Records of Anchor Line Ltd, shipping company, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Formation papers 1935
  • Board papers 1894-1970
  • Administration files 1935-1977
  • Shareholding papers 1935-1965
  • Personnel papers 1861-1967
  • Pensions 1944-1966
  • War service 1900-1948
  • Newspaper cuttings 1831-1967
  • Fleet particulars 1856-1972
  • Official registers 1854-1977
  • Ship files 1937-1970
  • Ships' logs 1870-1961
  • Plans 1904-1948
  • Voyage particulars 1937-1967
  • Pilotage records 1962-1979
  • Accident report 1921
  • Bills of Lading 1881-1934
  • Commercial device and House Flag 1881
  • Invitation cards 1956-1959
  • Christmas cards 1929
  • Advertising scrapbooks 1934-1965
  • Advertising boards 1871-1939
  • Brochures and leaflets 1882-1965
  • Embarkation papers 1963
  • Maps and track cards 1888-1962
  • Passenger lists 1893-1965
  • Passage tickets 1866-1955
  • Menus and wine lists 1886-1975
  • Programmes 1932-1965
  • Promotional items 1950-1978
  • Promotional items for other companies 1935-1936
  • Publications 1872-1968
  • Historical files 1856-1972
  • Shipping conferences 1887-1975
  • Photographs of vessels 1839-1986
  • Photographs of cruises 1928-1939
  • Photographs of personnel 1922-1942
  • Photographs of offices 1900-1951
  • Photographs of events 1938-c.1970
  • Posters 1914-1950s
  • Artefacts 1942
  • Blanche for payment of one penny for properties of Thomas Dedingston 1577

