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British Industrial History

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Anchor Line

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1932 (from ‘A Shipbuilding History’)
Anchor Building, 12-16 Vincent Street, Glasgow, 2016. Former Anchor Line offices

1838 Brothers Nicol and Robert Handyside entered business in Glasgow as shipbrokers and merchants under the name of N and R Handyside & Co. They initially specialised in the Balkan and Russian trade

1850 They also became managers of the Glasgow and Lisbon Steam Packet Co.

1852 They started using the name Anchor Line in their advertisements. They recruited Captain Thomas Henderson to develop intercontinental brokerage business. Thomas Henderson was the son of a ship’s captain from Pittenweem in Fife.

1855 Henderson proposed a steamship service from the Clyde to America; a partnership Handysides and Henderson was formed.

1856 First transatlantic sailing.

1859 Alexander Stephen and Sons's Kelvinhaugh yard built the steamers, Cora Linn and Ailsa Craig, for Messrs. Handyside and Henderson. These were not ocean-going vessels

1860s Several more steamers were built.

Anchor Line went onto became a leading transatlantic carrier of emigrants with a network of services from the Mediterranean to New York, as well as up to three sailings per week on its Clyde-Northern Ireland-New York service. Also became a major operator in the Glasgow-Liverpool-Mediterranean and Glasgow-Liverpool-India trades.

When the two Handyside brothers retired, their places in the partnership were taken by Thomas Henderson and his brothers and the firm was renamed Henderson Brothers. John Henderson assisted Thomas in the management of the shipping services; David and William later took over the Clydeside shipyard and engine builders, D. and W. Henderson.

1872 the California, 360 ft. long, was delivered

1872 in partnership with the Duke of Devonshire, the Barrow Steamship Co was formed; ships were transferred between the two companies; D & W Henderson also assisted the Duke’s Barrow Shipbuilding Co in the design of their first ships.

1873 Stephens built the Ethiopia, one of the largest vessels of her time, "long, lean and fast".

1874 David and William took over the Clydeside shipyard and engine builders, D. and W. Henderson; they began shipbuilding at Meadowside, Partick. The Anchor Line sourced its vessels from Meadowside.

1892 John Henderson died, followed by David in 1893 and both Thomas and William in 1895. Without the brothers leadership the company began to stagnate and drift.

1899 Anchor Line (Henderson Brothers) was formed to acquire the shipowning business of Henderson Brothers.

1911 Cunard purchased Anchor Line to gain access to Anchor’s lucrative emigrant trade.

1911 the Line ordered cargo ships, Anchoria and Media, from Stephens' Linthouse yard.

1912 A joint cargo service from the UK to India with Brocklebank Line was started under the name Anchor-Brocklebank.

1916 the Anchor-Donaldson Line was created to run services to Canada, owned equally by Donaldson Brothers Ltd and Anchor Line (Henderson Brothers) Ltd, which was a Cunard subsidiary.

Post-War: the California and Caledonia, of 17,000 tons each, were the final vessels built for the Line by Stephens.

After 1921 the transatlantic trade suffered from US restrictions

1935 Cunard placed Anchor Line in liquidation.

1935 Runciman (London) Ltd set up a new company called Anchor Line (1935) Ltd to take over the fleet and services, except those of Anchor-Donaldson and Anchor-Brocklebank, both of which ceased to exist. Philip Runciman became chairman.

1949 Athel Line (United Molasses Co) bought a controlling interest in Anchor Line and purchased the remaining shares in 1950.

1956 The transatlantic passenger service ended

1960 Anchor-Cunard cargo service started.

1965 After Tate and Lyle took over United Molasses Co, it sold Anchor Line to Runciman’s Moor Line Ltd, of Newcastle.

1966 The Anchor Line passenger service to India ended.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Anchor Line [1]