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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-07
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1886-1961
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 81 production units.
Name of creator(s): Australasian United Steam Navigation Co Ltd


Administrative/Biographical history:

The company was formed by the merger in 1886-1887 of two coastal shipping companies, the Australasian Steam Navigation Company Limited and the Queensland Steam Shipping Company Limited, both engaged in transporting Australian settlers north to Queensland from the main port of debarkation, Sydney. The latter firm had been formed in 1881 by William Mackinnon (for whose background see the history in the fonds level description of the Inchcape Group, CLC/B/123) of MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Company as an extension of his existing interest in the area, a mail contract granted to the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited in 1881. Representation of British India interests on the board of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company was predominant.

Established competition to the new firm was significant. However, the merger had made it one of the largest coasting companies, and it divided its activity between the carriage of cargoes on its smaller vessels and of passengers and mails on its liners. Depression in the 1890s was shaken off by company reorganisation, effected by James Lyle Mackay (later the first Lord Inchcape) from 1899. Outdated tonnage was sold and a fleet of large modern liners purchased, confirming the company's principal commitment to passenger traffic.

After World War One, profits declined as a result of the more serious competition for freight, passenger and cargo, represented by the newly opened Townsville-Cairns railway. The directors' response was to widen their investments, for instance into the subsidiary Eastern and Australian Steamship Company Limited, whose vessels traded from Australian ports to Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore etc, and into hotel, harbour and wharf enterprises. This trend was continued into the 1930s.

An existing shareholding in the firm by the Inchcape family was consolidated in 1960 when the company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Inchcape group of trading companies.

The company had offices at 13 Austin Friars, 1887-94; 23 Great Winchester Street, 1897-1917; 122 Leadenhall Street, 1917-61; 40 St Mary Axe, 1962-88.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited, including articles of association; board minute books and agendas; annual reports; correspondence; financial accounts; papers regarding investments; register of assets; and agreements.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987-88 by the Inchcape Group Plc. They were catalogued in 1988-9. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

This collection is a sub-fond within the Inchcape Group fonds. See CLC/B/123 for a list of all the companies represented in this collection and a history of the Inchcape Group.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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:
January to May 2011.

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