Archives of Ellerman's Wilson Line

Scope and Content

The survival rate for these records is quite patchy, particularly for the nineteenth century. Much material is thought to have been destroyed during the heavy bombing of Hull and its docks during the Second World War, with the area around Commercial Road/Railway Dock, where the latter-day EWL was based, being particularly badly hit. Also, as one might expect, many more records were both kept, and therefore survived, after the firm's reconstitution in 1891. Indeed, there are no corporate and ownership records before that date, whereas registers of directors, share, debenture and mortgage registers, and general and directors' minute books abound from that time until the mid-1960s, with some gaps. There are also one or two interesting files relating to the acquisition of the Company by Sir John Reeves Ellerman, and the subsequent change of name to Ellerman's Wilson Line.

The survival rate for accounting and financial records has been quite good. There are ledgers from the time of the establishment of the initial Beckington/Wilson partnership in 1825 (with a gap for the 1837-52 period), and private ledgers, journals, balance books and other annual accounts from the late 19th century. There is a complete run of annual financial statements and reports for the 1904-64 period, with detailed reports for 1906-28. Investment ledgers cover the years 1920-72, whilst there are some salary and pension records from the 1920s into the late 1940s. Miscellaneous accounting records include a ledger from the Leeds Office, 1888-1961, and the account book of David Wilson, 1890.

Details of the Company's agreements with others have survived in large numbers from the late nineteenth century onwards. Such agreements have been assembled by type: thus there are categories corresponding to agencies, labour/wages, pooling, property, utilities, vessels and miscellaneous. The pooling and trade arrangements are of especial interest, particularly in relation to northern European, the Baltic and Russian trade. Thus there are agreements with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company, Det Forenede Dampskibs Selskab of Copenhagen, and the Northern Steamship Company of St Petersburg from before the First World War, along with post-war agreements with Soviet companies. The latter include an agreement of 26 June 1925 with the Arcos Steamship Co. Ltd of London as agents for the State Mercantile Fleet of the USSR (Sovtorgflot Moscow) whereby EWL undertook to operate a service of three refrigerated ships to transport butter and other perishables between Leningrad and Hull.

The property agreements mostly concern the letting of buildings, offices, huts, and so on, mainly near the docks in Hull, but also in Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, and elsewhere, often with useful plans. A variety of utility or service agreements have also survived, perhaps the most interesting relating to early telegraphic and telephone installations in Hull from April 1871. The great variety of miscellaneous agreements include such things as individual contracts for one-off shipments, one example being a contract with Hellyer Brothers of Hull for the carriage of frozen fish from the Davis Strait to Hull on the 'Borodino' in June 1932.

Information relating to vessels comes in several forms. Firstly, there are numerous bills of sale and mortgage agreements. The 200 or so bills of sale for the 1865-1937 period include the seven vessels purchased from Brownlow, Marsdin & Company between 1877 and 1879, and twelve lighters purchased from the Hull Keel & Lighter Company in 1923. There are many specifications and contracts for new vessels, including those built by Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Hull (with a list of all vessels built between 1855 and 1925). There are also files relating to new vessels ordered by Sir John Ellerman (31 in all) during 1917-18 and contracts placed by the Company after World War II (23 in all) between 1945 and 1954. A series of four ships' registry books cover the period 1860 to 1944, and contain copies of certificates of British registry, with technical details (including subsequent alterations) and plans.

There are also records relating to the operation and running of vessels. These include rules and regulations, such as 'Regulations to be observed by the Commanders and Officers of Wilson Line ships' dating from January 1897. There are, too, some log and note books, the most significant being a series of some 25 note books by Capt W. Colbeck between 1913 and 1922 plus his log books whilst in command of various ships in the Baltic and Mediterranean between April 1906 and September 1912. Other miscellaneous items include, for example, files detailing the management of ships belonging to other companies during the Second World War, such as the 'Tweedsmuir Park' (of the Park Steamship Company of Montreal) between 1943 and 1946.

