Maryport History (click here for home page)

Maryport Shipbuilding Ritson Yard 1840-1910

Maryport Shipbuilding Ritson Yard 1840-1910

Midas The Barque Midas built by Ritson in 1896 and lost in 1898
The Barque Midas - launched in 1896 was last heard of February 14th 1898 and lost with all hands during a passage from Nagaski to Portland Oregon. A brass tablet in memory of the Officers and Crew hangs in the Maritime Museum - Maryport Source Robinson p12

The firm of Ritson ‘s was founded by John Ritson who was at one time manager of Peat’s yard, taking it over before the death of John Peat in 1840. Ritson was in association with Joseph Huddleston who it was thought was the financial partner with no say in the day to day running of the yard although research tells that the following vessels were built by Huddleston – Ritson & Co.

1828 – Snow – “Mary” – 218 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1830 – Snow – “Sally” – 89 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1831 – Brig – “Esther & Jane” – 58 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1836 – Brig – “Ivanhoe” – 267 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1837 – Brig – “Cantab” – 139 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1838 – Brig – “Canada” – 269 tons – Huddleston – Ritson & Co.
1840 – A ship – “Generia” – 367 tons – Ritsons.
1840 – A ship – “Beulah” – 578 tons – Ritsons

John Ritson was joined by his two sons Robert & William who had both served their time in the yard, Robert dying in 1844 and William in 1886, but Robert Ritson (Junior) continued the yard taking his sons John, and Thomas Smith Ritson into partnership. Robert died at the family home “Ellenbank” in 1877 and Thomas Smith Ritson the last of the shipbuilding side of the family in 1910.

Following the Beulah’s launching in 1840 Ritson’s began the building of small “colliers” and in 1850’s they enlarged the yard by building vessels on the Elizabeth Dock side of Irish Street. The Brig “Yanwath” was launched from there in 1858 and the Barques “Chanaral” in 1862, “William Ritson” in  1864, “Elizabeth Ostle” in 1869.

The “John Correy” a 1,000 ton ship was launched in 1854, the “Birkby” of 700 tons built in 1861 , the “Southerfield” of 707 tons in 1885, the “Ellenbank” of 1426 tons in 1885, the “Kinkora” of 1999 tons in 1888 and the “Netherby” of 1448 tons in 1886.

The "Kinkora" 1999 tons in 1888

Kinkora Launching broadside imminent with huge crowds 1888
Maryport shipbuilding broadside launch from where The Wave is now, into the River Ellen with crowds lining the hillside and a successful launch. The Ritson built Kinkora " of 1999 tons in 1888 after broadside launching into the River Ellen with huge crowds 1888. Location is now the Wave building. Source Robinson p17
Kinkora Launching broadside sends wave onto huge crowds 1888
The Ritson built Kinkora of 1999 tons broadside launching into the River Ellen with huge crowds 1888. Location is now The Wave building. Source Robinson p17
Kinkora Launching broadside successfully with huge crowds 1888
Maryport shipbuilding broadside launch from where The Wave is now, into the River Ellen with crowds lining the hillside and a successful launch. The Ritson built Kinkora " of 1999 tons in 1888 after broadside launching into the River Ellen with huge crowds 1888. Location is now the Wave building. Source Robinson p17
Kinkora of 1999 tons built by Ritson and launched in 1888
The Kinkora of 1999 tons built by Ritson and launched in 1888. Source Robinson p17

The “Peter Iredale” of 2075 tons was launched in 1890, while her sister ship the “Auchencairn” was launched in 1891 as also in 1891 the Barque “Criffel“. The year 1892 saw the launching of the Barque “Wythop” of 1372 tons, followed in 1894 by the 1200 ton Barque “Ladas“, in 1896 her sister ship the “Midas” of about  the same tonnage and dimensions, and in 1897 was launched the full rigged “Acamus“.

In 1898 Ritson ‘s launched their first steamer the 374 ton “Balmyle” also the” Jaboo” of 165 tons, these being followed by the ” Algores” 375 tons, “Thomas Leigh” 771 tons, “Point Clear” 509 tons, “Tay Graig” 407 tons, and lastly the 576 ton “Lycidas” in 1902. Thus came to end the great era of Ritson’s shipbuilders during which 85 vessels had been built, and to tell in detail the great stories attached to these vessels would be an impossibility, so to satisfy the readers’ curiosity a brief history of a few will be told.