Administrative / Biographical History

The beginnings of Anchor Line Ltd can be seen in 1838  when two brothers, Nicol and Robert Handyside, established themselves in Glasgow, Scotland, as shipbrokers and merchants. They used chartered tonnage to trade with the Baltic and Russia. At that time Nicol was the Russian Consul in Glasgow. The business operated under the name N & R Handyside & Co, and in 1852  the name Anchor Line was used by them for the first time, but only as a by-line in an advertisement. Nevertheless, it was an indication of the intention of the Handysides to branch out into ship-owning on their own account. In the same year Thomas Henderson joined the business. He was one of four brothers from Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland, all master mariners. He had retired from the sea and had an ambition to establish steamship routes from the river Clyde to Canada and the USA. The business bought its first ship from the builders in 1854. In June 1855, Thomas Henderson became a full partner and the firm was renamed Handysides & Henderson. In 1856  , one of the company's clippers was converted to steam propulsion and sailed to New York, realising Thomas Henderson's dream by opening the Atlantic service for the Anchor Line of steam packets, with Handysides & Henderson as managing owners. There was an interruption to the service for about two years from 1857 after the converted clipper was lost and two ships were chartered to take troops to India to quell the Indian Mutiny. Also in 1857, John Henderson, another of the brothers, joined Handysides & Henderson, while the other two, David and William, founded the Finnieston Steamship Works Co, Finneston, Glagsow, intending only to construct steam engines for converting sail to steam and for fitting to hulls built by other yards. This firm became D & W Henderson in when shipbuilding commenced. In 1859, John Henderson was enrolled as a partner in Handysides & Henderson. The only rivals in the Glasgow to New York trade wound up, and the transatlantic service resumed with two ships, a third ship being added in 1860. In the early 1850s N & R Handyside & Co had begun managing the ships of the Glasgow & Lisbon Steam Packet Co. That company went out of business in 1863, and the trade was taken over by the Anchor Line of Peninsular & Mediterranean Steam Packets. At the end of 1863, Nicol Handyside retired and the name of the firm became Handyside & Henderson. In 1865  , the Anchor Line opened its own office in New York under the name Henderson Brothers, and sold tickets through more than three thousand ticket agencies throughout North America. An office was also opened in Londonderry, Ireland. In 1869  , Henderson Brothers opened offices at Liverpool, England, and Dundee, Scotland. A service from Naples, Italy, to New York begun. In November 1869, the Suez Canal opened and this made India as important to the Anchor Line as America now that the Far East was 4,000 miles closer. An Anchor vessel made the first British merchant ship journey, southbound through the canal, on the day following the opening. In 1872, the Anchor Line and D & W Henderson jointly bought the shipyard of Tod & MacGregor, Meadowside, Partick, Glasgow, to build the hulls into which the engines from D & W Henderson's Finnieston works could be fitted. The Handyside connection was severed in 1873 with the retirement of Robert, and the Anchor Line partnership consisted solely of the Henderson brothers. They opened a Manchester office in 1882. During the 1890s, all four Henderson brothers died. The firm drifted due to the lack of direction, and lost ground. In 1899, the name Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd came into being by the formation of a limited liability company. The Tod & MacGregor and D & W Henderson interests were sold off. The Cunard Steamship Co Ltd bought the whole of the Ordinary shares of the Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd in 1911. An interchange of directors took place at Board level, and the livery was changed to match Cunard's, but there was no change in the management of Anchor Line. In 1912 Messrs T & J Brocklebank, a company based in Liverpool, amalgamated their Calcutta service with the Anchor Line's, thereafter running under the title the Anchor-Brocklebank Line. In 1914 the company owned 13 ships, 7 of which were destroyed in the war. In 1916 a joint venture was set up by Anchor Line and Donaldson Brothers Ltd, another British shipping company, whereby Anchor Donaldson Ltd was incorporated to serve the Clyde - Canada route. In May 1935, Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd went into liquidation as a result of world-wide trade depression and immigration restrictions imposed by the USA . Control passed to Runciman (London) Ltd, and the company was incorporated anew as Anchor Line (1935) Ltd with Lord Runciman as chairman. The Brocklebank and Donaldson Lines bought themselves out of the new organisation and so Anchor-Donaldson and Anchor-Brocklebank ceased to exist. Cunard also had no link with the new company. Anchor Line (1935) Ltd concentrated on New York and Indian services. By 1937 the company name had been changed again to Anchor Line Ltd, although it was still controlled by Runciman (London) Ltd. At the outbreak of World War II, Anchor Line (1935) Ltd had nine ships and one on the stocks. Altogether six of these ten ships were lost. In 1949, a controlling interest was taken by the United Molasses Company and by 1953 Anchor Line Ltd was their wholly owned subsidiary. Runciman (London) Ltd were retained as managers. In 1960, Anchor Line Ltd and the Cunard Steamship Co Ltd entered an agreement to provide a joint fortnightly London - Le Havre - Glasgow - USA service. In 1965  , Moor Line Ltd of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England (managed by Walter Runciman & Co Ltd) acquired Anchor Line Ltd from the United Molasses Co. Viscount Runciman was chairman of both Moor Line Ltd and Anchor Line Ltd. In 1966 Moor Line Ltd purchased the managing company Walter Runciman & Co Ltd and decided to move their administrative offices from Newcastle-on-Tyne, England to Glasgow, Scotland and have the management of the two companies, Moor Line Ltd and Anchor Line Ltd, under one roof. In 1968, Moor Line Ltd changed its name to Walter Runciman & Co Ltd and transferred the ownership of the entire fleet to Anchor Line Ship Management Ltd, a newly created company. Runciman Shipping Ltd was formed for the day-to-day management of all the vessels. In that year, Anchor Line Ltd gave up the Glasgow - USA trade, but became agents for Cunard Brocklebank Ltd, handling all Atlantic Container Line traffic from Scotland and providing ancillary shore services for containers. The base was at Braeside, Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland. The Runciman Group expanded again in 1969  with the acquisition of the Currie Line Ltd , of Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland and in 1972  Anchor Line Ltd acquired George Gibson & Co Ltd , also of Leith. In 1976, the Anchor Line Company Ltd structure was recast. It retained ownership of the vessels and had responsibility for shipping policy. There were five operating Divisions: Anchor Line Eastern Services Ltd (concerned with Eastern commercial activities); Anchor Line Ship Management Ltd (handling the bulk carriers and any managed vessels); Currie Line Ltd (concerned with European services, mainly with chartered tonnage, warehousing and road haulage); George Gibson & Co Ltd (concerned with the gas tanker fleet); Runciman Shipping Ltd (dealing with the administration). Anchor Line Eastern Services Ltd, Anchor Line Ship Management Ltd and George Gibson & Co Ltd were all active in 2005.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposit : Mr Brian Newman, Newcastle University : 1991 : ACCN 00142

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Digital file level list available in searchroom

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Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Archivist.

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History



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Related Material

Glasgow University Archive Services: GB 0248 UGD 255/02, Records of Walter Runciman & Co Ltd; UGD 255/03, Records of Moor Line Ltd; UGD 255/04, Records of The Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet Co Ltd; UGD 255/05, Records of Currie Line Ltd; UGD 255/06, Records of The Isaac Line; and UGD 255/07, Records of George Gibson & Co Ltd.

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Additional Information

Fonds level description compiled by Vikki Laidlaw, Hub Project Assistant, 26 August 2005.