By 1935, fish stocks in the North Sea were in decline and the older trawling companies engaged in this fishery were experiencing financial difficulties. This was particularly true of the pioneers, Kelsall Brothers & Beeching Ltd and their associated company, Hull Steam Fishing & Ice Co Ltd, and the former was forced to sell off some of its vessels. Six were sold to Brixham Trawlers Ltd, Brixham, managed by Dugdall & Son and the first of these vessels to arrive in Brixham in February 1936 was the Owl (H801, but on 6 March 1936 the two Hull companies were placed in voluntary liquidation and as a result two further vessels were purchased bringing the Brixham Trawler fleet to eight; the Auk (H755), Ibis (H764), Kite (H773), Pintail (H982), Ruff (H34), Thrush (H703) and Vireo (H446).
The trawlers were a success at Brixham but the harbour authorities failed to keep their promise to dredge and improve the quay, where only one trawler could land at a time, and also to provide a slipway for maintenance. Once again it was the high cost of bunker coal and of transporting their catches to the market that convinced the company that they had to move and in December 1937 it was announced that they would move to Fleetwood with the eight trawlers. By early 1938, Brixham Trawlers was established in the port, and with the demise of Kelsall Brothers & Beeching they retained the familiar ‘Camecock’ funnel marking and Hull registration for all the steam trawlers, remaining an independent company until 1960 when they were taken over by the Boston Group.
Funnel – Black with ‘Gamecock’ flag, Red on White
Hull – Steam trawlers, Black. Motor Trawlers, Blue with White line
(Cdr. Edward D.W. Lawford, manager – later William J. Meazey, manager)
The company had its origins during WW1 when two vessels, Ariel (II) (H843) and Iago (H963), both requisitioned for war service, had been purchased from the Hellyer Steam Fishing Co Ltd, Hull, by Mrs E. M. Lawford and Charles Curzon, Milford Haven. After being invalided from the Royal Navy in 1919, Commander Edward D. W. Lawford, took over the management of these two trawlers on their return from service, and in 1920 established what was initially known as The “Iago” Steam Trawling Co Ltd, based at Milford Haven. After operating from both Milford Haven and Lowestoft, Commander Lawford opted to move to Fleetwood saying that the port offered low costs and excellent fishermen. He already had the Wellvale (FD140) operating from the port and transferred six well maintained ex Admiralty “Castle” class trawlers, Daniel Clowden (LO129), John Cattling (LO364), Peter Carey (LO126), Richard Crofts (LO365), William Cale (LO79), William Humphries (LO533), two ex Admiralty “Strath” class, Keyes (LT580) and Sturdee (LT988), and the newly built, white hulled, Admiral Sir John Lawford (LO129) and Red Gauntlet (LO33). Always concerned about matters of welfare, the Company cultivated a family atmosphere and the ‘Commander’ was always concerned when men left to work for other owners. Long an advocate of better living and working conditions onboard the trawlers, he pressed for accommodation aft for all the crew, a practise later to become standard in trawler design.
MacLine Ltd, London
(Cdr Edward D.W. Lawford, manager)
Another company that arrived in Fleetwood shortly before Brixham Trawlers was the MacLine Ltd a subsidiary of the Unilever Group. Unilever had bought the fish meal factory of Isaac Spencer & Co Ltd who also produced cod and fish liver oil and had a MacFisheries enterprise in the port. Influenced by Commander Lawford, the Unilever Group had fifteen ships built in Germany as restitution for credits which had been frozen in the industrial depression that had proportionally affected Germany more severely than other European countries. These fifteen ships, built in 1936, although coal burners, had very sophisticated propulsion, a triple expansion engine with an LP exhaust turbine, double reduction geared driving the propeller via a hydraulic coupling and with a distinctive hull form incorporating a Maerform bow, capable of 16 knots. All were given names with the Northern prefix and registered at London, but at 188ft they were really too big to be economic at Fleetwood, despite being managed by Commander Lawford. Some of the ships were moved to Hull, but in October 1937 a new company, Northern Trawlers Ltd, was formed with registered offices in London and all fifteen ships sold to them and transferred to Grimsby. As a class they proved to be excellent fishers and were destined to play a very important part in the War with Germany that was to follow shortly. Macline carried the same funnel markings as Iago Steam Trawler Co Ltd.
Funnel – Black with single Red band
Hull – Older trawlers Black early vessels White. Newest diesel trawlers, light Mauve
Additional information courtesy of Peter Barsby
(Robert S. Hewett, manager)
In 1929 the United States of America was shaken by a financial slump and as the United Kingdom was still trying to pay off the debt incurred during WW1, much of which was owed to America, the country faced an economic crisis. Fleetwood’s fishing industry was caught in the crisis along with most of British industry, the resulting depression lasting well into the 1930s. Fishing companies all over the United Kingdom looked to cut their costs and once again it was the availability of cheap coal that helped Fleetwood to weather the storm and attract other owners to the port.
