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British Industrial History

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Money Wigram and Sons

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Money Wigram and Sons, shipbuilders and shipping owners, of Blackwall

By 1813 Robert Wigram owned half of Wigram and Green of Blackwall Shipyard. His sons Money Wigram and Loftus Wigram owned a quarter and George Green, the remaining quarter.

1819 Robert Wigram retired and sold his half to the other partners.

1821 Wigram and Green built the first of many small steam vessels in the Blackwall Yard. They continued to do so for concerns like the General Steam Navigation Co.

1825 Launch of the new East India ship Abercrombie Robinson (named in honour of the Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors) of between 1,300 and 1,400 tons at Wigram and Green's yard at Blackwall. Her sister ship the Edinburgh had been launched the previous week. [1]

With the end of the East India Company shipping monopoly in sight in 1834, the families diversified into ship-owning, separately and as partners. George Green’s first ship was the Sir Edward Paget in 1824 and he also became involved in building and operating South Sea whalers from 1829.

1829 Richard Green became a partner in the firm which was renamed Green, Wigram and Green.

1832 Money Wigram built the first ship for his own account for trade to Australia. The Green family followed suit and began to establish a larger fleet of ships.

1832 Green, Wigram and Green of Blackwall employed from 500 to 1,000 men [2]

After 1834 an increasing number of ships were built for both families at Blackwall and elsewhere.

1836 Wigram and Green of Blackwall launched the Countess of Lonsdale of 700 tons. Owned by the General Steam Navigation Co. [3]

1837 Wigram and Green of Blackwall launched the Madagascar of 900 tons [4]

Between 1837 and 1862 one or more ships were built annually for the firm and they lost only four in that period.

1839 Wigram and Green launched the East Indiaman Owen Glendower of 1,000 tons [5]

1839 Wigram and Green held trials of the Vernon, the first East Indiaman fitted with a steam engine, an experiment with auxiliary paddle power. The 30 hp engine was by Leaward and Co [6]

1843 the shipbuilding partnership of Wigram and Green expired - the shipyard was divided down the middle. Money, Wigram & Sons retained the western half and the Greens the eastern half, later becoming R. and H. Green and Co.

They began to make Australian voyages in the late 1840s and established a monthly service after the discovery of gold in Port Victoria in 1852. By about 1860 they had a fleet of 30 ships.

1856 M. Wigram Esq, shipbuilder of Blackwall, subscribed £50 to the Smith Testimonial Fund, commemorating the work of F. P. Smith in promoting the screw propeller.

1857 Money Wigram's business continued to thrive until the Green family formed Orient Steam Navigation Co in 1878 and quickly dominated the Australian trade.

1876 Wigram and Son built its last iron ship in its yard

1877 Wigram's yard was bought by the Midland Railway and developed as a coal dock, which survived until the 1950s. This was known as Poplar Dock

Money Wigram's shipping business steadily declined until its last ship was sold in 1894.

1894 Allan Hughes (who founded The Meteor Steam Navigation Company in London in 1892) purchased the assets goodwill and flag of Money Wigram & Sons. The company name was changed to King Steam Navigation to match the names of its first ships, Celtic King and Maori King.

1895 The name was changed again to the Federal Steam Navigation Co Ltd, which became one of Britain’s most illustrious shipping companies.

By 1895, Thames based shipbuilders were no longer viable due to their distance from coal, iron and steel supplies.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Morning Post, Tuesday, November 15, 1825
  2. The Morning Chronicle, Wednesday, October 17, 1832
  3. The Blackburn Standard, Wednesday, August 10, 1836
  4. The Morning Post, Monday, May 22, 1837
  5. The Standard (London, England), Wednesday, March 20, 1839
  6. The Morning Post, Tuesday, September 10, 1839