History of Lindal & Marton

A village community at the heart of Furness


Parish Council

Harrison Ainslie’s Shipping Interests

This article was researched and written by Peter Sandbach of Dalton, in response to a request for information about the schooners named Whitriggs, Lindal Moor, and Gilbrow, posted on the Through Mighty Seas website (which is well worth a visit if you are interested in local maritime history and sailing ships). This article was first published on this website in January 2005, and was last revised in September 2011. Please note that copyright for the article belongs to Peter Sandbach.


I arrived in Dalton in 1986 as a shift chemist at British Cellophane and soon became involved with Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society. One of our projects at the time was to open and explore the Whitriggs Horse Level. In 1989 Dr John Marshall forged an alliance of CAT and CIHS to prevent the further deterioration of Newland Furnace. This led to the formation of the Newland Furnace Trust in 1998.

In 1996, I was out of work and looking for a suitable project when the Ulverston Heritage Centre asked for a transcription of some ledgers in their possession, the Ulverston harbour records.

With some knowledge of the mines and ships and a long association with the structure of Newland Furnace, I thought that I was qualified to answer Neil Fleming’s request for a piece on Harrison Ainslie’s ships. This proved harder than expected.

The Difficulties

Firstly, the ships were owned under the 1/64th system. A managing owner gave the orders, but he might only have one share, The risks and the dividends could be shared with 20 or more other owners. The number of shares held was not recorded before 1824.

Secondly, Richard Roper and Matthew Harrison were shipping agents as well as ironmasters. Between 1815 and 1860, Richard and Thomas Roper bought shares in dozens of vessels. Some were controlled through a minority shareholding, but in other cases, like the Bee, they held shares but were not managers. It is impossible to say which shares were held on behalf of Harrison Ainslie and which were owned privately. From 1897 until 1916, the North Lonsdale Ironworks ran two small steamships. The City of Liverpool was owned by the ironworks and sometimes laid up. The Harvest was owned by the ironworks managers, including William George Ainslie. She was never short of work. Were they following a precedent set by Harrison Ainslie?

Thirdly, while researching this article I found many vessels that I had not come across before. The list is far from complete. The Backbarrow company operated seven vessels as early as 1713 and the Newland company must have had transport to Bonawe from 1753, so this list covers only the tail end of their shipping interests.

I have found no evidence that Harrison Ainslie ever owned a steamship, except that in 1862 they were trying to sell the hull of an iron screwsteamer.

Before describing the ships, I should say who and when were Harrison Ainslie.

Brief History of Harrison Ainslie

c.1540 Introduction of the charcoal blast furnace, but not in Furness.
1709 Abraham Derby runs his furnace on coke.
1711 Establishment of the Backbarrow Company by Rawlinson and Machell, Backbarrow furnace built.
1736 Establishment of the Duddon Company by Kendall, Latham & Co. Duddon furnace built.
1747 Establishment of the Newland Company by Richard Ford, William Ford, Michael Knott and James Backhouse, Newland furnace built.
c.1750 Coke smelted iron used to produce bar iron. Charcoal furnaces seriously threatened.
1753 Newland Company build the Lorn furnace at Bonawe (near Oban) and take 110 year lease of woodlands.
1755 Duddon Company build Craleckan furnace, Argyle.
1764 The penultimate charcoal furnace built by Frances Hurt at Alderwasley, Derbyshire.
1780 The Newland Company build a pier at Barrowhead, the start of the port of Barrow.
1785 Agnes Ford, daughter of Richard Ford marries Dr Henry Ainslie. The Newland Co. becomes Knott, Ainslie & Co.
1799 Knott, Ainslie & Co take the lease of the Muncaster royalty, the site of Whinfield, Gillbrow and Diamond pits.
1812 Knott, Ainslie & Co becomes Harrison Ainslie & Co when the manager, Matthew Harrison buys into the company. The Scottish woodland leases represent 70% of the value of the company, the Pennington mines represent 3.5%.
1813 Craleckan closed.
1818 Harrison Ainslie buy the Backbarrow company.
1824 Matthew Harrison dies. Benson Harrison inherits his share, becoming General Manager. Richard Roper joins the partnership.
1828 Harrison Ainslie buy the Duddon company. They now have a near monopoly of Furness iron ore.
c. 1831 Harrison Ainslie have a monopoly of charcoal iron. Any rivals who have not shut down have converted to coke.
1853 Harrison Ainslie build a gunpowder works at Melfort (near Oban)
1857 Duddon furnace closed, though it ran briefly in 1871.
1859 Schneider & Hannay blow in their first two furnaces. Coke smelting arrives in Furness.
1860 Richard Roper dies. William George Ainslie becomes senior partner.
1864 Woodland leases in Scotland expire.
1868 Harrison Ainslie build the last charcoal blast furnace at Warsash, Hampshire.
1873 North Lonsdale Iron and Steel Company Ltd established with W G Ainslie as chairman.
1874 Melfort gunpowder works closed.
1876 Lorn Furnace closed.
1877 Warsash furnace closed.
1887 Harrison Ainslie take on a royalty running from Lindal Cote, through Eure Pits to Crossgates, following the bankruptcy of Alexander Brogden’s Ulverston Mining Company. The cost of developing these mines may have been too much for them.
1890 It is resolved to turn Harrison Ainslie into a limited company after a difficult year.
1891 Newland furnace closed.
1893 Harrison Ainslie & Co Ltd established. Death of W G Ainslie.
1903 Settlement of Derby trespass case. Harrison Ainslie & Co Ltd in receivership.
1904 Harrison Ainslie & Co Ltd re-formed with entirely new owners.
1914 Harrison Ainslie & Co Ltd in receivership again.
1917 The receiver, James Morgan White establishes the Charcoal Iron Company to continue the work of Harrison Ainslie, but the only asset left is Backbarrow furnace.
1921 Backbarrow furnace converted to coke.
1966 Backbarrow furnace closed.

