Harland and Wolff, Ltd.

Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping (1908)

Harland and Wolff, Ltd., Belfast. Shipbuilding in Belfast as a
progressive industry is of comparatively recent growth, and yet there is
probably no commertial [sic] centre more prominently identified with the
trade to-day than the port from which have emanated so many of the
largest vessels in the world.

The firm of Harland and Wolff was founded in 1859, when Sir Edward (then
Mr.) Harland, who had taken over a small shipyard from Messrs. Robert
Hickson and Co., was joined by Mr. G. W. Wolff as a partner. The
euphonious name of Harland and Wolff has been retained ever since, but,
needless to say, other names have been largely associated with the
progress and success of the firm---notably, the Right Hon. Lord Pirrie
(the present chairman), and the general manager, Mr. A. M. Carlisle.
From 100 hands at the commencement, the number of employees of the
establishment has increased, until in busy times it now exceeds 12,000
with a weekly wages bill of over £20,000, and the firm held until last
year the record for the amount of tonnage turned out in one year at one
yard, having in 1903 launched eight vessels, aggregating 110,463 Board
of Trade gross register tons and 100,400 I.Hp.; this production was
remarkable not only for the total tonnage, but the enormous average size
of the vessels constructed, viz., 13,800 tons, one of them being the
White Star liner Baltic (23,876 tons). It is worthy of notice, moreover,
that this huge tonnage represents merely the normal capacity of the
works in busy times, Messrs. Harland and Wolff having previously during
the last 10 years frequently produced between 80,000 and 100,000 tons
annually. The following list shows that in no less than seven years out
of the last 10 their tonnage output has exceeded 80,000 tons:

No. of Board of Trade I.Hp
Vessels Gross Tonnage.

1896 ... 12 81,316 61,324
1897 ... 10 84,240 45,850
1899 ... 7 82,634 66,150
1901 ... 7 92,206 76,000
1903 ... . 7 110,463 100,400
1905 ... 9 85,287 72,031
1906 ... 11 83,238 96,700

The following figures giving the tonnage output in quinquennial periods
since 1862 will serve to illustrate the progressive character of the

Period Vessels Built Gross Tons
1859-1862 (3 years) ... 13 16,162
1862-1867... ... ... ... 38 32,805
1867-1872... ... ... ... 31 47,246
1872-1877... ... ... ... 32 39,496
1877-1882.. ... ... ... 37 81,318
1882-1887... ... ... ... 52 129,090
1887-1892... ... ... ... 58 259,981
1892-1897... ... ... ... 57 354,757
1897-1902 ... . ... ... 33 414,477
1902-1906 (4 years) ... 33 310,830

1859-1906 .. ... ... ... ... 384 1,686,162

These figures speak more eloquently than any words could do as to the
development of the industry carried on by this firm in Belfast, a
development the more remarkable when it is remembered that all the
materials---coal, iron, etc.---have to be imported.

The class of work turned out by Harland and Wolff has always been of a
superior kind, and, so many of their vessels being full-powered
passenger steamers, the tonnage figures by no means exaggerate the
immense volume of work performed, the larger vessels especially, with
their large deck erections and luxurious appointments, as also their
powerful machinery, representing a value greatly exceeding that of the
more ordinary class of tonnage. Possibly the best illustration of the
class of work turned out and the specialisation of large vessels may be
conveyed by reference to the last five vessels constructed for the White
Star Line, and the two latest vessels for the Hamburg-Amerika Line
and the Holland-Amerika Line. The leading particulars of these vessels
are as follows

Length Breadth Depth Gross Dis- I.Hp.
Overall Ton- place-
nage ment
ft. in. ft. ft. in.
Oceanic... 705 6 68 49 6 17,274 31,590 28,000
Celtic ... ... 700 0 75 49 0 20,904 37,870 12,600
Cedric.. ... 700 0 75 49 0 21,035 38,020 12,600
Baltic... ... 725 9 75 49 0 23,876 40,740 12,600
Adriatic ... 725 9 75 49 0 25,000 41.000 16,000
Amerika... 686 0 74 53 0 22,724 42,200 15,000
Amsterdam 616 0 68 48 0 16,913 31,150 9,400

These vessels, most of them with nine decks, and accommodation for
between two and three thousand passengers, besides a crew of four or
five hundred, are amongst the most notable productions of the firm
during recent years.

