Charles John Mare

Charles John Mare was a marine engineer. Apparently he was very good at what he did. He was also quite successful. He built up his own business (Mare & Co) building ships for the navy.

This was not his first business venture. He had previously been in partnership with a chap called Ditchburn. This partnership ended somewhat acrimoniously with Ditchburn taking Mare to court after a perceived assault attempt.

Apparently, Ditchburn was on a ladder, boarding a yacht and a chap called Gully, pushed the ladder out of the way and Ditchburn fell off. Ditchburn accused Gully of being in Mare’s employ, and trying to break his neck. Mare and Gully denied everything and the case was thrown out of court. It was, however, the end of their partnership…to say the least.

So, Charles John Mare set up another business and set about making more ships. Then he fell into a big hole of debt. He had lots of orders, owing to the Crimean War, but not a lot of capital. He’d, unfortunately, spent big on materials, which, eventually, left him with a shipyard of unfinished ships and many debtors knocking at the door. He was in dire straits.

His father-in-law (Peter Rolt), rather than ride to the rescue, took over the business, liquidated it and reformed it as the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company. This was the beginning of a company that would eventually become one of the most successful 19th century ship building firms in Britain.

Charles tried again, starting up another shipyard (Millwall Iron and Shipbuilding Company) but it wasn’t very long before he was once more in financial difficulty.

The poor man then just vanished. Declared a bankrupt, he may have spent some time in a debtors prison, but, effectively he just fell off the map. And that was pretty much it for the rest of his life. Occasionally he would appear at various shipyards, offering advice on ship building but then he would return to the shadows.

He was well known in the small world of marine technology and his advice was generally appreciated, unless it related to business, I guess. He died penniless and alone in 1898.

I guess, the best thing about this story is that eventually, his work was recognised and a monument was erected to him. It was put up outside West Ham municipal college.

Interestingly, he didn’t start off as an engineer but originally worked at a solicitor’s firm. He started his partnership with Ditchburn with an inheritance, following the death of his father.

He was obviously one of those chaps with a great brain for building but not such a good one for business.

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1 Response to Charles John Mare

  1. Poor man he got the bad bite of the cherry all the time, but I think I would have packed it in a bit earler very interesting to read.
    love mum x


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