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British shipping companies (Pa)

Last modified: 2021-05-29 by rob raeside
Keywords: shipping lines |
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S. Pearson & Son, Ltd.

[S. Pearson & Son, Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 24 April 2021

Under his leadership, the company rapidly emerged as one of Britain's leading contractors. During the 1880s, the firm undertook major construction works in Britain and overseas; these included major dock construction projects at Milford Haven (1885–90), the Empress Dock at Southampton (1886–91), and Halifax, Nova Scotia (1886–9). In 1889, Pearson won two major contracts in the United States and Mexico, which secured his leading role as a British contractor. The first was to build the Hudson River tunnel to connect New York with Jersey City, and the second was construction of the Grand Canal to drain the swampy plateau on which Mexico City stood. Successful completion of these projects was followed by construction of the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames between 1891 and 1897, building of the four East River tunnels connecting New York with Long Island for the Pennsylvania, New York, and Long Island Railroad Company in the 1900s, and a considerable number of railways, port and other infrastructure projects in Mexico.
Other major works included Sheffield Main Sewer, Dover Harbour, reconstruction of the Tehuantepec railway in Mexico, and building of the Sennar Dam on the Blue Nile.
Science Museum Group

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of S. Pearson & Son, Ltd. (#463, p. 59) as white with a blue border and the blue letter "SPS".
Ivan Sache, 24 April 2021

Pegasus Ocean Services, Ltd.

[Pegasus Ocean Services, Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 30 November 2005

Pegasus Ocean Services, Ltd., London - white flag, blue winged horse.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 30 November 2005

Pelton Steamship Co., Ltd.

[Pelton Steamship Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 24 April 2021

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of the Pelton Steamship Co., Ltd. (#420, p. 56), a Newcastle-based company, as red with a yellow phoenix bird (?) in the center.
Ivan Sache, 24 April 2021

Peninsular and Oriental (P&O)

[Peninsular and Oriental houseflag] image by Jorge Candeias, 23 Feb 1999

Quartered per saltire in white, red, yellow and blue.
Jorge Candeias, 23 Feb 1999

Throughout its 150 years P&O has been a premier British ship-owner, and in its time the largest in the world. [About the flag:] It has flown the same quartered flag, embodying the royal colours of Portugal and Spain, from its very beginnings.
Jarig Bakker, 22 Jan 1999, quoting from the P&O website.

This company uses as its logo an image of the flag waving above bold letters "P&O". This is emblazoned on the company's dark blue containers, which are quite ubiquitous at least in Portuguese rail-port cargo locations. At is an example.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 December 2007

In 1837, the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, ‘a thoroughly well-managed affair’ first secured a Government contract for the regular carriage of mail between Falmouth and the Peninsular ports as far as Gibraltar. The company, established in 1835 by the London shipbroking partnership of Brodie McGhie Willcox (1786-1861) and Arthur Anderson (1792-1868) and the Dublin Ship owner, Captain Richard had begun a regular steamer service for passengers and cargo between London, Spain and Portugal using the 206 ton paddle steamer "William Fawcett".

