Scope and Content

Records relating to Coppack Bros and Co., c.18th century - c.2007, including: Deeds, minutes and business papers, 1865-1949; Log and cargo books of individual ships, 1882-1970; Company and ship accounts, 1850-1973; Insurance records, 1883-1971; Correspondence, 1877-1989; Plans and charts, 1855-1968; Photographs and paintings, 1880-1963; Coppack family, estate, and personal papers, 1849-c.2007; Connah's Quay church, masonic and friendly society records, 1862-1954; Pilotage records, 1938-1973; Printed material, including publications, directories and reference books, 18th century-1975; Dee Conservancy Board records and other material relating to the River Dee, 1902-1960; A E Reney Connah's Quay Joiner and Builder, Records, 1884-1956; and Port of Chester Sanitary Authority Records, 1946-74.

Between 1940 and 1960 there is an almost continuous run of business correspondence. In addition a small number of miscellaneous estate accounts, letters and papers arise from property in Connah's Quay owned by Coppacks, both as householders and landlords.

Administrative / Biographical History

This ship-owning and chandlery business began as John Coppack, shipbroker, Connah's Quay, when Captain John Coppack opened an office in the front parlour of his house in Chapel Street, Connah's Quay, in 1860. Up to that time he had been captain of the 'Beatrice', taking coal and cargoes of bricks to Spain and returning with iron-ore.

At first the firm used chartered ships, but the business prospered rapidly and the brig 'Gomersall' was bought. John Coppack's first new ship, the 'Hannah Coppack', was completed in 1861. He captained this ship himself for a few years and then retired ashore to manage his business. In 1875, with Captain Samuel Vickers joining as partner, the firm became known as Messrs. Coppack and Vickers. It remained a family concern, with several changes in name. It became Coppack, Carter and Co. from 1883, when H.C. Carter joined the firm, until 1892 when it returned to the original name of John Coppack. From 1898 the firm became Coppack Bros. and Co., and remained so except for a period between 1910 and 1924 when the founder's son was in charge and the firm was called Thomas Coppack and Co.

Ships associated with Coppacks in the early years of the firm included the sailing ships 'Florence Muspratt' and 'Princess of Thule', the latter coming under Coppacks' control in 1881. In the same year the single screw tug 'Albert' was bought following the success experienced with paddle tug 'Fire King', used to tow vessels out of the Dee. Besides the nucleus of ships owned by the firm, Coppacks managed vessels for other owners, especially T. Ashburner of Barrow, J.C. Edwards (the Ruabon brickmakers), and Samuel Coppack, a Chester merchant. Although Coppacks was principally a coasting shipping concern, it was well known for its links with the French vegetable trade, delivering to the English market during the early summer months of each year.

The start of the twentieth century saw the change from sailing ships such as 'Whitriggs', 'Lizzie May' and 'Not Forgot' to those powered by steam. During the second quarter of the twentieth century, Coppack Bros. often had ten or more ships. 'Bolham', 'Elidir', 'Farfield', 'Hove', 'Normanby Hall', 'Santa Rosa', 'Trevor' and 'Watergate' were some of the important ships during this period.

There was also a change in the nature of their business. Before the 1950s, they had direct control over their trading operations, employing the captains and crews of the various ships. After this time, they increasingly let the trading part of the business be handled by other shipping firms, and concentrated on the shipbroking and chandlery side. After the Second World War there was a steady decline in the coastal trade, so that by the 1960s the Company was left with only two motor vessels, the 'Indorita' and 'Normanby Hall'. The diminishing importance of Connah's Quay as a port accelerated this process.

The fact that Coppack Bros. survived so long was no small achievement. For example, between 1927 and 1934 the firm lost four ships, 'Scotsman', 'Mourne', 'Santa Rosa' and 'Rosabelle' as the result of collision and other accidents at sea. The firm is unique and important in that it was until late the only private firm of coasting shipowners on the North Wales coast still operating, and must have been one of the oldest established coasting businesses in the British Isles.

The firm took an obvious interest in various Dee navigation schemes and several partners from the beginning of the twentieth century played an active role as conservators and members of committees of the Dee Conservancy Board (in particular, Messrs. J.W. and Thomas Coppack during the 1930s). As a result, there are a number of minutes, reports, accounts and papers of the Board found in this collection.

The records during the Second World War period provide some valuable documentation on the way in which the conflict affected shipping firms. The 'Duurswold' was one Dutch ship loaned to Coppack Bros. in 1943 and returned to its original owners after the war. Loss sustained by the firm is illustrated in one case by insurance papers and correspondence concerning damage suffered by S/S 'Farfield' from enemy aircraft in 1941. Some members of the Coppack family made a personal contribution to the war effort in the writing and arrangement of patriotic song and verse.

The collection adds considerably to Flintshire Record Office's holdings of records relating to shipping firms on the North Flintshire coast and shipping in the Dee Estuary. It provides valuable source material on an industry and way of life which has almost disappeared in this country.

Coppack Bros. ceased to operate as a shipping firm in 1971, and as a ship's chandler's business in 1977.


Arranged into the following: Deeds, minutes and business papers; Log and cargo books; Accounts; Insurance; Correspondence; Plans; Photographs and paintings; Miscellaneous shipping; Family and personal; Church, masonic and friendly society; Miscellaneous; A E Reney, Coannah's Quay Joiner and Builder; Pilotage; and Chester Port Sanitary Authority.

Conditions Governing Access

Data Protection Restrictions will apply to items containing personal and/or sensitive information as defined by the Act.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Mr T. J. and Miss J. Coppack, Coppack Bros and Co., Dock Road, Connah's Quay, 1976; additional deposits, 1977, 1987, 1991.


Please order documents using the alternative reference number (where provided).

Compiled by Rhys Jones for the ANW project. The following source was used in the compilation of this description: Flintshire Record Office, Coppack MSS catalogue; D/CK/ADDNL catalogue.

Other Finding Aids

Hard copies of the catalogue are available at Flintshire Record Office, National Library of Wales and the National Register of Archives. Catalogue is searchable online at:

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Rhys Jones for the ANW project. The following source was used in the compilation of this description: Flintshire Record Office, Coppack MSS catalogue; D/CK/ADDNL catalogue.

This catalogue (Finding numbers D/CK/954 onwards) was produced with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives and from Welsh Assembly Government as part of the Archives and Records Council Wales cataloguing project, ‘Powering the World: Looking at Welsh Industry through Archives’

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright regulations apply

Usual Copyright Restrictions Apply.

Appraisal Information

All records have been retained.

Custodial History

Most of the nineteenth century records of the firm were lost when the Flintshire Fire Service took over their premises during the bombing of Liverpool in 1940. The collection now deposited (initially by Mr. T.J. and Miss J. Coppack) consists of log, cargo and account books, bills, certificates, correspondence, and papers relating to shipping and ship chandlery.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

Other records of Coppack Bros and Co. (which include log, cargo and account books, certificates and papers of M/S 'Fleurita', S/S 'Farfield' and S/S 'Elidir') from two earlier deposits have been catalogued as D/DM/490.

Geographical Names