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Webster & Barraclough

Details about Webster & Barraclough

The following information has been compiled by Mr. Bert Spaldin:
Webster & Barraclough
The West Hartlepool Steam Navigation Company (WHSNC), was founded in 1856 by Ralph Ward Jackson through the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway Company. The company was primarily engaged in the North-East coal trade, but also operated a twice weekly service to Hamburg, and a fortnightly service to St. Petersburg.

In 1862, a power struggle between “Railway King” George Hudson and Ralph Ward Jackson, effectively resulted in the company being taken over by local shipbuilders Pile, Spence & Co.
When they went bankrupt in 1866, the WHSNC was taken over by Christopher Maling Webster (of Pallion Hall, Sunderland), with Management of the fleet being given to his son-in-law, Captain W.J. Young, who subsequently became a partner. When Captain Young died in 1886, Thomas Barraclough became the company's Manager. Christopher Webster died in 1893, and was succeeded by his son Ernest Alfred.

In 1895, the partners began to register ships in their own name, the first being the Wolviston (completed in November, 1895), followed by the Panther in 1896, although at this time they were still part of the WHSNC fleet. In 1899, the Company merged with that of J.E. Guthe under the amended name of West Hartlepool Steam Navigation Company Limited, (though still referred to as the WHSNC), with Sir Christopher Furness as Chairman, and J.E. Guthe as Managing Director.
Ernest Webster and Thomas Barraclough now formed their own company as Webster & Barraclough.

Just prior to this merger, the WHSNC had placed an order with Ropners at Stockton, for a trunk-deck steamer, the Barton, which was then transferred to Webster & Barraclough. Three other steamers were also transferred in 1899, the Burdon, Maling and Webster.
Over the next five years, a further four ships were added to the fleet, the Alston, Dalton, Clifton and Euston.

The company’s ships continued world-wide tramping until the outbreak of the First World War, by which time Thomas Barraclough’s health was giving cause for concern. Around 1915 he moved to Harrogate, for this reason, but died on May 27th, 1916, aged 68. In addition to being the leading partner in Webster & Barraclough, he was a Director of the Prince of Wales Drydock Co., Swansea, a former Chairman of the local Port & Harbour Commissioners, and a member of the Pilotage Board. He left a widow, five sons and four daughters.

Unfortunately, his sons were not ready take over from their father, and as Mr. Webster had left the running of the company to Thomas Barraclough, the company was left in a difficult position. In 1917 the Alston, Clifton and Barton were sold to Watts, Watts & Co., of London, while the Dalton was a war casualty when she was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterannean.

The company’s last ship, the Barton, was sold to Watts, Watts & Co. in 1918, bringing an end to nineteen years of ship-owning.

Family History:

Thomas Barraclough was born 28th June 1847 in Halifax, Yorkshire to parents Thomas and Elizabeth (nee Helliwell) Barraclough. He was married on 25th April 1870 to Margaret Middleton. Margaret died in 1891 less than a month after the birth of their eighth child. Thomas was remarried at Darlington on 25 April 1893 to Elizabeth Severs and they had two children. He was a member of the Hartlepool Pilotage Authority and director of the Prince of Wales Dry Dock Co., Swansea. From at least 1901 the family lived in Staincliffe House but in 1913 moved to Harrogate because of Thomas’ failing health.

Thomas died aged 68 on 27th May 1916 at Harrogate leaving effects of £145,077. He was interred at Hart Road cemetery.


Charles Edward Webster was born in July 1859 at Pallion Hall, Sunderland to parents Christopher and Mary (nee Laing) Webster. He was a managing director of the WHSNC but died suddenly aged just 31 at Seaton Carew on 12 March 1891.


Ernest Alfred Webster was born on 28th October 1855 at Pallion Hall, Sunderland to parents Christopher Maling and Mary (nee Laing) Webster. He was educated at Grange School, Bishopwearmouth and Durham School.  Ernest married Agnes Amelia Stephenson at Westmorland on 22 April 1886. He became a J.P., and landed proprietor as well as a shipowner. Ernest purchased Wolviston Hall near Stockton-on-Tees from William Young sometime in the 1880s.

Ernest died aged 68 at Wolviston Hall on 7 March 1924 leaving effects of £208,123.


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