Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company
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Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company was one of the more prosperous and best-known of Cardiff-based shipowning companies, established in 1882 by a Ceredigion sea captain, Evan Thomas, and a Merthyr Tydfil businessman, Henry Radcliffe. Prior to 1939 one of the principal activities of the company was the transportation of Welsh steam coal, this trade reaching its peak in the years immediately prior to World War I. The company was finally wound-up in the 1980s.
|Founded||1882, as Messrs. Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company in Cardiff, United Kingdom|
|Headquarters||Cardiff, United Kingdom|
|Captain Evan Thomas, Henry Radcliffe (founders)|
In 1881, Evan Thomas, a Master Mariner from Aberporth in Ceredigion who had served with Jones Bros. of Newport an J. H. Anning of Cardiff, went into partnership with Henry Radcliffe, a Merthyr Tydfil businessman and they purchased their first ship together. The combination of master mariner and businessman as partners was not uncommon at this time in Cardiff.
It was not hard for the partners to raise money to buy their first ship, with most of the capital being raised in Wales. The partners risked very little of their own money, instead purchasing the ship on mortgage. The capital being raised as shares in a single ship company.
He was the son of Hezekiah Thomas (1805–1869) who owned a 47-ton ketch, Pheasant, and part-owner of a number of other vessels. From Aberporth coal and limestone was imported by coastal vessels from South Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay. Evan Thomas's brother, Thomas Thomas (1836–1911) was a part-time sailor, part-time farmer, and became secretary of the Aberporth Mutual Ship Insurance Society.
Capt. Evan Thomas obtained his master's certificate and after eight years as Master in Steam in the tramps of the Baltic, Mediterranean, Black Sea, and United States of America proposed the setting up of a new ship-owning company in Cardiff, the booming coal metropolis.
Evan Thomas commanded the first vessel purchased by Evan Thomas, Radcliffe, namely the Gwenllian Thomas.
By 1884 Evan Thomas gave up the sea, and upon his death at the age of 59 on the 14 November 1891 the company he had established less than ten years previously owned as many as 15 tramp steamers.
Evan Thomas had issue, a son and four daughters.
Henry Radcliffe (1857–1921) was a businessman from Merthyr Tydfil an important Welsh industrial town. Upon the death of Evan Thomas in 1891, Henry Radcliffe took into partnership his younger brother Daniel. Henry Radcliffe died in 1921 at the age of 66 at his home in Druidstone, St Mellons. He left issue, a son, Wyndham Ivor Radcliffe and two daughters, Clarissa Gwendoline Gwynne Maitland and Sarah Ethel Radcliffe. He was an extensive owned of land in the Vale of Glamorgan and included shareholdings in a large number of companies in South Wales including the Taff Vale Railway, Barry Railway Co., Vale of Glamorgan Railway Co., Tempus Shipping Co., Cardiff Port Iron & Coal Storage Co., North's Navigation Collieries Ltd., Great Western Colliery Co. Ltd., P. & A. Campbell Ltd., Cambrian Railways, Alexandra Docks Newport and Guest Keen & Nettlefolds.
Upon the death of Henry Radcliffe, the chairmanship of the company passed on to his younger brother Daniel.
Daniel Radcliffe of Tal-y-werydd, Penylan, Cardiff, joined the company at the age of 24 in 1892 having previously worked for Cardiff shipowners J. H. Anning and the Turnbull Brothers. Upon joining the company he promoted rapid growth with the result that in 1900 the business owned a total of 24 ships.
Daniel Radcliffe died on 29 March 1933.
The Early YearsEdit
As Evan Thomas, Radcliffe's business succeeded, more and more ships were added to the fleet. As many as 31 single-ship companies were registered in the company's name. The Gwenllian Thomas went to sea under the command of Evan Thomas, his partner taking charge of the office at 4 Dock Chambers and all the chartering arrangements. In 1882, a second vessel, the Iolo Morganwg (1,292 tons) was purchased from Palmers of Newcastle who has already built the Gwenllian Thomas. In 1883 came the Kate Thomas (1,588 tons) and the Anne Thomas (1,419 tons) followed by the Wynnstay (1,542 tons) in 1884. Around this time Evan Thomas gave up the sea.