James Geldart

The name James Geldart appears repeatedly in this article, but he did not remain dependant on Harrison Ainslie. He was master of the Ellen & Sarah at the age of 22, and stayed from 1844 to 1854, then he was master of Petty & Postlethwaite’s latest schooner, Ann, in which he held 8 shares. He returned to Harrison Ainslie as master of the Tom Roper from 1863 - 67, and the Warsash in 1870. By then he was setting up as ships chandler and sailmaker, and as a shipowner in his own right. He was Harrison Ainslie’s shipping agent until his death in April 1895.

The Gunpowder Traffic

The Melfort Gunpowder works was built in 1853. On the site, there was a saltpetre refinery and cooperage as well as the gunpowder mills. Charcoal was made on site in retorts. The company built a series of magazines, the ones we know of were at Queensferry, Headen Haw, Poaka, and Dudley. The full range of powders was produced from coarse blasting powder to triple fine sporting powder, glazed and unglazed. It was sold through an international network of agents.

The works manager was Richard Roper Kelly, son of Alexander Kelly, who was manager of Bonawe Furnace and Mary Kelly, who was a daughter of Richard Roper. The masters of Earl of Glasgow, Dora, Melfort and Kelpie took their instructions directly from RR Kelly. Their main duty was to deliver powder to deep water vessels anchored at Tail of the Bank, off Greenock, returning with stores from Glasgow, but they also delivered powder to Barrow, Newport, Newcastle and the highlands and islands. They brought brick, firebrick and fireclay from Allan & Mann at Glasgow, staves and charcoal wood from Londonderry and carried coal and Welsh slate to the works. In 1859, two sloops and two schooners was not enough for the traffic. They also used other company vessels, chartered from other owners and used the regular steamship service to Oban.

The stock book of Headen Haw magazine gives some detail from 1871. By then only the Melfort was still dedicated to the works. There were 8 shipments from Melfort to Headen Haw in 1871. From Headen Haw about half would be taken to the Poaka magazine by the company carts. Some was delivered to Hodbarrow in William Gradwell’s carts, some delivered to the Whitehaven area by rail van and some was distributed by the local ironmongers. The remainder of the powder was delivered to Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Queensferry, Chester and Newport by sea.

Gunpowder manufacture ended in 1874 and the last delivery from Melfort arrived on the Mary Atkinson in July 1875. The last of the powder in Headen Haw was taken to Poaka in April 1876.

Vessels associated with Harrison Ainslie.

Their home port was Ulverston except where stated.

Unity was a 54 ton square sterned dogger built at Hammerside Hill (Ulverston) in 1770. In 1786, she was owned by Matthew Harrison, George and Michael Knott, Edward Chadwick and Henry Ainslie, physician, of Cambridge. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in June 1797.

Liberty was a 55 ton sloop built at Hammerside Hill in 1778. Matthew Harrison, George and Michael Knott and Edward Chadwick held shares, with others, from 1786 until she was sold to Whitehaven owners in December 1797.

George was a 23 ton square sterned brig, built at Penny Bridge in 1779. In 1786, she was owned by Miles Walther, mariner, George and Michael Knott, Edward Chadwick, and Henry Ainslie.

