Sunderland shipyard worker's son 'honoured' to install gateway blue plaque

A Sunderland resident with family ties to the WM Doxford & Sons Shipyard has added a blue plaque to the yard’s restored arches.

Sunday, 5th December 2021, 9:24 am
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 4:18 pm

Steven Gordon is a skilled operative who worked on structures on the SSTC3 dual carriageway project, carrying out work on scaffolding and the accompanying soil nail wall.

When it was decided that an official blue plaque would be fitted to the restored gateway to indicate its historic significance, he was chosen to install it.

Steven’s dad, Brian Gordon, completed an apprenticeship at the shipyard in 1960 and would have passed through the gateway every day.

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The restored arch

Although Brian passed away last year, Steven said he was “honoured” to be able to fit the plaque.

He said: “I have the certificate my dad got when he completed his engineering apprenticeship at the shipyard in 1960, just a day before his 21st birthday.

“He carried on working there until around 1970 and would have passed through the gateway every day on his way in and out of work. When I mentioned my dad’s connection to the shipyard, the project team asked if I would like to be the one to add a historic blue plaque and I told them I would be absolutely honoured. I took his certificate along as we fitted it and it was a really meaningful moment for me and my family, as well as for everyone who has ties to the shipyard.

The arch was the original gateway into WM Doxford & Sons Shipyard between 1840 and 1989 and had to be dismantled and moved from its original location as part of the SSTC3 project, which created a new uninterrupted dual carriageway between the Northern Spire bridge and the city centre.

Steven with the plaque and Brian's certificate

Before the SSTC3 project began, Sunderland City Council committed to preserving the archway, although it was not possible to save the entire gatehouse as some of the recovered keystones were too badly cracked. Doxford Engines Friends Association has supported the project team throughout the dismantling and re-erection.

It had to move around 50 metres to make way for the road, but workers were able to carefully take it apart, restore it, and rebuild it brick by brick.

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Steven fitting the plaque

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