The Black Sea TradeEdit
All the Evan Thomas, Radcliffe vessels were tramp steamers, sailing not along fixed routes but to whatever port in the world the charterers wished. Nevertheless, from 1882 when the company was established until about 1914 there was a pattern of trading with the vessels taking out cargoes of coal from the Tyne ports and South Wales to west European or Mediterranean ports, then proceeding in ballast to the Black Sea, to such ports as Odessa, Taranrog and Novorossisk, returning to British, but more likely a continental port, with grain. This became so much the normal pattern of trading that the annual reports of the company constantly refer to the Black Sea traffic.
This pattern of trading was repeated for almost all the Evan Thomas, Radcliffe ships with little variation until 1912-13 when there was a decline in the trade. Gradually the Black Sea trade declined and Evan Thomas, Radcliffe, in common with other Cardiff shipowners, had to look elsewhere for their trade. The Black Sea trade in its heyday was a very lucrative business and the carriage of coal from South Wales outwards and grain from southern Russia inwards really provided the basis of success for Evan Thomas, Radcliffe. Vessels rarely sailed in ballast except for short voyages from the points of discharge of coal to the Black Sea and from continental ports to Cardiff or Barry.
The Black Sea trade did continue until the early years of the First World War, but some of the vessels were making more frequent appearances in America and south east Asia. For example, the SS Washington, from its construction in 1907 until December 1912, was concerned exclusively with the carriage of coal from South Wales to the Mediterranean and the carriage of grain from the Black Sea ports to Hamburg, Rotterdam and Marseille. In December 1912 she sailed from Barry with a cargo of coal from Rio de Janeiro. She then returned from Bahía Blanca to London with grain and left on another voyage from Barry to Rio de Janeiro returning to Rotterdam with general cargo from New Orleans. She then returned to the Black Sea trade for another five voyages before sailing in ballast after unloading coal at Taranto for Pondicherry, returning with a cargo of ground nuts for Marseille. She then sailed across the Atlantic to New Orleans returning to Marseille in February 1914 with a cargo of wheat.
The SS Llangorse, to quote another example, was used exclusively for the normal Black Sea coal and grain trade from 1907 to 1912; she then crossed the Atlantic to Baltimore returning to Hamburg with grain. After six more voyages to the Black Sea the vessel visited Galveston, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Philadelphia, Rosario, San Nicholas and Aguilas being concerned with the transport of grain and iron ore, to Naples, Barcelona, Glasgow, Genoa and Avonmouth. Gradually, the trans-Atlantic trade was becoming more and more important in the activities of Cardiff shipowners.
The First World WarEdit
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Messrs. Evan Thomas, Radcliffe were the largest of the Cardiff shipowners owning a fleet of 28 vessels. During the First World War the company was to suffer considerable losses, a total of 20 ships being sunk.
Although substantial sums of money were received in compensation for the vessels lost during the war, Evan Thomas, Radcliffe, unlike some other Cardiff shipowning companies, did not immediately enter the post-war market for very expensive ships and only one vessel, the Ethel Radcliffe, was purchased in 1920 as a replacement for the 20 vessels lost in the war. In 1919, the company owned nine vessels only, with a total gross tonnage of 41,254.
Luckily for Evan Thomas, Radcliffe, no attempt was made in 1918 and 1919 to purchase extra ships, so that the company, unlike some others in Cardiff was well able to weather the storm of the slump in the 1920s. The one new vessel, the Ethel Radcliffe, of 5,673 gross tons was built for the company by Craig Taylor & Co. of Stockton-on-Tees at a greatly inflated cost of £274,019 and she sailed on her maiden voyage under the command of Capt. M. Mathias of Cardigan with a cargo of coal for Port Said; she then sailed in ballast to Mauritius returning to London with a cargo of sugar, then to Norfolk, Virginia in ballast to return to Immingham with a cargo of coal.
