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Colour on the Thames (1935)

After last week’s post about how quiet the river is at the moment, long time contributor Trevor Wayman bought to my attention a BFI film “Colour on the Thames (1935)” on YouTube.

What is remarkable about the film is that it is in colour, colour film was still a novelty for audiences in 1935, and the filming was done using a new Gasparcolor system.

The film begins in the west near Richmond with a family on the riverside before showing a few local boats.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the film is that it shows cranes moving along the newly constructed Waterloo Bridge which was not completed till the 1940s.

The Pool of London shows how busy the river was on the city side of London Bridge, boats and ships of all size jostle for position on the river.

The riverside is notable for the many cranes and warehouses, lots of produce found its way to the warehouse dotted along the river.

On the other side of Tower Bridge, we see a distinctive Thames barge plying its trade on the river.

The Dockland section is little bit more confusing because it is difficult to pinpoint the locations.

What you can see is that large ships were unloading and loading cargoes and the many lighters and tugs in the water.

Some of the final scenes show the boats and ships making their way along the stretch of Thames down to estuary.

What is noticeable is the amount of people working along the river, many people who worked on the river remark how dangerous it could be and fatal accidents were not that rare.

One thing we probably do not miss is the pollution associated with coal and oil burning, in the 1950s, this became a major problem with smog causing health problems.

When watching the film it is worth remembering that many of the ships featured were to come to a sad end in the Second World War, one of the ships in the film, the Dartford, was torpedoed off Cape Race with loss of 30 out 47 crew.

If you would like watch the film follow the link here

Many thanks to Trevor for the information.

Tales from the Riverbank

One of the joys of living on the Isle Of Dogs is the access to large stretches of water with the docks and the Thames winding around the Island. Over the years, I have reported on the large number of boats and ships that have visited West India Docks that have included warships and tall ships. Over the last few years, these marine visitors have got less and less due to the large developments near the dock.

Since the Covid crisis, the visitors have stopped almost altogether and I decided to go down to the riverbank and look for any interesting boats or ships on the river.

I often think when I am looking at the river about what it would have looked like a hundred years ago when the Thames was a truly working river full of lighters, barges and boats bringing their produce and materials to the centre of London.

Until the crisis, the river was not busy in the old sense but did have quite a large range of ships and boats going up and down the river from cruise ships, large yachts, tall ships, river cruises and many more.

Standing on riverbank near the O2, it was some time before a Thames Clipper appeared and a little later a Port of London boat Barnes drifted by. Barnes is a Port of London Harbour Service vessel which is a catamaran designed for the lower tidal waters and for use as Pilot cutters.

Walking down to Westferry Circus, I had more hope that the river stretch around Limehouse may be busier.

A London Port Health Authority Londinium boat appeared, and in the distance a Cory Riverside Energy barge was taking some containers into the city.

Thames Marine Services boat Gosso, Port of London’s Driftwood II and a Police speed boat all went by as I sat and enjoyed the warm weather.

The Cory Riverside Energy barges are a familiar sight on the river all through the year. The barges are used to transport non-recyclable waste from waste transfer stations along the River Thames to Cory’s energy waste facility in Belvedere.

Driftwood II as the name suggests is a Port of London boat whose main function is the collection of driftwood and other debris from the River but they are also equipped with hydraulic cranes, burning gear and salvage pumps.

Whilst the traffic on the river was well down on normal times, it did remind me that working boats were still going up and down the river. Although we tend to ignore these smaller boats when there are larger ships in the river, it is these boats that are the workhorses that keep things ticking along.

The last boat I watched was Cory Riverside Energy barge Recovery bringing its containers backdown river, this seemed appropriate in the present climate when we are all looking for signs of recovery in our everyday life.

Dutch Tall Ship Stad Amsterdam on the Thames

Walking around the Island, a familiar tall ship loomed out of the autumn gloom, it was the Stad Amsterdam which has been a regular visitor to West India Dock over the years.

The Stad Amsterdam (City of Amsterdam) is a three-masted clipper that was built-in Amsterdam in 2000, the ship was built when Frits Goldschmeding, founder of the Randstad employment agency and council of Amsterdam decided that the Dutch needed to build a tall ship to represent the historic maritime nation.

