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Saturday 30 May 2015

Shipbuilding records

The National Archives of Scotland (NAS) holds records of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) and other shipbuilding companies. Since shortly after the liquidation of UCS in 1971, and as the industry continued to decline and contract in Scotland, records have been acquired by the NAS and other archives from shipyards on the upper and lower Clyde, from the Ayrshire Coast and from the Estuaries of the Forth and Tay. Though the collections include a little 18th century material, the bulk dates from the late 19th and 20th centuries. Apart from the UCS records, which were purchased, the collections have been gifted or deposited by the firms concerned or their liquidators. ship building records

Using the records

Business and shipbuilding records are normally consulted in General Register House apart from those identified as located in other archives. Many of the records are out housed and need advance notice for production in the search room. Researchers should first check with the NAS or search the UK National Register of Archives on the precise location of shipbuilding records before visiting the Historical Search Room. If you are looking for photographs or information on a particular vessel, check for registration details and the shipbuilder in Lloyds Register of Shipping available in most large libraries.


Many of the shipbuilding records acquired by the NAS have been sent to an appropriate local archive as indicated on the list below. Contact details for each archive including opening hours can be found in the directory of Scottish archives on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) website.

The main company records are:

administrative and commercial records such as minute books, board papers, financial statements, order books and costing records, contracts

drawings and photographs of yards, workshops and machinery

particulars of vessels

plans, drawings and photographs of vessels completed.

Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS)
In 1973 the records of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders was acquired for the nation by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland in conjunction with the City of Glasgow, Clydebank Town Council and Dunbarton County Council. The NAS retains only the collection of some 40,000 photographs.

Description Dates Repository
UCS photographic collection 19th-20th century NAS
John Brown & Co, Clydebank 1852-1970 Glasgow University Archives
Simons-Lobnitz, Renfrew 1810-1967 Glasgow University Archives
Alexander Stephen & Sons, Linthouse 1740-1968 Glasgow University Archives
Fairfield-Rowan & Co, Govan 1861-1971 Glasgow City Archives

Other shipbuilding companies

Reference Description Dates Repository
GD313 Burntisland Shipbuilding Co, including Hall, Russell & Co material 1918-69 NAS
GD339 Robb Caledon (Leith) Ltd, including Henry Robb Ltd, Ramage and Ferguson & Co Ltd and Menzies & Co 1877-1983 NAS
GD400 Ailsa Shipbuilding Company, Troon   Glasgow University Archives
GD321 Ferguson Brothers, Port Glasgow (Scott-Lithgow Group) 1900-63 Glasgow University Archives
GD320 Lithgows, Port Glasgow (Scott-Lithgow Group) 1870-1968 Glasgow University Archives
GD322 Scotts of Bowling (Scott-Lithgow Group) 1857-1978 Glasgow University Archives
GD319 Scott's Shipbuilding Co, Greenock (Scott-Lithgow Group) 1780-1979 Glasgow University Archives
GD315 Argyll Ship and Boatbuilding Co, Renfrew 1920-74 Glasgow City Archives
GD1/747 Archibald McMillan & Son, Dumbarton 1871-1935 Glasgow City Archives
GD324 Robb Caledon Shipbuilding Ltd (Dundee)   Dundee City Archives

The NAS also holds the series of Board of Trade dissolved company files (BT2). These include the files for John Brown & Co and William Denny and Brothers among others. These are not company records, but contain documents relating to the incorporation and dissolution of the company and the returns of directors and shareholders submitted as a requirement of company law.

Further reading

L A Ritchie 'Modern British shipbuilding: A guide to historical records' (Manchester University Press, 1992)

P Mathias and AWH Pearsall, 'Shipping, a survey of historical records' (Newton Abbot, 1971)

S Pollard, 'The British shipbuilding industry, 1870 -1914' (London, 1979)

M Moss and J R Hume, 'Workshop of the British Empire: Engineering and shipbuilding in the west of Scotland' (London, 1977)

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