Bullard King & Co


Bullard King & Company, Limited, was founded in 1850 with a fleet of small sailing ships trading from the Thames to the Mediterranean under the flag of The White Cross Line.

Prior to that Daniel King and John Rawling had owned various small sailing ships trading on the east coast of England. In 1850 Daniel King and Samuel Bullard started trading under the name of Bullard King & Co.

Up until the introduction of steamships I am unsure, at present, what company owned what vessel. Until I am certain I am recording the ships as either sailing or steam driven.

In 1879 they built their first steamer and introduced the Natal Direct Line to carry passengers directly to Durban and later East African ports.

In 1889 they commenced sailings from India to South Africa to carry field labourers for the sugar plantations.

In 1911 immigration from India was stopped and in 1919 Bullard King & Company, Limited, was taken over by the Union-Castle Line, although keeping it's independent identity and colours.

For later history see Union-Castle Line. Their last ships were merged into the Springbok Line in 1960.

The following is extracted from the web site of  The Siedle Saga

The story of the Natal Line of Steamers – the principal business interest of my life from the time when I first landed in Natal in the “Eighties” – is linked up with the career of the late Dan King, Senior, who as a lad born in Southwold, Suffolk, seized the earliest possible opportunity of “going to sea” and passed all the grades of ship life to that of Master.

By dint of industry, and business acumen Captain Dan King found himself in the happy position of being able to retire from sea life and settle ashore. It would be somewhere in the early Fifties  of the last century that he joined forces with the late W.S. Bullard, already a ship owner, and with him carried on a line of small sailing vessels trading with Morocco and the Mediterranean.

In 1856 the attention of Messrs. Bullard and King was drawn to the potentialities of the Colony of Natal and in that year, they started a service of sailing vessels under the name of White Cross Line, later changed to that of the Natal Direct Line of Steamers.

“Familiar in the mouth as household words” were the names of some of the old sailing vessels of Bullard King & Co. among the early colonists of Natal, notably that of the brave old Priscilla, which made the first record sailing passage from Port Natal to the London Docks in 52 days. Other famous craft among the old sailors of the time were the Silvery Wave, the Veralum and the Burton Stather.

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Sailing Ships



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Sailing Ship Staff

Steam Ship Staff

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The Pongola, of  940 tons register, launched in 1879 , was the first of the “Natal Direct” steamers built to cross the bar in 1880. She was followed by the Limpopo in 1881 and the Congella, whose maiden voyage was in 1882.

In 1869 John T. Rennie started a joint service with Bullard, King & Company under the banner of the Aberdeen Clipper Line of Packets from London to Natal.

It was at this time that the decision was arrived at that all vessels launched in future under the house flag of the Natal Direct Line should be named after African rivers, each name bearing the prefix “Um.” Accordingly the next vessel was named the Umtata, and thereafter there came a short lull in the building programme until the expansion of the gold mining industry on the rand justified the prospect of increase cargoes, so that the Umzinto, launched in 1887, and the Umlazi in 1888 were followed in quick succession by the Umvolozi, Umbilo, Umkuzi, Umhlali and Umona.

There was one, and only one, departure from the “Um” rule when the Palala was named in memory of a former sailing vessel; but the choice proved an unlucky one, the Palala being wrecked off Portland Bill when outward bound on the second voyage of her career. Sailormen believe there is luck in names - good luck or bad, as the case may be – and the story of the two Palalas would seem to justify them. The original Palala, the sailing vessel of that name had been wrecked on the coral reefs off Cape St Mary, Madagascar, in 1883. Only three of the ships company survived the disaster and these were held to ransom by Malagasy natives.  Ultimately they were “bought off” from their captors by means of 20 pounds worth of calico, supplied by McCubbin’s trading store at Cape St. Mary.

As the time passed the sailing vessels of the line – brigs, barques and schooners of about 350 to 450 tons register – were either condemned or sold out of the fleet, and by 1890 or thereabouts the service consisted exclusively of steamers, which were steadily increased in number to meet the developing trade.

The service to India was inaugurated in 1889, when the Indian immigration contract was secured, and this continued until the Indian Government put a stop to immigration, after which the vessels were requisitioned for the conveyance of Indians returning to their homeland under the Natal Government scheme to repatriation.

The pioneer vessels of the service of steamships to India was the Pongola. Prior to her entry into the trade of commerce between Natal and India had been carried on exclusively by sailing craft.

Meantime the traffic between London and Natal grew by leaps and bounds; but at this end, although harbour developments were progressing steadily, it remained impossible for vessels of deep draught to cross the bar until June, 1904, when the first regular mailship, the Armadale Castle, was able to come inside and berth alongside the wharf.

The story of Durban’s harbour development, of the many troubles and vicissitudes experienced before success was won, has been told and re-told ad nauseam, but one may recall here that until dredging was systematically adopted it remained impossible to rely on the depth of water at the entrance to the inner harbour.

On the outbreak of the Boer War in October, 1899, the steamers of the Natal Direct Line were used for the transport of the English mails from Natal to Cape Town, and this service was continued until the time it was adjudged it safe to convey the mails overland.


To - 1850

East Coast of UK

London to Mediterranean

1850 - 1890

Clipper ship service as White Cross Line to Australia


Joint service with Rennies to Natal as Aberdeen Clipper Line of Packets


UK - South Africa (later added East Africa and Mauritius) as Natal Direct Line


India and Ceylon - South Africa.


Buff with black top and brown band.

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