Hewett & Co of Barking, known as the “Short Blue” fleet, after their plain blue square houseflag, was the United Kingdom’s oldest fishing company having been established in 1764 by Samuel Hewett with a fleet of smacks working the North Sea grounds and transporting the fish with fast cutters to the London market at Billingsgate.
In 1865 when London was linked by rail to East Anglia the fleet moved to Gorleston but retained their headquarters, yard and workshops at Barking and a reduced presence after the port closed. On 18 January 1899 a boiler explosion occurred at the Barking works killing eleven men and injuring many more, while damaging surrounding property. To make restitution and pay compensation it was necessary to sell the greater part of the company fleet and Hewetts continued with two steam trawlers and a few smacks. After WW1 the company under Captain Hewett was based at Lowestoft and was able to re-establish itself on a much smaller scale.
The problem with Lowestoft, however, was the price of coal and at 10/- per ton dearer than the Humber ports or Fleetwood, this disadvantaged the Lowestoft owners by some 20% in bunker costs. After much deliberation the decision was taken to move the company to Fleetwood, although retaining their registered office in London. At the end of 1929, they had three trawlers operating from Fleetwood, DIANA (LO31), PENGUIN (LO97) and ROYALIST (LO17), all concentrating on short trips and landing quality fish. The Hewett Company and its associated companies played an important part in the continued success of the Fleetwood industry and remained in business until November 1980. They were the first of a number of companies that re-located to Fleetwood in the 1930s.
(Associated companies -Robert Trawlers Ltd, Hewett Vessels Management Ltd, Heward Trawlers Ltd, Short Blue Fishing Co Ltd, Great Northern Fishing Co Ltd and Brandon Fishing Co Ltd.)
Funnel – Black with Blue Flag
Hull – Blue
Mason Trawlers began as Wright and Mason, became R. W. Mason Limited and eventually Mason Trawlers (Robert H Bagshaw) Limited. The company maintained a trawler fleet operating out of Fleetwood and where also Fish Merchants active, particularly, in trading to overseas buyers. The company’s trawlers were sold of in 1962 but the merchanting business continued.
Funnel – Yello with Dark Red band and Black top
Hull – Green with white line
The Ward family, Lancashire shipowners and merchants, have been associated with Fleetwood since 1840 and in the second half of the 19th century had a fleet of merchant schooners trading from the port. Some vessels of the company’s fleet of sailing ships ‘tramped’ worldwide and atleast one of theire ships visited Australia while trading. J. N. Ward and Son Limited remained at Fleetwood as ships Agents, acting for most of the cargo vessels calling at the port over the years, but also established themselves as Trawler Owners and small companies aswell as the Wyre Steam Fishing Company. J. N. Ward and Son continue today as owners, managers and agents in Fleetwood’s fleet.
Funnel - White with Black top, later with broad white band
Hull – Black
J. Marr’s vessels first operated out of the port of Fleetwood in 1898. The company of J Marr and Son was set up by by Ann Marr & James Herbert Marr in 1902 and was based at Fleetwood. The company offices were at the old custom house on Dock Street before moving to 228 Dock Street. Though having originated in Hull in the days of Joseph Marr, father of Mr James Marr, the Company’s trawlers were not again based in Hull until 1934 when, on the aquisition of the City Steam Fishing Company, Associated and Subsidiary companies at Fleetwood included the Active Steam Fishing Company, Devon Steam Fishing Company, Dinas Steam Trawling Company, The Lancashire Steam Fishing Company and, through several subsidiaries, a widespread network of wholesale fish merchants.
Funnel – Red with Black top
Hull - Buff Yellow
The company was formed in 1954 when Associated Fisheries Merchants (Fleetwood) Limited. The Associated Fisheries Group eventually encompassed Hellyer Bros, Northern Trawlers Limited, the Kingston Steam Fishing Company, Boyd Line and the Loch Fishing Company of Aberdeen. Many of the well known older trawlers of these companies ended their days fishing from Fleetwood in the Wyre Trawlers fleet.
Funnel – Black with two narrow White bands
Hull – Black with White line
The shipping company was formed on 7 August 1885 and started in business with seven second-hand fishing smacks. Two new steam trawlers were launched for the company the following November. These vessels were initially based at Hull, but a fish quay and stores were shortly after built at Boston, Lincolnshire. By the 1890s the company was making a profit. In 1922, a collier, the Steam Ship ‘Lockwood’ went aground across the harbour mouth completely blocking it.
The vessel was salvaged by the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Co., but because the company had trouble obtaining payment from Boston Corporation for this work, the indignant owner, Fred Parkes, decided to move the business to Fleetwood and Grimsby. This marked the end of Boston as a major fishing port. During the years that followed the company acquired many subsidiaries and owned fleets in Fleetwood, Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft. It was liquidated and reformed as Boston Deep Sea Fisheries. The company ended its operations in 1979 following the imposition of 200-mile fishing limits and EEC quotas.
Funnel - Cherry Red with Black top
Hull – Black with White line