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British Industrial History

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Alexander Hall and Co

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Memorial stone to Alexander Hall.

Alexander Hall and Co. were Aberdeen shipbuilders from 1790 to 1957. The firm is best remembered for its development of the Aberdeen or clipper bow in 1839.

1790 Company founded by Alexander Hall. He took over the business of Cochar and Gibbon, where he had been an apprentice and then a partner.

1826 the number of shipbuilders in Aberdeen fell from ten to eight, each of whom had two ships on stocks, unsold, while every year until 1835 was described as a very dull one for shipbuilding[1]

1839 The earliest ships built by the firm were wooden sailing vessels. The Scottish Maid, a schooner of 1839, was the first to have the forward curving Aberdeen bow. This improved speed and sailing performance.

William joined his brother James in the ship building concern.

c1846 British shipowners and builders first directed their efforts to the construction of clipper vessels intended to rival the highly successful American ships engaged in the coasting trade of China, and in the still more lucrative opium trade; Messrs. Hall were commissioned to build the first of these, the schooner Torrington.

1849 Alexander Hall died in 1849 leaving his two sons, James and William, to run the business. The brothers were responsible for many famous clippers. These included the Torrington and the Stornoway, for the opium and tea trades, where speed was essential. William was responsible for ship design while James managed the business.

The brothers were also concerned with employee welfare. The 'Hall's Dockyard Sick and Medical Fund' was started in 1846. For a weekly contribution, workers received sick pay, medical attendance and medicine. If the worst happened, the fund also provided funeral expenses.

1868 One of Hall's best known ships was Jho Sho Maru, a barque-rigged steamer, built for the Japanese Navy in 1868. This wooden corvette had a belt of iron armour plating at the waterline and carried eight 64 pounder guns and two 100 pounder guns. Unfortunately, due to a miscalculation of costs, the firm actually lost £500 on the project.

1869m This ship was unlucky for another reason. Jho Sho Maru was almost complete when a fire broke out nearby. James Hall was afraid the warship would be burned and rushed to the scene. He ordered that Jho Sho Maru be pulled into the middle of the dock, away from the flames. However, while helping to fight the blaze, James suffered a fatal heart attack.

1881 Merged with the neighbouring yard of Walter Hood and Co

1887 Although best known for sailing ships, Alexander Hall also constructed steamers. They built their first marine engine in 1887, for the launch Petrel.

In 1888 Hall constructed their first trawler, Maggie Walker, and many trawlers, coasters, tugs and dredgers followed.

1904 Became public company.

WWII During the Second World War, the company built twenty six steam tugs, many of them for the Admiralty.

1953 Burntisland Shipbuilding Co took over the yard and joined it with Hall, Russell and Co

1961 Shipbuilders, marine engineers and boiler makers. 600 employees. [2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons): Chapter 1
  2. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE