Precedes West Africa Business (1843 - 1856)

1843 MSS Shipping Ledger

Holt Shipping Empire

Date: 1843 - 1856

A rare primary source manuscript yielding very specific details about the Holt family's trade activities prior to expanding to Africa. North Lincolnshire, England, Belgium, 14 December 1843 to 17 June 1856. Original manuscript shipping ledger journal kept by merchant and sloop shipmaster John Holt of Garthorpe, conceivably being the uncle (born 1822) and namesake of the famous John Holt (1841-1917) who subsequently founded the pioneering Liverpool-West Africa shipping company still operating today as John Holt plc. Features at least six John Holt signature incsriptions. 8vo. 194 pages in manuscript. Original vellum binding with working brass clasp and orange marbled endpapers. While much is known about renowned merchant and shipping magnate John Holt (1841-1917) and his brothers with whom he partnered in the West Africa trade, very little detail is readily available on the shipping activities of his predecessors and mentors. [Of the freight transport and trade activities prior to the founding of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd in 1884, the only known archive of Holt family papers is held by the National Archives, which spans from 1703 to 1965.] The present volume comprises a firsthand record of the commercial shipping activities in and outside of England made by a John Holt of Garthorpe six years before the famous John Holt of Garthorpe's voyage to Fernando Po, and thirty years prior to the founding of John Holt and Company which established trading posts and banking in West Africa. The writer may quite rightly be the uncle and namesake of the great businessman and company founder. As he plied the English coast and continent, then explored foreign trade, John Holt of Garthorpe, keeper of the present journal, dutifully penned a ledger of expenses and accounts. The volume beginning in 1843 and pertaining largely to freight transport on the rivers of North Lincolnshire. His entries, however, further reveal the start of coastal trade from the northeast to the south coast of England, and, in the latter years, we notice substantial increase in the number of port towns visited for trade. His pioneering voyages to continental Europe in 1853 show the Holt family's subsequent beginnings in foreign trade, and foretell the imminent success which would build favourable and profitable Anglo-African trade relations for centuries to follow. Tirelessly ferrying all kinds of cargo throughout North Lincolnshire and centering around the Isle of Axholme for several years, he frequently transported gravel, cobble and binding agents, which is consistent with the ongoing construction of navigable canals, as well as railways, in this period. The Barton-on-Humber railway station, for example, was opened as part of the branch line from New Holland to Barton-on-Humber in 1849. Ale was also frequently transported. Deliveries of cargo were made to the following locations in North Lincolnshire: the ancient Parish called Belton (near Epworth), Crowle, Luddington (now Luddington and Haldenby), West Butterwick, Spalding on the River Welland in the South Holland district, Gunhouse [Gunness], Burringham on the east bank of the river Trent, Grimsby, Boothferry and Goole, and the Parish of Althorpe - one of the eight original parishes in the Isle of Axholme (now Keadby with Althorpe). Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is a principle port, and from here he frequently ships potatoes and other goods as far as London. Barton is also mentioned [Barton-upon-Humbler across the river from Hull]. Some clients are named. On 19 August 1848 he delivered 70 tons of 'cliff' for Baronet Sir Robert Sheffield, whom in 1842 had purchased the old Healey estate in Frodingham, together with a Charles Winn. [This was either Sir Robert Sheffield, 4th Baronet (1796-1862), Major of the North Lincolnshire Yeomanry, Justice of the Peace, High Sherriff of Lincolnshire, and politician, or possibly his eldest son Sir Robert Sheffield, 5th Baronet (1823-1886) who also served as High Sherriff of Lincolnshire.] In the 1850's Holt's inland business was expanding greatly, with new clients at Gainsborough, Dunkirk, Ispwich, Wisbech, Rochester, Newcastle, and Lowestoft. Large quantities of tiles were sent to London during this period, 36,000 tiles, 