Michael was a 61 ton sloop built at Penny Bridge in 1780. In January 1787 she was owned by Matthew Harrison, George and Michael Knott, Edward Chadwick and Henry Ainslie. She was sold in 1820.

Ford was a 40 ton sloop built at Saltcoates in 1781. From 1786, she was owned by Matthew Harrison, George and Michael Knott, Edward Chadwick and Henry Ainslie. The registry was cancelled in 1799.

Fanny was a 55 ton dogger built at Saltcoates in 1786. She was owned by Matthew Harrison, George and Michael Knott, Edward Chadwick, John Webster, Henry Ainslie of London, merchant and others. She was sold to Gloucester owners in 1800.

Molly was a 55 ton round sterned flat, built at Saltcoates in 1789. Matthew Harrison held shares. She was lost in February 1797.

Benson was a 78 ton sloop, built at Saltcoates in 1793. Matthew Harrison held shares. She was sold to Liverpool owners in July 1800.

William was an 81 ton sloop, built at Saltcoates in 1796. She was owned by her master, James Barrow, George and Michael Knott, Matthew Harrison and Henry Ainslie of London, Doctor of Physick. She was lost in 1810.

Endeavour was a 29 ton sloop built at Saltcoates in 1796. Thomas Machell of Ainsome and Matthew Harrison were shareholders. She was sold in 1819 and broken up in 1852.

Ann(1) was a 93 ton sloop, built at Saltcoates in 1797. Matthew Harrison and Michael Knott held shares. She was sold to Irvine owners in March 1820.

Newland (1) was a 51 ton sloop, built at Ulverston in 1798. Matthew Harrison and Michael Knott held shares. She was sold to Annan owners in May 1815.

Ellen was a 72 ton sloop, built at Saltcoates in 1799. Matthew Harrison held shares. She was lost December 1811.

Kitty was an 85 ton sloop built at Saltcoates in 1802. Matthew Harrison held shares.

Hero was a 38 ton sloop, built in Ulverston in 1803. Matthew Harrison held shares. She was sold in march 1813 and lost December 1822.

James was a 33 ton sloop, built at Saltcoates in 1803. Michael Knott and Matthew Harrison held shares.

Mary Ann was an 89 ton galliot, built at Saltcoates in 1803. Matthew Harrison held shares. In 1825, Benson Harrison had 44 shares and Richard Roper 5. She was sold to Ulverston owners in March 1828 and to Whitehaven owners in June 1832.

Glory was a 101 ton square sterned dogger, built at Saltcoates in 1804. Michael Knott and Matthew Harrison held shares. She was sold to Preston owners in 1810.

Margaret(1) was a 99 ton square sterned dogger, built at Saltcoates in 1805. Michael Knott and Matthew Harrison held shares. She was sold to Drogheda owners in December 1826.

James was a 62 ton sloop built at Ulverston in 1806. She was owned by Matthew Harrison and 3 others. She was lost near Port Patrick in October 1811.

George was a 93 ton sloop built at Saltcoates in 1806. Michael Knott and Matthew Harrison held shares. She was lost with all hands in Swansea Bay on 18 July 1821.

Henry (1) was a 147 ton square sterned snow, built in Ulverston in 1809. Michael Knott and Benson Harrison held shares. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in November 1821.

Lund was a 133 ton square sterned snow. Built in Ulverston in 1811. She was owned by John Park, attorney, Joseph Hunt, shipbuilder, her master, John Bell, John Yarker, Matthew Harrison, Benson Harrison and Michael Knott. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in July 1821.

Peggy of Lancaster was a 31 ton sloop built in Ulverston in 1812. Her owners included Michael Knott of Penny Bridge, Esq (4 shares), William Roper, merchant (2), Richard Roper, merchant (2) and others. She was sold to James Taylor, master mariner, of Silverdale in July 1837 and to Liverpool owners in 1843.

Martha was a 125 ton sloop, built in Ulverston in 1812. Matthew Harrison held shares and bought more later, leaving 38 shares to Benson Harrison. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in November 1825.

Ann (2) was a galliot of 70 tons built in Ulverston in 1812. Matthew Harrison originally bought 10 shares. In 1826, Richard Roper had 54 shares and Benson Harrison 10. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in 1835.

Trader was an 82 ton schooner, built in Ulverston in 1813. Her master, John Hewitson, Matthew Harrison, Daye Barker and Robert Roper held shares, with others. Robert Roper’s 4 shares passed to Richard Roper and Matthew Harrison’s 8 shares passed to Benson Harrison before she was sold to Whitehaven owners in January 1827.

Edward was an 87 ton schooner, built in Ulverston in 1815. Matthew Harrison bought some shares and left 40 shares to Benson. Benson Harrison and Richard Roper bought another 4 shares each before selling her to Whitehaven owners in October 1826.