The "Peter Iredale" of 2075 tons

The “Peter Iredale” of 2075 tons was launched in 1890, while her sister ship the “Auchencairn” was launched in 1891. The Peter Iredale – was one of the finest vessels to come out of Maryport and was built for Peter Iredale and Porter of Liverpool, and was the second four master to be built at Ritson’s yard, and after trading for sixteen years on September 26th 1906 she sailed from Salina Cruz where she had the honour of opening that harbour for Portland – Oregon. Later the good weather changed and with a high sea running and fierce winds she was driven three miles south of the Columbia River entrance on the morning of October 25th 1906 and where her hulk (a great tourist attraction) has since remained after seventy eight years though now little remains as the photograph taken in 1983 shows.

Peter Iredale wrecked on the Oregon Coast masts sails spars and rigging ruined 1906
The Peter Iredale Wrecked on the Oregon Coast masts sails spars and rigging ruined 1906. Source Robinson p14
Peter Iredale hulk on the Oregon Coast for 77 years photo Cullen Portland Oregon USA 1983
The Peter Iredale hulk on the Oregon Coast a tourist attraction for 77 years photo from Mr Mrs Cullen Portland Oregon USA 1983. Source Robinson p15
Peter Iredale remains of the hulk on the Oregon Coast a tourist attraction for 77 years 1983
The Peter Iredale notice about remains of the hulk on the Oregon Coast a tourist attraction for 77 years 1983. Source Robinson p14

The Barque Chanaral – of 583 tons was built for Robert Glaister Sharp a Maryport ship master. She was engaged in the South African trade and was loading at Aricia Bay in the West Indies in 1864 for Liverpool when on July 8th a gale sprang up during which she broke her anchor chains and drove ashore and as no assistance could be given her she subsequently became a total loss. The wreck was sold as she lay for 7000 dollars, her market value a few hours previously had been 300,000 dollars. 

The Southerfield 707 tons

The Southerfield 707 tons was the last wooden ship built by Ritsons and came off the ways broadside in 1885. Owned by Ritson’s she had a career of only three years when she was burned off Cape Horn in 1888, another ship being close at hand the crew was taken on board unharmed.

A memorial in the Maryport Cemetery bears the inscription:-

“William Beeby Bettony” killed at sea on the Barque Southerfield – August 28th, 1882. aged 15 years .”

Southerfield Ritson built ship of 707 tons launched in 1885
The Ritson built ship the Southerfield of 707 tons launched in 1885 was the last wooden ship built by Ritsons and came off the ways broadside in 1885. Owned by Ritson's she had a career of only three years when she was burned off Cape Horn in 1888, another ship being close at hand the crew was taken on board unharmed. A memorial in the Maryport Cemetery bears the inscription:- "William Beeby Bettony" killed at sea on the Barque Southerfield - August 28th, 1882. aged 15 years .”. Source Robinson p16

The Netherby 1448 tons

The Netherby an iron ship – sister to the “Ellenbank” and of 1448 tons she was owned by her builders and was for many years a familiar sight at Maryport which she left carrying a cargo of steel rails on June 21st 1906 for Tulchuano – Chile. She was spoken to on July 13th 1906 and that was the last ever seen of her and it was supposed she had struck an iceberg near Cape Horn, going to the bottom very quickly. Her crew consisted of many Maryport men. Three of whom were apprentices: Alwyn Skelton, Sam Dixon and , Edward Dairdan.

Netherby a Ritson iron ship 1886 tug tow from Maryport June 21 Lost with July 13 1906
The iron ship Netherby built by Ritson 1886 1448 tons departed Maryport June 21st Lost with all hands July 13th 1906. The Netherby an iron ship - sister to the "Ellenbank" and of 1448 tons she was owned by her builders and was for many years a familiar sight at Maryport which she left carrying a cargo of steel rails on June 21st 1906 for Tulchuano - Chile. She was spoken to on July 13th 1906 and that was the last ever seen of her and it was supposed she had struck an iceberg near Cape Horn, going to the bottom very quickly. Her crew consisted of many Maryport men. Three of whom were apprentices: Alwyn Skelton, Sam Dixon and , Edward Dairdan. Source Robinson p13

John Correy of 1000 tons was launched in 1854 and said to be the only Cumberland ship launched in darkness. She came to grief in the Malacca Straits a year later in October 1855.