The correspondence and other subject files are voluminous. Probably the most important are those relating to Sir John Ellerman, from shortly before his takeover of the firm until his death in 1933. These contain literally thousands of letters and copy letters between Ellerman and his staff in Hull, and touching on almost every conceivable topic. In stark contrast, there are hardly any letters subsequently with the second Sir John Ellerman, and the correspondence files tail off dramatically after 1933. Correspondence thereafter is arranged chiefly by subject, with all aspects of EWL's operations covered, including the various trades, and work undertaken for the Ministry of War Transport during World War Two. There are also many artificial files containing useful background information relating to aspects of the firm's history, including biographical material, advertising, services (India, Norway, Leningrad), and associated lines (such as Bailey & Leetham). There is a particularly interesting file covering the activities of the EWL Detective Department at Hull during World War Two.

The surviving personnel records cover masters and officers only, with some cadet records for the period 1917-73. Very little has survived before 1865, with particulars of just three captains before that date. However, a series of bound volumes contain details of service careers covering the period between 1865 and 1963, whilst there are also patchy records of pensions, lists of officers on individual ships, and so on, for various periods. There is a series of over 700 detailed individual personnel record books from the late 19th century to the mid-1960s.

Labour relations are patchily covered. For example, there are papers relating to the fitting up of a shed on Albert Dock for use by policemen during the strike of June 1893, including communications with the Watch Committee. There is a file relating to the Shipping Clerical Staffs Guild (later the Shipping Guild), with a copy of its Rules, press cuttings, correspondence, memoranda and leaflets, etc., between May 1919 and February 1931. And there are also files covering the Docks dispute with the National Amalgamated Stevedores & Dockers Union (including daily reports of members working in Hull docks) in June and July 1955.

Survival of material relating to the private and financial affairs of leading members of the Wilson family and chief managers has been quite poor, with a few exceptions. There is a sizeable collection of papers regarding the administration of the estate of Thomas Wilson, the founder, with a copy of his will and codicils (June 1868 and February 1869), accounts, bank pass books, press cuttings and some correspondence. Few papers of Charles Henry and Arthur Wilson have survived. What little correspondence remains is to be found chiefly amongst the correspondence files of their chief manager during their final years, Oswald Sanderson, giving instructions and opinions (often at variance with each other) when away from Hull. Very little survives for the second Lord Nunburnholme or his brother, Guy, and cousins, Kenneth and Clive, even though Kenneth remained a director of EWL until his death in 1947. Indeed, the most significant and revealing, though fairly small, collection relates to Oswald Sanderson himself. This contains original and copy correspondence (about 150 items) concerning his initial contacts with Charles and Arthur Wilson, and his relations with the Wilsons during the period running up to the sale of the firm in November 1916. An interesting oddity here is some correspondence regarding his possible purchase of the island of Gigha, Argyll (with sale catalogue) between November 1922 and April 1923.

There are substantial twentieth century records covering, directly or indirectly, companies wholly or partly owned by TWSC and/or EWL, and also various associated bodies. Representation in the collection varies according to the degree of involvement/ownership, and location of the body concerned. Thus there are fairly full corporate records (articles of association, directors and general minute books, details of share ownership, etc.), and financial and other records for wholly owned subsidiaries, such as the various insurance concerns (EWL Insurance Limited, London & East Riding Marine Insurance Company Limited, and London & Kingston Marine Insurance Company Limited); the transport operations run by Key Warehousing & Transport Company Limited and McMasters (Haulage) Limited; and the printing operation, which eventually became Tranby Printers Limited (1965-70 only). There is considerably less material for partly owned or independently operated firms, such as Amos & Smith Limited, Antwerp Steamship Company, Associated Humber Lines, the Polish-British Steamship Company, the paint and finishings group Storry Smithson & Company Limited (including its numerous subsidiaries), the United Shipping Company Limited, and the Wilson's and North Eastern Railway Shipping Company Ltd. Also, there are one or two oddities, including a minute book of Maritime Transportation Limited (1944-1969) (formerly the Gulf of Suez Steamship Company Limited), which was an Ellerman company, but joined EWL in the reorganisation of 1973. Most of the records for these firms are fairly routine, but with some unusual items. The United Shipping Company collection, for instance, includes papers concerning the problems experienced in obtaining payment for several loads of bristles evacuated from Archangel to New York and London in the autumn of 1919 - with, in some cases, negotiations over debts for non-payment dragging on into the late 1920s. For those operations which either folded, or were totally subsumed within TWSC or EWL operations, very little has survived, good examples being Bailey & Leethams (where there are some financial papers, and fleet and other valuations), the Humber Keel and Lighter Company (papers for the 1897-1904 period only), and WFLL (including various agreements - to found the Line, and later to sell it).

