Records of Ellerman Lines Ltd, shipowners, London, England and Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Minutes 1901-1922;
  • Share registers 1901-1935;
  • Share allotment book [c1900s];
  • Financial records 1938-1981;
  • Voyage records 1936-1958;
  • Sailings books 1928-1947;
  • Correspondence 1954-1959;
  • Presscuttings and publicity materials 1929-1985;
  • Company history 1970s;
  • Route maps, undated;
  • Cabin plans and maps 1956-1973;
  • Photographs, posters and postcards 1839-1970s;
  • Crew photographs 1891-1970s;
  • Publicity materials 1870s-1980s;
  • On Shore and Afloat magazine 1968-1978.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1892  John Reeves Ellerman, Christopher Furness and Henry O'Hagan incorporated  Frederick Leyland & Co Ltd, shipowners, Liverpool, England, with a capital of £800,000 to buy a fleet of 22 vessels from the executors of Frederick Leyland, formerly head of  Frederick Leyland & Co. Initially, John Reeves Ellerman was the managing director and Christopher Furness was the chairman of the new company, but by 1893  John Reeves Ellerman had taken over the position of chairman. In  1900,  the company acquired a further 20 ships from the  West India & Pacific SS Co Ltd and was reorganised as  Frederick Leyland (1900) Ltd with a capital of £2,800,000. A year later, however, J Pierpoint Morgan of the International Marine Mercantile Company, USA, purchased the company, although John Reeves Ellerman remained the chairman. At the time of this deal, John Reeves Ellerman also retained ownership of around 20 ships and acquired the  Papayanni Steamship Co Ltd, shipowners, Liverpool, England, along with 8 of their ships. Ellerman then formed the  London, Liverpool & Ocean Shipping Company Ltd. This company's head office was located in Moorgate, London, and its directors were John Reeves Ellerman (chairman), M W Mattinson and Val Prinsep.

In 1901 , the London, Liverpool & Ocean Shipping Company Ltd acquired 50 percent of  George Smith & Sons'  City Line Ltd, Glasgow, and 50 percent of the  Hall Line Ltd and increased its capital, changing its name to  Ellerman Lines Ltd at the beginning of 1902  with head offices in Liverpool and Glasgow and another office in London.

In 1908 , the company acquired  Bucknall Steamship Lines Ltd who operated services between the United Kingdom, South Africa, the near East and North America. The acquisitions of these companies gave the Ellerman group of companies a dominating position in the Mediterranean and Near East. By 1914, the Ellerman group consisted of the following companies:  Ellerman City Line Ltd,  Ellerman & Bucknall (Steamships) Co Ltd,  Ellerman & Papayanni Lines Ltd, and  Hall Line Ltd.

The outbreak of the 1914-1918 World War saw the Government requisition a large number of the Ellerman fleet for use as troop carriers, munitions carriers, or for conversion into war ships. The Ellerman group of companies continued to operate a skeletal service with the ships it had left. After the war, the immediate aim of the company was to secure sufficient tonnage to restore a level of service comparable to the company's old standards which lead to the purchase of several German liners as well as new tonnage being ordered. The passenger services to Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Far East were soon re-established and the network of cargo services restored.

By 1939, the Ellerman group of companies owned 105 ships capable of carrying a combined 920,000 tons making Ellerman's one of the biggest fleets in the world. They had 4 classes of ship: cargo ships with space for a considerable number of passengers; cargo ships with limited passenger accommodation; pure cargo ships; and short sea traders for the Mediterranean and Iberian services.

Again, many ships were requisitioned for Government service during the 1939-1945 World War while a number of ships were retained to continue as cargo vessels bringing supplies to the United Kingdom and government departments. Forty-one ships were sunk by submarines, seven by air attacks, three by mines and one by surface raider. In total, 60 ships of the Ellerman Group were lost out of its fleet of 105.

Following the war, a new building programme was undertaken, with the City of Bristol being the first new ship. A new policy was implemented of building fast steam cargo liners that held no more than 12 passengers who travelled in style and comfort with similar standards for crew accommodation. The company concentrated on re-establishing their world wide trade routes and purchased from the Government 12 cargo ships which they had managed during the war. By 1952, the company had 25 of these new style 12-passenger ships and had restored the bulk of their pre-war services with a total of 45 new vessels and a further 14 for the Portuguese trade and Mediterranean services. By 1953, the fleet had a total of 94 ships with a carry capacity of 900,000 tons.

In 2002, Ellerman Lines Ltd was a dormant company.

Sources: UGD 131/1/60/1/5 The Journal of Commerce: Ellerman Line Number(January 1953) and UGD 131/1/60/1/2 Ellerman brochure (c1948)


This material is arranged into series as shown in the scope and content. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Gift : P&O Containers : London: 1992 : ACCN155*, 159*, 160*

Indefinite loan : 6 February 1992 : ACCN157*

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)3480) and London (NRA17571)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

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

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

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

Custodial History



None expected


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original

Revised by Emma Yan, Assistant Archivist (Cataloguing), 29 February 2008. Amended by Sam Maddra, Assistant Archivist (cataloguing), 25 August 2014.