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Frederic Logghe
Home > 002 Commercial vessels > 002p Passenger liners and cruise vessels > 002p_ST_1830 - Steam powered vessels between 1830 and 1880 > 002p_ST_1830_UK - British vessels

Clyde [Clyde Screw Steam Packet Company]

The Clyde was built in 1854. She was used as a troop transport vessel for the Crimean War in 1856. She was wrecked in 1857.

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Petrel [Clyde Screw Steam Packet Company]

The Petrel was bought in 1854 from the Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Bermuda Royal Steam Packet Company. She was built in 1852. The vessel burned down in 1855, while being used as a troop transport ship in the Crimean War.

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Bothnia [Cunard Line]



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Britannia [Cunard Line]


The RMS Britannia was an ocean liner of the British Cunard Steamship Lines. Launched in 1840, the ship and its sisters, Acadia, Caledonia, and Columbia, were the first ocean liners built by the company. The Britannia was a small ship, about 230 feet long, and was relatively fast for the time at 8.5 knots. She had paddle wheels and her engines had an output of about 430 horsepower with a tonnage of 1,154 tons. She was capable of carrying 115 passengers. On her maiden voyage, she made Halifax, Nova Scotia from Liverpool, England in 12 days and 10 hours.

She was sold by Cunard some time after her launch and was converted into a sailing ship. She was sunk as a target ship in 1880. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Great Britain [Great Western Steamship Company]


The SS Great Britain was the first ocean-going ship to have an iron hull and a screw propeller and, when launched in 1843, was the largest vessel afloat. She originally carried 120 first-class passengers (26 of whom were in single cabins), 132 second-class passengers and 130 officers and crew but, when an extra deck was added, it increased the number of passengers to 730.

The SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Guppy, Christopher Claxton and William Patterson for the Great Western Steamship Company and built in a specially adapted dry dock at Bristol.

The launching, or more accurately the 'floating out', took place on 19th July 1843. Conditions were generally favourable but diarists recorded that after a dull start, the weather brightened later on with only a few intermittent showers. The atmosphere of the day can best be gauged by referring to the report published the following day in the Bristol Mirror. The reporter recorded that "large crowds started to gather early in the day including many people who had travelled to Bristol to see the spectacle. There was a general atmosphere of anticipation as the Royal Emblem was unfurled. The processional route had been cleaned and Temple Street decorated with flags, banners flowers and ribbons. Boys of the City School and girls of Red Maids were stationed in a neat orderly formation down the entire length of the Exchange. The route was a mass of colour and everybody was out on the streets as it was a public holiday. The atmosphere of gaiety even allowed thoughts to drift away from the problems of political dissension in London."

Prince Albert arrived at 10am at the Great Western Railway Terminus. The Royal Train, conducted by Brunel himself, had taken two hours and forty minutes from London. There was an impressive guard of honour, consisting of members of the police force, soldiers and dragoons, and as the Prince stepped from the train, the band of the Life Guards played works by Labitsky and a selection from the "Ballet of Alma". Two sections of the Terminus platform were boarded off for the reception and it was noted by the Bristol Mirror that parts were covered with carpets from the Council House. The Prince Consort, dressed as a private gentleman, was accompanied by his Equerry in Waiting, Personal Secretary, the Marquis of Exeter, and Lords Warncliffe, Liverpool, Lincoln and Wellesley.

Introductions were made, followed by the "Address to His Royal Highness the Prince Albert", by the Town Clerk, D.Burgess. The reply given by His Royal Highness was short and spoken in low tones. Honours were then bestowed on him by the Society of Merchant Venturers, and there were various speeches from members of the Bristol Clergy. The Royal Party then had breakfast, and after twenty minutes reappeared to board horse-drawn carriages.

At 12 noon, the Prince arrived at the Great Western Steamship yard only to find the ship already 'launched' and waiting for the Royal Inspection. Prince Albert boarded the ship, took refreshments in the elegantly decorated lounge and then commenced his tour of inspection. He was then received in the ship's Banqueting Room where all the local dignitaries and their ladies were gathered.

After the banquet and the toasts, His Royal Highness left for the official naming ceremony. It had already been decided that the actual christening would be performed by Mrs Miles, mother of Bristol's MP, and a local company director, and when the appropriate time came, she stepped forward, grasped the champagne bottle and swung it towards the towering bows. Unfortunately the steam packet 'Avon' had started to tow the ship into the harbour and the bottle fell about ten feet short of its target and dropped unbroken into the water. A second bottle was rapidly procured and the Prince himself hurled this against the iron hull of the "Great Britain". In her haste, the 'Avon' had also started her work before the shore warps had been released. The tow rope snapped and due to the resultant delay, the Prince was obliged to return to the station and miss the end of the programme.

The size of the new lock at the Floating Harbour caused problems when she was launched. She was being towed away from her builders to have her engines and interior fitted out on the River Thames but unfortunately was fractionally too big to go through. The ship was moored in the Floating Harbour for a year or more before proceeding into Cumberland Basin in December 1844. After proceeding successfully through the first set of lock gates, she jammed on her passage through the second set which led to the River Avon. It was only the remarkable seamanship of Captain Claxton that enabled her to be pulled back and severe structural damage avoided. The following night, an army of workmen, under the supervision of Brunel, took advantage of the slightly higher tide, removed coping stones and lock gate platforms from the Junction Lock and allowed the tug 'Sampson' to tow her safely into the River Avon.

