Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Cunard Steam Ship Co

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Mooring Chains. 1907.
March 1936.
2015. Taken at Cobh (formally Queenstown).

of Water Street, Liverpool.

1838/40 The British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co was formed.

1852 Samuel Cunard introduced his first iron hull.

1878 The firm became Cunard Steamship Company Ltd. The company was registered on 23 May.

The fleet was modernised.

1885 Gold medal for invention of the Transatlantic steamer Etruria

1893 The 14,000-ton twin-screw liners, RMS Campania and RMS Lucania were milestones in terms of both size and speed.

By 1902 with the formation of the American combine, the International Mercantile Marine, and German competition, the company was under threat.

1904 The company took the bold step of building the steam turbine-powered 20,000-ton RMS Carmania. Its success led to the building (with government assistance) of two 32,000-ton express liners, Mauretania and Lusitania.

1907 The company entered into an agreement with his Majesty's government, by which it undertook to build two large steamers, the agreement to be in force for twenty years from the date of the sailing of the second vessel; these two steamers, the RMS Mauretania and RMS Lusitania were completed this year[1] and captured the Blue Riband

1911 Cunard purchased Anchor Line to gain access to Anchor’s lucrative emigrant trade.

Cunard faced many competitors from Britain, France, the United States and Germany, but survived them all. This was mainly due to a great focus on safety. Cunard ships were usually not the largest or the fastest but they earned a reputation for being the most reliable and the safest.

Between 1914 and 1918 Cunard Line built its European headquarters in Liverpool. The grand neo-Classical Cunard Building was to be the third of Liverpool's 'Three Graces'. The headquarters were used by Cunard until the 1960s.

The prosperous company eventually absorbed Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd

WWI The company lost thirteen of its twenty-six ships, including Lusitania, which was torpedoed in 1915. Carmania fought a notable action as an armed merchant cruiser and other vessels were used as transports, hospital ships, armed cruisers and a seaplane carrier.

After the war the fleet was rebuilt and included the ex-German liner RMS Berengaria (formerly Imperator).

1919 The express service was moved from Liverpool to Southampton

1933 The Cunard White Star company was formed with the agreement of HM Treasury to absorb the assets of the Cunard Steamship Co and the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co[2]

1934 merged with their principal competitor, White Star Line. The company was then known as Cunard White Star Line.

Two large liners, RMS Queen Mary (1936) and RMS Queen Elizabeth (1940) were built with government help. Both played vital roles as troopships in the Second World War.

1934-46 Percy Elly Bates was the Chairman.

1950 The Cunard White Star Line was renamed Cunard Line .

See Cunard Line: Ships and read its history summarised in The Engineer 1893/03/03.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. The Times Aug. 27, 1935
  • [1] National Archives