hartlepool history logo

Ribston Steamship Co. Ltd.

Details about Ribston Steamship Co. Ltd.

The following history has been compiled by Mr. Bert Spaldin:
Robert Sargeant was born at Thornton-le-Beam, near Northallerton, in North Yorkshire, in 1850. After coming to Hartlepool in his younger years, he took over the running of a business of wholesale fruit merchants and importers of foreign produce in 1874. Robert had two sons, Harry and Robert (Jnr.); he took Harry into partnership in the firm in 1901.

Shortly after this time his interest in shipping developed with his ordering a vessel from the local shipbuilders, Irvine's. A spar deck ship with deep framing, she was launched in May 1906 by Mrs. Robert Sargeant and named Ribston, a very appropriate name as the Ribston Pippin is a type of apple. Present at the launch included, apart from her husband who, incidentally, was the Mayor of the town at that time, Harry and Robert (Jnr.), and their wives, John Sargeant who was Robert (Snr.)'s father, Mr. S.W. Furness and Mr. A.S. Purdon representing the shipbuilders.

The Ribston was delivered in June 1906, and her first Master was Captain G. Haxfield. Robert Sargeant ran his ship from the same office at which he ran his fruit business, in Charles Street.
The vessel had a rather adventurous career in her early days and it was subsequently discovered that the Standard Compass was placed too close to the engine room ventilators, and each time they were rotated to take air into the engine room, the compass was deflected. After the compass was re-positioned away from the ventilators the problem was resolved, and the time spent in shipyards having new bottom plates fitted after groundings etc., was considerably reduced and her insurance premiums lowered accordingly!

Trouble for the Ribston re-appeared in a somewhat spectacular way in 1915 when she was carried inland  at Galveston, Texas, by a huge tidal wave. She was refloated and continued her trading career. Sadly, on April 23rd, 1916, when under the command of Captain R.T. Marshall, she was captured and sunk by the German submarine U-19, some 66 miles west of Ushant, when outward bound from Cardiff with coal, probably under sealed orders.

Robert (Snr.) and Harry continued to run the fruit business, with Robert (Jnr.), 'Bob', working for Furness Withy by this time. Like so many other shipowners at the time, they did not attempt to replace the Ribston, and so the Ribston Steamship Co. Ltd. ceased to be.

Family History - Compiled by Maureen Anderson:

Robert Sargeant was born near Northallerton in 1850 to parents John and Jane (nee Gale) Sargeant. He married Harriet Calver/Galver at York on 14th December 1873. They had three sons with the youngest, John, passing away when he was aged 21.

Robert died aged 64 on 10th October 1915 leaving effects of £18327.


Harry Sargeant was born 8th October 1874 in Hartlepool to parents Robert and Harriet. He married Hattie May Purvis on 18th April 1903 at Lambeth.  By 1930 he was living at ‘The Cedars’ Higher Drive, Banstead, Surrey.

Harry died aged 56 on 13th October 1930 at West Hartlepool leaving effects of £61376.


Robert was born 23rd May 1876 at Hartlepool to parents Robert and Harriet. He married Florence Rose Smith at Epping, Essex in 1902. They had one daughter.

Florence Rose died at Liverpool in March 1927 and Robert sailed from Liverpool in May with his daughter, Gladys, on the S.S. Nova Scotia arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 20th June 1927. He was married for a second time at London to Mary Beatrix Hewitson. Mary died at London in June 1966.

Robert died aged 63 at Birkdale, Southport, Lancashire on 9th October 1939 leaving effects of £64887.



Related items :