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Raylton Dixon NE (Tees)

Middlesbrough, UK

The yard first did business under the name Backhouse & Dixon. Raylton Dixon started the firm of Raylton Dixon & Co. in 1873 with the substantial Dixon family coal mining fortune, and it operated until 1923 when it was dissolved. At the height of its production the three Dixon brothers, Raylton, John, and Waynman, were involved in running the company. During its 50-year life the Cleveland Dockyard built more than 600 vessels, the first ship, the iron steamer SS Torrington, being launched in 1874. The ship was later renamed the SS Kwanon Maru No. 11 and ran aground and was wrecked off Yagoshi Point, Hokkaido on 7 March 1908. Raylton Dixon & Co earned a reputation for the construction of sound, large cargo-liners and during the 1890s had contracts with all the major shipping companies of the time. They also turned out refrigerated ships for the meat industry.

Dixon was a close friend of George Young Blair (1826–1894), whose firm, Blair & Co., built marine triple expansion engines and were fitted in Raylton Dixon ships.

Raylton Dixon ships played an important role in world history. The SS Montrose was built in 1897 as a refrigerated cargo steamer, accommodating 12 first-class passengers. In 1900 she was chartered to make eight voyages to Cape Town, ferrying the Dublin & Denbigh Imperial Yeomanry, with their horses, to the Anglo-Boer War. In 1904 Doctor Crippen and his secretary, Ethel Le Neve, were aboard the ship and acted suspiciously, causing the master to radio Liverpool, resulting in their arrest on the St. Lawrence River. In 1914 she was sold to the admiralty for use as a blockship in Dover harbour, but broke her moorings during a gale and ran aground on the Goodwin Sands, her mast remaining visible until 1963. The general cargo steamer SS Mont-Blanc built at Raylton Dixon in 1899 devastated Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada when she blew up with a cargo of ammunition in the 1917 Halifax Explosion.

Raylton Dixon was knighted in 1890 for his contributions to shipbuilding.


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