British and Burmese Steam Navigation Company Limited

Company Number:SC000538
Date of Incorporation:7 December 1873
Contact Details: 12 Brymner Street, Greenock, PA15 1EA
Operating Details: Dissolved 24 July 1995
Other names (if known): none (subsidiary of P Henderson & Company)
Type of Company*: Freight Shipping Service (sea and coastal) (6110)
Headquarters/Base of Operations Location: Glasgow, Liverpool, and Rangoon, Burma
Area of Operation: Operated steamer lines between Glasgow and Rangoon, Burma

*Taken from Standard Industrial Classification 2003, as used by Companies House in 2010


Held By: Glasgow City Archive, GB243 TD35

Scope/type: Details of the Paddy Henderson Fleet 1826-1952; Passenger Lists of Sailing and Steam Ships belonging to Messrs. P. Henderson & Co 1871-1880

Related records: See GB 243 TD 768- Records of a number of Glasgow based shipping and ship-brokers firms deposited by Mr Dixon of Roxburgh, Henderson & Co in April 1982 at Glasgow City Archive.

Conditions governing access/use: Open to the public. Access from the Mitchell Library archive, 9am-5pm Monday to Friday (until 8pm on Tuesday). Items cannot be produced one hour before closing, or between 1pm and 2pm.

Company History

Patrick Henderson & Co was founded in 1834 by Patrick Henderson (1818-1841), merchant, son of George Henderson (1776-1824). Patrick's brothers were also involved: Captain George Henderson (d 1852), Thomas Henderson, merchant in Leghorn, and Robert (d 1868), the youngest brother. Patrick Henderson victualled and stored vessels owned by Captain George Henderson when they returned to the Clyde. In 1840 Patrick Henderson took George Henderson into partnership in the firm, although George continued to be registered as owner of the ships. When Patrick Henderson died in 1841, George took over as sole partner. Thomas and Robert Henderson established their own firm of Henderson Brothers in Leghorn. George Henderson continued to acquire shares in vessels and to trade in Australia, Bombay and Burma. In 1846 ownership of the 'Tom and Jessie' and 'Peter Senn' was transferred from George Henderson to Patrick Henderson & Co, the co-partners of which were George, Robert and Thomas Henderson. During the 1840s the firm expanded into shipbroking and in 1848 James Galbraith (b 1818), who had begun employment with Patrick Henderson and Co as a chartering clerk in 1844, became the first partner outwith the Henderson family.George Henderson died in 1852 and his brother Robert Henderson returned to Glasgow from Leghorn to replace him as senior partner. In 1854 after Thomas Henderson died Robert Henderson sold the firm of Henderson Brothers in Leghorn to his nephews and devoted himself entirely to Patrick Henderson & Co. At some point between 1852 and 1856, Patrick Henderson & Co became P Henderson & Co, although both names were used for a while. From 1856 the firm began trading with New Zealand. Following the discovery of gold in New Zealand in 1861, immigrants multiplied and many of them were carried by the company. In 1864 the firm registered the Albion Shipping Co to carry on trade with New Zealand.From 1869 when the Suez Canal was opened, P Henderson & Co devoted its entire business to New Zealand trade and abandoned routes to India and the Far East. Along with passengers, the New Zealand ships carried seeds, stock, corrugated iron and machinery, luxury goods and Clydesdale stallions. In 1877 the Albion Co was incorporated, with P Henderson & Co acting as their agents and brokers in Glasgow. In 1882 the Albion Line transported the world's first full cargo of frozen meat from New Zealand. Return cargoes were obtained in Burma and led to the creation of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Co in 1865 and the British and Burmese Steam Navigation Co in 1873.

The British and Burmese Steam Navigation Company Ltd was formed to increase the capital and spread the risk of the Burmese side of the business as it grew from the era of sailing ships into more expensive and much larger steam ships. There was no direct steamer route between Burma and the UK, and so plans were drawn up to begin a monthly steamer service maintained by six Denny-built steamers. The first ship, Tenasserim, was launched by Denny in June 1871. In 1873 BBSN took over the fleet of steamers on the Burma run with P. Henderson and Co appointed as Managing Agents. Most of the shares in the new company were taken up by P Henderson partners and their associates. Peter Denny became the chairman and managing director of the incorporated firm of the British & Burmese Steam Navigation Co, jointly owned by Henderson & Co and by Peter Denny, Walter Brock and John McAusland, the latter three partners taking 580 of the 2,299 shares of £50 each. Ship’s Masters were also encouraged to take shares.

Initially the mainstay of the business was the homeward rice trade from Burma, especially the carriage of the first seasons crop, though the service also carried steel, machinery, whisky and other goods from Glasgow, and cotton and mixed goods from Liverpool.
Despite the shipping slump of the 1880s and the 1885-6 Third Burmese War the company continued to expand its trade base, and worked closely with the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (often sharing board members and directors). From 1890 the Burma trade was run in competition with the Burmah Steam Ship Company, a Bibby Line subsidiary, until that company wound up in 1928. In 1934 BBSN acquired the whole of the issued capital of the Burmah Steam Ship Company, though the beginning of war with Japan meant trade with Burma became impossible. However when the line was reopened in 1948 the company resumed sailing between Birkenhead and Rangoon every 28 days.

In 1952 the whole of the Ordinary Capital of the British & Burmese Steam Navigation Co Ltd was acquired by Elder Dempster Lines (Holdings) Ltd, which in turn became Liner Holdings Company Ltd.
Please see Dorothy Laird, 'Paddy Henderson: the story of P. Henderson and Company' for more details.

With thanks to Glasgow City Archive for their permission to produce this information