In 1919 and 1920 many of Evan Thomas, Radcliffe's vessels were time chartered to other companies, but 1921 saw the slump really biting with the result that many of the company's vessels were laid up for extended periods simply because no cargoes were available to them. Despite this, some of the Evan Thomas, Radcliffe vessels were fully occupied during the first few years of the 1920s, although substantial losses were made on many of the voyages. Despite the fact that some of the vessels were in constant employ in the early twenties, the golden era was obviously over and the annual reports of the various single ship companies that made up Evan Thomas, Radcliffe & Company reflect the general gloom and depression that seemed to have prevailed among the Cardiff shipowners in the early twenties.
In anticipation of those better times, Evan Thomas, Radcliffe surprisingly began to invest money in new vessels in 1925. The new vessels were considerably cheaper than the Ethel Radcliffe of 1920, built when the prices of new and old ships were greatly inflated. Nevertheless, in the 1920s substantial losses were made in the trading of all the vessels.
The Second World WarEdit
World War II was as disastrous for Evan Thomas, Radcliffe as the World War I for an appreciable proportion of the fleet was lost. No fewer than 11 vessels were sunk:
- 28 June 1940 - Llanarth - torpedoed off Lands End on voyage from Melbourne with flour.
- 11 August 1940 - Llanfair - torpedoed on a voyage from Mackay and Bowen (Queensland) to U.K. with sugar .
- 23 August 1940 - Llanishen - bombed and sunk SE of Wick on voyage from Three Rivers (Quebec) to Leith with maize.
- 26 February 1941 - Llanwern - bombed by aircraft off south west coast of Ireland. on voyage from Sorel (Quebec) with grain and timber for Avonmouth.
- 17 April 1941 - Ethel Radcliffe - torpedoed by an E-boat off the East Anglian coast on a voyage from St. John's New Brunswick to Great Yarmouth with maize. Beached on Yarmouth sands, but bombed and made total loss on 14 May 1941.
- 12 May 1942 - Llanover - torpedoed in North Atlantic on voyage from New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia for London with wheat, apples and tanks.
- 2 November 1942 - Llandilo - torpedoed south of St. Helena on voyage from New York. .
- 17 February 1943 - Llanashe - torpedoed off Port Elizabeth on voyage from New York.
- 18 March 1943 - Clarissa Radcliffe - torpedoed with loss of all hands, on voyage from Pepel with iron ore.
- 30 May 1943 - Llancarfan - bombed and sunk 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) south of Cape St. Vincent while on a voyage from Glasgow to Lisbon and Malta with coal and coke.
- 30 March 1944 - Vera Radcliffe - handed over to the Ministry of War Transport for use as a blockship on Normandy beaches.
This left the company with a greatly depleted fleet, for only 5 vessels came through the war unscathed. They were Llanberis, Llangollen, Peterston, Flimston and Llandaff. British ships were being lost much faster than they could possibly be replaced and the Government decided that it would be impossible to back a new shipbuilding programme entirely in this country which was so vulnerable to enemy attack. With this in mind a British Merchant Shipbuilding Mission left for the U.S.A. in September 1940 and the terms of their brief was to endeavour to obtain at the earliest possible moment the delivery of merchant tonnage...of vessels of the tramp type of about 10,000 tons deadweight.
A total of 354 'Fort Type' vessels were also delivered from Canadian yards in addition to the 'Ocean' and 'Liberty' ships obtained from U.S. yards. Evan Thomas, Radcliffe obtained 6 of these vessels together with the Samskern a vessel lent to the Ministry of War Transport under the Lease-Lend system at a charter rate of a dollar a year.
With the great depletion in the fleet as a result of war, the company was forced to look elsewhere for extra tonnage. American and Canadian standard vessels of the 'Fort' type were obtained.
