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British shipping companies (Gr)

Last modified: 2021-05-29 by rob raeside
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Groedel Bros. S.S. Co., Ltd.

[Groedel Bros. Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 29 April 2021

The Groedel family had immigrated to Transylvania from Germany in the middle 1870s and acquired citizenship in 1890. Considered “nouveau-riche,” they owned large tracts of property throughout the greater portion of Central Europe, including Romania, Hungary, Poland and other countries. One story about how the business started is that in 1879 there was a flood in Szeged, and Zadik sold the timber for the reconstruction work. Another story mentions that the lumber business began back in Germany.

In 1903 and 1904, the family built and registered a shipping line in the UK to transport the material worldwide. They had four ships built, three of them having been named after each of the brother's wives, "Melanie", "Margit" and "Gizella". Although all four steamers were built and registered in the UK, and its headquarters officially stated to be in London, the Groedel Brothers Steamship Company Ltd., was really a Hungarian concern. This caused some interesting political angst, as during World War I, the British Admiralty had "requisitioned" the Groedel Brothers’ fleet from 1914 - 1916 and paid the going rate into a public trust. Once it was discovered that the ships were enemy owned, the British government auctioned off the fleet. It's not clear whether the Groedel family ever received any of the proceeds.
The Museum of Family History

Four steamships named "Milly", "Melanie", "Margit", and "Gisella", formerly owned by Groedel Brothers Steamship Co., Ltd., were offered for sale by public auction the Baltic this afternoon.
The vessels were put up as a fleet, and bidding commenced £150,000. The eventual purchaser was Mr. Alexander Mair, the well-known shipowner, of Glasgow, who, after spirited competition with another gentleman, secured the vessels for £288,500. The ships were sold under the "Trading With the Enemy " Act by order of the controller appointed by the Board of Trade.
The Groedel Company was formed under the English Companies Acts, but the majority of the shareholders were Hungarians resident in Budapest.
[Dundee Evening Telegraph,17 October 1916]
Hartlepool History Then and Now

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of Groedel Bros. S.S. Co., Ltd. (#1123, p. 90) as swallow-tailed, horizontally divided red-white-green (Hungary) with a big black "G" outlined in white.
Ivan Sache, 29 April 2021

Groom Shipping Line

[Groom Shipping Line houseflag] image by Alistair Groom, 5 May 2018

I have an old flag which is a purple cross on a dark blue background which I am told was flown by my great grandfather’s shellfish shipping line Groom off the East Anglian coast.
Ivan Sache
, 10 April 2008 

Gow, Harrison & Co.

[Gow, Harrison & Co. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 1 May 2021

Mariners L

Leonard Gow.
Up to 1869 the firm of Allan C. Gow & Co. owned only sailing vessels, but on the opening of the Suez Canal, convinced that steamers must be the ships of the future, they established the Glen Line to trade between London, Singapore, China, and Japan. To manage this they opened a house, M'Gregor, Gow & Co. in London, but as the parent firm had undertaken the management of the State Steamship Co.'s line of steamers trading between Glasgow and New York, Mr. Gow remained in Glasgow. He retired several years ago from the firm of Allan C. Gow & Co., which is now carried on by his eldest son and his partner under the style of Gow, Harrison & Co., but he is still senior partner of the London business.

Who's Who in Glasgow 1909

Leonard Gow (1859-1936) was an alumnus who founded, in 1919, the Leonard Gow Lectureship on Medical Diseases of Infancy and Childhood.
Born in Glasgow, the son of a shipping magnate also called Leonard, he attended the University in 1884 to spend a year studying Moral Philosophy. His brother John Barnett Gow had spent 1881-2 studying Chemistry and Literature. Leonard became senior partner in the shipping company Gow, Harrison & Co, director of the Burmah Oil Co and chairman of several other companies. A noted philanthropist, he founded the Leonard Gow Lectureship on Medical Diseases of Infancy and Childhood in 1919. He was given an Honorary degree in 1934.

The University of Glasgow Story":

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of Gow, Harrison & Co.(#1592, p. 112), as white with a blue cross, in the center, a white disk charged with a red lion rampant, in the respective quarters the red letters "G", "H", "&", and "Co.".
Ivan Sache, 1 May 2021

Guinea Gulf Line Ltd.

[Guinea Gulf Line houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the house flag of Guinea Gulf Line Ltd., Liverpool. A flag with a black field bearing a white five-pointed star in the centre. The red letters 'GG' are placed in the middle of the star. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. A rope and toggle is attached."
Jarig Bakker, 13 August 2004

[George Gibson & Co. Ltd. houseflag]  [George Gibson & Co. Ltd. houseflag] images located by Neale Rosanoski, 18 July 2005

Guinea Gulf Line Ltd. I suspect a possible error here on the Museum's part in describing the field as black. All book sources describe it as blue and certainly my perusal of the Museum image, especially with the enlarged version which they provide, is that it is a very dark blue. Whatever the answer, the firm was previously John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. with origins going back to 1862. As such it used a similar design [with a blue field] but with the letters being "JH". The name change to Guinea Gulf Line Ltd. occurred in 1954. In 1965 it was acquired by Elder Dempster Line Ltd. and appears to have faded out around 1980. Brown 1982 shows a slightly different version of the star with it being squatter and the horizontal arms angled.
Neale Rosanoski, 18 July 2005

Guinea Gulf Line. The field is a dark blue not black. It originated from the flag of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. which was the previous name of this company up until 1954 only it had the initials "JH" on the star. I checked this out with the National Maritime Museum and Barabara Tomlinson confirmed that the field was indeed blue and their website information has been altered accordingly.
Neale Rosanoski, 13 October 2005

Gulf Line

[Gulf Lines houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 8 April 2008

Lloyds Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of "Gulf Line, Ltd. (Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd.)", a company based in London, as white with a red swallow-tailed rectangle in the middle.

