Today's Object of the Week is the wreck of a ship - made of an unusual material.

An unexpected curiosity lies on the banks of a North East river.

Shipwrecks are not unusual, there are thousands of them dotted around the North East coast.

But there is something unusual about the remaining hulk of the SS Cretehawser.

Remarkably, this screw ship was built in 1919 of concrete - and despite ‘being in the wars’  it is still afloat.

The Northern Echo:

The vessel can be seen in the River Wear at Claxheugh Rock, South Hylton, near Sunderland.

The vessel was built over on the north side of the river, downstream at Southwick by the Wear Concrete Building Company and it is technically ferro-concrete.

Measuring in at 125 feet and weighing roughly 262 tonnes, the SS Cretehawser was powered by a screw driven, three cylinder engine from Central Marine Engine Works in West Hartlepool that boasted 120 horsepower.   

The majority of the ship’s main structures were made from concrete. However, parts of the deck and other areas were constructed using wood to save on weight and cost. The SS Cretehawser was capable of accommodating 17 crew members. 

The peculiar choice of concrete as a building material reflected the shortage of iron during the First World War, although the war was over by the time of Cretehawser's launch in March 1919.

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The Wear Concrete Building Company launched four concrete tugs, and, amazingly, they floated.

Creterock crashed into a trawler, Cretecable ran aground and Creterope was dismantled.

Cretehawser, though, operated successfully until 1935 when it was sold to the South Stockton Shipping Company Ltd for scrap money.

The remains of the hulk were purchased by the River Wear Commissioners and stationed at Hendon docks near the  river mouth.

It was intended to be used in an emergency should the breakwater piers at the river mouth of the Wear come to be damaged.

In May 1943 it was hit by a German bomber at Hendon and sunk but it was subsequently raised and towed up river to the Pallion/Hylton area.

At the beginning of the century, Cretehawser’s future appeared to be in doubt when Sunderland City Council was redeveloping the riverbank, but her importance was recognised and she still lies on the inter-tidal mud beneath Claxheugh Rock where it has remained ever since.

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