Henry (2) was a 58 ton sloop built at Ulverston in 1815. Matthew Harrison and Richard Roper, then clerk, were among the original owners. In 1825 Richard Roper had 24 shares and Benson Harrison 4. She was sold to William Marr of Ulverston in 1830.

Laurel was a 35 ton sloop, built in Ulverston in 1816. Michael Knott had 8 shares. The largest shareholder was Edward Levinson of Penny Bridge. She was broken up in 1845.

Westmorland was a 112 ton snow, built in Ulverston in 1816. Matthew Harrison and George Knott held shares. She was sold to Whitehaven owners in March 1824.

Lorn (1) was a 63 ton sloop built at Ulverston in February 1816. She was owned by Matthew Harrison of the Lund, Daye Barker of Low Wood and others. In 1826, Benson Harrison had 28 shares and Daye Barker 8. She was sold to John Corning of Kircudbricht in May 1833 and sailed under his ownership until at least 1854.

Backbarrow was a 32 ton sloop, built in Ulverston in 1805. Before 1826, Benson Harrison bought 40 shares and Richard Roper 20. She was sold in 1848 to an Ulverston owner.

Bradyll was a 59 ton schooner, built at Saltcoates by Woodburn & Jackson in June 1826. Michael Knott held 8 shares. She was lost at sea in February 1833.

Mary(1) was a 78 ton schooner built in Ulverston in June 1827 by George Shaw Petty & Co. GS Petty, William Postlethwaite and John Winiam, trading as GS Petty & Co held 16 shares jointly, Benson Harrison, James Ainslie and Richard Roper held 8 shares jointly on behalf of Harrison Ainslie & Co. John Winiam left the partnership in April 1829. Mary was sold to Carlisle owners in December 1837.

Sarah was a 43 ton sloop built at Saltcoates in 1797 for George, Richard and Ann Latham, Mary Kerr and Margaret Taylor, co-partners in the business of Richard Latham, sons & Co, ironmasters at Duddon Furnace. In March 1828, the same year that Harrison Ainslie bought Duddon Furnace, she was bought by Richard Roper (26 shares) and Benson Harrison (38 shares). She was sold to Whitehaven owners in October 1835 for £320.

Nymph was a 59 ton schooner built in Ulverston by George and John Winram in April 1831. Richard Roper bought her two months later. She was sold for £450 to Whitehaven owners in November 1837.

Eclipse was a 32 ton sloop, built at Ulverston in 1825 by Thomas Worthington for William Town. She was sold in July 1832 for £306 to William Postlethwaite (16 shares), Richard Roper (8) and others. She was sold in May 1845 to Archibald McCormick, master mariner and Duncan Campbell, farmer of Argyle and registered at Greenock.

New Fame was a 79 ton sloop built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1832. Her owners were Richard Roper (8 shares), Richard Hudson, brandy merchant (16), Richard Postlethwaite, yeoman (16), William Postlethwaite of Kirkby, slate merchant (16), John Walker, timber merchant (4) and Thomas Blackbourne, sailmaker (4). She was sold to Arthur Ireland of Galway in November 1848.

Richard of Lancaster was also built by P & P in 1832. She was 78 tons and hermaphrodite rigged. Richard Roper and Benson Harrison held 32 shares each. She was sold to Chester owners in October 1863.

Delight (1) was a 62 ton sloop built by Petty & Postlethwaite of Ulverston in 1833. They retained 48 shares, Richard Roper and her master, Joseph McKay had 8 shares each. She was sold to Preston owners in December 1844.

Dora was a 73 ton sloop, built by Petty & Postlethwaite in Ulverston in 1834. She was converted to a schooner in 1836. She was owned by Richard Roper (16 shares), Benson Harrison (32) and Henry Ainslie (16), and still owned by them in 1856.

Hannah was a 70 ton schooner built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1834. Richard Roper, Henry Rawlcliffe, master mariner, Edward Harrison Fell, ironmaster and her builders held equal shares. E H Fell died on 3rd October 1848, leaving his share to his wife, Agnes. After the death of Richard Roper in 1860 she was sold to John Renay and registered at Chester.

Ellen & Sarah was a 53 ton schooner built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1837. Richard Roper bought 16 shares initially, and the rest two years later. After his death, she was jointly owned by Thomas, James and Richard Roper until May 1868, when she was sold to John Harrison Barrow. She foundered in April 1882. Ellen & Sarah appears in the Ulverston harbour records. She carried ore to Ellesmere Port, Birkenhead, Port Talbot and Bonawe. She brought charcoal from Milford, Liverpool and Runcorn, bricks from Runcorn and bones from Liverpool. The last entry was in November 1876, when she was beached for a month before sailing light to Barrow.

