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Remembering the Past is delighted to be embarking on a new project this week, in partnership with Historic England. The Women in Shipbuilding project aims to uncover the stories of women who worked in the shipbuilding industry in the North East during the First World War.

Many local women volunteered to work in this traditionally male dominated industry when the men were called away to fight. Between 1914 and 1918, they took on highly skilled engineering roles in shipyards including Swan Hunters in Wallsend, Palmers in Hebburn, and at Haverton Hill on the Tees. Their contribution was vital in helping to keep the maritime industry afloat. However, when the war ended, they were pushed out of these roles to make room for the men returning from the conflict and their stories were largely forgotten.

A woman at work in a shipbuilding yard during WWI.

© Crown Copyright

A female shipyard worker operating a magazine drilling plate.

© Crown Copyright

The project is launching with a pop-up exhibition running from 24th October – 19th November 2023 in the Forum shopping centre, Wallsend. The exhibition will feature photographs sourced from Imperial War Museums’ collection, depicting North East women at work in the shipyards during the First World War.

These images are quite striking and we hope that they will act as a focal point for people to contribute their own family stories, photographs and memorabilia relating to this neglected area of the region’s history. If you know of a female family member who was part of this vital workforce or you have any relevant information, please call in and speak to our representative who will be there during opening times. Alternatively, anyone unable to visit but wishing to contribute can email the project team at

Aerial view of shipyards on the river Tyne 1936.

Copyright: Historic England Archive

Find The exhibition at 13-15 Segedunum Way, The Forum Shopping Centre, Wallsend, NE28 8JR from Tuesday 24 October to Sunday 19 November. Many of the images will be visible in window displays  but the exhibition space will also be open from 09:30 to 14:30 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Additional family events are running from 10:00 to 15:00 on Saturday 28 October and Saturday 11 November.

Women in Shipbuilding is led by Historic England in partnership with Women’s Engineering Society (WES); Imperial War Museums (IWM); and Newcastle University Oral History Unit and Collective; and in collaboration with Remembering the Past, North Tyneside Art Studio and North Tyneside Council. The project is funded by Lloyds Register Foundation.