Records of Ellerman Lines Ltd, shipowners, London, England and Glasgow, Scotland

Reference code(s): GB 0248 UGD 131/2
Title: Records of Ellerman Lines Ltd, shipowners, London, England and Glasgow, Scotland
Date(s): 1839-1980s
Extent and medium of the unit of description: 4.2 metres
Physical characteristics and technical requirements: There are no physical characteristics that affect the use of this material.
Repository: Glasgow University Archive Services
Name of creator(s): Ellerman Lines Ltd (shipowners: 1902-: London, England)
Level of Description: fonds
Language: eng
Published by: Glasgow University Archive Services, 2 August 2002

Administrative/Biographical History

In 1892 John Reeves Ellerman, Christopher Furness and Henry O'Hagan incorporated Frederick Leyland & Co Ltd , shipowners, Liverpool, England, with a capital of £800,000 to buy a fleet of 22 vessels from the executors of Frederick Leyland, formerly head of Frederick Leyland & Co . Initially, John Reeves Ellerman was the managing director and Christopher Furness was the chairman of the new company, but by 1893 John Reeves Ellerman had taken over the position of chairman. In 1900, the company acquired a further 20 ships from the West India & Pacific SS Co Ltd and was reorganised as Frederick Leyland (1900) Ltd with a capital of £2,800,000. A year later, however, J Pierpoint Morgan of the International Marine Mercantile Company, USA, purchased the company, although John Reeves Ellerman remained the chairman. At the time of this deal, John Reeves Ellerman also retained ownership of around 20 ships and acquired the Papayanni Steamship Co Ltd , shipowners, Liverpool, England, along with 8 of their ships. Ellerman then formed the London, Liverpool & Ocean Shipping Company Ltd . This company's head office was located in Moorgate, London, and its directors were John Reeves Ellerman (chairman), M W Mattinson and Val Prinsep.

In 1901 , the London, Liverpool & Ocean Shipping Company Ltd acquired 50 percent of George Smith & Sons ' City Line Ltd , Glasgow, and 50 percent of the Hall Line Ltd and increased its capital, changing its name to Ellerman Lines Ltd at the beginning of 1902 with head offices in Liverpool and Glasgow and another office in London.

In 1908 , the company acquired Bucknall Steamship Lines Ltd who operated services between the United Kingdom, South Africa, the near East and North America. The acquisitions of these companies gave the Ellerman group of companies a dominating position in the Mediterranean and Near East. By 1914, the Ellerman group consisted of the following companies: Ellerman City Line Ltd , Ellerman & Bucknall (Steamships) Co Ltd , Ellerman & Papayanni Lines Ltd , and Hall Line Ltd .

The outbreak of the 1914-1918 World War saw the Government requisition a large number of the Ellerman fleet for use as troop carriers, munitions carriers, or for conversion into war ships. The Ellerman group of companies continued to operate a skeletal service with the ships it had left. After the war, the immediate aim of the company was to secure sufficient tonnage to restore a level of service comparable to the company's old standards which lead to the purchase of several German liners as well as new tonnage being ordered. The passenger services to Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Far East were soon re-established and the network of cargo services restored.

By 1939, the Ellerman group of companies owned 105 ships capable of carrying a combined 920,000 tons making Ellerman's one of the biggest fleets in the world. They had 4 classes of ship: cargo ships with space for a considerable number of passengers; cargo ships with limited passenger accommodation; pure cargo ships; and short sea traders for the Mediterranean and Iberian services.

Again, many ships were requisitioned for Government service during the 1939-1945 World War while a number of ships were retained to continue as cargo vessels bringing supplies to the United Kingdom and government departments. Forty-one ships were sunk by submarines, seven by air attacks, three by mines and one by surface raider. In total, 60 ships of the Ellerman Group were lost out of its fleet of 105.

Following the war, a new building programme was undertaken, with the City of Bristol being the first new ship. A new policy was implemented of building fast steam cargo liners that held no more than 12 passengers who travelled in style and comfort with similar standards for crew accommodation. The company concentrated on re-establishing their world wide trade routes and purchased from the Government 12 cargo ships which they had managed during the war. By 1952, the company had 25 of these new style 12-passenger ships and had restored the bulk of their pre-war services with a total of 45 new vessels and a further 14 for the Portuguese trade and Mediterranean services. By 1953, the fleet had a total of 94 ships with a carry capacity of 900,000 tons.

In 2002, Ellerman Lines Ltd was a dormant company.

Sources: UGD 131/1/60/1/5 The Journal of Commerce: Ellerman Line Number (January 1953) and UGD 131/1/60/1/2 Ellerman brochure (c1948)

Scope and Content

  • Minutes 1901-1922
  • Share registers 1901-1935
  • Share allotment book [c1900s]
  • Financial records 1938-1981
  • Voyage records 1936-1958
  • Sailings books 1928-1947
  • Correspondence 1954-1959
  • Presscuttings and publicity materials 1929-1971
  • Company history 1970s
  • Route maps, undated
  • Cabin plans and maps 1956-1973
  • Photographs, posters and postcards 1839-1970s
  • Crew photographs 1891-1970s
  • Publicity materials 1870s-1980s;

System of Arrangement

This material is arranged into series as shown in the scope and content. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Administrative Information

Archival History


Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gift : P&O Containers : London: 1992 : ACCN155*, 159*, 160*

Indefinite loan : 6 February 1992 : ACCN157*

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 0248 procedures


None expected

Access Conditions


Copyright / Conditions governing reproduction

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Language of material


Existence and location of copies

No known copies

Further Information

Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)3480) and London (NRA17571)

Existence and location of originals

This material is original

Related Units of Description

GB 0136 DB/EL Cash books (National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Maritime Archives and Library)

GB 0248 UGD 131/1 Records of City Line Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/3 Records of Ellerman & Bucknall (Steamships) Co Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/4 Records of Ellerman & Papayanni Lines Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/5 Records of Ellerman's Arracan Rice & Trading Co Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/6 Records of Hall Line Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/7 Records of Montgomerie & Workman (1920) Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/8 Records of Mossgiel Steamship Co Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/9 Records of Westcott & Laurence Line Ltd

GB 0248 UGD 131/10 Records of Thomas Wilson Sons & Co Ltd

See source list on Shipping and Shipbuilding Industry available via Glasgow University Archive Services homepage at

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page

Material in other repositories: no material associated by provenance

Publication note

No known publications using this material


Date(s) of Description

Compiled by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 19 June 2002

No alterations made to date