Swansea and Port Talbot Docks History

The Britannia Steam Towing Company

The Britannia Steam Towing Company was established in 1895 by Peter Whiteside Junior, owner of the company’s first two tugs, the ‘Stag-Hound’ (acquired 1895 and sold 1930) and the ‘Britannia’ (acquired 1895 and sold 1899). Capt. John Edwards, formerly Master of the ‘Stag’ – an earlier Swansea tugboat owned by Capt. Whiteside Senior – was appointed as the company’s first Manager, and remained so until his death in 1911.

In 1902, the second of Britannia’s tugs to be named ‘Britannia’ was built by Cox & Co. of Falmouth and was sold on that same year to John Turner of London, after which, in 1903, the tug ‘Foxhound’ was commissioned, again from Cox, and this vessel remained a key part of the company’s fleet for the next 35 years until being sold off to Edward Hancock Ltd., Cardiff, in 1938. The company’s next acquisition was completed in 1905 with the purchase of the tug ‘Reynard’, built in 1880 by W Allsup & Son, Preston – a tug that remained with Britannia Steam Towing until 1913, when it was sold off to John Davies Towage & Salvage Ltd., Cardiff.

The former Port of London tug ‘Queenforth’ (built by Goole Shipbuilding in 1911 as ‘Alvear’) was acquired by Britannia in 1929, and in 1931 the former Port Talbot Railway & Dock Company tug ‘Emily Charlotte’ (built by Mordey Carney & Co., Newport, in 1896) was added to the fleet. The ‘Queenforth’ remained in service until 1958 when it was sold to Rees Bros., Llanelly, for demolition, whilst the ‘Emily Charlotte’ ended her days with Britannia in 1948, when she was retired to an unknown breaker’s yard for scrapping.

In 1934 the tug ‘Majestic’ (built by Clelands of Newcastle in 1898) was acquired by Britannia and retained as part of the fleet until 1956 when, like the ‘Queenforth’, she was sold to Rees Bros., Llanelly, for demolition. Further Britannia acquisitions were the ‘Kingforth’ in 1948 (built in 1904 by Ferguson Bros., Glasgow, as ‘Flying Falcon’); the ‘Clyneforth’ in 1951 (built in 1943 by Scott & Sons (Bowling) Ltd., Greenock, as ‘Empire Minnow’); the ‘Brynforth’ in 1956 (built in 1942 by Richardson Ltd., Newcastle, as ‘Empire Thistle’); and finally, in 1958, the ‘Graigforth’ (built in 1923 by Philip & Son, Dartmouth, as the ‘Samson’).

The ‘Kingforth’ served Britannia until 1960 when it was sent for breaking at Passage West, Cork, and two years later, in 1962, the Britannia Steam Towing Company with its remaining three tugs, the ‘Clyneforth’, the ‘Brynforth’, and the ‘Graigforth’, was bought out by Alexandra Towing Co. Ltd. for the grand sum of £52,500 (although the individual identities of both companies were maintained). The ‘Brynforth’ was broken up in Silloth in 1965; the ‘Graigforth’ was scrapped at Briton Ferry in 1966; and the last remaining Britannia tug, the ‘Clyneforth’, was sold to Greek owners J S Latsis, also in 1966, and renamed ‘Ena’.

The last tug to be painted in Britannia’s colours was the Alexandra Towing Company tug ‘Trover’, acquired in 1965. Built by Richard Dunston in 1943 as TID 59, the tug was bought by P Carney of Sunderland in 1947 and renamed ‘Sunnyside’. The ‘Trover’ was later sold by Alexandra and renamed ‘Lady of Menai’.


Emily Charlotte

Tug Queenforth guiding the Devon in the locks (1931)