Documents

Union Steamship Company

Register

Vessel

1850s

1860s

1870s

1880s

1890s

Cape Mail Service






Dane (1)






Phoebe






Athens






Cambrian






Briton (2)






Roman (1)






Saxon (2)






Norseman(1)






Celt (2)






Northam






Syria






Asiatic






European






Teuton






African






Nyanza






American






Anglian (2)






Nubian






Durban






German (1)






Pretoria






Arab






Trojan






Athenian






Moor






Spartan






Tartar






Mexican






Scot






Norman (2)






Briton (3)






Saxon (4)






Vessel

1850s

1860s

1870s

1880s

1890s

Intermediates






Danube






Dane (3)






Roman (2)






Gaul






Goth






Greek






Guelph






Gaika






Gascon






Goorkha






German (2)






Galeka






Staff A - D

Staff E - O

Staff

Staff P - Z

Mail Ships

Intermediate Ships

Cargo Ships

Coastal & Feeder Ships

Colliers

Chartered Ships

Formed in 1853 by Arthur Anderson as a steam collier company  named the Union Steam Shipping Co to bring coal from South Wales to Southampton for P & O.

It is a curious and happy coincidence that this name should have been chosen more than half a century before the Union of South Africa came into being.

The flleet consisted of five small ships ranging from 336 to 530 tons and it was intended that they should trade as coal carriers. The outbreak of war with Russia in the Crimea led to their ships being chartered by the British and French Governments. When the vessels were eventually returned to their owners the Directors decided to abandon the collier business to concentrate on carrying freight and at the end of 1856 the company was registered as The Union Steamship Co Ltd. From these small beginnings the Union-Castle Line developed to become one of the premier liner companies of the world.

Lindsay’s South African Line, which had carried mails between England and Cape Town failed in 1857 and in consequence the Union Line secured the new mail contract. The Union Line undertook, at an annual subsidy of  £33,000, to provide, for five years, monthly sailings between England and the Cape. The voyage had to be accomplished in forty-two days and the vessels employed were to be not less than 530 tons.

First Mail Sailing - RMS Dane left England on 15 September 1857, three days after the contract was signed, carrying six passengers and a small cargo. In her holds were the Cape Mails and the sailing of this little ship marked the entry of the Union Line among the world’s great ocean mail companies.

On 29 October Dane anchored in Table Bay  and began the Company’s close association with the people of South Africa, this association would last for a further 120 years. During this first voyage to the Cape and back Dane earned £892 in freight and £818 in passage money. Her coal consumption for the round voyage was 734 tons.

Gradually larger vessels took their place in the Mail Service and RMS Cambrian of 1860 was the first vessel to exceed 1,000 tons.

For many years the Mail Steamers turned round at Cape Town and passengers and cargo were carried on to the coast ports in smaller vessels.

Direct Mail Services were extended to Port Elizabeth in 1864, to East London in 1876 and to Durban in 1887.

Losses & War Time Service

Staff Register

Ship Register

Other Items

1853          

South Wales ports to Southampton.


1856-7     

Southampton - Rio de Janeiro - Buenos Aires.


1857         

Birkenhead - South Coast of England ports - Hamburg.

Southampton - Plymouth - Cape Town / Simonstown - St.Helena - Ascension - Southampton.


1863          

Intercolonial: Cape Town - Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) - Buffalo River (East London) - Port Natal.


1863-1900 Mail Service:

Southampton - Cape Town.


1863-1900 Intermediate Service:

Southampton - Plymouth - Cape Town - Port Elizabeth.


1864-1868 Eastern Mail:

Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius (thence via P&O Line Suez - UK)


1866-1868

Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius - Galle, Ceylon (thence via P&O Line to Far East or UK)


1868-1900

Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius.


1873-1900

Southampton - Port Elizabeth.


1873-1881

Cape Town - Zanzibar.


1873-1878

Cape Town - Port Nolloth.


1881-1900

Southampton - Antwerp(later) - Rotterdam - Hamburg.


1883-1884

Liverpool - Newport News - Baltimore.


1892-1900 Union-America Line (joint cargo service with Castle Line)

South Africa - USA.

Funnel:

1858 - 1863 Black

1863 - 1870 Buff, black top

1870 - 1891 Black

    1891 - 1900 Buff

A Brief History

The Evolution of The Passenger Fleet

Significant Persons

More Information Required


1850s

1860s

1870s

1880s

1890s

25 - 30






20 - 25






15 - 20






10 - 15






5 - 10






0 - 5






Passenger Fleet Size in Each Decade

Small Craft

Routes

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