Thomas Dunn Marshall was born in Woodhorn, Northumberland in 1804 and started with a general smith's business in South Shields, which he extended into marine engines for small craft such as tugs and finally in 1830, into shipbuilding. It is claimed that he built the first iron paddle-steamer to be launched into the Tyne - the STAR, but this is a very debatable point.
The yard was part of the old Robert Wallis yard below the headland known as the Lawe Top at South Shields. This was one of the oldest recorded shipbuilding sites on the south bank of the Tyne. By 1852 the Census shows him as having a wife, 2 sons and 2 daughters. He is described as an engineer employing 100 men. Marshall also built the world's first steam collier, the Bedlington, completed in 1842. Between 1842 and 1859, when TD Marshall retired, the firm had built 10 wooden and 99 iron vessels.
His sons succeeded him and brought about significant changes. The existing yard had become too small, so the shipbuilding department was moved to Willington Quay in 1861. At this new yard the head of the firm RJ Marshall employed John Softley as his Manager and John Readhead as his Chief Engineer. The Willington yard closed in 1868.
The marine engine-building remained in South Shields eventually becoming Messrs Marshall, Osborne and Company and finally Messrs Sanderson Bros.