J.D.Newton's Dale Line

The Dale Line was started by John Danson Newton and Capt.William Kelly, the master of a clipper ship in the Calcutta trade. Newton, who had previously been a clerk for the shipping company Donald Currie & Co., originated from Whitehaven, and most of the Dale Line ships were named after the lakes or dales of the Lake District. Another major investor in the line was Robert Coulthard. The Dale Line was reputedly one of the best known and best run of the sailing ship lines in the Cape Horn trade of the 1870's and '80's.

Their ships were mostly built either by J.D.Potter at Liverpool or by the Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company. They were mostly 1200 tons. Exceptions were the Cholula, 1066 tons, acquired from John Willis and renamed Dunnerdale, and the Knight Companion of 1470 tons, bought from Hughes of the Windmill Line, and also the final two ships acquired by the company, the Wasdale and Langdale, both of which replaced ships of the same name that had been lost.

For their maiden voyages the ships were usually loaded for Australia and crossed the Pacific to San Francisco, but thereafter they usually went directly to San Fransisco via Cape Horn. Initially they loaded cargoes at Liverpool, but later gravitated to Welsh ports to load coke, tin plates or steel rails. In the early years, the ships loaded a varied general cargo at San Francisco, but then were attracted by the increasing grain trade to the ports of Benicia, Port Costa and Vallejo, there to load flour, wheat and barley. In the 1870's these 1200-ton ships typically loaded 40,000 sacks of wheat, worth roughly $70,000, at a rate of about £2 7s 6d per ton.

The Dale liners were noted for their good living. They had the words "Be Just And Fear Not" inscribed under the break of every poop and on the ends of all spare spars. Reputedly a large board displaying these words was always set up in a noticeable part of the ship when J.D.Newton came aboard.

Vessels built for the Dale Line by the Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company included the Patterdale, Wasdale (1872) and Eskdale.

W.H Potter at Liverpool built five ships for the Dale Line. The first was Borrowdale (1868), then four other 1200 ton ships supposedly modelled on her: Ennerdale and Langdale (both 1874) and Grisedale and Mitredale (both 1875).

In Lloyds Register 1877 the following ships were listed belonging to the Dale Line (of 26, Exchange Street East, Liverpool): Borrowdale, Dunnerdale, Ennerdale, Eskdale, Grisedale, Knight Companion, Mitredale, Patterdale.

The Dale Line ceased business after the death of J.D.Newton on the 2nd September 1889. Edgar Lowden & Co. of Whitehaven bought the Eskdale, Knight Commander and Mitredale. Capt.Kelly retained the final ships bought by the line, the replacements Wasdale and Langdale. The Borrowdale was sold to Nicholson & McGill, and ultimately was torpoedoed in 1916. The Patterdale was sold to a Swansea owner and the Ennerdale to H.Janetzky of Rostock.