At the time of her launch in 1843 she was by far the largest ship in the world, over 100 feet longer than her rivals, and the first screw-propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. On 26 July 1845, the ship undertook her maiden voyage to New York, a journey completed in 14 days.

In November 1846, within a few short years of being launched, the ship went aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay, Ireland and there was serious doubt as to whether she could be refloated. Brunel himself advised that if anyone could rescue the ship then the man to do it was the naval engineer Andrew Swan of Brisbane. Bremner was engaged and the Great Britain was refloated in August 1847. However, the cost of the salvage bankrupted the Great Western Steamship Company, and the SS Great Britain was sold and turned into an emigration ship.

Originally intended as an Atlantic steamer, she made most of her working voyages from the United Kingdom to Australia. In 1852, she made her first voyage to Melbourne, Australia, carrying 630 emigrants. She excited great interest in Melbourne, with 4,000 people paying a shilling each to see over her. During her time, she was considered the most reliable of the emigrant ships between Britain and Australia.

Between 1855 and 1858, she was also used as a troop ship, during the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. In 1882, she was turned into a sailing ship, to transport bulk coal but, after a fire on board, in 1886, she was found on arrival at the Falkland Islands to be damaged beyond repair. She was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and used there as a storage hulk (coal bunker) until the 1930s, when she was scuttled and abandoned. In her role as coal bunker, she served to refuel the South Atlantic fleet that defeated Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee's fleet, in the First World War Battle of the Falkland Islands. In the Second World War, some of her steel was scavenged to repair HMS Exeter, one of the Royal Navy ships that fought the Graf Spee and was badly damaged, in the Battle of the River Plate.

In April 1970, she was refloated on a pontoon, the "Mulus 3", and towed back (code name "Voyage 47") to Bristol, by the tug "Varius II", for conservation as a museum. She returned to her original birthplace, the dry dock in the Great Western Dockyard, in which she had been built, which had been disused since bomb damage during World War II, which is now a grade II* listed building. The salvage operation was made possible by several large donations, including one from Sir Jack Hayward, and the late Sir Paul Getty. The original intent was to restore her to her 1843 state. However, the philosophy of the project changed in recent years and the conservation of all surviving pre-1970 material became the aim.

By 1998, an extensive survey discovered that the hull was continuing to corrode in the humid atmosphere of the dock and the prognosis gave her 20 years before the ship corroded away. Therefore, extensive conservation work began which culminated in the installation of a glass waterline plate across the dry dock at the level of her water line, with two dehumidifiers, keeping the space beneath at 22% Relative Humidity, sufficiently dry to preserve the surviving material of the hull. This was completed and the ship was 're-launched' in July 2005 and visitor access to the dry dock has been restored. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Russia [Cunard Line]


Owner: Cunard Line

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Great Eastern [Great Eastern Ship Company]


The SS Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refueling. She would only be surpassed in length in 1899 (by the SS Oceanic II) and in tonnage in 1901 (by the SS Celtic II). Brunel knew her affectionately as the "great babe". He died shortly after her launch in 1858.

Brunel entered into a partnership with John Scott Russell, an experienced Naval Architect and ship builder, to build the Great Eastern. Unknown to Brunel, Russell was in financial difficulties. The two men disagreed on many details. It was Brunel's final great project, and he collapsed from a stroke after being photographed on her deck, and died only ten days later, a mere four days after Great Eastern's first sea trials. She was built by Messrs Scott, Russell & Co. of Millwall, London, the keel being laid down on May 1, 1854.

She was finally launched —after many technical difficulties— on January 31, 1858. She was 211 m (692 ft) long, 25 m (83 ft) wide, with a draft of 6.1 m (20 ft) unloaded and 9.1 m (30 ft) fully laden, and displaced 32,000 tons fully loaded. In comparison, SS Persia, launched in 1856, was 119 m (390 ft) long with a 14 m (45 ft) beam. She was at first named the SS Leviathan, but her high building and launching costs ruined the Eastern Steam Navigation Company and so she lay unfinished for a year before being sold to the Great Eastern Ship Company and finally renamed SS Great Eastern. It was decided she would be more profitable on the Southampton–New York run, and she was outfitted accordingly. Her eleven-day maiden voyage began on June 17, 1860, with 35 paying passengers, 8 company "dead heads" (passengers who don't pay) and 418 crew.

