S & H Morton,
Shipbuilders and Engineers
Thomas Morton (Shipwright)
To arrive at the shipbuilders who occupied the Victoria Shipyards site originally, we have to first look at the man who set up the first shipyard at the site.
While many other shipyards and shipbuilders were all around Leith and on the banks of the Water of Leith, it was Morton who set up first. On the site that would eventually be known as the Victoria Shipyards.
Thomas Morton was born in Leith in 1781, growing up to become a shipwright just like his father, Hugh. He started out working for his father before branching out to set up on his own. He set up at Leith as a shipbuilder and his firm would go on to become S&H Morton & Co.
As he was unable to afford his own dry dock in his Leith Shipyards, he resorted to the very dangerous process of hauling up ships on greased ways, not just dangerous but very time consuming he set his mind to resolving this challenge. By 1818 he had invented and installed the first patent slip. This was a slipway with a cradle to haul ships out of the water. He was granted a patent for his invention the following year.
As with most good inventions this could be easily replicated and sure enough before he knew it every man jack who thought he could build one had a go. In 1824 he sued john Barclay in Edinburgh for patent infringement after he had installed a similar contraption in the yards of his company, Stobcross, which had been described three years previous by fellow shipwright William Denny as a poor copy. The court found in favour of Morton.
His invention was very successful and should have made him a fortune, some 45 slips were built in Scotland, England and in Ireland, along with many in America and in Russia, he made some money but when it came time to re-new the patent rights Parliament denied him his rights and only awarded him the small sum of £2,500 pounds. Morton had spent a lot of his time fighting the profiteers of his invention and he died pretty young in December of 1832, he was interned in South Leith Parish church, while his company would continue operating as S & H Morton & Co.
Ships built by S. & H. Morton & Co.
The full list of ships built at the S & H Morton shipyard will show here over time, if you have any information on the ships or images then please send them in to
S & H Morton was the shipyard owned and run by the sons of Thomas Morton, Samuel and Hugh Morton
SS Wendouree was built as Yard No 32 and launched in 1882. This image is from the State Library of Victoria. From the late A. Green collection.
SS Britannia was built as Yard No 46 in 1885-the above is a rough sketch of how she may have looked produced by salvage experts and first shown on the following dive site..