Notting Hill and Tower Hill were a pair of identical steel sisterships built by Dobie & Co. on the Clyde in 1881. Owned and managed by W.B. Hill and W.H. Nott, each was registered at 4,021 tons gross (2,616 net & 3,702 under deck) and measured 420 feet in length with a 45 foot beam. Powered by 600hp. compound inverted four-cylinder engines by J. Howden & Co. of Glasgow, both had twin-screws and sported the rig of a four-masted barque. The two ships were the first to be ordered by the newly-formed Twin Screw Line (also known as the Hill Line) to inaugurate its Calcutta service and although regular sailings to New York began in the winter of 1882-83, these were predominantly freight, at least to start with.
After a relatively short service career, Notting Hill left London, bound for New York, on 19th January 1884 laden with 3,000 tons of cargo and with about 100 persons aboard, including "some cattlemen and 10 stowaways". Initially sustaining some minor damage due to bad weather between 25th and 27th January, the vessel then encountered floe ice on 2nd February which quickly became too dense to penetrate except at minimum speed. At about midnight, a small iceberg collided with and sliced open the port side of the ship near the engine room. Despite every effort over the ensuing three days, the pumps could not keep the water at bay and the ship was eventually abandoned in a sinking condition some 600 miles from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Tower Hill, meanwhile, was luckier and, after three successful years, was fitted out to carry 70 second class as well as numerous steerage passengers in addition to her existing 30 first class berths. In 1891 however, too much capacity on the North Atlantic forced an amalgamation with the Wilson Line, a situation repeated again in 1896 when Furness-Leyland joined the grouping. Acquired by the Allan Line in 1897, Tower Hill was renamed Turanian and continued in service until November 1899 when she stranded on the Cape Verde Islands and was subsequently scrapped.
Despite the unfamiliarity of these two ships, it is worthy of comment that, although not the very first examples used on the North Atlantic, they were the first custom-built twin-screw steamers employed on that route and, as such, made a notable contribution to progress in both speed and safety at sea.