Built by White's ?

A question you probably have in your mind is "Why the question mark in the page title ?".

I often receive details of vessels to add to my lists of those built by J Samual White - these details are always appreciated but sometimes after careful checking I find that the vessel was not in fact built by JSW but by another 'White' shipyard in the area - usually either White Brothers of Itchen Ferry, Southampton or W. White & Sons of Vectis Works Cowes - while both of these are family related, neither had any family connection (as far as I can find) with the White's of JSW.

More often than not, Islanders and some historians use the term 'White's' to refer to J Samual White; but the use of the term can be misleading as the other two yards did build some fine vessels of various sizes over a long period of time.

So I've done a little research on these two shipyards and present it here to give them their place in history and possibly help people with identifying the true builder of historic vessels.

W. White & Sons of Vectis Works Cowes

William & Betsey White appear in the 1841 census as living in Medina Road Cowes, he is shown as a Brass & Iron Founder - he being born in Greenham Berkshire and she in Southampton. In 1851 they are living in Foundry House, Medina Road. He sons, Arthur and Edwin followed in the foundry trade. Later their residence was given as Highclere Villa, Mill Hill Road.

In an 1878 directory, William is shown as being at the Vectis Iron Works in Medina Road and is listed as being (amongst other things), 'steam launch engine makers'. In the same year (1878) William and his sons purchased the Shipbuilding Yard from Michael Edward Ratsey at the Vectis Works, 128 High Street,West, Cowes (at the bottom of Shooters Hill) and were trading as W. White and Sons.

William died in August 1889 and was buried in the family vault at Northwood church.

In 1890, the W. White and Sons partnership between Arthur and Edwin was dissolved and Edwin continued alone trading as W. White and Sons at the Vectis Works and Shipbuilding Yard West, Cowes.

The 1891 census shows Arthur ‘living on own means’ in Cowes with his sons Arthur Reginald (Marine engineer, draughtsman), Harold Edgar ( Marine engineer, Fitter), Wellesley Bates (Joiner) - his son Herbert William, who would later become a well known yacht designer, was not at home. Sometime during the early 1890’s, Arthur and his family moved to Southampton where White Brothers established a new works at Itchen Ferry.

In 1896 W. White & Sons built a chain ferry for use as the floating bridge between East and West Cowes, this was de-commissioned in 1925 when it was sold to Uffa Fox who used it as a home and workshop - moving it up and down the river Medina for a number of years. In about 1902, W. White & Sons supplied and fitted a new boiler to the old 1882 chain ferry which was being used as a relief vessel when required; this ferry was sold in 1909 and the boiler was transferred to the 1896 ferry. W. White & Sons also built the 1909 Cowes chain ferry which was the first to have electric lighting; pictures of these three vessels can be found on our Cowes-river page. J.S. White Ltd built the 1936 chain ferry - often these ferries are described as being built by 'Whites', which just leads to confusion !

Edwin continued trading into the 20th century, the 1901 census shows him as an 'Engineer & Yacht builder – employer', living in Percy Villa, Mill Hill Road with his family including sons Alfred (ship builder) and Frank (engineer, draughtsman). Edwin died in 1915 and his sons continued the business.

Alfred died in 1929 and in the 1930's, the Vectis Works was sold to Groves & Guttridge - more recently it has been transformed into Cowes Yacht Haven.

Details of some of the vessels shown in a number of Lloyds Register of Yachts plus a few others known to have been built by W.White & Sons at the Vectis Works, West Cowes are given on this page.

White Brothers of Itchen Ferry, Southampton

Sometime during the early 1890’s, Arthur and his family (including sons Arthur, Harold and Herbert) moved to Southampton where White Brothers established a new works at Itchen Ferry. The Isle of Wight County Press 7 April 1894 carries a description of the new works which covered ‘some 20 acres of ground’.

Arthur died in 1895 at Cosham and is buried in Northwood cemetery with his first wife. In the 1901 census, Arthur's widow (Mary Alice) was living in Pear Tree Avenue ‘on own means’, Arthur snr sons Arthur Reginald, Harold Edgar and Herbert William were all described as ‘Yacht Builder – employer’ and also lived in Pear Tree Avenue. Herbert William seems to have been the main yacht designer for the company; one of his designs, (Lulworth, a 186 ton Auxiliary Ketch), is still afloat today.

In 1920 the business of Messrs. White Brothers, yacht builders of Itchen was acquired by a syndicate of non-family members and formed into a new company, White Bros. (Southampton), Ltd, with capital of £100,000. (Journal of Commerce, 17 February 1920)

In June 1922 the yacht yard suffered a serious blaze, destroying several yachts, motor launches as well as stores, workshops and materials. Five or six hundred were reported to have been thrown out of work. (The Evening News, 8 June 1922) The company possibly went into liquidation in 1923.

The Yacht Owner of 9 August 1924 carried an advertisement for "Whites Southampton Yachtbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. ... Re-opened, Under New Management."

The company had another name change to White's Shipyard (Southampton) Ltd and the yard continued into the 1960's.

Details from a number of Lloyds Register of Yachts of some of the boats built by White Brothers at Itchen Ferry, Southampton are given on this page.