Operations in New York are well represented, with records of EWL New York Incorporated from its establishment in 1921 until 1969, and substantial records covering the acquisition, rental, maintenance, and financing of piers at Castle Point and Hoboken, New Jersey, between 1883 and the early 1940s. There are some papers relating to the firm of Wilson & Co. in Gothenburg, but mainly concerning the deposition of securities with the Swedish government in relation to emigration agents at Stockholm between 1889 and 1892. And the Ellerman & Wilson Lines Agency Company Limited, Trieste is also represented, with correspondence and reports for the 1925-52 period.

Papers relating to other bodies with which the Company was associated include: the Humber Conservancy Board (with various committee papers and minutes between 1933 and 1957); the Humber Steam Ship Owners' Conference (minutes, 1919-1925); and Victoria Mansions Limited. The latter was founded in 1903 in Hull by the Wilson brothers as an independent hostel for up to 400 single working men, most of whom were dock workers. It survived until 1953, when it became a Salvation Army hostel. The surviving files contain monthly reports of lettings, receipts, wages and so on, between September 1926 and July 1953. There are also files relating to the Hull Port Emergency Committee between April 1936 and May 1946 which, interestingly, begin with a paper on the use of EWL steamers during the General Strike of 1926. A fascinating associated series of some 25 later port data files contain port statistics, plans and photographs for places such as Colchester, the Humber anchorage, Felixstowe, Goole, Grimsby, and, of course, and in great detail, Hull.

The remaining material is very wide-ranging, including, for example: a huge pedigree chart (some 12 feet wide) of the Wilson family (1792-1963); a list (marked 'Secret. Government Business') of orders placed for armaments and explosives in the United States, c.1914-15); copies of reports (by skippers and other survivors) regarding the sinking of vessels, many during World War One; rules for the use of Riga Floating Dock, 1898; a bundle of papers relating to land belonging to West Hull Liberal Club, 1811-1907 (given to it by Charles Wilson); and a notice concerning the theft of propellers from the 'Tasso' at Genoa in October 1915.

There is a large amount of printed and published material, chiefly comprising publicity and other information for the Wilson and other lines. This includes press cuttings and releases relating to Wilson Line activities and personalities, with special volumes covering the deaths and funerals of both Charles and Arthur Wilson, 1907-1909. One of the most interesting items here is a Wilson Line 'Handbook of Royal Mail, Passenger and Cargo Services', dating from 1893. This contains assorted information, including: a list of the Company's steamers with tonnages; maps showing service routes, together with a plan of Hull showing the location of the Wilson Line offices; a list of British and foreign shipping agents; and information about conditions of carriage. There follow details of services to Norway, Sweden (including Scandinavian tours), America (New York, Boston) and steamers to the River Plate 'to suit the trade'. The fares, too, are of interest: £10 single (victualling included) Hull-New York, and £18 return. Services to India (Bombay [Mumbai] and Karachi or Kurrachee) operated fortnightly via the Suez Canal, with first-class singles at £30 (£50 return). There were weekly services to St Petersburg and other Baltic ports (5 guineas single, £7 17s 6d return, with victualling 6s 6d a day extra). Other services operated to Australia (with the Anglo-Australian Steam Navigation Company Limited) and the Mediterranean. And in the home trades, services included Hull-Jersey 'during the Potatoe (sic) Season' at £1 first-class single and 30s return (victualling extra). Finally there is a distances table, a Hull tide table, and plans of saloons and state rooms of a number of Wilson vessels.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hull might be considered an unsuitable location for what at one time was the largest privately owned shipping company in the world, with its awkward 27 mile approach up the Humber from the North Sea. Nevertheless, here was founded the firm of Thomas Wilson Sons & Co. (TWSC), later Ellerman's Wilson Line (EWL), but known for most of its life and now remembered as the Wilson Line. Furthermore, the activities of this single company helped to make Hull Britain's third largest port by the beginning of the twentieth century. In March 1904 TWSC owned some 99 vessels, most of which had been built by the local firm of Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, which had itself been bought by TWSC shortly before.

