John Bibby worked as a ship broker and an iron merchant in Liverpool, before he set up in business properly as a shipowner, with his partner John Highfield, in 1807.
Napoleon was causing havoc in Europe, the Americans had won their war of independence, and Liverpool was just beginning to exert its influence as a port.
By the time he died, murdered in a mysterious attack when he was 65, John Bibby was a wealthy and influential man, with many properties, a sizable fleet and a thriving metals business.
The year John Bibby died, in 1840, Samuel Cunard began his first transatlantic sailings from Liverpool to America; the next 60 years saw a tremendous growth in power of Liverpool as a world class trading port – and John Bibby’s sons and grandsons took his business into the golden age of steam, with a fleet of liners sailing to Burma and Ceylon as well as to the Mediterranean and Arabia.
The Bibby Line then endured through two world wars, the worldwide depression of the 1930s, and the transformation of the shipping industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Where many other shipping lines foundered, and others left Liverpool, the Bibby Line survived and evolved, with one of the founder’s direct descendants always at the helm of the business.
The 1980s brought big changes for the Bibby Line, with diversification into logistics and financial services, although with shipping still at its core.
In 2007, Bibby Line celebrates its bicentenary, with the sixth generation of the family at the head of 4,000 employees worldwide, with a positive future ahead for this remarkable family business.