The Latter YearsEdit
The period after 1945 was a period of reconstruction and rebuilding, although Evan Thomas, Radcliffe, in common with all other South Wales shipowners, was never to enjoy the prosperity of the pre First World War period. Cardiff was to witness a gradual decline in the fortunes of its docks as the export of coal diminished, for Cardiff, above all, was a coal exporting port and its fortunes had been built on the export of that one single commodity. Many of the Cardiff tramp steamers were concerned in the coal trade and the vessels owned by Evan Thomas, Radcliffe were principally designed for transporting coal. The company, therefore, had to look elsewhere for its freight and with the change of ownership to the Evans and Reid group, as a fully integrated company within the group after some years in partnership with Evans and Reid, the Radcliffe fleet was principally an oil tanker fleet.
In 1946 the company possessed only 5 ships of its own: Llanberis (built 1928); Llangollen (built 1928); Peterston (built 1925); Flimston (built 1925) and Llandaff (built 1937). It was operating another eight standard vessels on behalf of the Ministry of Transport or on charter.
The pattern of trading had changed considerably; the tankers were of course mainly concerned with the carriage of oil from the Persian Gulf, Sumatra and elsewhere to European ports, but the other steamers - the Llanover and Llanwern were concerned with worldwide tramping, rarely visiting their home port of Cardiff.
In 1950 and 1951 too, the Llandaff and Llangollen of pre-war vintage were disposed of which left the company with one vessel only, the tanker Llanishen of 1945 with a new motor vessel, the Llantrisant, a freighter of 6,140 tons built at Bartram's yard in Sunderland. The vessel was launched on 27 March 1952 and delivered to its owners on 5 September 1952. This vessel was destined to remain in the fleet for only five years for in 1957 she was sold to a Vancouver company as the Lake Burnaby. While she was an Evan Thomas, Radcliffe vessel, the Llantrisant was concerned with worldwide tramping.
In the early 1950s the company had few ships, so a number were chartered. Following the delivery of the Llantrisant in 1952, another new vessel, the oil tanker Llandaff was built by Lithgow's of Glasgow. She remain in the fleet until 1960, for much of the time being chartered to the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company Ltd. but on 16 February 1960 she was sold to the Island Shipping Company of Bermuda.
In 1957 a new motor vessel, the freighter Llantrisant was delivered by Bartram's of Sunderland while in the following year the oil tanker Llanishen was delivered from Swan Hunters yard at Wallsend-on-Tyne. In 1960 the tanker Hamilton, built at Tamise, Belgium, was delivered on time charter and the tanker Llangorse built by the Furness Shipbuilding Company of Haverton Hill was delivered. In October 1962 the freighter Llanwern was delivered by Bartrams of Sunderland.
In 1964-5 therefore, the Evan Thomas, Radcliffe fleet consisted of five vessels. By 1970 the Llanwern and the Llantrisant had been sold and in 1971 the last vessel to be built especially for the company the Stolt Llandaff was delivered by S.A. Boelwerf of Tamise, Belgium. She was a specialised oil and chemical tanker and remained as an Evan Thomas, Radcliffe vessel on charter to the company from the Stolt Corporation of Monrovia until December 1981. With the sale of the Hamilton, Llangorse and Llanishen, the Stolt Llandaff was to remain the sole vessel in the fleet until 1980 when two small coastal vessels - the Radcliffe Trader and the Radcliffe Venturer were purchased.
Evan Thomas Radcliffe ShipsEdit
|Ship||Built||GRT||Length, Beam, Draft (ft)||Notes|
Built by W. Rodgers & Co., Port Glasgow as Craigmore for Craig Line S.G.Co.
Built by J. Priestland, Sunderland as Constantinos XII; then Ionia, then Nicos
Built by J. Priestland, Sunderland. Managed on behalf of Shipping Controller 1919-26
Built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow
Sold Grogstad & Co., Norway and renamed Lord
Built by Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. Managed on behalf of Shipping Controller 1919-20
Built by William Gray & Co., West Hartlepool
She was a managed vessel. Purchased from Societo al Navigazione Tomei, Genoa, 29 April 1949.
