Records of William Denny and Brothers Ltd.

Scope and Content

This collection contains records produced by and relating to William Denny and Brothers Ltd. including: staff records; visitor records; productions records; memorabilia and notebooks.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Denny and Brothers Ltd started in a small shipyard on the north bank of the River Leven in 1844, and grew to become one of the most important shipbuilding firms in the country. The pioneering use of steel in shipbuilding, the building of the first turbine passenger steamer, the use of progressive trials for ships, and the design and construction of one of the first helicopters to fly, are just some of the notable achievements of the Dumbarton firm.

The sons of William Denny (1779-1833) established the company after their father's death, first in a small yard known as Kirk Yard, on the banks of the River Leven, before leasing their father's old premises at Wood Yard.

The firm built large refrigerated steamers for New Zealand and Spanish companies. In 1905 the yard began to reposition itself with an eye on the Admiralty market. It was successful in tendering for a number of torpedo boats, destroyers, submarines and river hospital ships along with 150 fighter aircraft. By 1914 the firm were shipbuilders of steamships of every type up to the largest dimensions. The shipyard was capable of producing about 45,000 tons of shipping per annum represented by 1001 vessels of all classes, from ocean liners to yachts. Vessels were built for most of the leading British shipowning firms and companies and for most foreign countries and British colonies.

After the Second World War the yard stopped making shallow-draft river craft. It also reduced the number of berths down to five. The work now consisted of deep sea merchant ships, short sea ferries, excursion craft, Scottish fishery protection cruisers and a frigate. From 1947 to 1961 the yard made ten large ferries in response to the nationalisation of the railway system. Other ferries were made for the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands along with other companies in and around the UK.

The yard was modernised in 1959 but remained unable to compete for bulk carrier orders. William Denny & Company went into voluntary liquidation in 1963.

Access Information

This collection is open to use. To view the collection, please contact the archivist to arrange a visit.

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue is available on our website. To view the catalogue, please click here: Records of William Denny and Brothers Ltd.

Related Material

GB 248 UGD 003: Records of William Denny & Brothers Ltd (held by University of Glasgow Archives)
GB 248 UGD 191/18: Records of William Denny & Co (held by University of Glasgow Archives)

Geographical Names