View Full Version : Added thread 4 Tony Wilding

Doc Vernon
2nd March 2011, 05:36 AM
This thread added at requst of Member
Tony Wilding

2nd March 2011, 07:27 AM
To start off entries to this Company Forum, I'll post the following,which I originally posted in November 2009.
Britain Steamship Co.(Watts,Watts)....History
I had an interesting e-mail from our member Tony Wilding,who knows a lot about this company.He sailed with them,also his brother and his father at various times.

I thought I'd share the following with others who might be interested.
So many of these smaller companies had interesting histories,too..........

The Britain Steamship Company Ltd
This is the history of the Watts family,who embarked on shipowning in the 1850's.They came from Northumberland,and Edmund Hannay Watts started as a ship and insurance broker at Blyth in about 1851.From broking he graduated to owning,making an excellent profit out of the snow Brilliant in 1854.Two years later he added another vessel,the Sultan and took into partnership Messrs.Milburn and Holt;the new business being called Watts,Milburn & Co. of Newcastle,coal exporters and shipowners.From 1869 the partners ran steamers and as business grew they opened a London office to which Edmund Watts moved.
London henceforth became the Watts headquarters and the ships began to be named after towns and districts of the London area,early examples being the Chiswick and Mortlake.Because of the London move,the Watts,Milburn partnership was dissolvedbin 1872 and another;Watts,Ward took its place.During the 70's the export of coal progressed steadily and an association was formed with the American coal exporters Funch Edye and Company of New York.A more dramatic venture was the establishment of bunkering stations on the Australian run,with the coal supplied by Watts ships.
Edmund Watts realised the advantage of a stake in coal production to ensure cargoes for his ships,so collieries were acquired,principally in the Rhondda and Monmouthshire,and put under the control of a subsidiary;Watts,Williams and Company. From 1875 Edmund's son Fenwick Shadforth Watts,a rugger player of note,joined the firm and started his career at Funch Edye and Company,returning to London in 1883.This year saw the establishment of the Britain Steamship Company to engage in general tramping,while the old Newcastle interests were maintained by two coasters.By 1896 there were 22 ships under Watts management and the tramping trade prospered.
Coal remained the mainstay of Watts cargoes together with allied products like coke and creosote.An American chartering business was formed based on texan ports and a French association established,later based on Nantes,St.Nazaire and Tours under the title of Societe d'Importations de Charbons.
In 1900 the title of the management became Watts,Watts,the conversion to a limited company occurring in 1912.

Edmund Watts the founder,jointly founded with Dr Barnardo,the Watts Naval Training School in Norfolk to train disadvantaged boys for the sea.
In 1894,the 'Finsbury' was the first vessel to carry the first American cotton up the Manchester Ship Canal
In 1904 the 'Beckenham' sailed non-stop to Japan,avoiding the Suez Canal,carrying 300 tons of cordite,nitro-glycerine and picric acid.
In 1908 the 'Chiswick carried cables for laying between Victoria and Tasmania

Edmund Watts had died in 1902 and his son F.Shadforth Watts succeeded him and concentrated on the American trade;he started a service between Europe and Gulf and West Indian ports with two ships under the title of the Pensacola Trading Co.Ltd.;and in 1908 another regular service between Seattle and Prince Rupert,B.C.
During the First World War most of the ships were requisitioned,nine being lost by enemy action.Shadforth Watts was knighted in recognition of his work for the Shipping Federation.He died in 1926 and after an interval of two years the chair was taken over by his son Edmund Hannay Watts,a young naval officer.The second Edmund Watts faced the depression of the 20's and 30's by ruthless scrapping of the older vessels of a large fleet,39 strong.Henceforward ships were built in classes,starting with the 9,000 tons deadweight 'W' class of 1928,the Wanstead, Watford and Wendover;and followed by the 'D's of 1930 and 1931;the Dartford,Deptford and Dulwich of 6,470 tons deadweight.
In spite of the depression the company embarked on all sorts of ventures.In 1931 they entered insurance,and in the same year formed the Alexandria Navigation Company to carry cotton from Egypt to Liverpool and Manchester,a natural extension to the long standing Watts interest in coal for the Egyptian State Railways.The first Alexandria ships were supplied by Watts,later they built their own.
More ships were built during the 30's with much improved accommodation and better navigational aids. Between 1936 and 1938 came the 'B' class;the Blackheath,Beckenham and Beaconsfield,followed by the 'T's;the Tottenham,Teddington and Twickenham.
By 1939 Watts,Watts had 8 modern tramp steamers,and one older one.During the War in 1943 the company's first motorship was launched;the Greenwich, and in 1949 and 1950 came three more motorships capable of 15 knots;the second 'W' class,again named Wanstead and Wendover ,with a new 'W',the Woodford,all of 8,500 tons deadweight,with much improved accommodation for the crew.By this time the company decided to standardize all their ship names to begin with 'W',so in 1952/3 came the Windsor,Woolwich and Wokingham,of 10,000tons deadweight,slightly slower but a good deal more economical in fuel than the previous trio.
Very striking in appearance were the third trio of 'W's which appeared between 1958 and 1960.These were the Barclay,Curle built Weybridge,Wimbledon and Willesden,again motorships of 9,500 tons deadweight.Their hulls had pronounced knuckles at bow and stern and the engineroom was placed about three-quarters aft instead of amidships.Edmund Watts had much to do with the design of these vessels.After his death in 1962 no members of the family have been in the business which became much diversified in the 60's.Five coasters were acquired from the Queenship Navigation Ltd. and operated under the management of Comben,Longstaff and Co.Ltd,all being vessels of about 1,700 tons deadweight.
More revolutionary still was the appointment of Britain Steamship company to manage 7 tankers of 30,000-40,000 tons deadweight owned by the Gulf Oil Corporation,but under the British flag.These were later reduced to four.
Finally in 1965 came the membership of the Seabridge consortium and the order of a 78,000 tons deadweight motor bulk carrier,delivered in 1968(the Westminster Bridge).
The requested takeover by Bibby's was accomplished in 1968 ,only the Westminster Bridge being retained by Bibby's.