Built by John Blumer & Co., North Dock, Sunderland for £26,500
Built by Craig, Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees at a cost of £99,439
Built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow
Built by Ropner, Stockton-on-Tees (Yard No. 410). A trunk-decked vessel
Built by Craig Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees in 1915 as the Windsor at a cost of £251,000
Built by Ropner of Stockton-on-Tees, launched 2 October 1896.
Built by Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Co. Willington Quay on Tyne.
Built by Shipbuilding Corporation Ltd, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Built by Craig Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees. Cost £274,019
Built by Ropner & Son, Stockton-on-Tees. Delivered 19 July 1898
|Fort La Traite
Built by West Coast Shipbuilding, Vancouver.
Built by Vancouver Ship Repairers Ltd., Vancouver.
Built by Marine Industries Ltd., Soull, Quebec.
Built by United Shipyards Ltd., Montreal
Built by Grand Trunk Pacific Development Co. Ltd. Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Built by North Vancouver Shiprepairers Ltd.
Built by Manitoba S. B. Co., Wis. ex. Catherine, Stratford, Lake Greenwood.
Built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow
Built 1901 as Evangeline by R. Thomson, Sunderland
Built by J.L. Thompson and Sons, Sunderland, for Woodruff Shillito & Co., Cardiff in 1902. Purchased immediately by Evan Thomas Radcliffe
Built by Davie Shipbuilding, Lauzon-Levis, Quebec.
Built by Ropner, Stockton-on-Tees for £34,000
Built by White's Marine Engineering Company, Hebburn-on-Tyne as Biddlestone for White Shipping Co., Newcastle.
Built Bartram, Sunderland.
Built by Bartram & Sons, Sunderland. Delivered 6 February 1928.
Built by Ropner & Son, Stockton-on-Tees. Delivered 26 July 1897
Built by Tyne Iron Shipbuilding Co., Willington Quay-on-Tyne.
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees. Cost £49,371
Built by Hawthorn Leslie & Co., Wallsend-on-Tyne Cost £86,990
Tanker built, Furness Shipbuilding Co., Haverton Hill.
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees
Built by Bartram, Sunderland for £82,568. Delivered 29 April 1929 and left on maiden voyage from the Tyne to Santos with coal (Master R. Roberts, Aberdyfi, Merionethshire)
Tanker built as Rye Cove. Purchased from Ministry of War Transport in 1947.
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees
Built by Pickersgill, Sunderland
Built by Brunswick, Georgia, USA by J. A. Jones Construction Inc. as Samlorian and sold in 1944 to Strath S. S. Co. of Cardiff as Helmspey.
Motor vessel built by Bartram, Sunderland. Delivered 5 September 1952
Built by Bartram, Sunderland. Delivered March 1958.
Built by Bartram, Sunderland (launched 1 September 1928)
Built as Nailsea Moor for Nailsea S.S. Co. by Bartram of Sunderland
Built by Bartram, Sunderland (launched 19 July 1962)
|Maria N. Roussos||1909||3,129||346x50x23||
Built by William Gray of Hartlepool
Built by Thomas Turnbull, Whitehall Dockyard, Whitby. Daniel Radcliffe received his early training with the Turnbull Brothers who were also shipowners in Cardiff where he was for some time a clerk.
Built by Bartram & Co., South Dock, Sunderland at a cost of £84,647
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees. Cost £48,939
Built Smiths Dock, Middlesbrough for French owners.
Built by W. Gray & Co. Ltd., West Hartlepool for Greek owners.
ex Silloth Trader (1980), ex Rosemary D. (1974), ex Valerie B (1973), ex Sarsfield (1970), ex Edgefield (1965), ex Spolesto (1956)
Built by Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore.
Built by Ropner, Stockton-on-Tees
Built by Union Ironworks, Alameda, California USA
Tanker built by N.V. Boelwerf S.A., Tamise, for Anthony Radcliffe S.S. Co. Ltd.
Built by W. Pickersgill & Sons, Sunderland
Built W. Doxford, Sunderland
Built by Craig, Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees.
Named after Captain Evan Thomas's only son Walter Hezekiah Thomas.