Thomas Wilson, the founder of the firm, was born in Hull on 12 February 1792. He went to sea as a boy but then became a clerk with Whitaker, Wilkinson & Co., importers of Swedish iron ore, later becoming their commercial traveller in the Sheffield area. On 1 September 1814 he married Susannah John West and they eventually had 15 children. The story goes that, with a growing family, he asked his employers for a rise, was refused, and in 1820 chose to set up in business for himself, relying on various partners for the provision of capital. The first of these in 1822 was John Beckington, a merchant and iron importer from Newcastle. The firm of Beckington, Wilson & Co. started as ore importers based at Beckinton's house at 14 Salthouse Lane, Hull. In 1825 two new partners joined: Thomas Hudson, another Newcastle merchant, and John Hudson, a druggist, of Hull. This was the effective starting point for the shipping company, as it was their capital which enabled the purchase of a ship, the 'Thomas & Ann', a 51.5 ton single-masted schooner. This vessel plied the Gothenburg-Hull iron ore route very successfully until it was sold in 1831. A second vessel, the 'Swift', was added in 1830. Beckinton left the scene after 1834 and died about 1836. John Hudson's more prominent role was marked by the company being renamed Wilson, Hudson & Co., operating from Hudson's home at 31 Scale Lane.

In 1841 both the Hudsons withdrew from the firm and Wilson took his eldest son David (1815-93) as a partner in the renamed Thomas Wilson Son & Co. (becoming 'Sons' in about 1850 when Charles Henry and Arthur, the two youngest, joined). The firm now had 9 ships, operating mainly to the Baltic in the iron trade, but with interests also in timber and other goods and, from 1840, the mails for the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway. New technology was quickly adopted, including new steam vessels, and in 1843 the long association with C. and W. Earle began with the construction of the 'North Sea'. On 1 December in the same year John West Wilson was sent to Gothenburg in Sweden to found a Wilson agency, which was subsequently heavily involved in the emigration trade to North America. TWSC also became Hull agents for the North of Europe Steam Navigation Company, operating several of their steamers to Scandinavian ports. When this company went out of business in 1860 much of its trade passed to TWSC.

Expansion followed in the 1850s, with the spread of services to Stettin, Riga, and St Petersburg. When Thomas Wilson died on 21 June 1869 aged 77, his firm had over 20 ships. Its management was now in the hands of Charles (aged 36) and Arthur (33) Wilson. David, the eldest son, had effectively withdrawn from the operation in about 1867, although he remained a shareholder until his death in February 1893. Under the stewardship of the Wilson brothers the firm grew even faster. During the 1860s and 1870s routes were opened to the Adriatic (to offset the loss of the Stettin trade during the Franco-Prussian War), Sicily, the Black Sea and India. TWSC's entry into the Adriatic and Mediterranean trades also marked the first use of the suffix 'o' in naming their vessels, beginning with the 'Tasso' in about 1870. Services to North America were started in 1875 and were quite successful. A joint service, known as the Wilson-Hill Line, between London and New York was operated with the Hill (or Twin Screw) Line from 1886. This service was continued until September 1896 when another joint venture, the short-lived Wilson's & Furness-Leyland Line (WFLL) replaced it. TWSC sold its ships and interest in the WFLL London-New York route to the Atlantic Transport Line a few years later. Meanwhile TWSC's fleet grew apace. In 1876 there were 43 steamers. To place this in context, of the 41 shipping firms in Hull in 1878, only five had more than 6 ships each. Two years later the old Hull firm of Brownlow, Marsdin & Company, with 7 vessels, was bought, along with the goodwill of its services to Hamburg, Antwerp and Dunkirk. In 1895 there were 93 ships (including 4 tugs). In 1903 the Bailey & Leetham Line (founded 1854) was bought with its 23 ships (built between 1867 and 1900) and services to Lisbon, St Petersburg, Konigsberg, Copenhagen, Reval, Venice and other Mediterranean ports, at a price of £300,000. This was the high point of the Line, whose steamers had green hulls, and red funnels surmounted by a black band. The house flag was a pennant with white background and red ball.

