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Prince Line Ltd

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 PLS
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Prince Line Ltd
Date(s): [1884-1980]
Level of description: Collection

Name of creator(s): Prince Line Ltd


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Prince Steam Shipping Company Ltd was formed in 1883 with a nominal capitol of 250,000. Further steamships were ordered and the first of these commenced trading in 1884. By 1886 the company's fleet comprised twenty sailing ships and seventeen ocean-going steamships. A year later the sailing vessels were sold and Knott applied himself to the development of a fleet of steamships engaged in world-wide trade. Among the earliest services advertised were those between the UK and Tripoli, Malta, Tunis, Egypt, Cyprus, Palestine and Syria. By 1888 the company was firmly established on routes from Europe and New York to Brazil and the River Plate and in the years leading up to the First World War, it had a large share in the coffee trade between Brazil and the USA.

With the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, a service was instituted between Manchester and Alexandria for the importation of Egyptian cotton. Manufactured goods and machinery were exported through Manchester.

In 1895 a new company was formed, the Prince Line (1895) Ltd. Three years later the date was dropped from the title and the Prince Line Ltd absorbed the entire range of Knott's shipping interests, principally the Prince Steam Shipping Company Ltd and the Prince Steam shipping Insurance Association, founded in 1887. As older ships were replaced by new and larger tonnage a regular line was built on the carriage of Italian emigrants to New York. However , in 1917 the Italian Government restricted this trade to national flag carriers and the Prince Line's part in it came to an end.

In the early years of the twentieth century a service from New York to South Africa, India and the Far East was inaugurated. Later, in 1917, twelve steamers and the interests of James Gardiner and Company, Glasgow, were acquired to become the subsidiary company Rio Cape Line. The combination of these undertakings led to the development of a round the world service.

During the First World War nineteen ships were lost to enemy action. Following the death of two of his sons at Ypres and the Somme and the capture of a third at Gallipoli, James Knott, the founder of the company, sold his interests to Furness, Withy and Company Ltd in August 1916. He was created a baronet the following year. In 1919 the Furness family relinquished their interests in Furness, Withy and Company Ltd. and as result the offices of the company were moved from Newcastle to London.

The fleet and services were rebuilt between the wars despite the economic depression of the decades. The company's first motor ship, built in 1924 as the TRAMORE, was taken over from the associated Johnston Line in 1925 and renamed BRAZILIAN PRINCE. In 1929 four fast passenger-cargo motor ships of 10, 920 tons gross, carrying 101 passengers, were completed and named NORTHERN PRINCE, SOUTHERN PRINCE, EASTERN PRINCE and WESTERN PRINCE. These were employed on the well established New York- South American routes.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 the Prince Line and Rio Cape Line fleets together comprised twenty vessels, maintaining the four regular services- the Mediterranean, USA- South Africa, New York - South America and the Far East round the world service. Losses during the war totalled fourteen.

While the fleet was again rebuilt in the years after 1945 and the citrus trade with Israel continued to flourish, the entire operations of the company gradually contracted as a result of foreign competition and later, containerisation. Only a reduced Mediterranean service survived, and this was combined with Furness, Withy's other Mediterranean interest, the Manchester Liners service, as a joint operation.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Prince Line Ltd. They include Director's Minutes, 1891 1956, and shareholder's Minutes 1884-1967; Annual Reports and accounts, 1885- 1975; registers of shareholders, 1884-1959; records of ship's movement and freight, 1893-1980 and papers relating to the work of the Israel - UK Citrus Conference (Prince Line Ltd as secretaries), 1965-1971. There are also some papers of the Rio Cape Line Ltd., 1917-1956.

In addition to the present collection, papers of the Prince line Ltd and Rio Cape Line Ltd may be found in the main Furness Withy collection (see FWS/A and FWS/B). These include ship files from the Naval Architect's and Superintendent's Departments, charter parties, vessel building agreements and contracts, accounts and records of board and general meetings.

Tyne and Wear Archives, Newcastle, hold a ledger, 1896-97 and correspondence, 1898-99 of Prince Line (1895) Ltd.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please allow 4 working days to process your order for viewing (see website for full details).

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were presented by Furness, Withy (Shipping) Ltd. in 1983.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 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:

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