J. Samuel White

Last updated

J. Samuel White
TypePrivate company
Industry Shipbuilding
Founded
  • 1763 (roots)
  • 1815 (official)
Defunct1981
Headquarters Cowes, Isle of Wight

J. Samuel White was a British shipbuilding firm based in Cowes, taking its name from John Samuel White (1838–1915).

Contents

It came to prominence during the Victorian era. During the 20th century it built destroyers and other naval craft for both the Royal Navy and export customers; they also built lifeboats and various types of commercial vessels.

(It is worth mentioning that there was another 'White's engineers and shipyard' of Cowes, that of William White & Sons (1883 - 1929); the use of the term 'White's of Cowes' can, and does, lead to confusion. [1] )

History

Faulknor-class flotilla leader, built for Chile, as the British HMS Botha HMS Botha IWM SP 1573.jpg
Faulknor-class flotilla leader, built for Chile, as the British HMS Botha

The family had a long tradition of shipbuilding in Kent, with James White constructing the cutter Lapwing for the Royal Navy at Broadstairs in 1763–1764, as well as fast vessels for the Revenue services and fishing smacks, and even a number of West Indiamen. At least three generations of the White family business undertook shipbuilding before Thomas White, (1773–1859) the grandfather of John Samuel White, moved from Broadstairs, to East Cowes on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight in 1802, where he acquired the shipbuilding site on the east bank of the River Medina where there was already more than a century of shipbuilding tradition. In the closing years of the Napoleonic War he began work on what would become the 'Thetis' Yard across the river on the West bank on the 'salterns' and marsh between the Medina and Arctic roads. It opened officially on 1 October 1815. J. S. White subsequently rebuilt the east bank site which in 1825 became the Falcon Yard.

Argentine destroyer Tucuman Tucuman 1938.jpg
Argentine destroyer Tucumán

Records indicate that by the 1850s J. S. White's docks with its steam sawmills and engine shops, and the mast and block shops, provided work for around 500 craftsmen. J Samuel White expanded still further in 1899. It rapidly became a world leader in the design and construction of small- to medium-sized naval and merchant ships, and also built numerous smaller craft, including more than 130 lifeboats for the RNLI, more than any other builder.

Sir Barnes Wallis, later famous as an aeronautical engineer, worked as a draughtsman for the company at the start of his career, before moving to Vickers to design airships.

The hammerhead crane Cowes Crane and 100yr old Lugger.jpg
The hammerhead crane

An expansion of the yard in 1911 led to the purchase of a large 80 ton hammerhead crane from Babcock & Wilcox of Renfrew, Scotland. [2] The crane was installed in 1912 on the Cowes side of the river and still survives, it was last used in 2004, and now Grade II* listed. [3]

At the height of its shipbuilding activities, J. S. White had shipbuilding slipways on the eastern side of the River Medina at East Cowes and fitting-out quays, engineering works and administration offices at Cowes on the western side of the river.

In 1922 J. S. White established the 'Island Transport Co. Ltd.' with barges running from Southampton, (and initially Portsmouth) to East Cowes to carry supplies for the shipyards. Any spare capacity was used to carry general, commercial cargo. After the shipyards closed in 1965, the trade was just general cargo. The Island Transport company was sold to the Red Funnel Group in 1968. [4]

At some time, J. S. White acquired the Henry Bannister, rope making business of Cowes. [5]

In 1954 J. S. White acquired the shipbuilding business of William Weatherheads at Cockenzie, Scotland. the business was carried on under the name 'William Weatherhead & Sons (1954) Ltd' until 1965 when it was renamed 'J. Samuel White (Scotland) Ltd'. [6]

In 1961 J. S. White acquired the postcard and greeting-card printing business of J. Arthur Dixon with production facilities at Newport, Isle of Wight and at Inverness, Scotland. The company was sold in 1974 to the Dickinson Robinson Group. [7]

With the regular construction of turbines, boilers, steam and diesel engines, the Cowes site became an engineering works.

With the closing of the shipbuilding section in 1965, [5] the works on the East Cowes side of the river were sold to the British Hovercraft Corporation in 1966. [8]

In 1968 the company received a take-over bid for the whole group of companies from the Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust; [9] by December 1968 the take-over was complete - at this time it was reported that there were 1000 people employed over the group. [10]

In 1971 Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust sold the company to Spectrol Holdings, a UK subsidiary of the Carrier Corporation of Syracuse, New York. [11]

By 1979 the company had been renamed Elliott Turbomachinery Ltd and employed almost 850 people; [12] and the American parent company, the Carrier Corporation, was taken over by another American company, United Technologies. [13]

In 1981 the company finally ceased trading and the sites were closed.

"Sammy" White built well over two thousand vessels at their various shipyards at East Cowes between 1803 and their closure in 1963.

An order in 1911 of six destroyers for the Chilean Navy, these destroyers were fitted with J. S. White's own design of water-tube boiler, the White-Forster boiler. These were similar to contemporary three-drum boiler designs, but had a remarkable number of smaller tubes.

