Monday, June 23, 2014

Hilton Hotel, Rotherhithe Street - Sold!

Thanks to the anonymous person who today left a comment on an earlier post pointing out that the EMEA Properties website indicates that the Hilton Hotel on Rotherhithe Street has now been sold.  I've had a look around the web, but no information is leaping forth, so if anyone knows anything, please do tell!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Grove Street yard under Barnard, Dudman and Adams 1763 - 1795

The Grove Street Yard in 1827, 32 years after the death
of William Barnard, but showing its position in
relation to Greenland Dock (just on the edge of the image
at the top) and the victualling offices to the south.  It is
still referred to as Mr Dudman's Yard, after Barnard's
senior partner.  Thanks to the worldgeneaology.blogspotblog for
posting the image
The Barnards were one of the most prominent of Rotherhithe'S ship builders. The earliest of their enterprises on the Thames began with William Barnard and his partners, building ships mainly for the Royal Navy and the East India Company.   Although it was possible to determine which ships were built in the Grove Street yard when it was the sole base of operations, this detail became lost when William Barnard purchased a lease on the Deptford Green yard.  None of the ships built by the Barnards are assigned to either of the yards in the documentation, making it impossible to determine which yard produced which ships.

The Grove Street yard was just over the former border between Surrey and Kent, now the border between Rotherhithe (Southwark) and Deptford (Lewisham).  That border lies immediately upriver from South Dock, and follows a line that used to be marked by a river called the Earl's Sluice, now covered over and emptying into the Thames under a yellow sign that reads "Sewer Outlet 30 metres Out From This Board"  Perhaps more tangibly, there is now a piece of freestanding wall along that section of the Thames Path that marks the former boundary, and was one of the walls of the bridge that crossed the Earl's Sluice.  Even though the site is strictly speaking off Rotherhithe turf, I've included it because it is so near that it makes precious little difference.

In the 18th Century, when William Barnard and his partners began to work at the Grove Stret Yard, it was located not far from the Royal Dockyard and was sanwiched betweeen the victualling office and Greenland Dock, making it a very convenient location. It was  bound to the south by the victualling offices, to the west by Grove Street itself and to the north by Plough Way, which terminated in the George Stairs.  Grove Street still exsits, but the yard is long gone.  The George Stairs also still exist, but they have been replaced probably several times since the 1700s, in the original location.

From John E. Barnard's "Building Britain's Wooden
Walls" 1997. Page 52, showing the large wet dock
at the Grove Street yard.
The Grove Street yard was the first presence of the Barnards into the Thames area as shipbuilders.  Formerly, John Barnard had been a shipwright and shipbuilder in Ipswich and Harwich.  His son, William (born in 1735) followed in his father's footsteps and may have served his apprenticeship at Deptford.   He worked at the Harwich yard from around 1756, during the Seven Years War.  He married his wife Frances in 1760.  In partnership with William Dudman, an experience shipwright and shipbuilder 15 years his senior, he built seven vessels at his father's Ipswich yard

In 1763 William Barnard, William Dudman and a third partner, Henry Adams who owned a yard in Hampshire, took a 30 year lease on the 9-acre Grove Street yard with its 450ft frontage, also known as the Lower Wet Dock and later the Dudman yard.  It had one large wet dock, two dry docks and three building slips, as well as a house, and was therefore well equipped for the newly established business. William Dudman and his family took up residence in the yard's residential building.  The business opened in 1764, and appears to have operated under a number of names.

French Corvette Boyonnaise boarding HMS Ambuscade
during the action of 14th December 1798
by Louis-Philippe Crépin 1798
(Source:  Wikipedia)
The lease on the yard had been taken out for a 30 year period, during which the partnership was maintained.  For the first decade the partnership specialized in East Indiamen, althouth they also received Naval contracts.  Between 1763 and  1772 alone they launched seven East Indiamen - Ponsbourne, Grangy, Bridgewater, Resolution, Royal Henry, Royal Charlotte and Ankerwick.  In his 1997 book "Building Britian's Wooden Walls" John E. Barnard says that it was customary for East Indiamen to to return to the yard that built them for refitting and repairs, so each ship built represented ongoing business for the yard. In 1771 the Navy began to once again allocate contracts to private shipyards, and the Grove Street Yard received orders for two 74-gun Ships of the Line named Hector and Sutlan