The ship was designed by Gerard Dijkstra basing his design on the 19th century frigate Amsterdam, however although she looks like 19th Century ship she is fitted with modern materials which means that she was fast enough to win the 2001 Cutty Sark Tall Ships’ Race.

The Stad Amsterdam is used as a training ship but also undertakes luxury cruises and adventure holidays all over the world, in 2009 she was used by Dutch Television to retrace the second voyage of the HMS Beagle.

She is a fully rigged tall ship with an overall length of 76 m, height of 46.3 and over 2000 square metres of sail. She usually operates with a crew of 32 and can accommodate 120 passengers for day trips and 58 for longer journeys.

After visiting London, the ship will visit Hamburg and Amsterdam before going in for a refit to prepare the clipper for an around the world  trip starting in 2020. The SDG World Tour will start in August 2020 and will take two years to complete.
The main goal of the tour is to help achieve the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by increasing knowledge and awareness around the world. The tour has 17 stops, one for every SDG, and at every stop many events will be organised and best practices will be shared. The SDG World Tour is endorsed by the UN.

 

Hay Barges on the Thames

Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923) ‘A view on the Thames’ credit Barry Ashworth

Recently I had a conversation with Barry Ashworth who worked for a long period at Dunbar Wharf, during the conversation he mentioned a painting he acquired at auction. The painting is entitled A View of the Thames by Charles William Wyllie and shows a barge full of hay berthed near Limehouse.

Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923) ‘A view on the Thames’ credit Barry Ashworth

It is a fascinating painting that clearly shows the famous Limehouse waterfront near the Grapes that have attracted a number of artists. However it is the barge laden with hay that really draws your attention and is a reminder that within the streets of London that for a long period it was not cars but horses were that were king.

Hay-boat on the Thames. 1859. From The Book of the Thames from its Rise to its Fall,

There were thousands of horses on the streets of London and they had to be fed and it would have been a common sight to see Thames sailing barges heavily laden with hay. Although generally known as hay barges, for those in charge of the barge they were known as ‘stackies’. There were special adaptations made to the Thames sailing barge to allow the large amount of hay to be stacked on board. To provide some stability, below the hay were bricks for the various developments in London. The hay was collected from the farms of Suffolk, Essex and Kent and transported up the Thames. Once the hay and other cargo had been unloaded in London, the barges were then filled with manure from the horses which were taken back to the farms to spread on the fields.

Hay-Boats on the Thames, 1872 After Gustave Doré

This cycle was played out over a long period of time and became a way of life for the bargees that plied their trade up and down the Thames.

Hay Barge off Greenwich by Edward William Cooke Date: 1835 (National Maritime Museum)

As with most things, progress bought technological changes with the arrival of the combustion engine which slowly took over the London streets until the early 20th century when horses were not needed in large numbers and the hay trade declined.

In the early 21st century, the hay barges have virtually been forgotten until we come across paintings like Barry’s that remind us of the past.

Charles William Wyllie was part of family of artists that became known for their marine landscapes, river and coastal scenes. His brother, William Lionel Wyllie was considered one of the country’s most famous marine painters. Charles trained at Leigh’s School of Art and at the Royal Academy Schools.

 

Silver Spirit Cruise Ship at Greenwich

Although we are approaching the end of the holiday season, we have a cruise ship berthed near Greenwich. The ship is called the Silver Spirit and operated by Silversea Cruises.
The ship was built at the Fincantieri Ancona shipyard and was launched in 2009, although the ship looks large it only carries a maximum 650 passengers and about 400 crew.
Silver Spirit is considered a luxury cruise ship  with 270 ocean-view suites and six restaurants with plenty of amenities.
Cruise ships are not an unusual sight on the Thames where they often berth at Greenwich or near Tower Bridge.
The Silver Spirit leaves Greenwich today to start its cruise to Barcelona.

Le Champlain Cruise Ship in the Thames

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Regular contributor Eric Pemberton often captures some of the more interesting boats and ships on the Thames and he recently managed to take a few photographs of the Le Champlain cruise ship as it made its way around the Isle of Dogs.

