Some of Britain’s finest sailing men-of-war were built in India from 1777 to 1849 by the Wadia family of master builders, at the Bombay Dockyard—shown above as it appeared some time after 1860. The 14-gun ship Cornwallis, right, was built in 1813 and survived in one capacity or another until 1957.
Few American naval and merchant marine officers who visit the bustling port of Bombay, India, are aware that this port, in the days of sail, produced some of the finest ships in the world, and the Bombay shipwrights enjoyed an international reputation for excellence. These shipwrights all belonged to the Parsi religious sect, a development of Zoroastrianism.
Inextricably interwoven with the history of the Bombay Dockyard is the story of the remarkable Parsi family of Lowjee Wadia. This illustrious, though humble, family provided nine successive master builders for the Bombay Dockyard, over a period extending from 1736 to 1884; and this unbroken succession came about not through any hereditary right, but through proven worth and ability.