In 1891 TWSC was registered as a limited liability concern, with nearly all the shares owned by Charles (the Chairman) and Arthur (his Deputy) Wilson. By this time both the brothers had made their mark in society as well as business. Charles Wilson (1833-1907) had married Florence Jane Helen Wellesley, daughter of Col. W.H.C. Wellesley, a descendant of the Duke of Wellington, in 1871. In 1878 he bought Warter Priory near Pocklington (with 300 acres) from Lord Muncaster. By the turn of the century he owned nearly 8000 acres, with an estate near Balmoral, a chalet in Nice, and a London home in Grosvenor Square. He was Liberal M.P. for Hull between 1874-1906, and was created Baron Nunburnholme of Kingston upon Hull in 1906. He died at Warter Priory on 27 October 1907, leaving an estate valued at nearly £1m, and three sons and four daughters.

He was succeeded as Chairman of TWSC by his younger brother, Arthur Wilson (1836-1909). Arthur, too, had established himself as an important society figure in the region. He bought land at Tranby near Hull and built a mansion, Tranby Croft, completed in 1876. He eventually owned some 3000 acres, was Master of the Holderness Hunt and Sheriff of Hull in 1888-89. The celebrated Baccarat Scandal and libel case occurred following alleged cheating by a member of the Prince of Wales' party whilst staying at Tranby Croft for the Doncaster St Leger races in September 1890. Wilson himself was untainted, however, becoming High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1891. He eventually died of cancer on 21 October 1909. He had married Mary Emma Smith of Leeds in July 1863, and left three sons.

Business continued to prosper in the latter years of Charles' and Arthur's reign. Regional offices were established in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham. The United Shipping Company, based in London, was formed in partnership with Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab of Copenhagen to operate joint services from London to St Petersburg, Riga and Copenhagen. And in 1906 TWSC joined with the North Eastern Railway Company to operate services from Hull to Hamburg, Antwerp, Ghent and Dunkirk via the Wilson's & North-Eastern Railway Shipping Company (WNERSC). But all was not well within the Wilson dynasty, for the sons of Charles and Arthur were disinclined to participate in active management. Oswald Sanderson (1863-1926), a distant relative by marriage, was effectively head-hunted from his position as Manager of Sanderson & Son of New York, which acted as agents for the Wilsons and others. He moved to Hull as General Manager in January 1901, and was soon elected to the Board of Directors, becoming Managing Director in August 1905.

After the death of 'Mr Arthur' in October 1909 the job of Chairman passed to his son, E. Kenneth Wilson, while Charles Henry Wellesley Wilson, 2nd Lord Nunburnholme, became Deputy Chairman. At the outbreak of the First World War there were still 92 vessels, of which 7 were operated by WNERSC. The reasons for the subsequent sudden decision to sell out to Sir John Reeves Ellerman have never been clear. Profits had recovered after an initial slump. Officially, it was said to be because of a shortage of suitable young men in the Wilson family. However, relations behind the scenes, particularly between Nunburnholme and Sanderson were very strained, and there were arguments from March 1916 onwards. It was only then that both Nunburnholme and Kenneth Wilson indicated their desire to get out of the business. Contacts, apparently initiated by Nunburnholme via Ernest Olivier, a shadowy go-between, were made with Ellerman, who was himself Hull-born, and a major shipowner, but with long-established interests in brewing, publishing and property. The deal was eventually concluded on 13th November 1916 - for a total of about £4.3m. Sanderson remained Managing Director.

Contrary to public promises made to the stunned people of Hull at the time, Ellerman promptly changed the name of the Company to Ellerman's Wilson Line (EWL) in January 1917. Things thereafter went from bad to worse. More vessels were lost, and then the Government took over the British mercantile marine for the rest of the War at comparatively low rates of charter hire. With enormously increased costs, particularly insurance, shipping companies made poor returns. As Sanderson wrote to one of his old colleagues, the Wilsons had sold at just the right time. Thus, although the acquisition of TWSC had made Ellerman the biggest shipowner in Britain with over 200 vessels, EWL alone lost 49 ships during the War.

