Coppersmiths and Plumbers

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Dockyard workers saw plumbers and coppersmiths as sister trades. Coppersmiths made all of the copper pipes needed for ships and shore establishments. The plumbers worked on fitting the pipes which carried domestic water from fresh tanks. (Shipwrights made the pipes constructed from other metals. Ship fitters fitted waste pipes.) Plumbers and coppersmiths worked on new construction and refits. During a ship's refit plumbers removed the pipes for cleaning or replacement.

New Pipes
New Pipes (BDFL)

Coppersmiths also made other items suchas urinals and also savells which collected condensation under portholes.

Savell (PRDHT)

Savell in situ
Savell in situ (BDFL)

Plumbers worked with skilled labourers known as plumber's mates. Some of the tools used by plumbers included pipe wrenches, chisels and also blowlamps with soldering irons to seal joints. Trade unions stated plumber's mates could not use these tools.

Blowlamp (PRDHT)

In 1974 the coppersmith's shop closed and the coppersmiths, plumbers and shipwright pipe fitters all came together to work in the amalgamated pipe shop. Many of these changes came about because the Dockyard was no longer building large battleships. These battleships had masses of pipes which would pump out any flood water if the ship was damaged. The frigates which made up most of the Dockyard's work were smaller and had a different role. The nature of the work had changed and so the trades had to evolve with these changes.

Inside the amalgamated pipe shop men working
Inside the amalgamated pipe shop men working (PRDHT)