45,000 tiles, as well as fire clay and fire bricks. On 10 February 1855 the usual cargo of potatoes was brought to London, and this time two bells as well. Reflecting the prosperity refinement of the Victorian era, at Hull he delivered marble, mahogany, iron and barrels of resin. In 1851, a notable change occurred when Holt took his business to the sea coast. His first coastal voyage was for a substantial delivery being made on 12 July, consisting of stone, machinery, several carts and wagons, paint, and oil, quite possibly for the expansion of the Southampton West End railway station which was constructed in 1847, and its terminus at Blechynden Terrace which came into use in 1850. [Developments continued until 1860, by which time the station was equipped with a booking office and two waiting rooms on the up and down platforms. The Southampton and Dorchester Railway Company, having amalgamated with the large London and South Western Railway (LSWR) in 1848, was expanding and improving its lines at this time.] Fees incurred on this voyage included dues payable at Dover and Ramsgate, boomage and quay dues, over and above the regular expenses. In 1853, Holt was making voyages along the northern sea coast of England, with a delivery of timber to the famous shipbuilding town of Whitby, where Captain Cook learned seamanship. In the same year he shipped 108 tons of coal to Harwich, 86 tons of shingles to Hull. Sunderland also became a relatively frequent port. Finally, crossing the North Sea in 1853 for the first time with commercial cargo, the sloop called "Gutteridge" transported 104 tons of guano to Antwerp in Belgium; a cargo of machinery is subsequently brought to Brussels; these being the first steps in foreign shipping for John Holt of Garthorpe. Fees and expenses tallied throughout the volume include wharfage, bridge dues, tariffs paid to the Lord Mayor of London, separate canal dues in London, Humber dues, pilotage. In April 1846 he pays dues paid on 15 horses and some ale, evidently trying his hand at transporting live animals. In Hull, January 1847, a delivery of cement stone and hoops requires payment of dock dues, buoyage, corporation fee, entrance fee, and house commissions. Dues are occasionally paid at Spurn [The lifeboat station at Spurn Head was built in 1810, on the north bank of the mouth of the Humber estuary. Owing to the remote location, houses for the lifeboat crew and their families were added a few years later]. In addition, he pays a boatswain, a waterman, and other hired labour from time to time. During this thirteen years of trade, Holt had at least 3 sloops, "Friends" from 1843-1849, "Acorn" from 1849-1851, and "Gutteridge" from 1851-1856. These were all made by shipbuilder John Wray (1796-1884) of Burton Stather. By 1851 he employed sixteen men. An interesting connection may be realized through this volume. The keeper of this ledger, John Holt, inscribes a note to remember his wedding to 'Sarah' on 16 October 1845. The 1851 census states that John Wray had a niece named Sarah. Making the connection between merchant and sloop shipmaster John Holt of Garthorpe who wrote the present ledger, and the famous John Holt of Garthorpe (1841-1917) who subsequently founded the Liverpool-West Africa shipping company: From the Holt family of Garthorpe there were many in the shipping trade, from shipwrights and sailmasters, to shipowners, and leading merchants, the most famous of them being the brothers who established a shipping trade in West Africa. With ancestral origins in Broughton Grange, they established firms in Liverpool, including John Holt & Co Ltd, West Africa Traders & Shipowners. Needing no introduction, John Holt (1841-1915) was an English merchant who founded the most significant shipping line which operated between Liverpool and West Africa, and a number of businesses in Nigeria, which are now incorporated in John Holt plc. Born on the 31 October 1841 in Garthorpe, Lincolnshire, he first worked for his grandfather, learning the sea trade at an exceptionally young age. Subsequently, at the age of fifteen, he became the apprentice of William Laird, a Liverpool coal dealer. Just prior to completing his apprenticeship, in 1862 he went to Fernando Po to take up an appointment as secretary to James Lynslager, formerly acting British Consul who was pursuing his personal commercial interests. [Sir Richard Burton