Barrow Built Ships

big john
26th October 2005, 21:52
I am looking for information on ships operated by the following shipping lines particularly in their early days: Barrow Steamship Company (Ducal LIne), and the Eastern Steamship Company (of Barrow). All three had close connections with Henderson's Anchor Line and with the shipyard of Robert Duncan of Port Glasgow. The problem I am trying to solve is this: Of the first twelve ships built by the Barrow Shipbuilding Company, only seven were built in Barrow. Another two, the Duke of Sutherland and the Duke of Argyll were built under licence from Barrow Shipbuilding at Robert Duncan's yard. The remaining three are, so far, a mystery. Were they built by Robert Duncan for one of the above lines? I know that Bolivia and Utopia were purchased by the Barrow Steamshio Company in around 1874. Was there another ship acquired around this time? Any clues would be welcome

26th October 2005, 22:09
Hello big john, welcome to this site, you have set a definite challenge with your questions but I'm sure the crew here are up to it. I hope you enjoy our company.

Bruce Carson
26th October 2005, 23:03
Hello Big John and welcome to the site.
I know that the 'Utopia' and 'Bolivia' were both built by Duncan.
It's hard to dig out the facts as most histories regard all the ships as Anchor Line vessels and often don't break out the Barrow ships.
The 'Bolivia' had a sister ship, the 'Ethiopia', which was built by Alexander Stephen and I believe this ship was sold to the Barrow Steamship Company in late 1874. Could this be the third vessels that you're looking for, or have you already accounted for her?

Bruce C.

fred henderson
27th October 2005, 22:54
Hi Big John, you may well be aware of the following: -

A large part of Nineteenth Century Barrow was built by the Seventh Duke of Devonshire. He was responsible for a major iron works, the docks and the shipyard. In 1872 the Barrow Steamship Company was formed, with £100,000 capital contributed by the Duke and £100,000 by the Henderson families who were partners in Handyside & Henderson, the owners of the Anchor Line operation, as well as the Todd & MacGregor and D & W Henderson shipyards on the Clyde. (I have no connection with these families unfortunately!) The Duke had the idea of operating a liner service from Barrow to New York in competition to Liverpool and to service the very large, long-term contracts his companies held to provide rails to US Railroads. As the Barrow docks were not finished no ships were built at this time.
In 1873 the last of the Handyside families retired and the owners of Anchor Line became Henderson Brothers. At the end of the same year their largest ship to date, Ethiopia sailed on her maiden voyage to New York. She was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, was 4,005 tons and carried 970 passengers. Her sister Bolivia followed from Robert Duncan's yard in April 1874.
The first ship for Barrow SS Co was ordered from Barrow SB Co as a copy of Stephen’s Ethiopia to be operated by Anchor Line. In fact she was launched on 27 October 1874 as Anchoria. Her maiden voyage to New York was postponed until October 1875 because of poor trading conditions. In the meanwhile in November 1874, Ethiopia and Bolivia were sold to Barrow SS Co to enable the Henderson family to recover their capital.
Two more sister ships followed from Barrow SB Co for Barrow SS Co. These were Devonia of 1877 and Circassia of 1878. The Barrow SS Co thus had a fleet of five ships carrying names starting with the first five letters of the alphabet, although they had not been built in alphabetic sequence. All were operated as units of the Anchor Line fleet.
As far as I am aware, the two 2,700 ton sisters Elysia (John Elder 1873) and Utopia (Robert Duncan 1874), were Anchor owned and had no connection with Barrow SS Co.
In 1980 Barrow Docks were completed and the long planned service to New York was opened. It was not a success and closed the following year. In February 1881, Barrow SS Co’s Furnessia sailed on her maiden voyage. She was built by Barrow SB Co, was 5,575 tons and carried 1359 passengers. Sadly she was built of iron, rather than the newly available steel, which would have made her a more valuable addition to the fleet.
The inability of Barrow SB Co to obtain supplies of steel was to have a more dramatic impact upon the story of City of Rome that they also delivered to Inman Line in 1881. I am one of many who consider City of Rome to be the most beautiful liner ever built. Sadly she was designed to be built in steel, but because of the yard’s inability to obtain steel supplies in time to meet contract delivery date she was built in iron, but engine power was not increased. Inman was in a precarious financial state and it had hoped that by obtaining the largest, most luxurious and fastest liner on the Atlantic service its fortunes would be revived. Whilst City of Rome met the first two of the owner’s requirements, she was not fast. In desperation, Inman rejected the ship in 1882. By 1886 Inman were bankrupt.
Barrow SB Co placed City of Rome in the Barrow SS Co fleet, again under Anchor Line management. She was reasonably successfully operated on the Atlantic service, but was always hampered by the absence of suitable consorts. Neither Barrow SS Co nor Anchor was prepared to build comparable ships to work with her.
Before the City of Rome fiasco, Barrow SS Co was expanding its fleet. Two 3000 ton ships Galatia and Ischia were ordered from Henderson’s Partick shipyard, whilst three ships of similar size but different design were ordered from Barrow SB Co. These were Justicia, Hesperia and Karmania, thus maintaining the alphabetic naming sequence. In addition, a fourth sister, Anglia, was bought by Anchor from Barrow SS Co in 1888 for their own account.
As far as I am aware that was the end of the Barrow SS Co expansion with Henderson Brothers. The Duke of Devonshire had begun to regret the extent of his investment in Barrow. In 1891 he died, and the Eighth Duke completed the Devonshire’s disengagement. The Barrow SS Co’s ships were sold to Anchor in 1893 and the company wound up. In 1895, Thomas and William Henderson, the last of the four founding brothers died. An era was ended.


28th October 2005, 13:52
WElcome Big john to the site and all it has to offer, as you can see there is a wealth of knowledge on here as well.

big john
28th October 2005, 14:11
The Yard List of all ships built at Barrow Ship Yard was produced long after the beginning of the shipyard by (I think) a keen draughtsman in the Ship Drawing office starting at Yard No.1.
At Nos. 5 & 6 are the Duke of Sutherland and the Duke of Argyll respectively built at Robert Duncan of Port Glasgow under contract to Barrow Shipbuliding Company and owned by the Eastern Steamship Company. Nos 9, 10 & 11 are listed as "Unknown ships built at Robert Duncan of Port Glasgow" no owner's details.
Robert Duncan served as Managing Director of Barrow Shipbuilding and this explains the links between the two companies.
I strongly favour Utopia, Bolivia and Ethiopia as being the "missing ships" but have no strong evidence.
I have located a letter written by a Sir William McKinnon which apparently discusses the troubles of the Eastern Shipping Company (Ducal Line) and lists the ships owned. I am waiting for copies of this material which I hope may clarify things.
Thank you for your information and interest
John Watts

big john
28th October 2005, 14:19
Thanks for your interest
Big John