Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,352 pages of information and 245,904 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Alexander Stephen and Sons

From Graces Guide
1909. SS Tortuguero.
1909. Refrigerating Machine for SS Tortuguero
1912. Linthouse.
1913. Geleria.
1923. Dalgoma.
1923. Dalgoma.
1929. P. and O. Turbo-Electric Liner Viceroy of India.
1932. Converted Marine Steam Engine.
1960. "City of Melbourne".

Alexander Stephen and Sons Limited, often referred to simply as Alex Stephens or just Stephens, was a British shipbuilding company based in Linthouse, Govan, on the River Clyde in Scotland.

1750 The company has a long and distinguished history, beginning its shipbuilding activity in 1750 in Aberdeen.

By 1813 William Stephen was established as a shipbuilder at Footdee, Aberdeen.

1814 His eldest son, William, after release by the French leased a yard for himself at Arbroath.

c.1820 William's second son, Alexander, joined his father in the Aberdeen yard, keeping a diary from 1824 for 30 years[1].

1825 Arbroath got into difficulties; William, senior, signed a bond making himself responsible for the debts of William, junior.

1826 the number of shipbuilders in Aberdeen fell from ten to eight, each of whom had two ships on the stocks, unsold, while every year until 1835 was described as a very dull one for shipbuilding[2]

1826 The brig Unicorn, commanded by William's youngest son, James, was lost with all hands off the Irish coast. Other sons had business troubles, one died.

1828 William senior was declared bankrupt due to debts of the Abroath yard.

The Aberdeen business was taken over by Alexander; the name of the firm reverted to Alexander Stephen and Sons. Alexander paid off the debts over a period of seven years.

1829 Alexander Stephen took over his brother William's yard at Arbroath.

1830 The company gave up the lease on the Aberdeen yard. Took over another yard in Abroath which was improved with steam-engines to drive the saws, and a new joiners' shop.

1840 Alexander moved his family into a large new house at Lady Loan, overlooking the yard but trade declined.

1842 Took over the lease of a Dundee yard, moving the business there in 1843.

1843 When they left Arbroath, the yard had 48 employees.

1849 Built one of the first covered berths in Scotland. Invited Mr. Smith of Smith's Dock who was the only other owner of a covered berth in the kingdom, to inspect the installation at Dundee.

1850 Alexander Stephen decided to establish a new yard on the Clyde, to take advantage of the developments in steam-engines and the use of iron for shipbuilding. On 6th April, 1850, he arranged a lease of the Kelvinhaugh yard from Robert Black for twenty years from May, 1851. His eldest son, William, took on the Dundee yard.

1852 the first ship, the Typhoon, was launched at Kelvinhaugh - an iron sailing-ship.

1858 James and Alexander Stephen bought the Kelvinhaugh business, repaying their father over a number of years.

1859 James Stephen left the company which was carried on for some years by Alexander Stephen junior alone.

1865 See 1865 Clyde Shipbuilders for detail of the tonnage produced

1866 Of Kelvinhaugh. Launched a screw steamer of 637 tons.

1868 Alexander Stephen junior, purchased the 32 acre Linthouse estate and in 1869 started laying it out as a shipyard. It eventually housed a mansion and houses for 120 workers and their families along with the usual technical zones required to build ships.

1870 The company launched its first steamer which was used to trade through the Suez Canal to India. The 1870s were characterised by the company being able to make larger ships using its new facilities

1871 The lease of Kelvinhaugh expired in May; the last ship to leave the yard was the Lima, launched in November, 1870.

1872 The Kelvinhaugh yard was leased by Aitken and Mansel; eventually the Queens Dock was excavated on the site of the back yard. The remainder of the front yard and slip dock was occupied by Shearer and Sons.

1875 Death of Alexander Stephen

1880s The Linthouse yard moved into steel hull construction; its first steel steamer was completed in 1882.

