Records of Harland & Wolff plc, shipbuilders, Belfast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland and Govan, City of Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Estimating notebooks - Govan Yard, 1905-1950s;
  • Photograph albums of shipyards and individual ships, c1930-1962;
  • Accounts, c1920s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the company are in a yard laid out by Robert Hickson on Queen's Island, Belfast, in 1853. The following year Edward Harland became manager of this yard and in 1858 he took over the business which traded as  Edward James Harland and Company. Gustav Wilhelm Wolff was put in charge of the drawing office and was admitted as a partner in 1861. The business opened its own engineering works in 1880.  Queen's Island Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd was incorporated as a limited liability company in 1885, changing its name to  Harland and Wolff Ltd three years later.

The development of the company saw the establishment of repair facilities at Southampton, England, in 1907 and at Liverpool, England, in 1912. In order to achieve further expansion, a number of shipyards on the river Clyde were acquired: London & Glasgow Engineering & Iron Shipbuilding Co Ltd at Govan in 1912; Caird & Co Ltd, Greenock, Inverclyde, in 1916; the management of Ardrossan Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Co Ltd, Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, and Archibald Macmillan & Sons Ltd, Dumbarton, West Dumbartonshire, in 1918; and of David & William Henderson & Co, Meadowside, Glasgow, and A & J Inglis Ltd, Pointhouse, Glasgow, in 1919. Harland and Wolff became a public company in 1924.

In 1962, the yards of A & J Inglis Ltd and D & W Henderson Ltd were closed. The Govan shipyard was closed in the following year and the run-down of the company's other operations in Glasgow commenced. Activity was then concentrated in Belfast, and the London, Liverpool and Southampton repair facilities were abandoned. Harland and Wolff, though state-owned, remained outside British Shipbuilders when it was set up in 1977. The yard was privatised in 1989 after a management buy-out in which the principal shareholder was the shipping magnate, Fred Olsen. The company is now (2015) called Harland & Wolff Heavy Industries Limited, specialising in heavy marine engineering, ship design, shipbuilding and repair, offshore and renewable energy sectors.


Arranged chronologically within series

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Private deposit

Permanent loan : Institute of Shipbuilders : Glasgow : 1990 : ACCN 0122

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in the searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

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



None expected

Related Material

GB 255, D2805, D4422, D4413, Records of Harland & Wolff.

GB 1385, Records of Harland & Wolff.

GB 069, MSR 74, 75, 81, 82, 86, 114, MS 94, 95, 96, 98, 99, 101, 102, 105, 106, Records of Harland & Wolff.

GB 248 UGD 33 Collection of material relating to D & W Henderson Ltd, shipbuilders

See  source list on Shipping and Shipbuilding Industry

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (GB 255) 1861-1992 Accounts, wage books, cash books, plans, correspondence (D2805)

Location of Originals

This material is original


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level compiled by Hannah Westall, Archives Assistant, 10 March 2000.

Revised by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 17 October 2002.

New fonds and lower level descriptions compiled by George Gardner, Archives volunteer, July 2011.