Mail contracts brought financial security and in 1840 the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company tendered and won a second contract for the mail service between the United Kingdom and Egypt. The new contract was awarded on the condition that within two years the company would establish a line of steamers capable of conveying the mails onwards with a regular service from Egypt to India. Considerable capital investment was required and in order to raise the funds the Company became a limited liability company, incorporated by Royal Charter on 31st December 1840 as The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company - P&O as it soon became known.
By the end of 1854, the P&O Company had become the chief trustee of British steam shipping services to the east, providing the only regular and reliable mail, passenger and cargo service between Europe and Egypt, India, Ceylon, Malaya, China and Australia.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 initially posed difficulties for the P&O Company. Ships which had been designed for the United Kingdom/Mediterranean or for the Suez/Eastern leg of the service, were not suitable for the whole passage. P&O, having created for itself a virtual monopoly in the area, found itself in competition with every ship owner who, with minimum organisation and a negligible amount of capital, could pass through Suez to the east as quickly and easily as themselves. The financial consequences were such that for a period the future existence of the whole enterprise appeared to hang in the balance, an uncomfortable state of affairs greatly exacerbated by the fact that, the two principal founders having died in the 1860s, the managing direction of the Company was in need of a new head at the helm.
Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922) is widely seen as the one whose hand steadied the Company and guided it through these difficult years. Sutherland enjoyed a glittering career with the P&O Company, which he joined as a youth in 1852. Promoted to Assistant Manager in 1868 and Managing Director in 1872, Sutherland proposed and presided over a drastic re-organisation of the Company’s undertakings. He initiated a heavy programme of new building to replace the obsolescent tonnage, financed by a comprehensive series of cost cutting. As a result of measures at home and abroad P&O's home port was again relocated from Southampton to London.
Sutherland's strict measures and his astute grasp of emerging trends, underpinned the long prosperous swing of consolidation and advancement in the P&O fleet which followed. Appointed Chairman in 1880, elected Liberal MP for Greenock in 1884 and knighted in 1891, Sir Thomas Sutherland was undoubtedly a Victorian of the greatest ability and acumen for business. In a period when the scholarly literature is polluted with references to entrepreneurial failure, the P&O Company under his stewardship rose to a position of great power and influence in international shipping.

The growing inclination of early 20th century shipping enterprises to merge their interests, and group themselves together, did not go unnoticed at P&O, which made its first major foray in this direction in 1910 with the acquisition of Wilhelm Lund’s Blue Anchor Line. By 1913, with a paid-up capital of some £5½ million and over sixty ships in service, several more under construction and numerous harbour craft and tugs to administer to the needs of this great fleet all counted, the P&O Company owned over 500,000 tons of shipping. In addition to the principal mail routes, through Suez to Bombay and Ceylon, where they divided then for Calcutta, Yokohama and Sydney, there was now the ‘P&O Branch Line’ service via the Cape to Australia and various feeder routes. The whole complex organisation was serviced by over 200 agencies stationed at ports throughout the world.
In 1914, Sutherland and representatives of the British India Steam Navigation Company commenced the negotiations which were to produce the fusion of these two very large concerns. The British India Company, which came into existence in 1856 as the Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company and was renamed in 1862, was founded by William Mackinnon (1823-1893). B.I.'s routes converged in a network of services scattered around the Indian coast and stretched to Burma, East Africa, the Persian Gulf, China and Australia as well as to England and the Continent. Operating as they did on complementary services, the merger was viewed as a means of strengthening the position of both companies generating opportunities for joint efficiencies. The two companies continued to be run as separate entities but they shared the same Board of Directors until 1956.

A spate of mergers and take-overs followed the B.I. deal which greatly widened the scope and influence of P&O. In a surprisingly short time and conducted during the darkest years of war, several of the best known shipping companies found themselves under the P&O umbrella: in 1916, an amalgamation was effected with the New Zealand Shipping Company and its subsidiary, the Federal Steam Navigation Company; in 1917, the P&O Company acquired a controlling interest in the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, followed shortly after by the outright purchase of the Hain and the Mercantile Steamship Companies and of the firm of James Nourse Ltd. At the end of 1918, the Group was further strengthened by its acquisition of a controlling shareholding in the Orient Line and in 1920, the General Steam Navigation Company, the oldest established sea-going steamship undertaking, was taken over. In 1923 the Strick Line was acquired too and P&O became, for a time, the largest shipping company in the world. The business model, such as it was, appeared to work and it continued in this form right up until 1971 and the McKinsey-lead restructuring into several ‘operating divisions’ under one, P&O flag.

