Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Thomas and John Brocklebank

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of Whitehaven

1770 Captain Daniel Brocklebank, a master mariner and shipbuilder, established a shipbuilding enterprise at Sheepscutt (near Portland, Maine, North America).

1775 When the Revolution began he sailed back to Whitehaven in his own ship, Castor, where he restarted shipbuilding in 1785.

By 1795 his fleet consisted of eleven vessels totalling 1,750 tons.

1801 Daniel Brocklebank died; the firm became Thomas and John Brocklebank, later shortened to Thos. and Jno. Brocklebank.

The firm suffered in the Napoleonic Wars but by 1809 it was sending ships as far as South America.

1815 the maiden voyage of the new ship Princess Charlotte to Calcutta was a success following the end of the East India Company's monopoly. (The company later claimed to be the oldest company trading to Calcutta, having maintained an unbroken service to that port since 1813, the year when the trade monopoly of the East India Company was abolished).

By 1816 the fleet totalled seventeen ships.

1819 Thomas Brocklebank moved to Liverpool and an office was opened there in 1822. His brother John remained in Whitehaven to run the Bransty shipyard and the ropery.

1829 The Brocklebanks began trading to China but on an irregular basis.

1831 John Brocklebank was killed by a fall from his horse. Thomas Fisher (later Brocklebank), son of their sister Anne Fisher, moved to Liverpool to assist his uncle, Thomas Brocklebank, in the family business.

1843 Thomas made his nephew, Thomas, and cousin, Ralph, partners in the firm. Thomas (Jnr.) was politically and socially active and became a Baronet in 1885.

By 1844 the fleet had reached its highest number, comprising fifty vessels.

1865 The Whitehaven shipyard was closed and larger iron/steel sailing ships were bought mainly from Harland and Wolff, Belfast.

1889 Their first steamer, Ameer, was purchased.

1898 The company was registered on 12 July to acquire the business of steamship owners of the firm of the same name. [1]

1911 Ceased to be a family business. A substantial shareholding was sold to Sir Percy, Frederic and Denis Bates, who had built up an Indian trading firm and were major Cunard Steam Ship Co shareholders.

1911 Cunard acquired the Anchor Line, which retained its independence, and, in turn, gained a controlling interest in Brocklebanks in 1912.

1916 the Well Line was acquired

1919 Cunard bought out the Brocklebank and Bates shares; the final one-fifth shareholding held by Anchor Line was acquired in 1940.

Postwar: The firm experimented with motor ships including, for a short time, the first all-welded vessel, the coaster Fullagar of 1920.

1935 Four ships were reduced in capacity, a unique operation at the time, in response to the Depression.

WWII Sixteen out of twenty-six ships were lost.

1964 they bought H. E. Moss and Co, tanker owners

1967 Cunard Line became responsible for the passenger business; the new Cunard Brocklebank company took on all cargo services.

1983 The last two Brocklebank liveried ships were sold.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  • Merseyside Maritime Museum [1]