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The SS Robin Returns Home

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Around three years ago, I posted the remarkable story of the SS Robin which has been located in the Royal Docks. I am delighted to report that plans have been announced to move the ship to Trinity Buoy Wharf, close to where she was built in 1890. Urban Space Management, leaseholders of Trinity Buoy Wharf, have agreed to maintain the SS Robin and to make her story more accessible to the public alongside other important ships.  

It is planned that the collection of the SS Robin, and the tugs Knocker White and Varlet and lighter Diana will form the basis of an open air museum to help bring to life the rich heritage of the area from East India Dock Basin to Trinity Buoy Wharf.  For the past few years the tugs Knocker White and Varlet have been berthed near the Museum of Docklands in West India Quay.

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The SS Robin is the world’s oldest complete steam coaster and the last of her type in the world. The Dirty British Coaster was immortalised in John Masefield’s poem ” Cargoes .”

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,

Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,

With a cargo of ivory,

And apes and peacocks,

Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

 

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,

Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,

With a cargo of diamonds,

Emeralds, amythysts,

Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

 

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,

Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,

With a cargo of Tyne coal,

Road-rails, pig-lead,

Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

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The British coastal cargo steamships were the workhorses of the Merchant fleet in the late 19th, early 20th Century around the ports of Britain and Northern Europe. However by the 1960s they had virtually disappeared.

SS Robin is a traditional raised quarterdeck coastal cargo steamer built in Orchard House Yard near the famous Thames Ironworks on the eastern tip of Isle of Dogs and launched in 1890.

She was built to high standards regarding materials and workmanship with her hull fitted out in East India Dock. From there she was taken to Dundee to have her boiler and engines fitted. After trials she was taken to Liverpool to begin her career as a coastal steamer in 1890.

For the next ten years she plied her trade around the ports of Britain and occasionally some of the continental ports carrying the heavy cargoes such as coal, steel and china clay for which the steamers became famous for.

However in 1900, she was sold to a Spanish owner who renamed her Maria and spent the next 70 odd years going up and down the North Atlantic coast, she survived Two World Wars, once getting an escort from the French Navy to protect her from U Boat attacks.

But then at the end of a hard working life and due to be scrapped, there was another twist of fate she was recognised by the Maritime Trust as a one of a kind and in 1974 was purchased and travelled back to Britain under her own steam.

From 1974 she was given her original name back and moored in St Katherine’s Dock and her restoration began. In 1991 she moved to West India Quay where between 2003-2007 she was used as an Education Centre and Gallery.

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However more structural restoration was needed, so in 2008 she went back to the coast this time to Lowestoft to prepare for her latest reincarnation in the Royal Docks where she returned in 2011.

 She may still be a Dirty British Coaster of John Masefield’s poem but now she is in elite company. She’s part of the National Historic Fleet and one of only three ‘Core Collection’ (Grade 1) vessels in the capital. The other two ships are the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

Although the SS Robin is considered too fragile to be able to float again, she and the other boats will be a wonderful reminder to visitors to the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of the long and glorious history of shipbuilding in the area.

Water City Exhibition at Gallery@LR – Frank Creber Artist

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Water City

Last year I posted an article about the Mural being created celebrating the SS Robin and the Royal Docks, the artist in charge of this community scheme was Frank Creber .

Yesterday I went  to Frank’s new exhibition at the Gallery within the Lloyd’s Register building at 71 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 4BS.

The exhibition which is free , is open from Wednesday 19 March to Friday 4 April 2014, opening times are Monday to Friday between 10:00-16:00

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Although now housed in an ultra modern Richard Rogers designed building, Lloyd’s Register  has a long and distinguished history providing quality assurance  and classification for Merchant Shipping.

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Therefore it is an appropriate setting for Frank’s paintings which pays homage to the traditions of the East End and Docklands areas but is also about the present and the future.

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The Exhibition covers a wide range of Frank’s work including pieces created for the Water City project and work undertaken when he was one of the leading artists of the Bromley by Bow Centre.

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Frank has been part of the Water City programme for a number of years as the official artist in residence in 2004 to being the Director of Visual Arts for the Water City Festival in 2009.

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Frank’s pictures are interesting mix of landscapes and figures in an ever changing kaleidoscope of colour, often he  places individuals and communities  at the heart of his pictures to reflect it is usually  local people and communities who pay the cost of rapid urban change.

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Frank Creber at the Gallery@LR

Frank will be at the gallery on selected days when the exhibition is running, he will available to discuss the paintings and give information about other forthcoming Water City events. This exhibition is linked thematically to the Water City exhibition ‘ Walking on Water ‘ that is due place at ExCel in May in partnership with Grand Designs Live.