With the acquisition of Bovis in 1974, P&O diversified its interests outside shipping for the first time in its history. It was the sign of things to come and in the face of a hostile bid from Trafalgar House Plc in 1983, salvation lay in further diversification and a merger with Sterling Guarantee Trust. It was the dawning of a new era for P&O and under the stewardship of Lord Sterling, the Company's interests expanded to encompass a wide variety of non shipping activities as diverse as housebuilding, oil exploration, road haulage, exhibition centres and Barrier Reef resorts. With the airlines having all but dispensed with liner travel, P&O's passenger fleet was focused on cruising and bulk carriers and containerships replaced the old cargo trades.
In the 1990s, port operations in and around Australia and Logistics became an increasingly important focus for P&O as it divested of many of its 'non core' assets to channel investment in further port developments and remaining shipping and integrated transport-related businesses. P&O's cruising operations were demerged in October 2000 as an independent company, P&O Princess Cruises, which was later acquired by Carnival Corporation in 2003. In 2005 P&O’s last interests in the container shipping joint venture, P&O Nedlloyd, was sold to Maersk.

By March 2006, P&O had grown to become one of the largest port operators in the world and together with P&O Ferries, P&O Ferrymasters, P&O Maritime Services, P&O Cold Logistics and its British property interests, the company was, itself, acquired by DP World for £3.3 billion.
P & O Heritage

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the same house flag (#126, p. 43).


Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

R.H. Penney & Sons

[R.H. Penney & Sons houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker

Source: Brown's Flags and Funnels [Wedge 1926]

R.H. Penney & Sons, Brighton - white flag bordered blue; red 5-pointed star.
Jarig Bakker
, 5 February 2005

The business originally consisted of the partnership of Lidbetter & Lucas, coal and corn merchants of Southwick. This was formed in 1824 between Thomas Lidbetter and Edward Lucas (1803-1874), with financial backing from the latter's father, Joseph Lucas of Hitchin, co. Herts., brewer. The partnership was dissolved in 1827, and Edward Lucas continued as sole trader from the same premises (Southwick Wharf). He expanded the shipping side of the business until this had supplanted the initial trading elements.
In 1852, on being invited to join Sharples' Bank in Hitchin, co. Herts., he sold the business to his cousin Robert Horne Penney (1822-1902), formerly of Poole, co. Dorset, where his family had established shipping interests. In 1853, Robert Horne Penney married Lucy Rickman Lucas, a daughter of Edward Lucas, and to whom the freehold of the premises was bequeathed in 1874. The head office moved to Brighton in 1879. In 1895, Robert Horne Penney took into partnership his two sons, Robert Alfred Penney (1865-1935) and Sidney Rickman Penney (1867-1938), thereby forming R. H. Penney & Sons. The business was left by Sidney Rickman Penney, sole owner on his death, in trust for his widow Emmeline, and then equally to his four children, of whom Arthur George Wallis Penney, the elder son, was a partner.
The National Archives

Robert Horne Penney was the largest ship-owner recorded in the Shoreham Shipping Registers, being associated with some 41 vessels during his lifetime, besides at least two others registered at different ports while a handful of Shoreham ships were mortgaged to him. In partnership with George Robert Penney of Poole, R.H. Penney established the first tug-boat to work in Poole harbour called the "Royal Albert", and later owned passenger ships sailing between Poole and Swanage.

He inherited an interest in shipping from his parents George and Sarah Penney who enjoyed sailing their yacht "Ann" out of Poole harbour. In the early 1850s Robert Horne Penney came to live at Southwick, West Sussex where his cousin Edward Lucas had been a ship-owner and merchant since around 1819. In 1852 Lucas decided to leave Sussex and take up a partnership in a bank at Luton, since absorbed by Barclays. Penney took over the Southwick business and he also fell in love with Lucy, his second cousin and the daughter of Edward Lucas.

