Headlam's of Whitby
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Family History
The Headlams of Whitby came into prominence through the association of William Aaron Headlam (father of William Headlam), with his early employment in the Robinson & Rowland firm of steamship owners. He later became involved in the Rowland & Marwood association leading to his rise to become head of the company on the death of Christopher Marwood in 1914. He married Miss Agnes Shield Fawcett, daughter of J.R. Fawcett of Flowergate and they had three sons and one daughter. It will be noted that both the Rowland & Marwood Company and the International Line operated from the same premises in Flowergate (No.4 Flowergate, Whitby - later No.43 Flowergate, Whitby after 1940), which supports my supposition that W.A. Headlam would have been involved in the affairs of both.

Mr. W.A. Headlam was involved in numerous aspects of life in Whitby, too many to record here but it could be said he embodied the best of many of the late Victorian characteristics in his many activities in both the business world and the many social movements in which he was assiduously engaged. His interest and support in the construction of Whitby War Memorial Cottage Hospital endowed Whitby with facilities which were sadly lacking in the days long before the State took an active responsibility.

William of Whitby Young.jpg (10304 bytes)He was also Chairman (for many years) with Whitby Merchant Seamen's Hospital Houses, Church Street, established in 1675 with contributions from Whitby ship-owners and burgesses - an institution which has been a blessing to many former seamen, his son William (pictured - right), was also Chairman for over 50 years. He was a staunch member of St. Hilda's church on the West Cliff and presented a magnificent organ as a memorial to his eldest son, John, a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps who at the age of nineteen died on active service on 30th May 1918.

His maritime activities were so numerous that at his funeral there were so many representatives from shipping companies, dockyards, plus local businesses, banks, Freemason representatives and many local associations which he supported, that the church was filled to capacity.

Despite his apparent wealth and well-being there were to be tragic occasions which had to be endured by both he and his wife. That so many were killed in the First World War did little to compensate for the loss or lessen the grief of the relatives left.

Leonard Headlam of Whitby detail.jpg (9117 bytes)Later in March 1930, his second eldest son Leonard, was killed in an unfortunate accident on Blue Bank (a notorious hill in this area) whilst driving his racing car, an early Alfa Romeo. He was on his way to participate in races on the Brookland Circuit.

Leonard Headlam of Whitby.jpg (17732 bytes)The photograph shows him standing alongside his entry car in a previous meeting; with him is his co-driver Robert Wheatley, a local man, (note also his younger brother, William, to the far right). As this particular era of racing has long since passed, enthusiasts will find the photographs of historical interest. The late William Headlam, the youngest brother was also a racing car enthusiast owning an Aston Martin. It is said the brothers often raced in friendly rivalry.

Both won awards of considerable esteem; Leonard was first in the RAC International Tourist Trophy Race in Ulster (1929) and William came first in his Aston Martin in the RAC 24-hour Grand Prix at Spa, Belgium (1936).

Both the Headlam sons were well educated, Leonard entered Corpus Christi College in Cambridge and gained an M.A. William attended St. Peter's College in York but did not go on to take a degree, probably as the death of his brother signalled only too clearly that he would be of more use in the company and to his father than spending several years in university. From contemporary accounts it appeared Mr. W. Aaron Headlam was an ailing man and his death was not entirely unexpected and was probably accelerated by the tragic death of his second son.

It would seem that William had no other recourse, if the companies were to continue successfully than to assume his position as sole managing director of the two companies.

That he continued to manage them skillfully is an acknowledgement of his business ability, despite the heavy losses sustained by the company's shipping in the early part of the Second World War. His attempts to enlarge the company after the war can only be regarded as commendable but, as explained above, world trends dictated the end of British Maritime concerns.

Throughout its history the company was fortunate in having, on the administration side, capable men of good ability who understood ship management and continued their life long careers dealing with the various and intricate demands which involved the transportation of cargoes, upkeep of shipping, crew recruitment and wages, payment of port expenses, surveys, insurance, charters and in fact many other affairs of maritime importance. To mention all the office staff by name is impossible in a booklet of this size or even to discuss the role of the captains who figured so prominently at various times, particularly those who distinguished themselves during the Second World War.

Mr. W. Headlam however, appeared to have recognized their value as the Company's Record Book contains many newspaper cuttings referring to the careers of such men.

Mr. W. Headlam's entries reflected a certain nostalgia, a recognition of an era fast disappearing and never likely to be repeated.

As regards Whitby, will we never again, have an industry that gave the town such a prolonged period of sustained employment? - the only comparable one would appear to have been the Whaling Industry, which co-incidentally had a similar time duration.

After the commencement of hostilities in 1939 Mr. W. Headlam had acquired Raithwaite Hall and the surrounding land so that after the bombing of Flowergate and the shipping office Mr. Headlam decided, as it was impossible to work in the very badly damaged office, his whole concern should be transferred to Raithwaite Hall the next day, that being 27th September 1940. The Hall thus became the registered office of the company till the liquidation of the companies 1994. The Hall was previously the home of the Pyman family, sail and steamship owners throughout the 19th century and the early part of the 20th.
Extracts & pictures taken by kind permission from Alfred Lund - author of A Glance at the Past.

ObituaryWilliam of Whitby Old.jpg (6872 bytes)
Mr William Headlam, of the old-established shipping concern, Headlam and Sons, died at his Raithwaite, near Whitby, home on Sunday, aged 81.
Mr Headlam was the manager of Headlam and Sons Steamship PLC, one of two companies of which Headlam and Son were the managers.
The other was Rowland and Marwoods Steamship PLC. That company's last vessel, the 15,000 ton Egton - the last ocean-going Whitby-registered and Whitby-owned vessel - was sold to a Finnish buyer some four years ago for scrap after lying "in mothballs" at Hartlepool for seven years.
A funeral service will take place at St. Hilda's Church, West Cliff, Whitby, at 11.30am on Monday.

Beneficiaries from the Will
Details from a newspaper article - Daily Express 11th March 1991.
7m spinster snubs suitors
Spinster Trudi Tanner, left 7 million by her shipping magnate boss, was yesterday swamped with marriage offers.
But the woman who became a multi-millionairess overnight is very upset by the flood of letters and flowers from men she has never met.
She refused to discuss her plans after becoming one of the richest women in Britain.
Trudi, 56, rejected all callers at 18th century Raithwaite hall near Whitby, North Yorkshire.
The inheritance came from William Headlam, 81, who ex-nurse Trudi cared for since his second wife Phyllis walked out 20 years ago.
He left Trudi most of his money apart from some small bequests to his staff.
"I don't begrudge her a penny," said Phyllis, now re-married. "She dedicated herself to caring for my ex-husband."