Our history

Somerston’s origins date back to 1854 when Ralph Chapman first went into business as a ship’s agent and manager, taking partial ownership interest as payment.

In the late 1960’s, after over 100 years in the shipping business, Somerston made the decision to diversify its interests.  By 1975, the last of the shipping interests had been sold and property development became the primary focus.

Year that Somerston was founded
Years of shipping expertise prior to pivoting to property
Year that the last of Somerston's shipping assets were sold

Shipping heritage...

Ralph Chapman, an astute investor and manager, demonstrated his keen eye for opportunities by investing in several Tea Clippers under his supervision, including notable vessels like “Stornoway,” “Isabella,” and “Agenoria.” As the years passed, the company evolved, eventually establishing its own fleet of merchant ships in 1878. With the goal of attracting co-investors, prospectuses were issued, and the company took charge of operating and managing these vessels.

Initially, the fleet comprised exclusively of sailing ships, but as technology advanced, the company transitioned to steamers. After a successful century in the shipping industry, the Somerston Shipping Company recognised the need for diversification in the late 1960s. By 1975, all shipping assets had been divested, marking the beginning of the company’s focus on property investment and development.

To this day, the Group’s shipping heritage is proudly preserved through a remarkable collection of Shipping memorabilia displayed at the Maritime Gallery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, as well as at the Group’s Head Office, serving as tangible reminders of its illustrious past.