Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Russell and Co

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1912. Port Glasgow.

Russell and Co of Port Glasgow on the Clyde were ship builders, later to be known as Lithgows.

1870 (or 1873) Company founded, a partnership between Joseph Russell, Anderson Rodger and William Todd Lithgow. Leased the Bay yard

1878 The three partners built Falls of Clyde, a famous barque which is still on display today.

1879 Leased a second yard at Port Glasgow: Mid-Cartsdyke, which had been operated from 1874 to 1879 by J. E. Scott and prior to that (up to 1867) by Caird and Co.

1881 The company bought the six berth Kingston yard of Henry Murray and Co, which meant it could now start building large capacity sailing ships to carry bulk cargoes around the world.

The partners experimented with new technology. In 1886 they introduced a standard 3000 ton class of sailing vessel equipped with auxiliary engines and brace halyard winches.

1882-92 The yard standardised its designs which meant that they could build ships at a fast pace. 271 ships were built during this period and in 1890 the yard broke the world output record. The company also took shares in the ships with the shipowners, which helped to sell its ships.

1888 Largest producer on the Clyde for three years of 1885-7 inclusive. 15 vessels and 27,035 tons in their three yards in 1887.

1889 See 1889 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced. Two yards in Port Glasgow and one in Greenock have the highest output for the sixth year running.

1899 See 1899 Shipbuilding Statistics for detail of the tonnage produced

1891 The partnership broke up by mutual agreement. Rodger took the Bay yard (building under his own name A. Rodger and Co) and Lithgow took the Kingston and Cartsdyke (Greenock) yards still under the name Russell and Co, having been loaned some of the money for the buy-out by Russell. The men still retained a business relationship though mainly through financing and purchasing.

1900 Lithgow retained his Kingston yard and sold his Cartsdyke one to Grangemouth Dockyard Co. Lithgow's main product was steam tramps and the yard managed to turn a tidy profit. Throughout the early 1900s Lithgow’s yard also made tankers for a number of different companies. The yard also made over a dozen liners.

1901 Lithgow brought his elder son, James, into the business as an apprentice. Another son, Henry, eventually came into the company too.

Throughout the early 1900s, the yard also made tankers for a number of different companies, and also more than a dozen liners.

1908 William Lithgow died on 7th June 1908. James and Henry took over the running of the Kingston yard, and set about expanding the company by taking over neighbouring yards.

1911 the company's original yard, the Bay Yard, was acquired on the death of Anderson Rodger

WWI Output from the yards was enormous: 315,141 tons. However, the yard only ever completed one naval vessel, a fast patrol boat called P21.

1915 Acquired the yard of Robert Duncan and Co

1919 The company renamed itself Lithgows; the brothers changed the partnership to a private limited company.


  • The city of Dundee has an online collection of photographs of four- and three-masted ships built by Russell and Co. and photographed in Dundee docks in the late 19th century.

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