The hull was an all-iron construction, a double hull of 19 mm (0.75 inch) wrought iron in 0.86 m (2 ft 10in) plates with ribs every 1.8 m (6 ft). Internally the hull was divided by two 107 m (350 ft) long, 18 m (60 ft) high, longitudinal bulkheads and further transverse bulkheads dividing the ship into nineteen compartments. The Great Eastern was the first ship to incorporate the double-skinned hull, a feature which would not be seen again in a ship for 100 years, but which is now compulsory for reasons of safety. She had sail, paddle and screw propulsion. The paddle-wheels were 17 m (56 ft) in diameter and the four-bladed screw-propeller was 7.3 m (24 ft) across. The power came from four steam engines for the paddles and an additional engine for the propeller. Total power was estimated at 6 MW (8,000 hp). She had six masts (said to be named after the days of a week - Monday being the fore mast and Saturday the spanker mast), providing space for 1,686 m2 (18,148 square feet) of sails (7 gaff and max. 9 (usually 4) square sails), rigged similar to a topsail schooner with a main gaff sail (fore-and-aft sail) on each mast, one "jib" on the fore mast and three square sails on masts no. 2 and no. 3 (Tuesday & Wednesday); for a time mast no. 4 was also fitted with three yards. In later years, some of the yards were removed. According to some sources (see External links) she would have carried 5,435 m² (58,502 sq ft). This amount of canvas is obviously too much for seven fore-and-aft sails and max. 9 square sails. This (larger) figure of sail area lies only a few square meters below that the famous Flying P-Liner Preussen carried - with her five full-rigged masts of 30 square sails and a lot of stay sails. Setting sails turned out to be unusable at the same time as the paddles and screw were under steam, because the hot exhaust from the five (later four) funnels would set them on fire. Her maximum speed was 24 km/h (13 knots).

Two people were killed in the difficult sideways-launch of the Great Eastern, and the ship became known to some as the unlucky ship. She was involved in a series of accidents, including an unfortunate incident in which an overheated steam pipe launched funnel no. 1 like a rocket, killing a crew member and five boiler men in the process. It was caused by incorrectly plumbed pipework. The maiden voyage from Southampton to New York began on 17 June 1860. Among the 35 passengers, eight officials and a crew of 418, were two journalists, Zerah Colburn and Alexander Lyman Holley.

The vessel was sold for £25,000 (her build cost has been estimated at £500,000) and converted into a cable-laying ship. Funnel no. 4 and some boilers were removed as well as great parts of the passenger rooms and saloons to give way to open top tanks for taking up the coiled cable. She laid 4,200 km (2,600 statute miles) of the 1865 transatlantic telegraph cable. Under Captain Robert Halpin, from 1866 to 1878 the ship laid over 48,000 km (26,000 nautical miles) of submarine telegraph cable including from Brest, France to Saint Pierre and Miquelon in 1869, and from Aden to Bombay in 1869 and 1870.

This accident was caused by breaking of the main rudder shaft. One of the passengers on the ship, an American engineer by the name of Hamilton Ela Towle who was returning to the states after completing his contract working as a supervising engineer on the Danube River dry-docks in Austria, was instrumental in saving the ship. He devised a sort of spider gear on a sling that could be lowered down into the rudder shaft well and was used to remove the broken rudder shaft. Without this device the ship's crew would not have been able to remove the broken rudder shaft. Mr. Towle claimed that his effort saved the ship, and filed a claim under the laws of salvage to receive compensation for his efforts. The case was taken to court, and Mr. Towle was awarded the sum of $15,000, which was quite a considerable sum for that period. The Scientific American published an account of the incident and a description of Mr. Towle's device. It is uncertain if Mr. Towle ever actually received any money, but it was awarded to him by the court.

On August 27, 1862, the Great Eastern suffered an accident similar to that of the Titanic, but did not sink. She scraped on an uncharted rock needle (afterwards named the Great Eastern Rock) off the coast of Long Island, opening a gash in the outer hull over 9 feet wide and 83 feet long. However, the Great Eastern's inner hull was unbroken, and she made her way into New York the next day under her own steam. Nobody was hurt. The enormous size of the Great Eastern precluded the use of any drydock repair facility in the US, and the brothers Henry and Edward S. Renwick devised a daring plan to build a watertight cofferdam. Repairs took five months.

Because of this accident, some analysts claim that the Titanic was not so much an unsinkable ship, but rather a symbol of the diminishing safety standards of the late nineteenth century.

She was broken up for scrap at Rock Ferry on the River Mersey in 1889–1890 —it took 18 months to take her apart.

While it is rumoured that a skeleton was found inside the Great Eastern's double hull, the same thing has been said of the Titanic and the Hoover Dam (among others); and inspection hatches in the inner hull would have provided an easy escape. The ship was the subject of one programme in the BBC documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World which repeated the tale about two dead bodies in the hull, including a child worker, presenting it as rumour rather than fact. However, Haunted History implied that the find of the skeleton was indeed factual. One of the narrators of the segment read an article published from the time when the Great Eastern was being dismantled. The article stated that the workers broke into a compartment in the inner shell on the port side, and did find a skeleton. Support for the skeleton find traces back to when the Great Eastern was being constructed, as it was discovered that two of the riveters, a worker and his apprentice, had mysteriously vanished. It was believed that they had been sealed on the inside by accident.[citation needed]Liverpool Football Club were looking for a flag pole for their Anfield ground, at the time of her local break up and consequently purchased the top mast. It still stands there today, at the Kop end. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Scotia [Cunard Line]


Owner: Cunard Line

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(c) 2009 Frederic Logghe GNU Free Documentation License Birds in the sky
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