It was only natural that Robert Horne Penney should take a keen interest in Shoreham Harbour. He was one of the Shoreham Harbour Commissioners and when that body was wound up in 1873 he became a Shoreham Harbour Trustee. Although there was a new title, many familiar faces were still on board. As the harbour limits had such a unique position straddling the borders of East Sussex and West Sussex and being part of five parishes (Aldrington, Portslade, Southwick, Kingston Buci and Shoreham) the net of qualifying trustees was cast wide. There were seventeen trustees and the subscribers appointed four members; ship-owners and traders had three representatives each; Shoreham traders, Steyning Justices and Brighton Town Council had two each while Worthing Local Board had one.
In the 1874 Directory Robert Horne Penney was noted as having several strings to his bow because as well as importing timber, deals and boulders, he was also a ship-owner, wharfinger and coal merchant. In the case of the boulders, most of them were destined for Runcorn on Merseyside, either for use in the glass industry or building trade. By the 1920s bricks imported from Belgium were a common sight being unloaded at Penney’s Wharf. By this time the firm was known as Robert Horne Penney & Sons and surprisingly enough it did not stop trading until 1992.

Perhaps because of his daughters’ deaths in 1871 or it may have better suited his business interests, R.H. Penney decided to move away. The Penney family moved to a brand new house in Brighton.
Penney insisted alcohol should not be allowed aboard any of his ships and therefore enjoyed a good record of safety. In his business dealings Penney built up a network of like-minded Quaker friends, many of them being relatives. Although early on in his ship-owning career, Penney owned some vessels outright, his later preference was to divide the 64 ship shares into small units, sometimes even going down to a single share. This had the advantage of minimising the cost of any losses and if the voyage were successful, the profit was spread more widely.

In 1852 Penney purchased his first two ships from his father-in-law Edward Lucas. They were "Trial" and "Menodora"; both Canadian-built brigantines from the more economical end of the ship-building market.
It should be noted that Penney had a fondness for his ship’s names to begin with a letter "A". Some were named after stars, constellations and galaxies such as "Adara", "Albeiro", "Aldebaran", "Andromeda", "Antares", "Arcturus" and "Auriga" or from figures in Greek mythology such as "Alcestis" and "Asterion". Then there was "Arbutus" a more down-to-earth name since it is the strawberry tree genus while "Atrato" was the name of a river in Colombia. There was also a ship called "Capella", perhaps an honorary "A" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Auriga. Apart from being the first letter of the alphabet, perhaps another reason was that some of Penney’s ships sailed on a regular basis to the Antipodes.
The Penney house-flag had a broad blue border with a central five-pointed red star, possibly representing the Southern Cross, a constellation that was conspicuous in the southern hemisphere. But the device placed on a black-painted funnel was a five-pointed white star.
Hove in the Past, 12 January 2016

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the same house flag (#343, p. 53).
Ivan Sache 23 April 2021

The Perim Coal Company, Ltd.

(Hinton Spalding & Co.)

[Gleneden Steamship Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

Perim Island was strategically placed at the entrance of the Red Sea. It was also something of a notorious shipping hazard in what was a vital choke point along the route from India to Britain. Its position would become even more important once the Suez Canal opened in 1869.
In 1857, Prime Minister Palmerston decided to annex Perim Island after hearing that a French ship had left Reunion with the purpose of seizing Perim for herself. Had they seized the island, it could have meant that the French could have had control of both ends of the Red Sea and permanently disrupt Britain's fastest communication line to its most important colony of India. According to the Earl of Kimberley, Secretary of State for India to the Governor-General of India, the island of Perim was seized hours before the arrival of the French expedition thanks to the British consul in Aden deliberately getting the French drunk and consequently delaying their departure. By the time they had left Aden a British warship had already seized the island for the British.

