General Steam Navigation Company
|Fate||Acquired by P&O|
|Products||Cargo services, Thames pleasure cruises|
The General Steam Navigation Company (GSNC), incorporated in 1824, was London's foremost short sea shipping line for almost 150 years, and the oldest shipping company in the world to begin business with steamships.
The business was initially founded in 1821 by a syndicate of London businessmen including William J Hall, a shipowner, and brothers Thomas and John Brockelbank,[a] who had timber and shipyard interests in Deptford. Their first steamer, the James Watt inaugurated a London to Leith service in the same year,[b] while Brockelbank's Thames paddle steamer Eagle provided a service between London and Margate.
In June 1824 the company was formally founded by an enlarged group of business people, now including Edward Banks and William Jolliffe (brother of Hylton Jolliffe MP), and described as a "shrewd, solid and resolute set of men", and eventually incorporated by private Acts of Parliament in 1831. By 1825 it was operating a fleet of 15 Deptford-built steamers, maintained from a yard at the Stowage, Deptford (a former East India Company depot), and from the end of the decade, was operating a freight business, principally importing live cattle and sheep from mainland Europe. The GSNC also operated wharves in Coldharbour and near London Bridge, with some piers and buildings designed by company architect and surveyor Robert Palmer Browne.
The GSNC experimented with services to Lisbon, Portugal and to Gibraltar, and even to Africa and the Americas, but specialised in links with ports in Britain (including Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth) and northwest Europe. It also provided pleasure cruises between London and resorts lower down the Thames. The purchase of the New Medway Steam Packet Co. in 1936 gave it a monopoly of this business.
P&O Steam Navigation bought a controlling stake in 1920, but retained the GSNC identity.
At the start of World War II, the GSNC had about 45 ships, of which 10 were pleasure boats. During the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation, these vessels, along with some cargo vessels, saved around 10% of all those rescued from the French beaches.
- Also sometimes spelled 'Brocklebank'.
- This account may be inaccurate. The James Watt, built by Clydeside shipbuilder John Wood and launched on 20 June 1821, was initially operated by London & Edinburgh SP Co - acquired by the GSNC in 1836.
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Media related to General Steam Navigation Company at Wikimedia Commons