Harland & Wolff Papers

Repository: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Identity Statement

TitleHarland & Wolff Papers
Archive ReferenceGB 0255 PRONI/D2805
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/harland-wolff-papers
Creation Dates1861-1987
Extent Mediumc 2,000 files, c 200 volumes + c 16,000 documents


Creator(s): Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders, 1861-1989

  • Administrative History ↴

    Harland & Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland (1831–1895) and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (1834–1913). The shipyard has built many ships notably the White Star trio RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic and Britannic. After a lengthy career in heavy industry, specialising in shipbuilding and offshore construction, the company was bought in 1989 leading to a new company called Harland & Wolff Holdings Plc.
  • Archival History ↴

    The collection was received by PRONI through a number of deposits from 1960s-1990s.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Harland & Wolff, shipbuilders, 1861-1989 ↴

    The Harland & Wolff archive in PRONI comprises c.2,000 files, c.200 volumes and c.16,000 documents, 1861-1987, documenting most aspects of the history of Belfast’s famous shipbuilding firm.
    The meticulously kept private ledgers of William James (Viscount Pirrie), the chairman of Harland & Wolff, 1896-1924, are superb. The researcher can use these to chart Harland & Wolff’s path through the shipbuilding cycles and particularly the financial complications experienced by shipbuilding companies generally in the first quarter of the 20th century.
    Also illuminating are the 57 files and c.100 documents, dating from 1915, which comprise the papers accumulated by Sir Frederick Rebbeck, Harland & Wolff chairman and managing director, 1930-1962. These include correspondence, technical drawings, published articles, annual reports, photographs and newspaper cuttings. Perhaps the largest and most significant cache of personal papers deposited are those of his son, Dr Denis Rebbeck, Harland & Wolff managing director, 1962-1970. There are 962 files, covering the period 1960-1970, containing papers and correspondence, notes of meetings, newspaper cuttings, etc, pertaining to his career and his contacts with staff, the Admiralty, the Northern Ireland government, various companies and local business, universities, the Press and miscellaneous individuals.
    The most extensive sections of the archive include technical records such as specifications of contracts for hull construction, electrical fittings, etc, in the various types of vessels which Harland & Wolff built, for example, liners, tankers, cargo ships, frigates, minesweepers, car ferries, whale catchers, etc. And there are over one hundred files, mostly 20th century, dealing with Harland & Wolff’s liaison with trades unions such as the Shipbuilding Employers’ Federation, the Engineering and Allied Employers’ National Federation, the Ship Constructors and Shipwrights’ Association, the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    D2805/A Admiralty Work
    D2805/AGC Agreements and Contracts
    D2805/AGM Minutes, correspondence, etc
    D2805/AR Annual Reports (H&W Engineering Establishments)
    D2805/AWES Association of West European Shipbuilders
    D2805/B Banks: correspondence and papers
    D2805/BHC Belfast Harbour Commissioners papers
    D2805/BICE British Internal Combustion Engine
    D2805/BRD Board Meetings and AGM correspondence and papers
    D2805/BS British Shipbuilders files
    D2805/CBI Confederation of British Industry papers
    D2805/CI Company Instructions of H&W
    D2805/CON Conferences and meetings
    D2805/CPS Correspondence
    D2805/DO Drawing Office
    D2805/EEF Engineering Employers Federation papers
    D2805/ENQ Enquiry papers (Ships and Machinery)
    D2805/EPH Ephemera
    D2805/FCT Functions and presentations
    D2805/FIN Finance Office Journals, Ledgers, Papers, Registers, etc
    D2805/GED Geddes Report (papers)
    D2805/HIST Documents of particular historical interest
    D2805/INS Insurance papers
    D2805/ISC Iron and Steel
    D2805/LCH Launch files
    D2805/LIC Licence papers
    D2805/MIN Minute Books
    D2805/MISC Miscellaneous H&W Records
    D2805/OTC Records of the Ocean Transport Company Limited
    D2805/OTP Orders to Proceed files
    D2805/PAT Patents
    D2805/PDR Private Dining Room
    D2805/PER Personal
    D2805/PHT Photographs
    D2805/PRO Production
    D2805/PRS Press Releases, Draft Press Releases and Press Cuttings
    D2805/PUB Published Reports
    D2805/RDP ‘Reina Del Pacifico’ papers
    D2805/RP Rigging Plans
    D2805/RSS Annual Reports of Shipbuilders and Shipowners
    D2805/SBC Shipbuilding Conference Papers
    D2805/SCC Steel consumers’ census returns
    D2805/SCP Ship’s Completion Papers
    D2805/SEL Impressions of Company Seals
    D2805/SHIP Ships Particulars
    D2805/SP Specifications
    D2805/SRN Shipbuilders and Repairers’ National Association (Files)
    D2805/SSIA Shiprepairers’ and Shipbuilders Independent Association (Files)
    D2805/ST Sea Trials (Files)
    D2805/TC Test certificates and building certificates
    D2805/TUR Trade Union Records
    D2805/VAL Valuation Records
    D2805/VIS Visits to H&W (Files)
    D2805/WAR War Ship Group correspondence
    D2805/WB Wages Books
    D2805/WDC War Damage Claims papers
    D2805/WKS H&W Great Britain Works and Premises
    D2805/WOOD Legal papers of the case, Woodstock Shipping – v – H&W
    D2805/WR Wage Returns to various associations, councils, federations, etc

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions When the early deposits of Harland & Wolff business records were accessioned, a '50-year rule' was applied to them. In essence this means that a record - be it a file, minute book, ledger, etc - becomes eligible for release to the public 50 years from the date of its last paper. However, in practice, a '50-year rule' has not been operated. Instead, all members of the public are required to submit a written request to Harland & Wolff, through PRONI, seeking access to the records of whatever date.
Conditions Governing ReproductionPlease contact PRONI for guidance
Creation Dates1861-1987
Extent Mediumc 2,000 files, c 200 volumes + c 16,000 documents
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids A summary of the collection can be accessed online: http://www.proni.gov.uk/ Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialThere are many government records in PRONI which concern the development of the Harland & Wolff shipyard. For example, a number of Cabinet Secretariat files, 1923-1945 (referenced CAB/9A), concern shipbuilding, the government loans guarantee scheme, government subsidies, a shortage of fitting-out workers and the importation of Irish Free State workers, and unemployment in the shipyard. Other files in the Cabinet Secretariat series (referenced CAB/9B) concern temperance legislation, including letters expressing shipyard workers' opposition to the activities of prohibitionists in 1923. The return of Roman Catholics to the shipyard in the same year following serious civil disturbances, is also well documented. Cabinet Conclusions files (referenced CAB/4) also contain references to Harland & Wolff. Beyond PRONI there are two major collections of Harland & Wolff records held by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (UFTM): a photographic collection and a ships' plans collection (ie, technical drawings).

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NotePRONI Archivist
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997. UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
Date of Descriptions41699