Ship Building

Prior to 1800 a number of small vessels had been built at Amlwch.  In 1786 the brig "Amlwch was built and captained by Rowland Owen. A 15 ton slope called Nancy was built in 1788 and the 7 ton Swallow  in 1791. While the  Elizabeth was built at Bull Bay in 1800.

This changed in 1825 when James Treweek, the mine manager, commissioned his son Nicholas to build a 68 ton sloop called Unity. This vessel was built in a ship yard on the western side of the harbour which employed 32 men. The first vessel was followed in 1826 by the Marquis of Anglesea a 65 ton sloop. This vessel was last recorded as a River Thames barge in 1917. Other vessels followed as shown below.

Year Vessel name (Tons) Notes
1827 Margaret (43) Sloop
1830 Eleanor (17) Smack built by Francis Treweek
1830 James and Jane (130) Schooner for John Hughes a local owner. Largest built at Amlwch. Sank bay of Biscay 1840.
1832 Amlwch Packet (37) Smack Captain Griff Jones.
1834 Sarah (18) Smack Captain J Jones.
1836 Cymraes(28) Sloop, Captain T Hughes.
1836 Jane & Margaret (72) Sloop, Captain William Roberts Amlwch
1839 Marianne (72) Sloop, Captain T Hughes.
1839 Mary Owen (53) Schooner
1840 Economy(46) Schooner
1842 Catherine (62) Schooner - Yard now known as Nicholas Treweek only.
1844 Cymro (20) Smack, last to be built before N Treweek moved to Liverpool to become and agent for the Mona Mine company.


Even while Nicholas Treweeek was in Liverpool the ship repair business was continuing. However Nicholas Treweek felt that his yard on the western side was restricted in scope.  He was planning a larger yard with a dry dock for repairs on the eastern side of the harbour. A great amount of rock again needed to be blasted away to create a ship yard and slipway. A dry dock was also created which is still in existence.

One of the first vessels to be built in Treweek's new yard was also the first iron schooner to be built in North Wales. She was called Mary Catherine (160 tons) and was launched in 1859. Although built in Treweek's yard the name of the builder was Hughes, Thomas and Co. The name Captain William Thomas was to become very important in Amlwch ship building in later years.

Other vessels built at Treweek's new yard include:-
Alliance a 63 ton wooden schooner launched in March 1858 for Palmer &Co of Amlwch.
The Sea Queen a 99 ton iron schooner and Princess of Wales and Perserverence.

A turning point in the history of the port was reached in 1865 when for the first time copper ore from the mountain was exported using the new railway which had arrived at Llangefni. Over the next few years the prices of transporting goods by Rail started to under cut the price of vessels from the harbour. Slowly the use of rail superseded that of ships. By 1870 the dues collected from vessels in the harbour was only 70% of that 10 years earlier. In 1877 a new lamp was erected in the watchtower using paraffin oil set at 27 feet above HWM

With the new yard commissioned, Treweek sold the old ship building yard to William Cox Paynter. The Paynter company's main business seems to have been in the repair rather than building of vessels. However they did build a few vessels on the western side of the quay. In 1859 a 94 ton schooner called Charles Edwin was launched. This was followed by Mary Fanny (92), Jane Gray (123), Charles(48) and Parys Lodge(97). Many of these vessels where built for the Parys mine company which was under going a revival in copper production at the time.

When Cox Paynter died in 1884 Captain Thomas Morgan continued to build in the yard with the 3 masted schooners, Cambourne (118) ,Ailsie(130) and Donald & Doris(142) being completed. The same company also built or owned, Elizabeth Charlotte, SS Enterprise, Fanny, Frederick Stonard, Grace Philips, Robert, Sarah Ellen, Thomas Pearson and SS Noah which exploded off the harbour after towing the Victoria.

Link to photographs of Amlwch vessels

Meanwhile at Treweek's new yard William Thomas influence seems to have grown. The Grace Evans a two masted iron schooner was lunched in October 1859 with William Thomas and Nicholas Treweek each owning a quarter share.

In 1870 captain William Thomas extended his ship building interests by developing a new ship building and repair yard at the port of Millom in Cumbria. In the same year he made an application to built a vessel off 100 feet keel at the upper end of Amlwch harbour. This vessel was the 79 ton schooner Lewis & Mary. Her maiden voyage was to take Ochre from Dyffyrn Adda to Runcorn and to return with phosphate from Bristol to be used in the Hills fertilizer works.

In May 1872 Captain William Thomas brought the ship yard previously belonging to Nicholas Treweek. In the same year William Thomas built the 119 ton schooner Holy Wath. Which in 1874 was followed by the Cumberland Lassie ( at 230 tons the largest to be built at Amlwch at that time) and the Baron hill two years later. In 1875 Thomas built a pilot boat called the Mersey for the Liverpool pilot service. She was a 110 ton sail schooner.

It was not until 1883 that the first small screw steamer was built at Amlwch. She was the 180 ton W S Caine, which cost £5000.

Over the next 15 years many more vessels where built and launched at the yard.

In 1887 William Thomas relinquished the control of the Millom yards but continued to repair and build at Amlwch. Captain Thomas's eldest son William Thomas a trained navel architect also began to influence the design of ships built at the yard.

In 1890 a paddle steamer called The Prince of George was launched. She was used to carry passengers from Llandudno along the river Conway to Trefriw. The largest vessel to leave the yard was the 355 iron steamship Cygnus which was launched in 1891.

Just 6 days before the death of Captain William Thomas in March 1893 the Cymric was launched. She was to become one of the powerfully armed decoy "Q-ships" of the first world war.

The control of the ship building business fell to Captain Thomas's two sons, William and Lewis. Under there control both sailing ships and screw steamers were built. Some of these ships have been described as the best examples of schooners ever built.

The Eilian built in 1908 was a three masted schooner which marked the end of an era as far as sailing ship building in Amlwch was concerned.

A small hospital ship Morfudd was built in 1912 and moored in the Menai straits. After the war the Thomas company brought a number of small steamers such as the Ardri which had been built elsewhere. The main activity seemed to be the repair and breaking up of war ships for scrap. However even this activity stopped in 1930 when William Thomas Junior died.

The reduction in duties due to the reduction in ships using the harbour made the job of the Trustee board very difficult. In August 1913 the Trustee board was wound up and control of the harbour passed to the local council.

In 1914 E Roland Williams wrote ...  in the harbour an ancient...schooner was lying up; along side the wharf, a little coasting steamer was unloading coal. The little custom house on the pier made a brave show of "notices to mariners" for the benefit of ships that never came. there were still signs of activity in one of the ship building yard, but the guano works had shut down and the wormwood the chickweed grew unrebuked thought the crevices of the paint factory.

It was at the same time that the "Song of the watch tower " recorded the past glories of the area.