Matters failed to improve thereafter, and by the end of 1922 Ellerman was asking his staff, including Sanderson, to take large cuts in salary. Sanderson's own position, and that of EWL, became increasingly uncomfortable. He explained the problem, and his proposed solution, in a letter to his son in New York, on 9 April 1925: the Wilson Line's activities were being severely constrained by Ellerman's other shipping operations so that, whereas previously there was healthy competition, EWL was now being directed to keep out of certain areas. Simultaneously, EWL's traditional concentration on Northern Europe and the Baltic had been badly hit by the Russian Revolution. Sanderson therefore proposed that he move his base to London to be at the heart of decision-making. Ellerman appears to have resisted this. Certainly, by the time of Sanderson's premature death aged 63 on Christmas Day, 1926, he was still based in Hull. Also, although attempts to find new outlets and restore old trades were made, these met with poor results. The Antwerp Steamship Company, for example, was taken over in October 1922, but remained dormant until July 1931. And the Polish-British Steamship Company, formed in partnership with the Polish Government in December 1928, made little headway against adverse trading conditions before 1939.

Ellerman died in July 1933, leaving a fortune estimated at between £37 and £40m. The second and last Baronet, also Sir John Reeves Ellerman, was then 23 and little known. His interests lay outside business, and he was a noted natural historian. He died after a heart attack in July 1973, leaving £52.3m, the largest fortune ever left in Britain at that time. Meanwhile, management of his companies was left entirely in the hands of others. In the case of EWL, these included H.S. Holden, J.W. Bayley, J.R. Fewlass and, lastly, Col. G.W. Bayley, who were successively Managing Directors and/or Chairmen, with Holden and J.W. Bayley also progressing to similar positions in Ellerman Lines itself.

World War II brought further heavy blows for EWL, with 26 of their 35 ships lost due to enemy action. A major post-war re-building programme eventually restored the fleet to some 26 vessels but EWL, in common with other British lines, was seriously affected by the growth of national shipping lines in newly independent countries such as India and Pakistan. By the early 1960s the remaining services to North America were abandoned as uneconomic. Attempts to employ new technology, including roll-on roll-off ferries and container ships, met with some success. However, by December 1972 although EWL still employed about 300 clerical staff in Hull, there were just three ships remaining. In that year the Ellerman Group was totally reorganised into three divisions by its new Chairman, D. Martin-Jenkins. Ellerman City Liners (the Shipping Division of Ellerman Lines Ltd) was based in London and included the Mediterranean trades formerly operated by EWL. The bulk of EWL became the Transport Division of Ellerman Lines Ltd, based at Hull. The third division, in London, comprised Ellerman's other travel and leisure interests. This reorganisation was not a success. Ellerman Lines, including what was left of EWL, was subsequently bought by Trafalgar House, and subsumed within the Cunard Steamship Company Ltd, which it also owned. Ellerman Holdings Ltd, established in 1982 as a private investment company to continue the group's brewing and leisure interests, was subsequently bought by Brent Walker Group PLC. The connection with Hull was effectively severed in 1981, and it was at that stage that the bulk of the Wilson Line archive was placed in Hull University Library, after a much smaller collection had been deposited in 1976.


U DEW/1 Accounts, 1825-1960

U DEW/2 Agreements for Pooling, 1903-1937

U DEW/3 Bills of Sale and Mortgages, 1862-1937

U DEW/4 Correspondence and Other Files, 1825-1973

U DEW/5 Instructions and Regulations, 1897-1947

U DEW/6 Log and Note Books, 1890-1966

U DEW/7 Personnel, 1817-1956

U DEW/8 Published Material, 1880-1972

U DEW/9 Specifications and Contracts, 1855-1964

U DEW/10 Vessels, 1851-1973

U DEW/11 Miscellaneous, 1792-1974

U DEW/12 Estate of Thomas Wilson (1792-1869), 1867-1930

U DEW2/1 Corporate and Share Records, 1863-1967

U DEW2/2 Minutes, 1891-1966

U DEW2/3 Accounts, 1885-1972

U DEW2/4 Agreements, 1867-1968

U DEW2/5 Correspondence and Other Files, 1895-1974

U DEW2/6 Personnel, 1889-1975

U DEW2/7 Specifications and Contracts, 1917-1954

U DEW2/8 Vessels, 1914-1973

U DEW2/9 Miscellaneous, 1867-1973

U DEW2/10 Grimsby Office Branch, 1898-1954

U DEW2/11 Charles Henry Wilson, 1st Baron Nunburnholme, 1874-1916

U DEW2/12 Charles Henry Wellesley Wilson, 2nd Baron Nunburnholme, 1907-1916

U DEW2/13 Arthur Wilson, 1908-1909

U DEW2/14 Oswald Sanderson, 1899-1927

U DEW2/15 Hubert Stanley Holden, 1920-1939

U DEW2/16 Amos & Smith Limited, 1908-1956

U DEW2/17 Antwerp Steamship Company (HH Poole Limited, Antwerp Quay Limited, John Harrison Line), 1915-1972

