. Bartram has used a pre-printed 'T and J Smith's Post Quarto One Day Diary', green linen binding, a couple of nicks only; marbled endpapers; marbled edges to text block. The business of ship-building dominates the diary with daily reports on the progress or work, industrial relations, attempts to influence public policy and regular pre-breakfast rides out on his horse, Brownie.

Five days into the new year Bartram is holding trying to resolve a pay dispute: 'Went over to Newcastle with 11 train and attended united meeting shipbuilders Tyne and Wear to meet men/ delegates, respecting demands made by men for 12 1/2 per cent advance.. offered them 5 per cent...' Until they are named on launching boats are referred to by number only - '137', '138'. So, 'No 137 all plated except 2 or 3 plates on fore part of Bridge...' Bartram's public role occasions ceremonial duties such as laying the 'foundation stone of the New Church (St Georges [Stockton Road, United Reformed Church, Sunderland]) this afternoon' (Feb 7th) - a church that he paid for almost in its entirety. On February 18 Bartram listened to 'General Booth at Victoria Hall' but the removal of 'some plates' and a meeting with a surveyor clearly ranked higher in his recollection of the day. March 2 saw a vessel launch, clearly an important occasion, described in some detail 'The ship went off splendidly but was very easy in starting we got all the blocks out before she moved. She went about 10 feet as slow as possible scarcely discernable then she gathered way and went off quickly.' In one entry Bartram discusses lobbying Lord Grey at the Board of Trade and in another we observe his involvement in the School Board elections - 'addressed a meeting from a waggon with some of the candidates'. There are no revelations in this diary but it is fascinating as a record of the life of a hugely successful and wealthy man involved in one of a strategically important industry at the very apogee of Britain's economic power in the world.

Bartram and Sons was founded in 1837 at first building wooden barques, schooners, and brigs before moving over to iron vessels which were built in the new South yard facing the sea. Robert Bartram was knighted for his philanthropy and survived both his sons, dying at 90 in 1925.
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