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National Maritime Museum

Furness Withy & Co Ltd


Reference code(s): GB 0064 FWS

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: Furness Withy & Co Ltd

Date(s): [1896-1968]

Level of description: Collection

Extent: Department of Ships: 15 boxes

Name of creator(s): Furness Withy & Co Ltd


Administrative/Biographical history:

Furness Withy was incorporated as a company in 1891 upon the amalgamation of Christopher Furness' business in West Hartlepool and London with Edward Withy's shipbuilding yard in Hartlepool. By 1914 the company had acquired interests all over the world in liner and tramp shipping and in shipbuilding, but from 1920 they concentrated on liner services. In addition to the North Atlantic service, they developed other American routes based principally on New York and including Bermuda and the West Indies. The Furness Line to the Pacific coast of North America via Panama was started in 1921. An interest in the refrigerated meat trade with South America had begun before the First World War. The Argentine Cargo Line was formed in 1908 to acquire the freight contracts of the Anglo-Argentine Shipping Co. Two ships were managed by Birt, Potter and Hughes in agreement with Furness Withy and Manchester Liners, another subsidiary. The Line was amalgamated in 1912 with the newly formed British and Argentine Steam Navigation Co Ltd. In 1911 Furness Withy acquired a large holding in Houlder Brothers and the British and Argentine's vessels were operated in association with those of the Houlder Line. In 1914 the Furness-Houlder Argentine Lines was incorporated for the purpose of building a fleet of large, fast twin-screw steamers for the conveyance of chilled and frozen meat from the River Plate to London in conjunction with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co, Furness Withy and Houlder Brothers. There were other additions to the company. The Prince Line was purchased in 1916 and with this services were developed to the Mediterranean and from New York to the Far East and the River Plate. The River Syndicate was incorporated in 1920 to acquire a controlling interest in the Danube shipping which had formerly belonged to South German, Austrian and Hungarian companies. The Syndicate (which formed the Danube Navigation Co Ltd in July 1920) went into voluntary liquidation in 1968. The break-up of the Royal Mail group in 1931 and 1932 led to the formation of a new company, Royal Mail Lines Ltd which became part of the Furness Withy Group. Later this was closely integrated with Furness Lines. In 1933 a substantial holding in the Shaw Savill Line was also acquired.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Furness Withy and Co Ltd. For the parent company the records in the Museum include: ship files from the Naval Architect's Department, 1941 to 1961; building and service files from the Superintendent's Department, 1947 to 1964; movement books, 1946 to 1966; Charter Parties arranged by the Charter Department, 1917 to 1965; financial records, including wages and salaries, 1911 to 1958; one volume of commission accounts (mainly North American berths and the Danube), 1896 to 1952. There are papers for the three companies concerned in the South American trade: the Argentine Cargo Line Limited, minutes, 1908 to 1918; freight agreements, mainly 1908 to 1910 and printed reports, 1909 to 1917; the British and Argentine Steam Navigation Co Ltd, minutes, 1911 to 1934; meat contracts, 1914 to 1915; Furness-Houlder Argentine Lines, freight agreements (including Brazilian fruit and meat), 1914 to 1921; balance sheets and profit and loss accounts, 1940 to 1946. For the Prince Line (including the Rio Cape Line) there are reports of meetings, 1921 to 1949; files on oil prices and contracts, 1953 to 1958; and some notes on the Far East-U.S.A. Conference, 1919 to 1968. There are also the following records for other subsidiary companies: River Syndicate Ltd, minutes and accounts, 1920 to 1968; Compagnie Furness (France), accounts, 1923 to 1939; Furness (Montreal) Ltd, minutes, 1954 to 1964; Watson and Youell, cashbook for London, Bucharest and Galatz, 1919 to 1923. (Section 3: FWS/: 36ft: 1,097cm) Ships' Plans: the plans were presented in 1970. They consist mostly of prints of details of a few ships of the late 1940s and early 1950s. There are also two data books.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were presented in 1970 and 1976.


Related material:

The Furness Withy Group retain their statutory records and some other material.


Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jun 2011.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2010-11-09

International trade | Trade
Shipbuilding | Marine engineering | Transport engineering
Shipping | Maritime transport | Transport
Trade (practice)
Water transport

Personal names

Corporate names
Furness Withy & Co Ltd

Bucharest | Romania | Eastern Europe
London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
North America
South America