Hope was a 66 ton schooner built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1837. Her builders kept 48 shares and Richard Roper held 8. She was sold to Campbeltown in May 1856.

Mary(2) was a sloop-rigged flat of 38 tons built by Samuel Speakman of Preston in 1837. She was owned by John Bond, master mariner of Hesketh Bank (32 shares), James Ashburner, maltster of Bardsea, Michael Bond, mariner, and Thomas Roper, shipowner of Newland. She was wrecked off Walney in October 1866.

Tom was a 52 ton sloop built by Petty & Postlethwaite in February 1839. They kept 48 shares and Richard Roper bought 16. She was sold to Connah’s Quay in 1859 and registered at Chester.

Fox was a 45 ton sloop built at Preston by Samuel Speakman in 1841. There were eight equal shareholders including John Bond, Henry Bond (master), Thomas Roper and Isaac Croasdale of Low Wood. She was sold to James Renay of Connah’s Quay in August 1861.

Mary Kelly was a 77 ton schooner built by Petty and Postlethwaite in 1841. She was owned by Richard Roper, Benson Harrison and Montague Ainslie. Benson Harrison died in November 1863, and she was sold to John M Swaney of Cork in July 1865.

Woodman of Kircudbright was a 58 ton schooner was built by Alexander Dick at Palnackie in 1841. Richard Roper bought 22 shares. J Swainson and G Maxwell, both wood merchants held 21 shares each. In 1862, she arrived in Ulverston with bobbinwood from Gatehouse of Fleet, and carried ore to Glasgow.

Eliza of Barrow was a 53 ton sloop. She was built in Ulverston in 1842 for Thomas Roper and sold to George Porter in October 1866.He sold most of the shares, but was still managing owner when she foundered off Douglas on 18 October 1872. She brought timber and charcoal from the Solway Firth and carried iron ore to Ellesmere Port. A few years earlier, the export of ore had been the main traffic from Ulverston, but there were few shipments after 1862 and none after 1869. The Black Country was a large consumer of haematite. The route was to Ellesmere Port or Saltney, and then by narrow boat through the Shropshire Union canal to Wolverhampton and Dudley, or to Runcorn and down through the Trent and Mersey to Staffordshire.

Agnes was a 90 ton schooner built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1844. The builders kept 32 shares, Richard Roper (MO) had 16 shares and her master, Isaac Myers had 16. She was lost near Milford on 9th June 1852.

Delight (2) was a 54 ton sloop built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1844. They retained 56 shares and Richard Roper held 8. She was wrecked off Chapel Island in October 1858. William White gives a full account of the wreck. Her master, Todd Greaves and a passenger, Mr Lucas were drowned.

Margaret (2) was an 86 ton schooner built by Richard Ashburner at Greenodd in March 1848. Richard Roper held 16 shares. She was wrecked on 4 November 1860 on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire.

Richard Roper, a 76 ton schooner, was built by Petty and Postlethwaite in 1851. William Rawlcliffe, master mariner held 8 shares until he bought P & P’s 32 shares in 1860. Richard Roper owned 16 shares, and on his death in January 1860, his shares were inherited by Thomas Roper, Ironmaster, James Roper, sharebroker, of Liverpool and Richard Roper, solicitor, of Kirkby Lonsdale. Those shares were soon sold on, but John Roper, grocer, of Ulverston bought 12 shares. William Whinneray was the largest shareholder with 28 shares when she sank at the entrance to Bowling harbour following a collision on 17th October 1865. The salvaged vessel was sold by order of the Glasgow harbourmaster. Under Glasgow ownership, she was stranded off Peterhead in March 1879 and at Cuilean Rock, Jura in September 1879. She was finally lost off Peterhead on 13th March 1886 on a passage from Newcastle to Thurso with coal.

Jane Roper of Barrow was a 93 ton schooner, built in 1852 by William and Robert Ashburner of Barrow. She was named for Tom Roper’s wife. James Davies, a rival ironmaster, had four shares, her master, Robert Stones held four, Thomas Roper two and W G Ainslie, then clerk held four shares, but this was increased to 32 shares before she was lost. Joseph Hellen, ropemaker had 8 shares and Henry Bond was managing owner with 8 shares. Aymer Ainslie bought four shares in 1872 and became managing owner in 1875. She foundered off the Frisian islands on 16 December 1886 on a passage from Ramsgate to Edinburgh, all hands were lost. James Geldart broke the news as agent, naming Aymer Ainslie as MO.