Whilst many cruise ships have got bigger and bigger, Le Champlain has gone to the other extreme with only 180 passengers and a more luxurious cruising experience. The ship has only 92 staterooms and suites with large windows, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Le Champlain is owned by the Ponant cruise company and the second ship of the Ponant Explorers-class of cruise ships. Each member of the class has been allocated the name of a famous French explorer, and Le Champlain is named after Samuel de Champlain, “The Father of New France”.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Built by VARD, Le Champlain had her hull constructed in VARD’s Tulcea yard in Romania, where her keel was laid down on 20 April 2017. A year later, she arrived at the builder’s Søviknes facility in Ålesund, Norway, for final outfitting. The ship made its maiden journey in October 2018, departed from Honfleur in France, travelling to Lisbon in Portugal.

It is the time of year when the Thames begins to get busier and we look forward to featuring a number of the ships and boats on the river.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs.

Dar Mlodziezy Tall Ship on the Thames


Photograph by Eric Pemberton

Those taking a walk this morning near the river would have been treated to the sight of a tall ship gliding down the Thames. The Dar Mlodziezy is a Polish sail training ship which was launched in 1981 at the Gdańsk shipyard in Poland. She had been built to replace the frigate Dar Pormoza which had been used to train officers for over fifty years.

Photograph by Eric Pemberton

The Dar Mlodziezy was one of six similiar ships that were were built by the same shipyard. Her sister ships were named Mir, Druzhba, Pallada, Khersones and Nadezhda. Her home port is Gdynia and she has been owned by the Gdynia Maritime Academy since she was built in 1982.

The Dar Mlodziezy was the first Polish-built, ocean-going sailing vessel to circumnavigate the globe in 1987–88 and been a regular in Tall Ships’ Races for over 25 years.

Photograph by Eric Pemberton

The ship is 108.8 m (357 ft) long with a beam of 12 m (39 ft). She usually sails with a crew of around 176 (40 crew and 136 cadets). If you would like a look at the ship, she is currently berthed at Greenwich.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs .

The Remarkable History of the Cutty Sark

In last week’s post about Millwall Dock, I mentioned that in the early 1950s, the Cutty Sark was bought into the Millwall dry dock for an inspection and repairs.

Cutty Sark is now a major landmark in Greenwich where she has sat serenely for over 60 years. But in the 1950s, her future was not clear cut and she became the subject of a public debate about what to do with the famous old clipper. Cutty Sark was built on the River Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest. She came into service at a time that sail was giving way to steamships.

The Cutty Sark spent only a few years working on the tea trade before being used to bring wool from Australia, quite often she would bring her cargo into West India Docks. The Cutty Sark became famous due to her races against Thermopylae, especially the one that took place in 1872. The Cutty Sark was damaged and finished second but most people were agreed that she was one of the fastest clippers of all time. The ship held the fastest time achieved between the UK and Australia for ten years.

Cutty Sark and HMS Worcester at Greenhithe in 1938

For all her fame, the days of sail were nearly over and the ship was sold to the Portuguese company Ferreira and Co. in 1895 and renamed Ferreira. There she continued as a cargo ship until purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman who remembered some of her past glories and he used her as a training ship in Falmouth. After he died, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College which was based near Greenhithe in 1938. There she became an auxiliary cadet training ship alongside HMS Worcester.

By the early 50s, it was considered that this career had come to an end and various ideas were put forward as regards what to do with her.

A number of newspaper reports of the time gives some idea about the debate.

Cutty Sark to Sydney?

LONDON, December 25 1951 (A.A.P.).— A famous tea clipper may end its days in Sydney Harbour.The Evening News’ gossip writer says that sailing enthusiasts are discussing the possibility of sailing the Cutty Sark to Australia. The Thames Barge Sailing Club president (Mr Hugh Vaudrey) said the lowest estimate of the cost of refitting the vessel was £10,000 sterling. Mr. Vaudrey believes that strongly-supported Cutty Sark societies in Australia and New Zealand would help bear the cost. He added : Out there they regard the Cutty Sark the same way as Americans do the Mayflower.

Plan for Cutty Sark to Sail Again

A dispute has arisen over a proposal to reconstruct and refit the world’s only surviving clipper, 83-year-old Cutty Sark, and sail her to Australia and New Zealand. The man behind the idea is a London solicitor, Mr. Hugh Vaudrey, who says the plan has the sympathetic backing of members of Cutty Sark societies in Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. Mr. Vaudrey, who founded the Thames Barge Sailing Club, which has the Cutty Sark Preservation committee, believes that the clipper could be made seaworthy and a crew recruited.