U DEW2/18 Associated Humber Lines, 1918-1972

U DEW2/19 Bailey & Leetham Line, 1896-1905

U DEW2/20 Burntisland Engineers & Fabrications Limited, 1973-1974

U DEW2/21 Ellerman & Wilson Lines Agency Company Limited, Trieste, 1925-1952

U DEW2/22 Ellerman's Wilson Line Insurance Limited, 1946-1970

U DEW2/23 Ellerman's Wilson Line, New York Incorporated, 1883-1969

U DEW2/24 Humber Conservancy Board, 1933-1957

U DEW2/25 Hull Keel and Lighter Company Limited, 1897-1908

U DEW2/26 Humber Steamship Owners' Conference, 1919-1925

U DEW2/27 Key Warehousing & Transport Company Limited, 1937-1971

U DEW2/28 London and East Riding Marine Insurance Company Limited, 1920-1970

U DEW2/29 London and Kingston Marine Re-Insurance Company Limited, 1920-1970

U DEW2/30 McMasters (Haulage) Limited, 1951-1969

U DEW2/31 Maritime Transportation Limited (formerly Gulf of Suez Steamship Company Limited), 1944-1969

U DEW2/32 Polish-British Steamship Company, 1929-1950

U DEW2/33 Port Emergency Committee, Hull, 1936-1965

U DEW2/34 Rob Caledon Shipbuilders Limited, 1964-1974

U DEW2/35 Storry Smithson & Company Limited (Hangers Paints Limited), 1929-1974

U DEW2/36 Tranby Printers Limited, 1965-1970

U DEW2/37 United Shipping Company Limited, 1905-1974

U DEW2/38 Victoria Mansions Limited, 1926-1954

U DEW2/39 Wilson & Co., Gothenburg, 1889-1918

U DEW2/40 Wilsons' & Furness-Leyland Line Limited, 1881-1903

U DEW2/41 Wilsons' & North Eastern Railway Shipping Company Limited, 1888-1962

U DEW2/42 Annual reports and accounts of Ellerman Lines Limited

Access Information

Some of the records in this collection contain sensitive personal information. In accordance with data protection legislation, records containing sensitive personal information are not available for public inspection for 75 years if the information relates to adults, or 100 years if the information relates to children. In some circumstances access may be granted for research purposes. To request access or for further information please contact

Access to all other material will be granted to any accredited reader.

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Business records subject guide

Custodial History

Deposited in May 1976 [DEW] and July 1981 [DEW2]. A small number of additional items were deposited in 2010.

Related Material

Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company [U DEA]

John Good & Sons Ltd. [U DGO]

Material relating to the Wilson Family [U DFW]

Other repositories:

Artefacts, photographs and other Wilson Line ephemera, Hull Maritime Museum [GB 0323]

Business correspondence and notebooks of Sir John Reeves Ellerman, 1911-1933, Glasgow University Archive Services [GB 0248]


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  • Credland, AG and M Thompson, 'The Wilson Line of Hull 1831-1981: the rise and fall of an empire' (Cherry Burton: Hutton Press, 1994)
  • Dyson, Brian, 'The Wilson Line', Business Archives, November 1992, pp.26-37
  • Dyson, Brian, 'The Wilson Line Archive', Paragon review, no.1, 1992, pp.4-7
  • Dyson, Brian, 'End of the Line', in David J Starkey and Alan G Jamieson (editors) 'Exploiting the sea: aspects of Britain's maritime economy since 1870' (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998)
  • Havers, Sir Michael, Edward Grayson and Peter Shankland, 'The Royal Baccarat scandal' (London: Kimber, 1977)
  • Jeremy, David J (editor), 'The dictionary of business biography' (London: Butterworth, 1984), volume 2, entry on Sir John Reeves Ellerman, pp.248 - 264
  • Taylor, James, 'Ellermans: a wealth of shipping' (London: Wilton House Gentry, 1976)