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R. & W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Company

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R. & W. Hawthorn, Leslie & Company
Company typePublic
IndustryLocomotive manufacturing
HeadquartersHebburn, UK

R. & W. Hawthorn, Leslie and Company, Limited, usually referred to as Hawthorn Leslie, was a shipbuilder and locomotive manufacturer. The company was founded on Tyneside in 1886 and ceased building ships in 1982.


Falmouth Docks number 3 in steam at the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway

The company was formed by the merger of the shipbuilder A. Leslie and Company in Hebburn with the locomotive works of R and W Hawthorn at St. Peter's in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1886.[1] The company displaced its locomotive manufacturing interests in 1937 to Robert Stephenson and Company, which became Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd.[2]

Perhaps the most famous ship built by the Company was HMS Kelly, launched in 1938 and commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten.[3] In 1954, the shipbuilding and marine engine activities were put into separate subsidiaries, Hawthorn Leslie (Shipbuilders) Ltd. and Hawthorn Leslie (Engineers) Ltd.[4] In 1968 the Company's shipbuilding interests were merged with that of Swan Hunter and the Vickers Naval Yard to create Swan Hunter & Tyne Shipbuilders.[5]

The company's shipbuilding and marine engineering interests were both nationalised and subsumed with British Shipbuilders in 1977;[4] in 1979 its engine business was merged with George Clark & NEM, which had also been nationalised, to form Clark Hawthorn.[4]

The company's main shipbuilding yard at Hebburn closed in 1982,[6] was sold to Cammell Laird[7] and then acquired by A&P Group in 2001[8] but now lies derelict.[9] The Company itself, deprived of its main activity, diversified into telephones.[10] In March 1993, Vodafone made a bid for the Company which by then had become a mobile phone air time reseller.

The Hawthorn Leslie building still standing in Hebburn has been the target of numerous arson attacks in recent years.[11] This, combined with the presence of asbestos in the brickwork and the ease of access to children, has led to repeated calls from Hebburn residents and councillors for the building to be demolished.



After the merger the locomotive side continued manufacturing for main line, light and industrial railways, including a large number built for export, usually to the designs of the Crown Agents.



The company manufactured locomotives to order for main line companies. Four 0-4-4T locomotives were supplied to the Metropolitan Railway between 1896 and 1901. In 1915, F. G. Smith of the Highland Railway ordered six 4-6-0s to his own designs. However they were rejected by that railway as being too heavy, they were taken over by the Caledonian Railway. The London and North Eastern Railway ordered a batch of Great Central designed locomotives from the Company in 1925/6.

In addition it built locomotives to its own designs such as a 4-2-2-0 with four cylinders - two inside and two outside - connected separately to the two pairs of driving wheels. It was produced for the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 but could not produce sufficient steam to compete effectively with the American products.

The company later had a number of standard designs including 0-4-0STs and fireless locomotives.

Origin Wheel
Class Notes Photograph
Hawthorn Leslie 2-4-0T No. 1 Tenterden. Works number 2420/1899. Bought new for the opening of the line. Withdrawn for overhaul in 1938, scrapped in 1941.[12]
Hawthorn Leslie 2-4-0T No. 2 Northiam. Works number 2421/1899. Bought new for the opening of the line. Loaned in 1917 to the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway, returned in 1918. Loaned in 1923 to the East Kent Light Railway, returned in 1930. In 1937, Northiam starred in Oh, Mr Porter!, filmed on the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway.[12] Last ran on 22 August 1938[13] and scrapped in 1941.[12]
PD&SWJR no. Name LSWR number Wheel
Cylinders Boiler
3 A. S. Harris 756 0-6-0T 3 ft 10 in 14" x 22" 170 psi
4 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe 757 0-6-2T 4 ft 0 in 16" x 24" 170 psi
5 Lord St Levan 758 0-6-2T 4 ft 0 in 16" x 24" 170 psi
  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-8-0T Built 1906, and became K&ESR, No. 4 and named "Hecate," The locomotive was an outside cylindered 0-8-0 side tank engine with a short wheelbase and flangeless driven wheels to cope with the sharp curves expected on the new line. With 16 in by 24 in cylinders and 4 ft 3 in diameter driving wheels, its tractive effort was 16,385 lb, more than twice that of the line's other locomotives and sufficient to take trains over the 1 in 40 gradients of the North Downs crossing. The engine was painted dark blue and lined in red, with a copper cap to the chimney and a polished brass dome. Eventually, in 1932 they exchanged "Hecate" for an older LSWR "Saddleback" and two spare boilers from the Southern Railway (SR). This was a good bargain on the SR's part, as they repainted "Hecate" (keeping the name), numbered it 949, and sent it to Nine Elms, where it worked almost daily on shunting duties until eventual scrapping in 1950.
  • Two Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-2T locomotives were supplied to the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Railway in 1911. Named Pyramus and Thisbe, these seem not to have been a success, and soon departed, one of them to the Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire.
  • Hawthorn Leslie built 27, A class 0-6-2T steam tank locomotives designed by J. Cameron and introduced to the Taff Vale Railway in 1914.
List of TVR A class locomotive orders
Year Quantity Manufacturer Works Numbers TVR Numbers GWR Numbers Notes
1914 6 Hawthorn Leslie 3057–3062 3, 7, 10, 11, 12, 120 438, 335, 337, 343, 344, 441 441 renumbered 322 in 1947, 438 renumbered 309 sometime between 1948 and 1950
1920 16 Hawthorn Leslie 3394–3409 20, 134, 144, 149, 162, 164, 165, 400 to 408 345, 368, 375, 376, 383 to 391, 393, 394, 397
1921 5 Hawthorn Leslie 3410–3414 409 to 413 398, 399, 401 to 403 401 and 403 renumbered 303 and 305 in 1947, 402 renumbered 304 sometime between 1948 and 1950