(The above extract is from a booklet entitled '175 Years of Achievement' and published by Bibby Line for its employees in 1982)


john sutton
2nd March 2011, 07:43 AM
i spent four years at watts naval school.it closed in 1949.
john sutton

Doc Vernon
2nd March 2011, 08:48 AM
Hi John S
Here is an old Pic of that training School!
Formerly as you would know Norfolk-county-school,but it says closed in 1953? Is that corect!

Watts Naval School was originally the Norfolk County School, a public school set up to serve the educational needs of the 'sons of farmers and artisans'. The school was then operated by Dr Barnardo's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnardo%27s) until its closure in 1953.


This Plaque says 1949 as you say John!

john sutton
3rd March 2011, 07:38 AM
i was watts until it closed in 49 then went to russel cotes which became parkstone sea training school
john sutton

Tony Wilding
11th March 2011, 01:45 AM

Ref pst #2 by Gulliver

thanks for the information, every little helps, tony.

Tony Wilding
1st April 2011, 08:02 PM
WATTS , also managed ships for other companies, Eastwater nav co of Canada, Federal Commerce of Montreal, Gulf Oil Co, also owned Alexandra Nav Co on Egypt, and
Pensacola steamship co,Tony.

Bernadette Jones
1st January 2012, 12:52 PM
Hello John,
I read this post of yours with interest. I am searching for information about my father's time at sea. (I'm starting from scratch as had nothing to go on!! I'm trying to establish whether he served on the Wendover as I found someone on 'Find My Past' with the same first initial and surname (W.Whitelock ) my dad's name was Wilfred Whitelock.
What drew my attention to your post was the mention of Parkstone. Do you mean Parkstone in Poole, Dorset? My father was born (1920) and lived there.
The Merchant Seamen page of Find My Past site led me to a CR2 card which may or may not be his as if has no information that I can personally verify, (no date or place of birth given). The stamp of the Merchant Navy Office in South Shields appears on the CR2 card with the date of 31 March 1939, along with the Discharge Number, a Rank/Rating of what appears to be 'Fireman' and another number 199168 WHI - I've no idea what this refers to though! plus the name and official number of the ship 160.605 - this has led me to the Wendover (the first Wendover that is, built 1928 I believe).

To get to the point !! I wonder if you can shed more light on this link with this naval school and Parkstone? It could be the thing that links my father to the Wendover, Watts, and South Shields!!

I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and for any light you may be able to shed on this matter.
I have also been advised my another member to write to the mha in Newfoundland who have crew list archives.

Kind Regards
PS: I also noted the mention of Russel Cotes whcih also has another link with that area of Dorset - there is a Russel Cotes Museum on the clifftop near Bouremouth Peir.

Keith at Tregenna
1st January 2012, 05:30 PM
These could be relations?


27 May George son of John & Hannah WHITELOCK of Parkstone - Labourer. (Married at Parkstone 1854)


6 Jul Elizabeth daughter of John & Hannah WHITELOCK of Parkstone Labourer

I do hope this may be of some help !

Further info may be found on contacting Dorset OPC ?

LINK 1: Dorset OPC (http://www.opcdorset.org/index.htm)

LINK 2: Parkstone Parish Records, Dorset (http://www.opcdorset.org/ParkstoneFiles/Parkstone.htm)

LINK 3: Parkstone St Peter Baptisms 1847-1877 Bishops Transcripts (http://www.opcdorset.org/ParkstoneFiles/ParkstoneBaps.htm)