The Barque Midas

The Barque Midas – launched in 1896 was last heard of February 14th 1898 and lost with all hands during a passage from Nagaski to Portland Oregon.  A brass tablet in memory of the Officers and Crew hangs in the Maritime Museum – Maryport. 

The names of those 20 crew who perished are:

Captain T Messenger
1st Mate R Richmond
2nd Mate G H Jenkins
Boatswain A Thompson
Carpenter J Short
Steward J T Armstrong
Cook L S Jams
A B; O W Swan
A B; F N Davis
A B; T Ross
A B; S Gordon
A B; J Colligam
A B; J Urray
A B; Adamamling
A B; E Scott

Apprentices
A Burnett
A Thomas
R F Light
J Hopkins
W Messenger

Safe at anchor, now they rest with many of their fleet
but once again they will set sail, their Saviour, Christ, to meet

Midas The Barque Midas built by Ritson in 1896 and lost in 1898
The Barque Midas - launched in 1896 was last heard of February 14th 1898 and lost with all hands during a passage from Nagaski to Portland Oregon. A brass tablet in memory of the Officers and Crew hangs in the Maritime Museum - Maryport Source Robinson p12
Midas The Barque Midas built by Ritson in 1896 and lost in 1898 memorial plaque
The Barque Midas - launched in 1896 was last heard of February 14th 1898 and lost with all hands during a passage from Nagaski to Portland Oregon memorial plaque. A brass tablet in memory of the Officers and Crew hangs in the Maritime Museum - Maryport Robinson p23

The Esther & Jane - a brig of 58 tons

The Esther & Jane – a brig of 58 tons built by Huddleston & Ritson & Co. in 1831 is remembered in the Maryport Cemetery where a sundial records the following: –

“In memory of Richard Annesley Turney, Master Mariner – Maryport who was lost with the crew of the “Esther & Jane” in Glenluce Bay during a storm – February 28th aged 57 years.”

Esther and Jane Memorial to crew lost in storm in Glenluce Bay February 28th 1849
Memorial to crew of Esther and Jane lost in storm in Glenluce Bay February 28th 1849. This large, ornate Sundial in the Maryport cemetery has on one of its four panels the inscription "In memory of Richard Annesley Turney, Master Mariner of Maryport who was lost with the crew of the "Esther and Jane" in Glenluce Bay during the storm of February 28th 1849 aged 57 years" The sundial a unique part of the town's seafaring history is worthy of being preserved, the first inscription was in 1849, and the last in 1923, thus spanning a period of 136 years. The "Esther and Jane" was a Maryport built ship. Robinson p26

Three other vessels were built by:-
1786 – The “Nonsuch” which was built by Barns, Potts & Co. She was owned by eight ladies.
1787 – The Brig “Mary” – 160 tons by Burns, Potts & Co.
1797 – “Thetis” built by Askew, Ellwood & Co.

Launching the Lycidas ladies grandstand view Lycidas 576 tons built by Ritson 1902
The Lycidas Ladies with a grandstand view of the launching of the Lycidas of 576 tons built by Ritson 1902. Source Robinson p18
Lycidas Launching built by Ritson 1902
The Lycidas The launching of the Lycidas built by Ritson 1902. Source Robinson p18
Advert Huddleston Ritson Ship Builders Ship Smiths Ship Carpenters Timber Merchants 1833
Advert Huddleston Ritson Ship Builders Ship Smiths Ship Carpenters Timber Merchants 1833. Source: Robinson p19
Map of Maryport The Dock only one single dock
Map of Maryport identifying The Dock ie only one single dock. South Pier, North Pier The Tongue and The Quay identified. Note the buildings facing the Solway Frith (sic) which was not called Solway Firth until ... Source Robinsion p19
Advert Workington and Maryport Steam Navigation Co Ritson Agent steam packet Liverpool
Advert receipt The Workington and Maryport Steam Navigation Company Robert Ritson Agent freight charges steam packet Liverpool. Robinson p19

Compiled by Miss Annie Robinson, MBE JP for Maryport Maritime Museum – Adapted for online appreciation by Peter Nicholson