— #5 Anchorfield
The firm was founded in 1918 by Henry Robb, a former yard manager for Ramage & Ferguson, a Leith shipbuilding company operating between 1877 – 1934. The main work carried out by Robb’s when he left to set up on his own was, initially, ship repair during WW1. It was a major employer for folks from Newhaven as the fishing industry in Newhaven and Granton began to dwindle.
The company soon increased its capacity by buying out other Leith shipbuilders — Hawthorns in 1924, Cran & Somerville in 1926, and Ramage and Ferguson in 1934. The whole site was then known as the Victoria Shipyard.
During WW2 a large number of warships were built for the Royal Navy and also the Royal New Zealand Navy. As well as building new ships they were involved in the repair of approximately 3,000 ships. Such was the importance of Robb’s to the war effort, King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth toured the yard on 1st February 1940 to boost the morale of the workforce.
The Luftwaffe reconnaisance photograph shows [A] Western Harbour, [B] Newhaven and [C] Henry Robb Shipbuilders marked as potential targets.
After the war the company continued to build their much sought after small to medium vessels, tugs and dredgers. One of their main customers was the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand.
In 1968 Robb’s merged with the Caledon Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. of Dundee, forming Robb Caledon Shipbuilding. In 1969 Robb Caledon took over the Burntisland Shipbuilding Co. In 1977 Robb Caledon was nationalised as part of British Shipbuilders.
The Caledon yard in Dundee was closed in 1981 due to the lack of orders followed by the Leith yard on June 1st 1984. The last ship to be launched from the Victoria Shipyard Leith was the Sealink/Wightlink ferry, St Helen on the 15th September 1983.
There were protest marches against the closures but to no avail. Over 500 years of shipbuilding in Leith was gone forever.