had just entered the Foreign Service as consul of the island.] There he managed Lynslager's trading post. Five years later, he bought out his employer, and he was joined by his brother Jonathan. In 1868 Johnathan bought a schooner, which enabled the brothers to open more trading posts in West Africa. In 1874 the brothers opened an office in Liverpool. In 1881, John entered the palm oil trade. In 1884 the brothers formed a partnership, John Holt and Company. Falling in line with family tradition, his father, Thomas Godfrey Holt (born 1817 Luddington, Lincolnshire - died 1909 Appleby, Lincolnshire), was a shipowner and merchant as well. It was he, who arranged for his son, the famous John Holt of Garthope, to apprenticeship under Laird for five years. The original indenture document between William Laird and Thomas Godfrey Holt is held in the Liverpool Maritime Museum Archives. [The 1856 gazetteer and directory of Lincolnshire lists both Thomas Holt (father) and John Holt (son) as master mariners at Garthorpe on the Isle of Axholme. Thomas is also described as a coal merchant, vessel owner and victualler, of "Sheffield Arms", Ferry, having purchased the "Sheffield Arms Inn" at Burton upon Stather.] Especially interesting in reference to the present volume, his paternal uncle and namesake was John Holt, born 1822 in Burton-upon-Stather, quite likely the author of the present volume, and surely another source of inspiration for setting out to Africa in the first place, to learn about foreign commerce. His grandfather, Thomas Holt (born 1788 All Saints, Flixborough - married Elizabeth Godfrey in Luddington church on 28 June 1814 - died 1863 Luddington), was a sea merchant of notable repute. He is listed in census as a sailor in 1815 and a ship master by 1817, at these times his surname was spelled Hoult. He is mentioned in the coastal trade archives, and found in several articles of the Hull Packet Newspaper. He received a master's certificate for having worked 43 years in coastal trade. The record states: "Thomas Holt, Born at Crosby, Lincolnshire, 12 September 1788, has been employed in the capacities of App & Master 43 years in the British Merchant Service in the Coasting Trade." He travelled as far as Constantinople and St. Petersburg. There is a burial recorded at Luddington on 20th February 1863, for a Thomas Holt, of Garthorpe, aged 74. Historical records confirm that Thomas & Elizabeth Holt had between them at least six children, 4 boys and 2 girls between 1815 & 1827, as follows: • William, born 1815 • Thomas Godfrey, born 1817 (father of famed business founder John Holt of Garthorpe) • Elizabeth, born 1820 in Luddington, baptised in Burton upon Stather on 17 September 1820 where the family resided • John, born on 20 July 1822, baptised in Burton upon Stather, the family living in "The Stather", close to the shore of the River Trent, his father Thomas being recorded as being a waterman • William Leonard, born 1825, baptised at Burton upon Stather, 7 February 1825, the family living in "The Stather", his father Thomas recorded as being a mariner • Mary Ann, born 1827, baptised at Luddington 27 December 1827, the family are once again in Garthorpe, and Thomas described as a master mariner. The family made frequent moves between Burton upon Stather, Luddington, and Garthorpe. The village of Garthorpe in North Lincolnshire, in the Isle of Axholme, is situated approximately 8 miles (13 km) south-east from Goole, and 1 mile (1.6 km) west from the River Trent, is the home of John Holt, writer of the present ledger, and also John Holt founder of the renowned West Africa shipping company. It is contiguous with the village of Fockerby. [Garthorpe of North Lincolnshire should not be confused with the village by the same name, and civil parish (called Garthorpe and Fockerby) in the Melton district of Leicestershire.] In 1833, "Bartholomew's Gazetteer of Britain" describes the Isle of Axholme as follows: "Area of slight elevation above flat and formerly marshy tract bounded by the Rivers Trent, Torne and Idle. Towns include Crowle, Belton, Epworth and Haxey on higher ground and Owston Ferry and West Butterwick beside the River Trent."

Age-toning to boards, early repair to clasp, otherwise in very good condition, a noteworthy primary source document with much detail.


Offered by Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts