Yarrow Shipbuilders Esquimalt was established in 1914. Around that time it began doing repairs and refits to Royal Navy ships as well as producing high-explosive shells during the First World War. Between 1939 and 1945, the Second World War drove production to new levels. During these war years Yarrow would repair more than 2.5 million tons of Allied ships while filling orders that included two cargo ships, 17 frigates, 5 corvettes and 5 landing ships. As a result, Yarrow became a major employer in its bid to build ships for the war effort.
In order to accommodate some of the 4300 Yarrow workers, approximately 275 wartime homes were built with the majority being constructed between 1942 and 1944. Many of these historic wartime houses were built in the West Bay neighbourhood with the most notable concentration of them along Dunsmuir Road and Paradise Street. For houses originally thought to be temporary, they have certainly endured. Over the years many have been transformed into unique properties, adding to the rich historic fabric and character of the West Bay area.
The passing of Yarrow Shipbuilders closed the book on an important piece of our maritime history. Decades later, in a roundabout way, Yarrows left still another significant mark in its West Bay legacy.
On May 26, 1994, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers held a three-day auction to liquidate the remaining assets of Yarrow Shipyard in Esquimalt Harbour. Included in the assets being sold were bundles of massive timber once part of the ‘ways’ used to cradle ships undergoing construction or repair. The auction attracted 1,500 buyers, one of whom was Hidden Harbour Marine Centre (HHMC) down in West Bay. A successful bid on some lots of timber allowed for the construction of the current landing at HHMC, serving as a transition from the land above to the docks below.
While the landing at the docks, and the gravel pathway leading up to it from Captain Jacobson Park, is privately owned, access has always been granted to the public. Whether passing through or just stopping to take in the exceptional views of the harbour and the unique marine community of West Bay, thanks can be given to the massive underpinnings of Yarrow Shipyard timbers that are the landing at Hidden Harbour Marine Centre.