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Barrow Ship Building
Company

Barrow's shipbuilding heritage started with the foresight of one of the UK's greatest industrialists, Sir James Ramsden.
Sir James Ramsden
Barrow Ship Building Company was founded in 1871 by British Industrialist James Ramsden (knighted 1872) as the Iron Shipbuilding Company but it changed its name to Barrow Shipbuilding Company soon after formation.  
 
Ramsden had served 5 successive terms as Mayor of Barrow and had led it to achieving Municipal status in 1867. 
 
Although he was born in Bolton, Lancashire, Ramsden saw the enormous potential for industrialisation of the previously quiet Cumbrian fishing port whose population were keen to work and to work hard.   
 
He had arrived in Barrow in 1846 as superintendent at the Furness Railway Company where he soon rose to become Company Secretary.
 
The proximity of the foundry at the Barrow Hematite Steel Company, of which Ramsden had become Managing Director in 1866, made the production of steel-clad warships extremely economical and it was Ramsden's vision that saw the huge potential of a joint venture to be known as the Barrow Ship Building Company.
 
Barrow Hematite works 1865 Barrow Hematite works 1865
 
The works were laid out in 1867 and was backed by significant capital by the shareholders of the Furness Railway Company.  This allowed it to operate on a much larger scale than other fledgling ship yards.
 
By 1873, it produced its first ship, the steam launch 'Aries' which was launched by Lady Ramsden on 12th May. Later that year and to mark his elevation to knighthood, the yard also created the 'Sir James Ramsden', a steel steam yacht. 
 
Over the next 10 years the yard produced more than 100 ships including a number of large civilian craft such as the 3,257-ton liner SS Duke of Devonshire, an iron screw steamer for the Eastern Steamship Company.
 
Barrow Ship Building 1876 Barrow Ship Building 1876
 
During 1888, Barrow Ship Building Company was taken over by its sister company, the Naval Construction and Armaments Company in order to create a single source of armed naval vessels.  It would also allow them to secure the patents for submarine torpedo boats, two of which had already been built at Barrow by Nordenfelt during 1886/87.
 
Numerous naval vessels were completed under the new name including HMS Juno, an Eclipse Class Cruiser laid down in 1894.
 
During this period of technical revolution within heavy industry, Maxim-Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company had also operated at Barrow and it was inevitable that they would join forces with the shipbuilding companies.  This led to serious outside interest in Barrow activities and in 1897, Vickers & Sons bought the Naval Construction and Armaments Company together with its subsidiary (Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company) thus becoming Vickers, Sons and Maxim, Limited.
 
Please visit our Vickers Shipbuilding web page for more information.

Genealogy

1863  Barrow Hermatite Steel Company                                        
1871  Barrow Ship Building Company
1888 Naval Construction abd Armaments Company
1897  Vickers & Sons

 

More information

The Dock Museum, Barrow in Furness www.dockmuseum.org.uk