These Sunderland made propellers sit as a monument in an American City

M. Wawn & Sons was a Sunderland maritime engineering firm which specialized in making propeller blades for ships. Established in the late 19th century in 1897, the company’s office was based in West Sunniside. The firm lasted until the 1970s. The company’s founder, Middlemost Wawn (1845-1916) lived on the now defunct Robinson Street in Bishopwearmouth.

As Sunderland’s shipbuilding industry disappeared and the world moved on, the propeller firm was largely forgotten and has been absent from public memory, unlike the big shipbuilding yards themselves that continue to be local icons. However, much to the surprise of Wearside residents, Wawn’s work and legacy is in fact being remembered far away on the other side of the Atlantic… in an unlikely fashion.

On the outskirts of New York City and in its wider metropolitan area sits a place known as Jersey City. Although a separate entity, and even in a separate state, for all intents and purposes Jersey City is part of the New York conurbation, being deeply integrated with Manhattan. Jersey City acts as an important port on the Hudson River, and such is what it attributes its historical development to, becoming a hub of inbound immigration into America and New York by Irish and Italians in the early 1900s.

As such, it is inevitable that Sunderland built ships inbound from Britain would have frequented Jersey City. Thus in the year 2004, a gigantic pair of propeller blades were recovered from the Hudson River in Jersey City in the suburb of Newport. Although it is not named which ship they came from, the propellers were created by the Sunderland firm M. Wawn & Sons in 1905. After being salvaged from the river, the propellers were then placed on display as a monument known as the “Merchant Ship’s propeller“.

The plaque on the propellers detail their creator and Sunderland accordingly, showcasing an incredible Wearside legacy to the world.