Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Taylor and Sanderson Steam Shipping Company

In North East England, at the mouth of the River Wear, lies the city of Sunderland. Since mediaval times the city grew as a port, trading coal and salt, and a place where ships were built. Once called the "Largest Shipbuilding Town in the World", Sunderland was also home to Short Brothers Limited. This shipbuilding company built several steel screw steamers for another Sunderland company, The Taylor and Sanderson Steam Shipping Company Limited (T&S). 

John Wallace Taylor and John Sanderson established Taylor & Sanderson in 1877. Incorporated in 1899 as The Taylor & Sanderson Steam Shipping Company, Limited, the company exported coal with its own ships. Several of its vessels, built by Short Brothers, awaited a remarkable fate. 

The Thornhill, a steel screw steamer, was built in 1897 by Short Brothers for T&S. On 16 April 1907, the general cargo vessel caught fire. It sank about 800 miles of Barbados on passage New York for Pernambuco, Brazil.

Short Brothers completed the Coronation for T&S in 1903. On 12 January 1913, the ship made the passage Bremen for Sunderland in balast (without any cargo but with containers filled with sea water for stability). Close to its home port, it was wrecked at Ravenscar, North Yorkshire. The salvaged ship was sold to F W Horlock & Co.

August 1914, the Coronation, renamed Coralie Horlock, was captured at Hamburg. In 1917 she became a part of the Imperial German Navy where she served as a transport vessel and as a submarine target !

The Coronation survived World War I and was sold again, this time to a Spanish company. On passage Genoa for Barcelona, in ballast, there was a bunker explosion. Two days later on 6 June 1921 the ship sank in Cavalaire Bay, France. 

The Taylor & Sanderson Steam Shipping Co. Limited 
Ordinary shares of £5, 1913 
The company went into liquidation in 1917. 

The Wallace was another steel screw steamer that was constructed by Short Brothers in 1905 for T&S. Possibly named for John Wallace Taylor, managing director of T&S, the vessel was requisitioned by the Admiralty for service as a collier, a bulk cargo ship which carried coal. Sold in 1917 when T&S went into liquidation.

detail from the Taylor & Sanderson Steam Shipping Company share certificate
signatures from John Wallace Taylor and John Wallace Taylor Jr as Directors of the company 
John Wallace Taylor (1834-1927) was a member of the River Wear Commission. One of the stained-glass windows in St John's Methodist Church, Sunderland, is dedicated to him. His second son, Frederick William Taylor was a director of Sunderland Association Football Club. 

Short Brothers built two ships for T&S in 1905. Besides the Wallace, there was the Alexandra. First sold in 1916 and 1920 to British companies, it found a new owner from Norway in 1924. A/S Inger, Bergen, renamed the Alexandra into the Ingerfire. On 11 April 1943, in the middle of World War II, the ship, on passage Barrow for Halifax in ballast, was torpedoed by a German submarine U-571 in 51.29N - 42.59W, far away from any port as you can see here

The ships mentioned in this post were all general cargo steal screw steamers that were built by Short Brothers Ltd. Their sizes were more or less the same with these average dimensions : 355ft length (108m), 49ft breadth (15m), 22ft depth (7m). Their volumes were on average 3759 grt and 2376 nrt. 

In 1911 Short Brothers built a second Thornhill for T&S. This collier was requisitioned in 1915 by the Admiralty. She was modified into a "Q-ship". Q-ships were very special mystery ships also known as Q-boats or decoy vessels. The Thornhill became an armed merchant ship with concealed weaponry. 

A Q-ship was designed to lure German submarines into making surface attacks. By seeming an easy target, the U-boat captain was tempted to make a surface attack using the deck gun instead of one of his limited number of torpedoes. In that scenario the Q-ship had a chance to open fire and sink the submarine. 

The Thornhill was sent to operate in the Mediterranean as the HMS Wonganella. On its way back from Malta to the UK, early March 1917, a German submarine attacked the ship near Gibraltar. It suffered gunfire damage and carried casualties. Then, after having crossed the Atlantic first, she left Halifax, Nova Scotia, in early June and returned to the UK. During that passage the ship again was involved in actions with German submarines on 18 and 19 June near Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland. 

The Thornhill survived both World War I & II and was sold consecutively to 5 English and 4 Yugoslavian shipping companies. In 1959 the vessel ended at Yokohama with collision damage and was sold for breaking up at Kawasaki.

The T&S share has a vignette of its shipping flag bearing the company's initials. The flag is skilfully reproduced in the embossed company seal (lower left corner of the certificate). Flag colors: dark blue stripes on a white background, white 'T&S' letters in a red oval 
click image to enlarge 



PS:  Interested in shipping flags or company seals? Then you may want to check the categories 'vexillology'  and 'sigillography'.

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