The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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General Steam & Navigation Line

General Steam & Navigation Co.

The motor vessel GREBE one of the coasters built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb. 


The GSNC was founded in 1824, and became London's foremost short-sea shipping line for almost 150 years.

Founded in 1824 and they originally operated Thames excursions and North Sea and English Channel cargo and passenger services. A service to Lisbon and Gibraltar was also operated. In 1836 the London & Edinburgh Steam Packet Co. was acquired with their six steamers.

 Mediterranean services commenced in 1882 and in 1894 some voyages were made to West Africa, but these ceased in 1895. Between 1894 and 1901 voyages were also made to North and South America and Gulf of Mexico ports. During the Great War, 23 vessels were lost and a large rebuilding programme began at the end of the war. In 1919 the Humber - London service of G. R. Haller Ltd and the London - Ghent service of Leach & Co. were purchased.

 General Steam Navigation Co. was taken over by P & O Steam Navigation Co. in 1920, but the company continued it's own management. A new company, Great Yarmouth Shipping Co was formed jointly to operate services between London and Great Yarmouth via Lowestoft and Hull. The Rhine - London Line was taken over in 1931 and the London & Dunkirk Shipping Co. in 1933. The Moss Hutchison Line, Liverpool with it's Mediterranean trade was acquired in 1934 after the liquidation of the Royal Mail group of which it was a member. The New Medway Steam Packet Co. was taken over in 1936 to give GSNC a monopoly of the Thames excursion business. The subsidiary company Grand Union Shipping Co. was formed in 1937 and in 1939 an interest was purchased in Turner, Edwards & Co., Bristol which was later taken over.

The company and it's subsidiaries lost 21 ships during the second World War, but these were replaced after the war. With six of them being built in the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb after the war.

However, trade gradually declined due mostly to higher dock charges in the UK than Continental ports. Great Yarmouth Shipping Co. and Grand Union Shipping Co. ceased trading in 1970/71. GSNC became wholly owned by P & O Line in 1972 and disappeared as an independent company.

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