Hawthorn Leslie, in collaboration with the English Electric Company, built diesel shunting locomotives for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in the 1930s. This design formed the basis for the later British Rail Class 08 diesel shunter.

Electric battery locomotives in advertisement

Hawthorn Leslie, and its successor Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, built four electric locomotives for Kearsley power station between 1928 and 1946 and three of these still exist. No. 2 has been converted to battery operation and is in use at Heysham nuclear power station. Nos. 1 and 3 are preserved, see below.

Preserved locomotives

Burra (short for Kookaburra) was ordered by Corrimal Colliery on 1 May 1923

28 Hawthorn Leslie Tank Engines are in preservation today:

  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0F Wn3746 Built 1929 HUNCOAT No.3 at the Tanfield Railway
  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0F Wn3858 Built 1935 Tugela Colenso - Municipal Offices, SA/

Two of the Kearsley power station locomotives (see above) are preserved. No. 1 at the Electric Railway Museum, Warwickshire and no. 3 at the Tanfield Railway.



Ships built by Hawthorn Leslie included:

See also



  1. ^ Local information on Hebburn Archived 25 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Building for the World The Journal, 22 May 2007
  3. ^ HMS Kelly Archived 15 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c "R and W Hawthorn, Leslie and Co Ltd". Tyne and Wear Archives. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  5. ^ Swan Hunter: History Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "R & W Hawthorn, Leslie & Co, Hebburn - History". tynebuiltships.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  7. ^ Shipbuilders on the Tyne with Shetland Ancestry Archived 11 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "A&P Holdings acquires Cammell Laird Holdings". alacrastore.com. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  9. ^ Danger Yard South Shields Gazette, 8 June 2006
  10. ^ Blue chips take the lead as shares rally Independent, 13 February 2003
  11. ^ "Hebburn factory fire LIVE: Firefighters tackling blaze at former shipyard". 12 June 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Garrett, S R (March 1980). The Kent & East Sussex Railway (Revised ed.). Tarrant Hinton: The Oakwood Press. p. 24.
  13. ^ "Hirings and Firings by Stephen Garrett". The Terrier Trust. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2009.
  14. ^ a b c "Ships built by Hawthorn Leslie (1853-1965) - National Maritime Museum".
  15. ^ a b c d Gray, Randal, ed. (1985). Conway's All the World Fighting Ships 1906-1921. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 77–79.
  16. ^ "Beacon Grange". uboat.net. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  17. ^ "British Venture". Tyne built ships. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  18. ^ "Donovania". uboat.net. Retrieved 15 August 2022.
  19. ^ "SHIPPING REPORTS". The Argus (Melbourne). No. 13, 526. Victoria, Australia. 29 October 1889. p. 9. Retrieved 4 February 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ "Port Hardy". uboat.net. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  21. ^ "Port Hunter". uboat.net. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  22. ^ "Tyne Built Ships".
  23. ^ "Tyne Built Ships".

Further reading

  • Clarke, JF (1979). Power on Land and Sea: 160 Years of Industrial Enterprise on Tyneside: A History of R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie & Co., Ltd., Engineers and Shipbuilders. Clark Hawthorn. ISBN 978-0950642109.
  • Johnston, Ian; Buxton, Ian (2013). The Battleship Builders – Constructing and Arming British Capital Ships. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-027-6.