1883 the yard experienced the worst tragedy in shipbuilding history, when 124 workers were killed when a small steamer overturned while being launched. The yard managed to recover from this and went on to establish a sterling reputation for building passenger and passenger/cargo-liners for companies all around the world

1888 Produced 23,000 tons in 1887 (as Stephen and Sons)

1889 See 1889 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced

1889 Triple expansion engines for the SS Victoria and Domira. Illustrated.

1894 Shipbuilding ended at the Dundee yard.

Late 1890s The Dundee yard was sold to a group of Dundee businessmen and renamed the Dundee Shipbuilding Co Ltd.

1890s The Linthouse yard was kept busy manufacturing transatlantic steamers for Sir Christopher Furness.

1899 Alexander Stephen died: he was succeeded by his sons Alexander E. Stephen and Frederic J. Stephen in partnership with their uncle John Stephen

1900 the company became a limited liability company.

1900 Ship built for P&O

1903 Became licensees of Parsons for building turbines

1900s The yard began building banana boats and it eventually built twenty six. The yard was instrumental in the establishment of the Caribbean / West Indian Banana trade having built one third of the Elders and Fyffes banana fleet. The yard also continued cementing its reputation for quality built liners

WWI The yard made an Anchor Line passenger ship, cargo-liners, two banana boats, 16 destroyers and three standard "AO" type tankers. The yard also made 480 biplane aeroplanes.

1921 Advertised: "Passenger and Cargo Steamers of all sizes and fitted with Reciprocating, Turbine or Stephen-Sulzer Diesel Engines—Two-Cycle. Double Reduction Geared."[3]

1920s Throughout the 20s the yard made six large passenger liners and there was a brief dip in production during the slump of the early 20s. However, an order for four liners stimulated production, and the yard continued making cargo-liners, steam tankers, and banana boats during this period

1925 See Aberconway for information on shipbuilding h.p produced in 1904 and 1925

1930s: The yard closed between 1932 and 1934 due to lack of orders. During this period the yard was expanded and modernised with electric cranes and a yard covering 48 acres.

1932 Tried a diversification - see Barrs Vacuum Cleaning System

Late 1930s: the yard received orders for small cargo-ships and Australian coastal passenger ships. Also at this point, the Admiralty began ordering vessels as part of the build up to War.

WWII The yard made aircraft carriers, cruisers, mine-layers, destroyers, sloops, minesweepers and tank transport ferries.

1946 Company made public.

1950s The yard began specialising in welding techniques and rearranged the layout to accommodate this. Consequently, many orders for motor cargo ships, ferries, cargo liners and banana boats continued apace.

1960s The yard added tankers and dredgers to its repertoire, completing five tankers including British Bombardier, which was the longest ship ever built at the yard at 725 feet long. In addition the yard built diesel-electric suction dredgers.

1961 Marine engineers and shipbuilders with shipbuilding yards and works covering 50 acres. [4]

1964 The Linthouse yard also took over Simons-Lobnitz.

1967 the yard became part of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. However, soon after, the Linthouse yard was closed and then demolished, after the latter organisation collapsed in 1971.

1967 Dockside tractor

1970s The ship repair and marine engine shipbuilding aspects of the yard continued in two separate companies: Alexander Stephens Shiprepairers and Alexander Stephens Engineering.

1976 The repair company closed and was bought in 1977 by Clyde Dock Engineering Co

1980s The Linthouse yard (which had fallen into disrepair) was bought by the Scottish Development Agency in 1987. The yard was demolished except for the engine shop which was then transported, piece by piece, to the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine.

A Shipbuilding History

Read the history series for the firm here: A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons)

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons)
  2. A Shipbuilding History. 1750-1932 (Alexander Stephen and Sons): Chapter 1
  3. Liverpool Journal of Commerce 1 August 1921
  4. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • L. A. Ritchie, The Shipbuilding Industry: A Guide to Historical Records (1992)
  • British Shipbuilding Yards. 3 vols by Norman L. Middlemiss
  • Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) by J. M. Bruce. Published 1982 ISBN 0-370-30084-x
  • The Engineer of 18th May 1866 p350
  • The Engineer of 6th January 1888 p6
  • The Engineer of 4th Jan 1889 p22
  • The Engineer of 6th April 1900 p369
  • The Engineer of 12th January 1968 p67