Bibby Line, shipowners

B/BIBBY

Information

From Guide to the Records of Merseyside Maritime Museum, volume 1: Bibby Line. In 1807 John Bibby and John Highfield, Liverpool shipbrokers, began taking shares in ships, mainly Parkgate Dublin packets. By 1821 (the end of the partnership) they had vessels sailing to the Mediterranean and South America. In 1850 they expanded their Mediterranean and Black Sea interests by buying two steamers and by 1865 their fleet had increased to twenty three. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 severely affected their business and Frederick Leyland, their general manager, failed to persuade the family partners to diversify onto the Atlantic. Eventually, he bought them out in 1873. In 1889 the Bibby family revived its shipowning interests with a successful passenger cargo service to Burma. From 1893 it also began to carry British troops to overseas postings which remained a Bibby staple until 1962. The Burma service ended in 1971 and the company moved to new areas of shipowning including bulkers, gas tankers and accommodation barges. It still has its head office in Liverpool where most management records are held. The museum holds models of the Staffordshire (1929) and Oxfordshire (1955). See the attached catalogue for further details. The earliest records within the collection, the ships' logs at B/BIBBY/1/1/1 - 1/1/3 show company vessels travelling between Europe and South America carrying cargoes that would have been produced on plantations using the labour of enslaved peoples or used within plantation and slave based economies. For example the vessel Thomas (B/BIBBY/1/1/1) carries a cargo of iron hoops for barrels to Brazil in 1812. The Mary Bibby on a voyage in 1825-1826 loads a cargo of sugar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to carry to Rotterdam. The log (B/BIBBY/1/1/3) records the use of 'negroes' to work with the ship's carpenter while the vessel is in port. In September 1980 the latest Bibby vessel to hold the name Derbyshire was lost with all hands in the South China Sea. This collection does not include records relating to that vessel or its sinking, apart from a copy 'Motor vessel 'Derbyshire', 1976-80: in memoriam' at reference B/BIBBY/3/2/1 (a copy is also available in The Archives Centre library collection at 340.DER). Information about the sinking and subsequent campaigning by the victims' family can be found on the NML website and in the Life On Board gallery. The Archives Centre holds papers of Captain David Ramwell who assisted the Derbyshire Family Association at D/RAM and other smaller collections of related documents within the DX collection.