United Kingdom

English City Mourns Loss of Shipbuilding Identity

Ships have been built in Portsmouth for hundreds of years, but an agreement between the government and BAE will mean shipbuilding will stop in 2014


PORTSMOUTH, England — Back when Britannia ruled the waves, few places contributed more to the domination and expansion of the British Empire than this seaside city.

Its dockyard, reputedly the world's largest industrial site at the dawn of the 19th century, rang with the cries and hammer blows of thousands of workers who built the warships that flexed Britain's muscles in almost every corner of the globe. Shipwrights here traced their connection to the navy to the reign of Henry VIII.

But that proud tradition is coming to an end, along with yet another chapter in the long book of British post-imperial downsizing. In 2014, Portsmouth is to cease building ships, losing 940 jobs. And for the first time in centuries, England will be without a big dockyard to churn out vessels for a once-invincible naval fleet.