A Ludicrous Travesty? James R. Napier and the Lancefield
When James R. Napier’s shipyard failed in 1861 he was left with the small steamer Lancefield, which he had built to a novel design on his own account. After failing to find a buyer he established a marginally profitable service from Ardrossan to Belfast, but came up against the might of the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company who wished to expand their empire into coastal shipping. Using James R. Napier’s letter books as evidence, this paper analyses the bitter conflict that resulted in Napier’s withdrawal from ship owning. The Lancefield was used to test Napier’s theories in the design and operation of ships which earned it a far greater scientific significance than its commercial success warranted.