Information sheet

Ellerman Line

Sheet number 16

Ellerman Line

The Liverpool and London shipowner, Frederick Leyland, who had bought the Bibby Line in 1873, died suddenly in 1892.  John Ellerman, an accountant, the son of a Hamburg merchant who settled in Hull, with Christopher Furness and Henry O'Hagan, bought Frederick Leyland & Co.  Within a year Ellerman had succeeded Christopher Furness as chairman and managing director.  In 1900 he took over the Liverpool firm, West India & Pacific Steamship Co.  In 1901 Ellerman sold his fleet to J. Pierpont Morgan, the American financier, whose aim was to establish a world-wide shipping combine, the International Mercantile Marine.  Ellerman arranged to buy back the ships serving the Mediterranean, Portugal, Montreal and Antwerp.  He augmented his new fleet by the purchase of the Papayanni City and Hall Lines in 1901.  These formed a new company, Ellerman Lines Ltd.  Westcott and Laurance, which traded from London to the Mediterranean, was purchased in 1902, and Bucknall, trading to South Africa, in 1908.

The larger of the purchased lines remained distinct units after their acquisition.  In 1916 the Wilson Line of Hull (with sixty-seven short-sea vessels) was purchased by Ellerman personally.  The group lost ships in the First World War and weathered the financial crises of the interwar period.  Ellerman died a baronet with a fortune of £37 million in 1933.  By 1939 the group owned 109 ships of 919,969 cwt., of which, fifty-eight were lost in the Second World War.  The ships were replaced but trading became more difficult with newly independent nations, such as India, setting up their own shipping companies, and the introduction of containerisation.

In 1966 Ellerman joined the Associated Container Lines consortium and started the successful containerisation of the Mediterranean services.  In 1973 the group, which by now, had many other interests beyond shipping, including hotels, brewing and printing, merged all its shipping companies into one division.  Ten years later the whole business was sold to the Barclay brothers after making heavy losses.  In 1985 the shipping business was purchased by its management, then sold to Trafalgar House to become Cunard-Ellerman in 1987, and finally in 1991, it passed to the Andrew Weir Shipping Group.

The University of Glasgow holds a large Ellerman archive collection.  Records of the Ellerman Wilson Line are held at the University of Hull.


Ellerman/Hall Line

See under Hall Line below.

This collection contains the main Ellerman Line company records.

B/ELH     1875 - c.1970   c.140 Boxes and volumes

See under Papayanni Line below.

B/ELP   1903 - 1972    11 Boxes, 78 volumes

Ellerman City Liners

Ephemera and publicity material, 1984-1987, world map showing shipping routes.

B/ELC     1880 - 1972   4 Boxes, 1 volume

Miscellaneous companies

Records relating to Douro Steamship Co.; Asia, Minor, Bear, Bravo, Esperanza and Milo Steamship Co's.; Netherby Shipping Co.; Leyden Steamship Co.; C. & H. Crichton, and CBS Engineering, ship repairers.

B/ELM     1880 - 1972  4 Boxes, 1 volume

Ellerman Line Ltd. (Bryson Collection)

Cash Books, 1904 - 1930.

DB/EL   1904 - 1930    14 volumes


'Ellerman Lines'.  Liverpool: Ellerman Lines Ltd., n.d.

'The Development of British Shipping Throughout the Ages: Ellerman Lines Ltd.'; Liverpool: Gustav Schueler, 1924.

HAWS, Duncan.  Merchant Fleets No. 16: Ellerman Lines.  Hereford: TCL Publications, 1989.

TAYLOR, James.  Ellermans: A Wealth of Shipping.  Vancouver: Nevasa Publications Ltd., 1976.

Associated Container Transportation Ltd.

Five British companies - Ben, Blue Star, Cunard, Ellerman and Harrison - formed the Associated Container Transport (ACT) in 1966 to invest in container ships for their European-Australian services.  Associated Container Transport (Australia) [ACT(A)], set up in 1967, pioneered refrigerated containers to provide a service for the important Australian meat trade.


Printed items, eg brochures, etc.

B/ACT   1969 - 1991   6 Boxes

Hall Line

Hall Line originated as the Sun Shipping Co., founded by Robert Alexander, a Belfast born but Liverpool based shipbroker, in 1868.  It concentrated on the India trade with Bombay as its main port.  Alexander's ships were reorganised from two groups into the Hall Line in 1899 and sold to Ellerman in 1901.  Under Ellerman's ownership it developed successful South and East African services, as well as holding its own in the competitive Indian trade.  It suffered from disruption and loss of ships in both World Wars and from the granting of Indian Independence and the establishment of Indian national lines.  In 1973 it merged with the other Ellerman shipping companies to form Ellerman City Lines.


Administration, legal, investment, finance, insurance, operational, staff and miscellaneous.

The staff records comprise: reference books, officers, 1877 - 1955; stewards, 1880 - 1951; carpenters, 1905 - 1955; engineers, 1910 - 1968; records book, apprentices, 1948 - 1968; wages and salary records, 1892 - 1911, 1955 - 1973; workmen's compensation claims book, 1914 - 1928; certificates of competency, 1867 - 1868; sports club, 1951 - 1970.

Please note, some of these records may be subject to access restrictions under the Data Protection Act, 1998.

B/ELH   1875 - c.1970   c.140 Boxes and volumes

Papayanni Lines

George Papayanni, Greek émigré merchant, moved from London to Liverpool in 1844, as he considered it a better centre for the Mediterranean trade.  He took as a partner a Turk, Pierre Massabini.  The firm traded to the Levant (north-east Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey) later extending to the whole of the eastern Mediterranean.  Papayanni and Massabini chartered steamers from 1846 and owned them from 1855 under the guidance of George's brother, Basilio.  In 1861 the firm helped to develop the Egyptian cotton trade as an alternative to the American southern states.  From 1870 Basilio ran the shipping business.

The company was British-registered but maintained its contacts in Greece.  The line owned nine steamers on its incorporation in 1897.  Basilio's death in 1897 had the effect of spreading the shares among six family members which made it difficult to modernise the fleet without capital injection, and in 1901 the firm was sold to Ellerman.  It continued to be operated as a separate entity until 1932.  In 1958 Ellerman Papayanni acquired the Mossgiel Steam Ship Co. of Glasgow, and began containerisation in 1969.  Mediterranean services have continued after the 1973 Ellerman reorganisation and two changes of ownership.  The majority of the Ellerman Papayanni records are from the years following the Second World War and none date from the Papayanni family ownership.


Finance, operational, staff, miscellaneous.

The staff records comprise: reference books, master and mates, 1918 - 1962.

Please note, some of these records may be subject to access restrictions under the Data Protection Act, 1998.

B/ELP   1903 - 1972     11 Boxes, 78 volumes

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