Bee was a 53 ton schooner built by Petty & Postlethwaite in 1841 and wholly owned by them until 1852. 36 shares were then sold off. Ann Spedding, widow bought 13 shares and became managing owner. James Ormandy Rigg bought 12 shares and took over as managing owner in 1876. Richard Roper bought 8 shares. She was sold to Bridgewater owners in 1898. There are many entries for the Bee in the Ulverston harbour records, mainly before 1866. She regularly sailed to Glasgow with a general cargo consisting mainly of ore and gunpowder. She often brought iron from Glasgow, Lancaster, Glasson, Barrow and Chester. Other cargoes were coal from Woodend, Saltney, Chester and Morcambe, wheat from Morcambe, vitriol from Woodend, powder to Carnarvon, powder from Greenodd to Liverpool, timber from Liverpool and Drogheda and manure and sand from Liverpool. In June 1877 she was laid up on the beach for a month for repairs. The last entry was in 1881 when she arrived with ore from Liverpool and sailed with pitch for Cardiff.

Earl of Glasgow was a 35 ton sloop built at Lairg in 1853. Thomas Roper served as her master, but soon handed over to Isaac Kirkby. The shares were held by Thomas Roper, iron merchant, trading as Harrison, Ainslie, Roper & Co until she was wrecked on Walney. The wreck was bought by William and Richard Ashburner in January 1852 and after repairs was bought in May by Thomas Duckworth and John Park. A year later, she was again owned by Tom Roper on behalf of HAR & Co. In September 1866 she was sold to Henry Morrison and John McKay and registered at Glasgow. She was owned by J Parry of Carnarvon in March 1881 when she foundered off Milford Haven. The smacks, Melfort and Earl of Glasgow seem to have been associated with the Melfort powder works for a time. They carried materials between Melfort, Oban and Glasgow.

Whitriggs was a 77 ton schooner built in Liverpool in 1856 for Thomas Roper. She was sold to James Ashcroft in 1874 and mortgaged to William Bell. She was sold to Edward Fell, joiner, of Barrow in May 1886. James Geldart bought a majority holding in February 1892, appointing Isaac Geldart as managing owner. She was sold to John Coppack of Connah’s Quay in 1893 and registered at Chester in 1897. She occasionally came into Ulverston. At first she brought timber and charcoal from Gatehouse, sailing with ore to Saltney and Ellesmere Port. In 1877 and 8 she brought moulding sand from Fleetwood and sailed light. In 1890 she brought tar from Chester.

Lindal Moor was an 87 ton schooner built in Liverpool in 1856 for Thomas Roper. Lindal Moor and Whitriggs were registered on 5th July, Melfort on the 11th and Gillbrow on the 24th. Her history is identical to the Gilbrow. The cargoes carried were similar, beginning with wood and charcoal inwards and ore out, ending in 1884 with ore and tar inward and iron out.

Gilbrow was another 87 ton schooner built in Liverpool in 1856 for Thomas Roper. With the Lindal Moor, she was sold to James Ashcroft and registered at Barrow in 1874, mortgaged to William Bell, and then sold by order of the Admiralty court. They ended up at Liverpool Lighterage in 1896. Both registers were closed in 1922 when they were deliberately sunk by their owners. Between 1862 and 1866, she was an occasional visitor to Ulverston and Greenodd, usually bringing charcoal from Ayr, Gatehouse or Runcorn and sailing with ore to Ellesmere Port, Saltney or Garstang. Under Robert Ashcroft’s ownership she brought bones and manure from Liverpool and, in 1880 ore from Belfast. She also carried tar for Alexander Saddler’s tar distillery and bricks to Glasson Dock.

Melfort: was a 36 ton sloop built at Chester in 1856. Thomas Roper held 8 shares, Montague Ainslie 16 and Benson Harrison 40.. She was sold to Alexander Hall of Belfast in 1875 following the death of Thomas Roper in November 1874 . She was wrecked in March 1888.

Eliza Bond was a 60 ton schooner built at Chester in 1856. Thomas Roper held 14 shares, Henry Bond 12. John Harrison Barrow was managing owner. Despite the minority holding, her owners are recorded as Roper & Co in Lloyds register for 1862. Tom Roper’s holding was inherited in 1874 by Thomas Dodgson, accountant, of Newland House. Thomas Dodgson died on 20 June 1881, leaving the shares to James Bell, accountant. He sold them to Griffiths Jones of Carnarvon in March 1897. Griffiths Jones was buying out the other shareholders, but died in November 1899 leaving 49 shares to Ann Jones. She was managing owner until she sold her 58 shares to Simon Roche of Ballygow in September 1902. The vessel was lost in South Bay, Wexford on 19 October 1907.