The commercial life of Perim exploded in the 1880s when the Perim Coal Company was established in 1881 by Hinton Spalding (1846-1900). The shipping route through the Red Sea had exploded in the years after the opening of the Suez Canal. Most of these had recoaled at Aden but its facilities were becoming crowded and the larger iron vessels found that the channels were not deep enough to pull alongside Aden's quays.
Perim Island on the other hand had more than deep enough berths for the largest of ships. Almost overnight, Perim Island transformed itself from an obstacle to be avoided to being the hub of maritime activity as ships refuelled and revictualled in Perim harbour. Consequently, facilities for the administrators, workers and transitory visitors to the island expanded somewhat. Passengers could alight and break up their voyages if they so desired. Its one downside was that the island had no potable water, but as there were so many ships passing through the island, it was not difficult to arrange the deliveries of supplies so that refreshments could be made available to other ships calling in to port. Condensers were also used to create water in the desert conditions.
Aden responded to the economic threat of Perim Island by extensively dredging their own harbour in the 1890s but as the quantity of shipping only increased over time, both ports could share in the maritime opportunities provided thanks largely to the success of the Suez Canal.

The interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s saw the beginning of the decline in the fortunes for Perim Island as ships began the steady switch from coal to oil as their primary form of fuel. Aden invested heavily in this infrastructure largely due to the fact that they had the contract to supply and victual the Royal Navy which switched to oil even before World War One broke out. Consequently, Aden was well placed to extend these facilities to commercial shipping companies as oil grew in popularity in the interwar years. The Wall Street Crash and the great depression had a further negative effect on the quantity of shipping travelling around the world.
The shift in fortunes was made evident by the fact that the mighty Perim Coal Company which had so dominated the island's economy for so many years filed for bankruptcy in 1935.
The British Empire

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of the Perim Coal Company, Ltd. (Hinton Spalding & Co.) (#162, p. 44) as swallow-tailed, vertically divided blue-red with a white crescent in the blue stripe and a white star in the red stripe.
Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

Peterhead, Leith & Aberdeen Steam Nav. Co., Ltd.

[Peterhead, Leith & Aberdeen Steam Nav. Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of the Peterhead, Leath & Aberdeen Steam Navigation Co., Ltd. (#1349, p. 101), as yellow with a black saltire cantonned with the black letters "P" (top), "L" (left), "A" (right), and "C°" (bottom).
Ivan Sache, 21 April 2021

Petrinovic Steamship Co

[R.H. Penney & Sons houseflag] image by Brian Mills, 5 January 2018

Enamel badge. Twin split prong fitting so probably cap badge within a generic bullion wreath. White flag with blue capital letter "P".
Brian Mills, 5 January 2018

[R.H. Penney & Sons houseflag] image by Brian Mills, 18 August 2019

I think I have identified my own shipping flag badge - white with a blue letter P. I bought yet another book (Brown's Flags and Funnels, 1951) and I found it. It is for the Petrinovic Steamship Co (misspelled Petronovic in the book). They only existed for a few years from 1947 to 1955 and may have only had a fleet of one ship... The Empire Carpenter. Brian Mills, 18 August 2019
Brian Mills
, 18 August 2019

D. Pettitt

[D. Pettitt houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 23 April 2021

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of D. Pettitt (#299, p. 51), a Milford Haven-based company, as blue with a white shield charged with a red "P".
Ivan Sache, 23 April 2021

Phocean Ship Agency Ltd.

[Phocean Ship Agency Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 21 February 2006

Phocean Ship Agency Ltd. (J. Eustathiou), London - white flag, blue Greek "e".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 15 February 2006

Phoenix Trawling Co., Ltd.

[Phoenix Trawling Co., Ltd. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 1 May 2021

George Hogarth Douglas Birt (1862-1951) appears to have managed several fishing companies in Milford Haven, all of them using a red flag with a white cross and distinctive white letters in the quarters.
On 3 October 1895, Birt applied (No. 189518499) for the patent of "Improvements in Boards or Spreaders used in connection with Trawling Nets"; this was published on 11 January 1896.

Lloyd's Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of Phoenix Trawling Co., Ltd. (#1610, p. 113), a Milford Haven-based fishing company, as red with a white cross, in the respective quarters the white letters "P", "T", "C" and "L".
Ivan Sache, 1 May 2021

British Shipping lines: continued