Paul Hyland describes how J. S. White had grown during the succeeding century:

Polish destroyer ORP Grom ORP Grom.jpg
Polish destroyer ORP Grom

In May 1942 the Polish destroyer 'Blyskawica' was being urgently refitted at J Samuel White where it had been launched. On the night of 4 May, the Luftwaffe let fly with 200 tons of bombs, a wave of incendiaries followed by high explosives. The Blyskawica left her moorings, dropped anchor outside the harbour, and retaliated all night with such vehemence that her guns had to be doused with water, and more ammunition had to be ferried across from Portsmouth but for her, the 800 casualties and thousands of damaged buildings, including 100,000 square feet (10,000 m2) of wreckage at J. S. Whites, would have been far worse.

[ citation needed ]

Naval vessels built by J. Samuel White (vessels in some classes also built by other shipbuilders) include (in date order):

Lifeboat production

Over the years, J. S. White's produced lifeboats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and other users.

Their production included:

Aircraft production

In 1912 the company began constructing aircraft at East Cowes in a "Gridiron Shed" on the bank of the River Medina with Howard T. Wright as general manager and chief designer. Because of its location on the Isle of Wight the company choose the name Wight Aircraft. [14]

Between 1912 and 1916 the company moved its aircraft manufacturing facilities across the river to Cowes and built a number of seaplanes: [14]

In 1913 the company produced a flying boat which was displayed at the London Air Show at Olympia in 1913. [15] The company also manufactured 110 Short Type 184 aircraft designed by Short Brothers.

Through 1916–1917 the company developed the Wight Quadruplane prototype fighter. This aircraft was tested at Martlesham Heath from 1917, and was written off in 1918. [16]

Commercial vessels

J. S. White's built ships for commercial customers, including:

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HMS <i>Conflict</i> (1894) Conflict-class destroyer

HMS Conflict was the lead ship of the Conflict-class destroyers built by J. Samuel White, at East Cowes, Isle of Wight for the Royal Navy. She was launched on 13 December 1894, and entered service in 1899. After an initial spell in the Mediterranean Fleet, Conflict returned to British waters, where she served the rest of her career. Conflict was part of the Portsmouth Local Defence Flotilla during the First World War, which she survived. Conflict was sold for scrap on 20 May 1920.

HMS <i>Vortigern</i> (D37) Destroyer of the Royal Navy

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HMS <i>Rifleman</i> (1910) Destroyer of the Royal Navy

HMS Rifleman was an Acorn-class destroyer built by J. Samuel White & Company, Cowes, completed on 4 November 1910 and sold for breaking up on 9 May 1921.

HMS <i>Forester</i> (1911) Acheron-class destroyer of the Royal Navy

HMS Forester was an Acheron-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that served during World War I and was sold for breaking in 1921. She was the ninth Royal Navy ship to be named after the traditional craft of forester.

HMS <i>Winchester</i> (L55) Destroyer of the Royal Navy

HMS Winchester was an Admiralty W-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. She saw service in the First and Second World Wars.

HMS <i>Trenchant</i> (1916) Destroyer of the Royal Navy

HMS Trenchant was a modified Admiralty R-class destroyer which served with the Royal Navy. The vessel was the first of the modified design. Launched in 1916, the ship operated with the Grand Fleet during the First World War. The vessel was involved in escorting convoys and attacking German submarines. After the war, Trenchant was attacked by Republican forces during the Irish War of Independence but suffered little damage. The vessel was retired and sold to be broken up on 15 November 1928. The subsequent S-class are sometimes called Modified Trenchant class.

HMS <i>Magic</i> (1915) British M-Class destroyer of the First World War

HMS Magic was a Admiralty M-class destroyer which served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. Originally laid down as HMS Marigold by J. Samuel White at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the vessel was renamed before being launched in 1915. The ship served during the War as part of the Grand Fleet, mainly on anti-submarine and convoy escort duties from the port of Queenstown. In 1917, the destroyer took part in the Battle of Jutland and was one of a small number of British vessels that attacked the German fleet with torpedoes, although both torpedoes missed. In 1918, the ship struck a mine of the coast of Ireland and, although the damage was repaired, 25 lives were lost. After the War, the destroyer was placed in reserve and decommissioned, being sold to be broken up on 21 September 1921.

HMS <i>Moresby</i> British M-Class destroyer, WW1

HMS Moresby was a Admiralty M-class destroyer which served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. The M class were an improvement on the previous L-class, capable of higher speed. Originally laid down as HMS Marlion by J. Samuel White at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the vessel was renamed before being launched on 20 November 1915. At the Battle of Jutland, the destroyer was initially cover for the seaplane tender Engadine but soon joined the action as part of a flotilla led by the light cruiser Champion. Moresby attacked the German fleet with torpedoes, initially unsuccessfully targeting the dreadnought battleship Markgraf and, near the end of the battle, unleashing another which narrowly missed the battlecruiser Von der Tann. In March 1918, the destroyer sank U-110 with the destroyer Michael. After the war, the destroyer was placed in reserve and eventually sold to be broken up on 9 May 1921.

