TITANIC-TITANIC.com | Lancaster And The White Star Line

Lancaster is a small city located in the North West of England, and it's built around the River Lune. The Lune is only a small river, but Lancaster was once a thriving port, with traditional sailing ships bringing many varied cargos from many varied ports. Slaves and gold from Africa, tobacco and rice from America, timber and hides from Canada, coffee and spices from the West Indies, hemp and flax from the Baltic, and fruit and wine from the Mediterranean. There was also a thriving domestic trade, including coal, iron, iron ore, grain, linen and slate, to name but a few.

No ships use the River any more, except for a special occasion perhaps, such as the annual maritime festival, however, the original quayside, St. George's Quay, is a living reminder of the once bustling port. There are many of the old warehouses, most of which have been converted to flats and apartments, and many of these warehouses still have an original wooden cargo crane on the top floor, although it is many, many years since any sacks of spices or barrels of wine were hoisted by these cranes.

Lancaster And The White Star LinePicturesque St. George's Quay is also home to the city's excellent Maritime Museum, which is located in the old Custom House, seen here in the picture on the left, itself a relic of the port's once important trade. It was on a visit to this very museum that I stumbled across Lancaster's main link with the Titanic , although there are a couple more of these connections which I will mention further on, and perhaps in more detail soon.

A major player, perhaps THE major player in the creation of what we now know as the White Star Line, was Henry Threlfall Wilson, who, along with John Pilkington, formed a ship brokering company, enterprisingly called Pilkington & Wilson, in 1843. Wilson had been educated in Lancaster, not a bad recommendation for the city's education system, and as Pilkington & Wilson expanded, due in no small part to the Australian gold rush, they needed more vessels to meet their expanding operations.

In 1863, Henry Wilson, who still had friends in Lancaster from his school days there, suggested that they create a shipbuilding company, the intention being to build ships which Wilson could then buy for his line. This led to the creation of the Lune Shipbuilding Company, who would build ships, and the Lancaster Shipowners Company, who would finance the shipbuilding. The sum of £50,000 was raised to finance the construction of a shipyard on the banks of the Lune, and work began on the yard's first vessel for the White Star Line, the Wennington, named after a nearby Lancashire village.

Wennington was launched in front of a crowd of 15,000 people in Lancaster on Thursday, March 30th, 1865. She was an iron clipper, the first iron-hulled vessel to be built in Lancaster, and displaced 882 tons. She measured 189.7 feet in length, and 32 feet wide.

San Francisco
New Zealand
N.B. Wennington also made two more trips to Wellington, New Zealand, as well as one trip to Otago.

She was employed principally on the routes in the table seen here on the left.

Early in 1878, the Wennington had sailed from Indonesia with a cargo of sugar, weighing over 1,100 tons, traveling to the west of England or perhaps Ireland, and was sighted on January 30th, 1878 in the Bali Straits. It was the last time the ship was sighted, her loss remains a mystery.

Wennington may have served for only 13 years, but it was a lot longer than the yard that built her. The Lune Shipbuilding Company produced a further 13 vessels, some of which it sold at a loss, due to fierce competition, poor management, and also the poor upstream location of the shipyard, which meant that only smaller ships could be built there. Five short years after the proud launch of the Wennington, the Lune Shipbuilding Company was finished, with debts totaling £13,500.

The Lancaster Shipowners Company continued to operate, and in 1896, it became the Lancashire Shipping Company, which operated until 1944.

Other Lancaster - Titanic Connections

Titanic's Chief Steward Andrew Latimer was born in Lancaster.
Assistant Storekeeper Michael Kieran was born in Lancaster.
Second Class Passenger Lawrence Beesley was married in Lancaster.

Other Points Of Maritime Interest About Lancaster

The Queen Mary contains furniture and/or pane ling, mainly in the First Class Dining Saloon and First Class Library, made by the Lancaster company of Waring & Gillow, whose name is synonymous with quality furniture throughout the world. Although the company does not exist anymore, their name lives on in quality pieces of furniture and carpentry the world over.

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