Monday, May 31, 2004

Owners and Shipwrights Possibly

Hi People

Below is some information I got from an Internet site. I reckon we still need more information to correlate with this to confirm that this article does relate to the TR Thompson that we are researching....if that makes sense. I'd hate to be barking up the wrong tree!! Perhaps this information will help others?

There are photos on the website but they would not reproduce here.

Best wishes

Mike Daniels

Steamship Owner, Shipbroker, and Agent
1846 - 1919
Updated: 11 August, 1998

[ Up ] [ SS Drummond Castle Sinking ]


Matthew Thompson, ropemaker and shipowner of Monkwearmouth, Sunderland c. 1860, father of Thomas Roe Thompson

Thomas Roe Thompson was born on 6 February 1846 at 10 Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, on the north shore of the river Wear, the second son and fourth child of Matthew and Celia (née Roe) Thompson, ropemaker and shipowner

Little is known about young Thomas Roe Thompson until he moved with his father, Matthew Thompson, and his uncle, John Thompson, to South Wales in 1858 at the age of 12.

According to the "History of the Barry Railway Company 1921-24", he joined his father in the business of Matthew Thompson and later, in conjunction with Captain John Cory, he embarked into the enterprise of ship owning.

From his earliest acquaintance with Cardiff, he made himself thoroughly conversant with the requirements of the port there. Previous to this, he was placed in the office of a Courtier Maritime at Nantes, where beside learning all there was to know of ship-broking, he also acquired a very thorough knowledge of the French language which was to serve him well in later life.

Family myth says that he spent part of his early life in Bordeaux, Southern France but this may have been confused with his time in Nantes.

Thomas Roe Thompson as High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1899

After his father, Matthew Thompson died in 1864, Thomas traded as T.R. Thompson & Co at 2 Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff and amongst the ships he owned there were:

SS Alacrity (1182 gross tons) built at Milford Haven
SS Alaska (2112 tons) built by Shorts of Sunderland
SS Advance (1391 tons)
SS Alert (1382 tons) built by Palmer & Co of Jarrow
SS Dinas (712 tons) built by Schlezinger & Davis of Newcastle upon Tyne.

He promoted the construction of Barry Docks to provide facilities more suitable for modern larger shipping than had been provided by Lord Bute in Cardiff. His name was in the first list of Promoters and he represented the ship owning side of Cardiff Commerce. He attained fame as a Parliamentary witness during the 1880s both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords during the Parliamentary Procedures needed to pass a law so that the Barry Docks could be constructed. It was said that his knowledge of Pilotage was unrivalled and he was a master of statistics when a Parliamentary witness.

He gave evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee in favour of the building of Barry Dock on 11 and 12 April 1883, and to the House of Lords on 6 June 1883. This first attempt to obtain parliamentary approval failed but he and his colleagues were more successful in a second attempt a year later, so that the construction of the Docks was able to commence on 14 November 1884.

Cutting the First Sod of No.1 Dock by the late Earl of Plymouth Lord Windsor on November 14, 1884

As an aside, the legal costs in promoting the two Bills exceeded £150,000 and the cost of construction of the dock and railway up to the time of opening the undertaking exceeded £2,000,000 (Western Mail Barry and District Directory 1897-8).

Thompson himself put up several thousands of pounds towards the enterprise.

He was on the bridge of the first ship to enter the new Barry dock, the Steam Ship Arno at the opening of the docks in 1889.

Opening Ceremony at Barry Dock - 1889

Thomas Roe Thompson was a County Magistrate for the Division of Dinan Powis and was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1899. It is said within the family that he was offered a baronetcy by the Government of the time, for a payment. Rightly, he turned this down, saying that if he merited such an honour, it should be given to him without payment. How many would refuse today!

There is a street named after him, Thompson Street, which is not far from the Public Library in the centre of Barry.

Thompson Street, Barry (photographed in 1995)

Thomas Roe Thompson built a public house in Vere Street, Barry, called the Wenvoe Arms, now called The Admiral Inn, in which he placed one David Thompson. The reason behind this is somewhat of a mystery and it is not known whether David Thompson, a native of Forfar in Scotland, was a distant relative.

Thomas Roe Thompson senior

Thomas Roe Thompson married Mary Elizabeth Davis of Sundridge in Kent on 16 December 1864 at the age of 18.

They lived at Erw'r Delyn on Sully Road near Llandough, and had eight children of which only one child, the seventh, was a son, also called Thomas Roe Thompson (junior) although more commonly called Tom. Within the family, he was known as "Tappa". Erw'r Delyn is now a rather dilapidated building converted into flats.

Thomas Roe Thompson, senior, died on 13 April 1919, in Penarth, the death certificate stating that he had died of "senile decay". He was a widower, his wife having died very much earlier, in 1906. He is buried in the churchyard at Llandough.

There is an inscription on the side of his memorial commemorating the death of his daughter Emily and her husband John Gethin together with their two children, Lorna and Jack, who died in the wreck of the Union Castle liner Drummond Castle on the night of 16 June 1896.

Thomas Roe Thompson's Memorial at the entrance to Llandough churchyard. The Church overlooks Cardiff Bay.

My thanks go to the Local Studies Section of Barry Public Library who were most helpful in providing much of the information above.

My appreciation goes also to my late brother, Brian Gladstone Roe Thompson, who made the initial contact with Barry Public Library on my behalf. He died suddenly on 11 July 1997, one day short of his 64th birthday.

Michael Thompson July 1997

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