Eliza Bond was beached for a month for repairs in April 1886 and she brought a cargo of grain from Port William in 1884. Otherwise, she rarely visited Ulverston until 1889. Between 1889 and January 1896, she arrived frequently, usually with general cargo from Liverpool and sailing with powder to Liverpool. She brought coal from Manchester in October 1894 sulphur from Liverpool and took paper to London.

Ann Sumner of Barrow was a schooner built in Chester in 1857. Her managing owner was Henry bond, the Ropers held no shares and she is mentioned here only because Lloyds Register for 1862 gives the owner as T Roper. She sank in the Mersey in February 1888 on a passage from Point of Ayr to Douglas with coal..

Tom Roper of Barrow was a 99 ton schooner built by Ashburners of Barrow in 1857. James Geldart held 5 shares, W G Ainslie 4, Thomas Roper 2 and Thomas Grey Bisset, managing owner, 4. There were 22 shareholders in all. She was sold to James Charles Hormby of Liverpool in December 1898 and to James Hunter Sharpe of Glasgow on 23rd August 1917. A month later, she was sunk by a submarine off Cherbourg.

Margaret was an 86 ton schooner built by Richard Ashburner at Greenodd in 1858. She was owned by Joseph Hellen, ropemaker, (8 shares), Michael Bond, master mariner (8), Richard Roper, ironmaster of Gawithfields (16), James Ashburner, maltster (8), Henry Walker, bobbin turner (4) Robert Kendal, agent (4) and Robert Kendal, ironmonger (8). She was wrecked in November 1860.

Kelpie of Glasgow was a 50 ton schooner built at Port Glasgow in 1859 for Richard Roper Kelly (son of Alexander Kelly and manager of Melfort gunpowder works). Kelpie, Melfort, Earl of Glasgow and Dora received direct orders from RR Kelly. Their main duty was powder to the Clyde, returning with stores, but they also carried powder to Newcastle and Newport. Kelpie was sold in 1869 and registered in Greenock in 1879.

Newland(2) was a 28 ton sloop built at Tarleton in 1859 for Thomas Roper. She was sold in 1874 to William White, innkeeper, of Walney, and in 1876 to John Quinn Henry of Newry. Several vessels fouled the railway viaduct at Plumpton, the Newland was the last. Sailing light from Greenodd to the canal on October 16th 1864, she struck the viaduct, breaking 5 columns. She carried coal from Preston and Woodend, ironstone from Workington, Harrington and Maryport, charcoal from Runcorn and firebrick from Maryport. She took ore to Ellesmere Port, but mainly she sailed unladen.

Bans Vale was a 64 ton schooner built at Lathorn, Lancashire in 1847 for John Boundy of Ulverston. She was sold in 1860 to Joseph Hellen, ropemaker (16 shares), William Ashburner, shipbuilder (16), John Benson, sailmaker (8), John Brewer, master mariner (8) and Joseph Goldsworthy, agent (16). She was wrecked on Taylors Bank at the entrance of the Mersey on 13 February 1866. She is mentioned here only because the newspaper report of the wreck gave her owners as Harrison Ainslie.

Mary & May was a 97 ton schooner built by Ashburners of Barrow in 1862. Thomas Roper held 16 shares. She was lost off Milford Haven in February 1872.

Lorn (2) was a 69 ton sloop. She was built by Parkes at Ellesmere Port in 1864 for Thomas Roper, ironmaster of Newland Furnace. The patent slipway at Ellesmere Port can still be seen. Mr Parkes Jr leased it in 1863 and built at least two ships there. The Lorn passed to Richard Stephen Roper, ironmaster, of Newport and Thomas Dodgson, accountant when Thomas Roper died, and they sold her to Aymer Ainslie, Gentleman, of Hall Garth, Carnforth in February 1886. She was sailing with bricks from Connah’s Quay to Belfast in a force 10 gale when she was wrecked on the Isle of Man in November 1890. The crew were saved and James Geldart reported the wreck as shipping agent, stating that Aymer Ainslie was MO on behalf of the owners, Harrison Ainslie & Co.

One outlet for charcoal iron was the Honfleur cutlery market, and the Lorn made at least three passages from Ulverston to France. In 1879 she brought ore back from Bonawe. Between 1879 and 1882 she carried ore from Northern Ireland and took iron to Swansea. Her last appearance in the records was in 1887, when she arrived with china clay from London.

Mary Atkinson was a 93 ton schooner built by John and William White in Ulverston in 1868. Aymer Ainslie held 18 shares and was managing owner, there were 25 shareholders in all. He had sold all but 5 shares when she was lost at sea, “about October 1880”. The few entries in the harbour records occur in 1878 and 9. She brought 6 shipments of ore and charcoal from Bonawe and took a cargo of iron to France.

Warsash was a 67 ton schooner built by William White of Ulverston in 1869 for Aymer Ainslie. James Geldart bought two shares from new and the rest in 1890. He died on 22nd April 1895, leaving the ship to Isaac Geldart, ships chandler of Barrow. He sold her to Alexander Wilson of Dalbeatie in April 1896. She was owned by J Carswel of Dalbeatie when she was destroyed in a disastrous fire in Glasgow docks in 1914. She brought ore from Northern Ireland on several occasions and made half a dozen passages to France with pig iron, lastly in 1893. She also brought in coal and bricks.

The Furnaces Today

Extensive restoration work was carried out at Bonawe and the site is now open as a museum, cared for by the Historic Buildings & Monuments Scottish Development Department.

The Duddon furnace was the subject of a great deal of stabilisation and conservation work by the National Park Authority from 1980. They stopped short of re-roofing the charcoal barns, and they do not advertise it’s presence, but it will not fall down in the foreseeable future and it is freely open to visitors.

With the aid of grants from English Heritage, the roof of the charging house at Newland Furnace has been replaced and a roof has been put over the furnace stack. Some work remains to be done, but now that the rain does not run through the building, it is not immediately threatened. It is open to visitors on heritage open days and at other times by appointment.

Backbarrow was the victim of several development plans. While new apartments were built, nobody took responsibility for stripping asbestos and repairing roofs. It is close to collapse.

Craleckan furnace seems to have survived untouched for 200 years. The charcoal barn makes a fine truck repair shop.

W S L reports that the base of the Warsash furnace is still visible, but he was writing in 1939.

Alderwasley furnace was found in 1962 and demolished in 1964.

The above photographs of the furnaces at Backbarrow, Duddon, Lorn and Poaka were taken by Peter Sandbach. The second last photograph is of the Newland stack, and was taken by Dave Smithson, showing the repaired charging house roof and the new roof over the stack. The final photograph shows the Newland tap hole, photographer unknown.


On Harrison Ainslie

  • The early iron industry of Furness and district, Alfred Fell
  • The Iron Moor, Alen McFadzean. This is the definitive work on Harrison Ainslie’s mines.
  • Gunpowder Mills Gazetteer, Glenys Crocker
  • A short History of Warsash, FWL
  • A gazetteer of charcoal-fired blast furnaces in Great Britain, Philip Ridden
  • Furness Iron. Mark Bowden
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Ainslie

On Ships

  • Barrow and Lancaster shipping registers at CRO, Barrow
  • Lloyds register, 1862, 7, 70
  • The Ashburner Schooners, Tim Latham and his website, Through Mighty Seas
  • Furness Folk and Facts, William White
  • Dictionary of shipwrecks off the Isle of Man, Adrian Corkill
  • Dumfries and Galloway shipping registers, from Dumfries and Galloway Council website
  • Soulby’s Ulverston Advertiser, 1848 - 1862 on cd
  • Ian Whittaker for information on Richard Roper
  • Shipwreck Index of the British Isles, Vol. 5, Richard and Bridget Larn
  • Glasgow shipping registers at the Mitchell library, Glasgow

On Cargoes

  • The Ulverston harbour records, 1862 - 87, RAIL/880 7 and 8 at PRO, Kew
  • The Ulverston Harbour records, 1887 - 1946 at Heritage First! (formerly Ulverston Heritage Centre)
  • Melfort Letterbook, BDB2/20 at CRO, Barrow.

This article "Harrison Ainslie's Shipping Interests" is Copyright © 2005 Peter Sandbach.

Paragraphs on "Sarah" and "Richard Roper" were updated on 12th February 2005. Further substantial amendments and additions were made on 17th May 2005. Correction to Mary Kelly entry on 17th February 2006.

April 2010: Deleted comments on ownership of NLI Co vessels. Deleted paragraph on Headen Haw - not relevant.  Poaka magazine is in the field above Poaka openworks. I would like to delete the paragraph on James Geldart, but the name keeps cropping up and requires explanation. Deleted Commerce, it was not a significant holding. Added Kelpie. Updated condition of Newland and Backbarrow furnaces.  Deleted Dyfy furnace, not relevant. Added link to wikipedia. Added BDB2/20.

September 2011: Added new section, "The Gunpowder Traffic".

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