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Business As Usual in the Britannia Shipyards Office

Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, near the mouth of the Fraser River has long been a place with people who could use their nautical know-how to carve out a living.

The site operated as Britannia Cannery, and then was converted into a shipyard in 1917-1918 once the salmon stocks decreased after the Hells Gate landslide in 1912-1913. The shipyard mainly serviced the ABC Packing Company Fleet, repairing and maintaining its vessels. The Canadian Fishing Company purchased the shipyard in 1969 and then BC Packers bought it in 1979 and closed it down.

There were managers, bookkeepers, foremen, shipwrights, machinists, mechanics, carpenters, welders, painters, general laborers, stockmen and many other roles essential to the smooth running of the shipyard. Every detail was recorded in ledgers and on paper as this was long before the time of computers and electronic spreadsheets. Each page tells a story in itself of how much was spent and purchased, of which orders arrived and when.

Photo of the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site's Office, by Michael Fleming

Today you can hear the call of seabirds as you imagine sitting at the desk pouring over time cards and payroll. In its heyday, the office was noisy with chatter and the natural camaraderie of the people who punched in and out, and the clatter arising from the workshop nearby. The desk is left as it might have been just before the shipyard closed.

Photo of the office desk Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site by Lori Sherritt-Fleming

Visitors to the office today get a strong sense of the people behind this riverside industrial community and of the lives and times of those who worked here. They are invited to ‘hang their hat’ for a while and indulge themselves in the authentic atmosphere of days not so long gone, the artefacts on display, the everyday tools of the recent past, reminding them of their careers, their connection, perhaps, to the river. The shipyard office still inspires conversations and continues to serve as a place to generate fond memories.

Photo of interior of the office at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site by Lori Sherritt-Fleming

For more information on the Shipyard exhibits and other free exhibits open to the public, contact Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site at or visit in person during site hours.

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