One of the most epoch-making vessels ever constructed by Harland and
Wolff was the first Oceanic, the pioneer of the White Star Line, which
was built in 1870, and was a great advance on the general practice in
passenger steamers at that time. She was not only a notable vessel from
a naval architect's point of view, as regards her general design and
construction, being of much greater relative length in proportion to
beam than had previously been ventured on, but in this vessel what may
be called the first real attempt to ensure the comparative comfort of
ocean voyagers was made by the introduction of the saloon and cabins
amidships. The principle of catering for the comfort of passengers has
of course been greatly developed since that time, and that the
encouragement given to ocean travel by the introduction of this
principle has had enormous influence on the mercantile marine is
evidenced by the wonderful development in passenger traffic that we
witness today on every ocean route. It may be mentioned incidentally
that this vessel, as did also the Britannic and Germanic, built for the
same line, ran for a quarter of a century in the line with great
success, and undoubtedly had a large share in building up the reputation
of both the owners and builders alike.

It is interesting to notice that Messrs. Harland and Wolff's
identification with shipbuilding has been practically coincident with
the general adoption of iron and steel as the material for shipbuilding,
and they have certainly been not the least able exponents of the
capabilities of this great industry, and have thus played an important
part in maintaining the supremacy of British shipbuilding.

As is well known, Messrs. Harland and Wolff's connection with the White
Star Line has been unique, practically the entire fleet having been
built by them. They have also built for most of the other principal
British and foreign steamship companies, including the Hamburg-Amerika
Line, the Holland-Amerika Line, the P. and O. Co., the Pacific S.N. Co.,
the Union-Castle Line, the Leyland Line, the Dominion Line, the Bibby
Line, the Atlantic Transport Line, the Royal Mad Steam Packet Co., and
the British India S.N. Co., the vessels for these lines being all ocean
steamers. They have, however, also built some of the most notable types
of cross-channel steamers for the Dublin-Holyhead and the
Belfast-Liverpool routes.

They have for the most part confined their attention to work for the
mercantile marine, but occasionally have built a few Government vessels,
including some gun-boats; and recently built the Admiralty yacht
Enchantress. Messrs. Harland and Wolff have also constructed the
machinery for some of the latest and largest vessels in the British
Navy, including the first-class battleships H.M.S. Hannibal, Queen, King
Edward VII, and Hibernia, and they have in hand at present the machinery
for the first-class cruiser H.M.S. Minotaur, of 27,000 I.Hp.

An interesting feature of Harland and Wolff's work has been the many
important heavy repairs and reconstruction undertakings, including
during recent years the China, after the vessel had been on the rocks at
Perim for several months, the vessel's bottom having to be entirely
reconstructed. The work of docking this vessel for repairs was in itself
a great engineering feat, and the same may be said of the Philadelphia
(ex Paris) which had run on to the dreaded Manacle Rocks. The Paris was
made practically a new vessel, with an improved formation of the stern
and entirely new engines aod [sic] boilers were put into her, and as the
Philadelphia she has been very successful in the American Line ever
since. The famous Scot, of the Union Line, was cut in two in dock, and
lengthened by building over 50 ft. into the midship body, a similar
operation being performed with the Hamburg-Amerika liner Auguste

The White Star liner Suevic, which went ashore on the Stag Rocks, was
cut in half by means of dynamite charges by the salvors, the after
portion being towed into Southampton. A new forepart was built by
Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and towed from Belfast to Southampton, where
the joining of the two portions was satisfactorily completed---a
brilliant finale to possibly the greatest salvage feat of modern times.

It may be mentioned that during the South African war over 20 vessels of
Harland and Wolff's build, aggregating 150,000 tons, all twin-screw
vessels, and therefore of the most useful type, were employed in the
transport service.

The works have been greatly extended during recent years, and now cover
an area of about 80 acres. The latest development within the works has
been the complete electrification of the plant, the electric generating
station being one of the largest private stations in the country.

Lately Messrs. Harland and Wolff, Ltd., have acquired a piece of land at
Southampton for the purpose of erecting repairing shops and necessary
berths for carrying our heavy repairs and, if necessary, reconstruction

Relates to Place:

Belfast, Northern Ireland


From Encyclopaedia of Ships and Shipping, edited by
Herbert B. Mason, London: The Shipping Encyclopaedia, Ltd., 1908.


Mark Baber

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