Mitchell, Charles

SUBJECT AREA: Ports and shipping
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b. 20 May 1820 Aberdeen, Scotland
d. 22 August 1895 Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
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Scottish industrialist whose Tyneside shipyard was an early constituent of what became the Vickers Shipbuilding Group.
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Mitchell's early education commenced at Ledingham's Academy, Correction Wynd, Aberdeen, and from there he became a premium apprentice at the Footdee Engineering Works of Wm Simpson \& Co. Despite being employed for around twelve hours each day, Mitchell matriculated at Marischal College (now merged with King's College to form the University of Aberdeen). He did not graduate, although in 1840 he won the chemistry prize. On the completion of his apprenticeship, like Andrew Leslie (founder of Hawthorn Leslie) and other young Aberdonians he moved to Tyneside, where most of his working life was spent. From 1842 until 1844 he worked as a draughtsman for his friend Coutts, who had a shipyard at Low Walker, before moving on to the drawing offices of Maudslay Sons and Field of London, then one of the leading shipbuilding and engineering establishments in the UK. While in London he studied languages, acquiring a skill that was to stand him in good stead in later years. In 1852 he returned to the North East and set up his own iron-ship building yard at Low Walker near Newcastle. Two years later he married Anne Swan, the sister of the two young men who were to found the company now known as Swan Hunter Ltd. The Mitchell yard grew in size and reputation and by the 1850s he was building for the Russian Navy and Merchant Marine as well as advising the Russians on their shipyards in St Petersburg. In 1867 the first informal business arrangement was concluded with Armstrongs for the supply of armaments for ships; this led to increased co-operation and ultimately in 1882 to the merger of the two shipyards as Sir W.G.Armstrong Mitchell \& Co. At the time of the merger, Mitchell had launched 450 ships in twenty-nine years. In 1886 the new company built the SS Gluckauf, the world's first bulk oil tanker. After ill health in 1865 Mitchell reduced his workload and lived for a while in Surbiton, London, but returned to Tyneside to a new house at Jesmond. In his later years he was a generous benefactor to many good causes in Tyneside and Aberdeen, to the Church and to the University of Aberdeen.
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Further Reading
D.F.McGuire, 1988, Charles Mitchell 1820–1895, Victorian Shipbuilder, Newcastle upon Tyne: City Libraries and Arts.
J.D.Scott, 1962, Vickers. A History, London: Weidenfeld \& Nicolson (a recommended overview of the Vickers Group).
FMW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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