Somerston's origins date back to 1854 when Ralph Chapman first went into business as a ship’s agent and manager taking a partial ownership interest as payment. He also made investments in various Tea Clippers that he was managing, including the “Stornoway”, “Isabella” and “Agenoria”.
From 1878 onwards, the company owned and operated a small fleet of merchant ships. It contracted for the construction of new ships, offered prospectuses to attract co-investors and then operated and managed the ships. At first, these were all sailing ships but soon the company shifted to steamers.
In the late 1960’s, after over 100 years in the shipping business, the Somerston Shipping Company made the crucial decision to diversify its interests. By 1975, the last of the shipping interests had been sold and property investment and development had become the new focus.