Quoting the "TheShipsList" website:
"The Greenock S.S. Co. was formed in 1879 to operate services to the Persian Gulf, extended to Australia as required and in 1883 a route to the Gulf of Mexico was inaugurated. In 1891 services to South America replaced the Persian Gulf route. There were now two main services - Gulf of Mexico and Australia via South America or direct via Suez. In 1899 the Gulf Line was formed and in 1903 Christopher Furness acquired a controlling interest in the company. Gulf Line sold its interests in the South America trade to F. W. Ritson's Branch Line in 1906 and after the Great War, the fleet declined and went into liquidation in 1929."
As expected, several ships operated on the Gulf Line were called "Gulf of ..."

"It is announced that Sir Christopher Furness, the well-known shipowner, has bought the Gulf Line of Greenock. The line consists of six vessels aggregating 19,502 tons."
"The New York Times", 21 June 1902

More on the history of the related "Furness, Withy & Co." can be found here:
Ivan Sache
, 8 April 2008 

Gulf Offshore N.S.

[Guinea Gulf Line houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 28 October 2005

Gulf Offshore N.S., Aberdeen - white flag, black outlined globe, blue "G".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 28 October 2005

A.H. & E. Gunn

[A.H. & E. Gunn houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 22 April 2021

The Mount Stuart Dry Dock was established by John Batchelor and was acquired in 1872 by a syndicate of which John Gunn was the principal promoter. Two years later, John was joined by his brother, Marcus who acted as manager of the new company.

Not content with repairing ships, the two brothers decided to enter shipowning themselves when they took delivery of the 1,481 gross tons iron steamer "Dunedin". By 1892, John and Marcus Gunn & Co. owned a further three vessels: the iron steamers "Cornelia" (894 gross tons, built 1872), "Dunbar" (1,774 gross tons, built 1876), and "Dunkeld" (2,791 gross tons, built 1880).
The Gunns' tramp steamers were employed in the coal trade for which there was an insatiable worldwide demand. By providing outward freights for merchant vessels, coal helped to keep down the price of shipping, which meant that the cost of importing vital raw materials for Britain's industries was kept relatively low.

John Gunn's emergence as a dominant figure in the commercial world of Cardiff was recognised when he was elected as president of the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce in 1886 and 1887 and again in 1897. In 1891 he was chairman of the Cardiff Shipowners' Association. As well as being chairman of the timber importers, John Bland & Co. Ltd., John Gunn held a number of directorships and he was to be found on the boards of the Cardiff Railway Company, the Bristol and West of England Bank, Cardiff Collieries (Llanbradach) Ltd. and several other public companies.

The Gunns' fleet of steamers always remained a modest one in comparison with other Cardiff fleets and by 1899 they had sold the elderly steamers "Cornelia", "Dunbar", and "Dunkeld", leaving them with their first ship, the "Dunedin". In 1903 the "Dunedin" was sold and was replaced by the "Renwick" (664 gross tons, built 1890) which in turn was sold two years later. For their subsequent tramp steamers, the Gunns adopted the limited liability system of ship ownership in which the ownership of each vessel was turned into a limited liability company. Honouring their birthplace in Caithness, the Gunn brothers had the steel screw steamer "Achlibster" (4,395 gross tons) built for them in 1906 by Richardson, Duck & Co. of Stockton-on-Tees. Her owners were the Achlibster S. S. Co. Ltd. and was managed by the Gunn brothers. A similar steamer, the "Bilbster", owned by the Bilbster. S. S. Co. Ltd., followed from the same builders in 1908.

In 1911 the management of these two ships was taken over by A. H. and E. Gunn. Arthur H. Gunn was one of Sir John's three sons (he also had six daughters) and I can only assume that E. Gunn was a son of Marcus Gunn. The younger Gunns added a third ship to the fleet, the steel screw steamers, "Chalister", which was built in 1913. The "Chalister" was a typical shelter deck tramp steamer and was employed in the deep sea tramping trades throughout her career which lasted until 1942.
The year in which the "Chalister" was built marked the peak of Cardiff's coal exporting prosperity when a staggering 10,576,506 tons of coal was exported. The First World War arrested this prosperity and in the post-war years the export of coal declined dramatically. During the war itself, many ships were requisitioned by the Admiralty to serve as colliers which were needed to replenish the bunkers of the Royal Navy's warships. While the "Achlibster" and "Chalister" survived the war, the "Bilbster" was not so fortunate because she was lost after a collision, east of the Azores on 21st November, 1917.

Sir John Gunn died on 20th January, 1918 at the age of 80. A. H. & E. Gunn sold the "Achlibster" and "Chalister" in 1919 and never resumed shipowning although A. H. Gunn continued as a director of the Mount Stuart Dry Locks Ltd.

Caithness History

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of A.H. & E. Gunn (#230, p. 47) as white with a ship in the center.
Ivan Sache, 22 April 2021

Guthrie, Heywood & Co.

[Guthrie, Heywood & Co. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

John Guthrie and Thomas Heywood operated tugs in Cardiff.

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of Guthrie, Heywood & Co. (#1740, p. 119) as red with a blue border, charged in the center with the white letters "GH".
Ivan Sache, 4 May 2021

Gwyneth Steam Trawling Co., Ltd.

[Gwyneth Steam Trawling houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 23 April 2021

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of the Gwyneth Steam Trawling Co., Ltd. (#365, p. 54), a Milford Haven-based company, as blue with a white disc in the center.
Ivan Sache, 23 April 2021

British Shipping lines: continued