- 1861-1982 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
The William Robertson shipping business was founded in 1852 by William Robertson, whose first venture as a ship owner was the purchase of the scow or barge, Ellen, which plied on the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Clyde Estuary. His next acquisitions were the lighter, Gem, in 1854, the Ruby in 1855 and the Pearl in 1859. He acquired his first steamer or puffer, the Jasper, in 1865 and his first sea-going steamer, Agate, in 1878. His first diesel powered vessel, the Sapphire, was purchased in 1935. The names of the ships were all derived from minerals, precious and semiprecious stones. The business concentrated on coastal tramp ships, trading commodities such as coal and limestone among the ports of Great Britain, Ireland, France, the Netherlands and the Baltic. In 1885, Robertson also began managing ships for others. The business expanded rapidly and, by the outbreak of war in 1914, owned 49 vessels. A number of ships were lost to enemy action, however, during the two world wars.
In 1922, the business acquired a large quarrying operation at Llandulas in North Wales, which was registered under the name Kneeshaw, Lupton and Co Ltd.
In 1949, a private limited company, William Robertson Shipowners Ltd, was formed to take over the assets of the William Robertson partnership. The management of the fleet, however, was left in the hands of the partnership. The partnership appears to have been wound up in 1958, when William Robertson Shipowners Ltd changed its name to Gem Line Ltd and a new company called William Robertson Shipowners Ltd was formed to continue the management of the fleet.
Name of creator
William Robertson Shipowners Ltd, a private limited company, was formed in 1949 to take over the assets of the shipping business, William Robertson, including the ownership of its fleet of steamers and motor ships. The management of the fleet, however, was left in the hands of the old William Robertson partnership.
In 1952, Kneeshaw Lupton & Company Ltd, a quarrying business which for many years had been closely associated with the business, was made a wholly owned subsidiary of William Robertson Shipowners Ltd.
In the 1950s, the company invested in the Norwegian shipping line, Thor Thoresen Linje.
In 1958, the company changed its name to Gem Line Ltd. At the same time, the old William Robertson partnership was wound up and a new company, called William Robertson Shipowners Ltd, was formed to continue the management of the fleet.
The business diversified into geological research and consultancy, forming the Robertson Research Company Ltd in 1961. In the same year, it also formed the Ailsa Craig Quarrying Company Ltd.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the company invested in new and larger ships, but by 1970 the coastal trade had declined, with the advent of vast containers using large, deep water ports. As a result, in 1970, the company was taken over by Powell Duffryn Ltd, the owners of Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd. In 1971, following the takeover, the company reverted to its former name, William Robertson Shipowners Ltd. In 1976, the company was formally made a subsidiary of Stephenson Clarke Shipping Ltd, although it continued to trade under its own name. In 1987, it changed its name to Gem Line (Management) Ltd. The company was dissolved in 1997.
Name of creator
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material