The project is strongly opposed as completely impracticable by the Greenwich National Maritime Museum, which considers that the vessel could not make a sea journey of any length and that officers and crew would be unobtainable.

Director of the museum, Mr. Frank Carr, said: — ”We would like to see the Cutty Sark cradled in concrete at Greenwich as Nelson’s Victory is at Portsmouth. This would cost upwards of a quarter of a million sterling, but we are assured of Government, London County Council and private support, and feel sure all Dominion shiplovers would help also.

‘However we feel that the present isn’t the time for such expenditure and are prepared to wait for upwards of four years before launching an appeal. ‘The vessel is at present owned by the Thames Nautical Training College, and is capable of staying afloat at her berth at Rotherhithe for at least that time.

Permanent Home For Cutty Sark

LONDON, Tuesday. — Famous old racing tea and wool clipper Cutty Sark may be preserved for all time as the result of an offer by an “anonymous body.”

AN official of the Thames Nautical Training College, where the clipper is moored, said that she would be taken from Greenhithe to Mlllwall tomorrow for survey to see if she was in suitable condition for permanent preservation.

After that she will either moored in the river or put into dry dock at the college to be kept open for visitors.

The Cutty Sark was taken to Millwall for a survey and repairs but this was not without incident. In January 1952, the 800-ton tanker MV Aqueity collided with Cutty Sark’s bow in the Thames. The two ships were locked together after the collision which forced Cutty Sark’s jib boom into Worcester’s forecastle rails, snapping the boom before scraping along Worcester’s starboard side. Cutty Sark’s figurehead lost an arm in the process and the Cutty Sark was towed to the Shadwell Basin for repairs.

In the end the money was raised and the ship was finally bought to dry dock in Greenwich. But as many people may know, even that was not the end of the story with two fires that threatened to destroy the old clipper.

It is always a pleasure to see the old girl at Greenwich from the bottom of the Island and its important to remember that the ship has many longstanding ties with the West India and Millwall Docks.

The PS Waverley passing under Tower Bridge

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite walks on a Sunday morning is from the Isle of Dogs to the Tower of London.  Once you leave Canary Wharf behind, you enter the old docklands walking along Narrow Street in Limehouse to Shadwell Basin and then passed by Tobacco Dock to Wapping.

Finally you can walk around St Katherine’s Dock where you will often see the Gloriana moored before finally arriving at the Tower and then maybe on towards London Bridge.  Whilst enjoying the sunshine near London Bridge, I noticed in the distance the familiar outline of a ship.  It was the PS Waverley being pulled by the tug, in 2016, I was on Tower Bridge when the Waverley passed underneath. This time I had a grandstand view as she slowly made her way towards the bridge.

The PS Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world and since 2003 Waverley has been listed in the National Historic Fleet by National Historic Ships UK as “a vessel of pre-eminent national importance”.

Built in 1946, she used to sail from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long until 1973. She was then restored and now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.

She is a regular visitor to the Thames and is one of the great sights of the river chugging up and down with lots of passengers.

Eric Pemberton managed to photograph the Waverley a couple of days ago going past the Isle of Dogs before it was light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MV Ocean Majesty on the Thames

At this time of year, the Thames sees the arrival of many cruise ships which make their way up to Tower Bridge, Eric Pemberton managed to capture some photographs of the MV Ocean Majesty as it passed by the Isle of Dogs.

The MV Ocean Majesty is a small cruise ship that was originally built-in 1966 as the ferry Juan March. As the Juan March, the ship worked on routes for the Madrid based ferry operator Trasmediterránea. During her service with her original owners, Juan March was mainly used to ferry passengers from Spain to the Balearic Islands.

In 1985 Juan March was sold to the Sol Mediterranean and became Sol Christina.She quickly changed name when she became the Kyros Star of Opale Lines. Eventually she was then sold to Majestic International Cruises, who rebuilt her from her original ferry-like form into a cruise ship, and she received her current name Ocean Majesty.

Since 1995, she has been charted out to other companies including Page & Moy and German cruise company Hansa Touristik.

The MV Ocean Majesty has a length 135 metres (443 ft) and beam of 15.8 metres (52 ft) and has 274 cabins, of which 185 are outside.

Thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs and it is time for us at Isle of Dogs Life to take a summer break for around three weeks.