HMS <i>Medway</i> (1916) British M-Class destroyer, WW1

HMS Medway was a Admiralty M-class destroyer which served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. The M class were an improvement on the previous Laforey-class, capable of higher speed. Originally laid down as HMS Redwing by J. Samuel White at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the vessel was renamed before being launched on 8 March 1916. The vessel was allocated to the Grand Fleet and served in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in support of the First Light Cruiser Squadron in their action against German light cruisers and minesweepers. During the action, the ship did not record any hits. After the War, the destroyer was placed in reserve and subsequently sold to be broken up on 9 May 1921.

HMS <i>Medina</i> (1916) British M-Class destroyer, WW1

HMS Medina was a Admiralty M-class destroyer which served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. The M class were an improvement on the previous L-class destroyer, capable of higher speed. Originally laid down as HMS Redmill by J. Samuel White at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the vessel was renamed before being launched on 8 March 1916. The ship was allocated to the Grand Fleet and spent much of its service in anti-submarine warfare, either escorting convoys or involved in submarine hunting patrols. Although the destroyer attacked a number of German submarines, none were sunk. After the War, Medina was reassigned to a defence flotilla in Portsmouth and was eventually sold to be broken up on 9 May 1921.

HMS <i>Sable</i> (1916) British R-Class destroyer, WW1

HMS Sable was a R-class destroyer that served with the Royal Navy during the First World War. The R class were an improvement on the previous M class with geared steam turbines to improve efficiency. Laid down by J. Samuel White at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the destroyer was launched in November 1916 and joined the Grand Fleet. Service during the war was mostly uneventful, apart from a collision with fellow R class destroyer Salmon. After the War, the destroyer was placed in reserve and decommissioned, being sold to be broken up in August 1927. In a twist of fate,Salmon was renamed Sable in 1933.

HMS <i>Trusty</i> (1918) Royal Navy S class destroyer

HMS Trusty was an S-class destroyer that served with the Royal Navy. The vessel was the third of the name. Launched in November 1918 just before the Armistice that ended the First World War, Trusty joined the Home Fleet the following year. However, the destroyer did remain in service long and was transferred to the Reserve Fleet in 1920. The vessel remained in reserve until 25 September 1936, although in a deteriorating condition. On that day, Trusty was sold to be broken up as part of a deal for the liner Majestic.

HMS <i>Truant</i> (1918) Royal Navy S class destroyer

HMS Truant was an S-class destroyer, which served with the Royal Navy. The vessel was the first of the name to enter service in the navy. Launched on 18 September 1918, Truant was too late to see service in the First World War, and, instead of joining the Grand Fleet, the vessel was allocated to Portsmouth to be a tender to HMS Victory. The vessel's subsequent time in service was relatively uneventful, despite gaining a reputation as the fastest destroyer in the fleet, capable of up to 37 knots. However, in 1921, the destroyer became the control ship for the radio-controlled target ship Agamemnon and, in 1923, a similar role with smaller Coastal Motor Boats. This service did not last long. The signing of the London Naval Treaty sounded the death knell for the ship as it limited the destroyer tonnage that the Royal Navy could operate. As newer and more powerful destroyers entered service, Truant was retired on 28 November 1931 and broken up.

Three vessels and two shore establishments of the Royal Navy have born the title of HMS Tormentor:

References

  1. "Built by White's ?". Bartie's World. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  2. "The Centenary of the Cowes Hammerhead Crane 1912–2012". Wootton Bridge Historical.
  3. "The Cowes Hammerhead Crane Trust".
  4. "Town Quay - The Motor Barges" (PDF). Southampton Branch World Ship Society. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  5. 1 2 3 "300 Years of Shipbuilding at Cowes". Isle of Wight County Press. 4 December 1965. p. 12.
  6. "Cockenzie & Port Seton | Economy". East Lothian Fourth. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  7. "J Arthur Dixon". Wootton Bridge Historical. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  8. East Cowes- A town of Ships, Castles, Industry and Invention. The Dovecote Press. 2011. p. 83. ISBN   978-1-904-34990-7.
  9. "Take-Over Bid for J. S. White". Isle of Wight County Press. 26 October 1968. p. 11.
  10. "J. S. White and Co. take over". Isle of Wight County Press. 21 December 1968. p. 12.
  11. "Expansion programme for J. Samuel White and Co., Ltd". Isle of Wight County Press. 20 November 1971. p. 14.
  12. "Successful IW firm expects even brighter future". Isle of Wight County Press. 9 June 1979. p. 3.
  13. "Prospect of more work at a Cowes Factory". Isle of Wight County Press. 13 January 1979. p. 10.
  14. 1 2 "J.SAMUEL WHITE & CO". hampshireairfields.co.uk. ISLE OF WIGHT AVIATION. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
  15. Flying Boats of the Solent, Norman Hull. ISBN   1-85794-161-6
  16. Green, W. & Swanborough, G.; "The Complete Book of Fighters", Salamander (1994).
  17. "LIGHT VESSEL 86 NORE". National Historic Ships UK. Retrieved 12 September 2022.

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