Lloyd’s Register is developing the Gallery space which is situated next to the reception to include more exhibitions, it is well worth a visit to see Frank’s exhibition but also the Richard Rogers designed building.

For the maritime minded, Lloyd’s Register have a Information Centre  Library and Archive  that provides access to the full collection of the Lloyd’s Register of Ships (1764 to date) and assorted other publications.

Other posts you may find interesting

Water City – The SS Robin Heritage Mural

The Dirty British Coaster – The Story of the SS Robin

The Dirty British Coaster – The Story of the SS Robin

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The Dirty British Coaster was  immortalised in John Masefield’s poem ” Cargoes .”

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

The British coastal cargo steamships were the workhorses of the Merchant fleet in the late 19th, early 20th Century around the ports of Britain and Northern Europe. However by the 1960s they had all disappeared.

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Well nearly all ,and that brings us to the story of the SS Robin, a story that takes us as far away as Spain but has many connections to the Isle of Dogs.

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SS  Robin  1890s

SS Robin is a traditional raised quarterdeck coastal cargo steamer built at the famous Thames Ironworks, in Orchard House Yard on the eastern tip of Isle of Dogs and launched in 1890.

She was built to high standards regarding materials and workmanship with her hull fitted out in East India Dock. From there she was taken to Dundee to have her boiler and engines fitted. After trails she was taken to Liverpool to begin her career as a coastal steamer in 1890.

For the next ten years she plied her trade around the ports of Britain and occasionally some of the continental ports carrying the heavy cargoes such as coal, steel and china clay for which the steamers became famous for.

However in 1900, she was sold to a Spanish owner who renamed her Maria and spent the next 70 odd years going up and down the North Atlantic coast, she survived Two World Wars , once getting an escort from the French Navy to protect her from U Boat attacks.

But then at the end of a hard working life and due to be scrapped, there was another twist of fate she was recognised by the Maritime  Trust as a one of a kind and in 1974 was purchased and travelled back to Britain under her own steam.SS_Robin_2005

In West India Dock 2005

From 1974 she was given her original name back and moored in St Katherine’s Dock and her restoration began. In 1991 she moved to West India Quay where between 2003-2007 she was used as a Education Centre and Gallery. When she moved into West india Quay she was barely a mile away from where she was built in Orchard Place therefore she really was coming home.

However more structural restoration was needed, so in 2008 she went back to the coast this time to Lowestoft to prepare for her latest reincarnation as a floating museum in the Royal Docks.

In 2011 she returned to the Royal Docks still only a  mile away from where she was built to prepare to be finally  unveiled to the public in  2014.

She may still be a Dirty British Coaster of John Masefield’s poem but now she is in elite company.

She’s part of the National Historic Fleet and one of only three ‘Core Collection’ (Grade 1) vessels in the capital. The other two ships are the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast.

And next week she will have a Royal Visitor when The Duke of Edinburgh will visit the ship on June 5th.

The Duke was an important part of the campaign to save her forty years ago and will unveil a plaque to inaugurate the Ships new permanent home.

To find out more about the SS Robin press here

Other Posts you may find interesting.

Water City – The SS Robin Heritage Mural

Water City – The SS Robin Heritage Mural

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Living on the Isle of Dogs, being near the water is part of the everyday experience, we are surrounded by it with the Thames and large parts of the Island are taken up by the docks.

Therefore I have been intrigued by the work of the Water City projects especially the ‘Water City Murals’. a new mural painting social enterprise for East London.

The first part of the project is the 90 metre SS Robin Heritage Mural currently underway in the Royal Docks close to the SS Robin.

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The theme of the Mural is the history of the SS Robin and the Royal Docks in five parts :

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The first 50 metre section has been designed and created by artists in residence Frank and Nick Creber working with the SS Robin history team and volunteers.

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A second section of 12 metres will be painted and designed by the local community

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A third section of 5 metres will be painted by the local Britannia Village Primary School,

A forth 12 metre section will be printed on aluminium composite sheet with photos and architects’ illustrations showing future plans for SS Robin, and a final 12 metre section will contain singular images that emerge out of the whole process of the mural project.

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It is great to see  the incredible history of the docks bought to life in Art , the colourful and vibrant mural captures some of the manic activity that symbolised  the docks in their heyday.

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Although still work in progress it is undoubtably  worth a visit.

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If you want to find out more about the project press here