Records of William Simons & Co Ltd, ship and dredger builders, Renfrew, Scotland

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • Minute books 1901-1956
  • Ledgers 1901-1956
  • Financial papers 1931-1959
  • Board and administrative papers 1957-1963
  • Estimates and enquiries: working papers 1920-1960
  • Apprentice time books 1912-1933
  • Wages and salary records 1930-1963
  • Photographs 1867-1959
  • Plans Ship nos. 140-812 (not inclusive)

Administrative / Biographical History

William Simons started as a shipbuilding company in Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland in 1810  but after two years there, the company moved to Canada, setting up again in the same trade on the Isle Aux Noix near Montreal. Having left his brother, Peter, in Canada, the founder returned to Greenock, to the site of his original shipyard in 1818  , and operated there until 1826  , when the proposed construction of the Victoria Harbour brought about further relocation, this time to Whiteinch , Glasgow, Scotland. Here William Simons built his first steamship but wooden hulled brigs, barques and full-rigged ships continued to be the mainstay of the yard.

William Simons died in June 1839  and the firm was carried on by his eldest son, also named William, and another son on behalf of their father's trustees. At Whiteinch , the move to iron shipbuilding began in earnest so that by the late 1850s  , ship construction had become a science of working in metals.

Having made the change from wood to iron, William Simons jnr took Andrew Brown , a navel architect, into the partnership in 1860  . The same year saw the fourth and final change of location when the firm moved to Renfrew, Scotland, taking over the iron foundry of Fox, Henderson & Co and the shipyard of J W Hoby & Co .

Being now in a position to supply their own propelling machinery as well as hulls, passenger liners, cargo vessels, and river steamers were built as the normal run of production during the first 10 years at Renfrew . However, the increasing activity in world trade created the need for new and improved harbours and the firm developed and built the many differing types of dredger and hopper barge required becoming specialists in their production.

When William Simons, jnr retired due to failing health in 1886  , Andrew Brown took control of the firm, and in 1888, his sons, William and Walter, became partners. They both became managing directors on the formation of a private limited company, William Simons & Co Ltd, in 1895  . Control of the business remained in the hands of the same family for 70 years, although the ownership was split between a number of descendants none of whom had overall control, so that by 1951  , whilst the shipyard had good technical management, the commercial and financial structure was considered to be unsound.

In 1956, G & J Weir Ltd pump manufacturers, Glasgow, who needed additional capacity to manufacture sea-water evaoporation equipment made an offer of GBP 1 million for the company. The offer was accepted by the share holders. In 1959 G & J Weir Ltd merged William Simons & Co Ltd with the newly acquired Lobnitz & Co Ltd , shipbuilders, Renfrew to form Simons-Lobnitz Ltd , shipbuilders. The company ceased to operate in 1964.


This material is arranged into series, which consist of numbers of items related by function and/or format. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically.

Conditions Governing Access

Requests for access for legal, business or commercial purposes must be referred to the Keeper of the Records of Scotland (UCS 004 only)

Open (UGD 114, 115, 130/2, 149/3, 215 and 356 only)

Acquisition Information

National Archives of Scotland: 1974 (UCS 004 only)

Held under the charge and superintendence of the Keeper of the Records of Scotland

Loan : May 1977 (GB 248 UGD 114 only)

Other Finding Aids

A single bound finding aid for the records of William Simons & Co Ltd, Lobnitz & Co Ltd, and Simons-Lobnitz Ltd is available in the searchroom (UCS 004)

Digital file level list available in searchroom (UGD 114, 115, 130/2, 149/3, 215 and 356 only)

Manual file level list available at the National Register of Archives in London (NRA14659) (UCS 004 only)

Manual file level list available at the National Register of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)2504) (UGD 215 only)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

See separate copyright regulations (UCS 004 only).

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist (UGD 114, 115, 130/2, 149/3, 215 and 356 only)

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents (UGD 114, 115, 130/2, 149/3, 215 and 356 only)

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with National Archihves of Scotland procedures

Custodial History

Records held by Simons-Lobnitz Ltd prior to acquisition by the National Archives of Scotland


None expected

Related Material

See source list on Shipping and Shipbuilding Industry available via the Glasgow University Archive Services homepage

GB 248 UGD 349 and GB 248 UCS 003 Records of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd

GB 248 UGD 355 and GB 248 UCS 005 Records of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd

GB 248 UGD 004 Records of Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd, shipbuilders, repairers and marine engine builders

GB 248 UGD 130 Miscellaneous ship plans

GB 248 UGD 149 Miscellaneous ship and engine photographs

GB 604 Paisley Museum, Art Gallery and Coats Observatory : Ship photographs 1890-1913

GB 064 National Maritime Museum Manuscripts Department: Plans and trial records of dredger c.1927

GB 243 TD232 Ship plans 1814-1861

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the Archon repository search page


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original

The fonds level of description was compiled by Jenny Bunn, Assistant Archivist, 3 April 2000

Revised by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 19 October 2001

Revised by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 25 April 2002

Geographical Names