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees for £35,556
Built by Craig, Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees. Cost £54,011
Built by Ropner & Son, Stockton-on-Tees. Delivered 21 July 1897 27 November 1911 - name changed to Jane Radcliffe Torpedoed and sunk by submarine U-74 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) SW of Antimilo, Greek Archipelago, 28 November 1917.
Built by Craig, Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees. Delivered December 1911 (Yard No. 148)
|W. I. Radcliffe||1886||2,076||280x35x20||
Built by Palmers Co., Newcastle.
|W. I. Radcliffe||1904||4,748||383x50.9x30.3||
Built by Richardson, Duck & Co, Thornaby-on-Tees
|W. I. Radcliffe||1917||6,042||430x55.6x28.7||
Built 1913 as Clarissa Radcliffe by Craig, Taylor & Co., Stockton-on-Tees, delivered April 1913 (Yard No. 155)
- Capt. J. Alexander of Cardiff
- Capt. W. R. Burgess of Cardiff
- Capt. G. Clark of Plymouth
- Capt. D. J. Davies of Aberarth
- Capt. J. Davies of Aberporth
- Capt. J. A. Davies of Cardigan
- Capt. E. H. Dolton of Brixham
- Capt. J. James of Aberporth
- Capt. J. R. Jenkins of Aberporth
- Capt. E. Jones of Llanarth
- Capt. J. Jones of Aberarth
- Capt. John Jones of Rhoshirwaun
- Capt. J. W. Jones of St. Dogmaels
- Capt. T. Jones of Blaenporth
- Capt. M. Mathias of Cardigan
- Capt. S. H. Mathias of Newport, Pembrokeshire
- Capt. B. T. Morris - Marine Superintendent for Evan Thomas Radcliffe
- Capt. J. E. Owen of Swansea
- Capt. T. Owens of Llangrannog
- Capt. R. Rees of St. Dogmaels
- Capt. R. Roberts of Holyhead
- Capt. J. Thomas of Cardiff
- Capt. J. E. Thomas of Newcastle Emlyn
- Capt. W. Thomas of Llaniestyn
- Capt. D. Williams of Machynlleth
- Capt. John Williams of Cardiff
- Capt. T. Wood of Cardiff
Evan Thomas Radcliffe brand was sold to the Evan Reid Group of Cardiff.
- "SS Llanfair (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- "Llanfair". Uboat. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
- "Llanishen (+1940)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
- "CONVOY SC 26". Warsailors. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- "Llanover (1942)". Uboat. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- "Llandilo". Uboat. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Llanashe 1943".
- "Clarissa Radcliffe". Uboat. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- "U-663 sinks Clarissa Radcliffe".
- "U-50 sinks Sarah Radcliffe".
- "UC-71 sinks HMS Dunraven".
- "U70 sinks Flimston".
- "U87 sinks Hanley".
- "U46 sinks Llandrindod".
- "U33 sinks Llandudno".
- "U38 sinks Llanfair".
- "UB47 sinks Llangorse".
- "U33 torpedoes Llanishen".
- "U60 sinks Iolo".
- "U74 sinks Greek freighter Leonidas Z. Cambanis".
- "U124 sinks Llanover".
- "U1302 sinks Norwegian freighter Novasli".
- "U-46 sinks Iolo".
- "U94 sinks Paddington".
- "UB7 sinks Patagonia".
- "U156 sinks Penistone".
- "U39 sinks Badminton".
- "U108 sinks Dirphys".
- "U63 sinks SS Washington".
- "U74 sinks SS Jane Radcliffe".
- "U38 sinks SS Windsor".
- "U62 sinks SS Llancarvan".
- "U71 damages W I Radcliffe".
- Jenkins, David, Cardiff tramps, Cardi crews, Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol. 10, nos. 1-4 - 1984-1987, ISSN 0069-2263
- Jenkins, J. Geraint, Evan Thomas Radcliffe : a Cardiff Shipowning Company, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1982, ISBN 978-0-7200-0247-8