hartlepool history logo


Details about Willis

T.W. Willis, Yorkshire Bank Chambers, Church Street, West Hartlepool.

When the Willis family moved from Whitby to West Hartlepool, they became acquainted with the local shipowner G.B. Harland, and eventually took shares in his company's ships. T.W. Willis was appointed Master of Harland's steamship Duchess when she was delivered from Withy's shipyard in 1883. His brother James was appointed Master of another of Harland's ships, the Dauntless, when she was delivered from the William Gray shipyard the following year.

In 1902, T.W. Willis bought two of Harland's ships, the Duchess, which he kept until 1906 when he sold her to Swedish owners, and the Hildawell, a ship in which he had been appointed Master when she was delivered from the William Gray shipyard in 1892.
Under his ownership the Hildawell was involved in an unfortunate collision on May 28th, 1910, when on passage from Cardiff to Tunis with a cargo of Patent Fuel. Six miles off the Longships she collided with and sank the French steamer Port Louis, ex-Baron Elibank, built by Murdoch & Murray at Port Glasgow in 1889.

In 1903, Willis took delivery of the steamship Longscar from the Wiliiam Gray shipyard. She was a typical tramp steamer of 4670 tons deadweight and was capable of a speed of 9 knots. James Willis was appointed her Master, while another family member, W.R. Willis, was Master of the Hildawell.

The Hildawell was mined and sunk off Seaham Harbour with the loss of all 22 crew in 1916. The Longscar was captured and sunk by a German submarine in the Bay of Biscay in 1917, fortunately without loss of life. Facing the very high cost of ship replacement T.W. Willis, like many other shipowners at this time, decided to call it a day, and ceased shipowning.

At South Shields in 1915, as Chairman of the local Pilotage Authority, he officiated at the launch of the port's first power-driven Pilot boat.

Family History:

Thomas William Willis was born in 1847 at Whitby to parents George Sinclair Willis and Hannah (nee Rayment). He gained a mate’s certificate at Whitby in 1868 and then a master’s certificate at South Shields in 1871. Thomas married Mary Margaret Stangoe at York on 28 December 1872. They had two daughters and a son. Mary died on 29 December 1882 at Whitby, possibly during or just after childbirth as their son, Robert, was also born in December 1882. Thomas married Ann Stango on 18 June 1891. Ann died in 1898. In 1911 Thomas was living at 93 Clifton Avenue with his son and two daughters. In December 1917 Thomas was married to Edith Onston Cox at Hartlepool. By the time of his death the couple were living at Stranton Fens, Park Road, West Hartlepool.

Thomas died aged 78 on 3 September 1926 leaving effects of £51,763.

James Willis was born at Whitby on 12 March 1853 to parents George Sinclair Willis and Hannah (nee Rayment). He was granted a mate’s certificate in 1872 and a master’s certificate in 1876.  James married Sarah Harland in 1878 at Whitby. Sarah died in 1917.

James died aged 75 at Whitby on 21 August 1828 leaving effects of £1850.


Related items :