In 1772 the 52 year-old William Dudman died, leaving the 37 year-old William Barnard in charge.  He seems to have recovered quickly from the loss of the senior partner, overseeing the buils of 12 ships between 12 vessels, which included 8 naval contracts. The Naval vessels built between 1771 and 1779 were Ambuscade (a 5th rate / 32 gunes), Hector (a 3rd rate / 74 guns), Experiment (a 4th / 50), Hound (a 40-gun sloop), Pelican (a 6th / 24, which has a role in the Mutiny on the Bounty story), Zephyr (a 14-gun sloop) and Pandora (a 6th / 24).  Hydra and Zephyr were both purchased on the stocks.

Between 1777 and 1778 four East Indiamen were built at Grove Street:  Mount Stuart, Royal Admiral (later converted to a Naval 3rd rate), Royal Bishop and General Barker

Painting by Louis Le Breton showing Tonnant in the
foreground and Majestic in the background.
National Maritime Museum (Source:  Wikipedia)
At some point, William took William Dudman's son John into partnership, allocating a one fifth share to him.  John had worked at the Grove Street Yard, and continued to live in the family home at the yard.  In 1779 William Barnard rented, in his own name, a yard in Deptford Green in Butt Lane, another substantial enterprise with a dry dock and two slips as well as two dwellings and gardens.  His family moved there to make their home in the bigger of the two dwellings. The lease originally ran until 1786 but was renewed at that point to run until 1859.   However, he continued to run the Grove Street Yard.  It is at this point where it becomes difficult to tell which yard built which ships; although Naval vessels were recorded according to yard, the East Indiamen were not.  It is known that eight naval vessels were built at Grove Street during this period:  Orpheus (a 5th rate / 32 gun), Africa (a 3rd / 64), Andromache (a 5th/ 32), Carnatic (a 3rd / 74), Iris (a 5th / 32), Solebay (a 5th  / 32), Majestic (a 3rd / 74) and Orion (a 3rd / 74). 

A story that John Barnard tells in Building Britain's Wooden Walls shows how private shipbuilders were at the mercy both of the Navy Board and the political situation.  The conclusion of hte American War of Independence in 1771 and the subsquence Peace of Paris in 1783 meant that naval ships were no longer in such high demand.  The Deptford Green yard had two ships ready for launch in late October and late November 1784 respectively on their slips, but the Naval Board wanted to delay the launch until 1785, which would have tied up the yard's slips and prevented future shipbuilding work at the yard.  A flurrly of correnspondence followed, and it was eventually agreed that the ships could be launched, freeing up the slips, but that payment would be delayed until a later date.   Although Tremendous was launched on the date originally planned, Majestic remained in situ until February 1785.   These and the 1785 Zelous (Deptford Green) and the 1787  Orion (Grove Street) were the last ships to be luanched for the Navy by William Barnard, but he continued to build East Indiamen - 28 in both yards between 1780 and 1790.

William Barnard became an expert on the subject of rescuing ships that had run aground, a sort of 18th Century salvage expert.  In the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London he wrote An Account of a Method for the Safe Removal of Ships That Have Been Driven on Shore, and Damaged in Their Bottoms, to Places (However Distant) for Repairing Them. By Mr. William Barnard, Shipbuilder, Grove Street, Deptford; Communicated by Nevil Maskelyne, D. D. F. R. S. and Astronomer Royal (January 1, 1780), an insight both into the task that he undertook on this occasion, and into the language of the day.

Model of HMS Orion at the Vancouver
Maritime Museum (photo by "The High Fin Sperm Whale"
(Source:  Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0).
John Barnard also tells the sad story of the last five years of William Barnard's life, which was marked by conflict with his partners, a disagreement that reached the courts.  The least on the Grove Street yard was due to expire on 25th December 1793, and both Henry Adams and John Dudman wished for renewal;  Barnard, however, wished to dissolve the parnership and work alone at his Deptford Green yard.   He wrote a letter of resignation to the other two partners but this was contested by Adams who claimed that Deptford Green was part and parcel of the business owned by the partnership.  Barnard was forced to take the matter to the Court of the Chancery to have his case heard.  Although the case was settled out of court in February 1794, and the partnership had been dissolved by the time the Grove Street yard lease was due for renewal.  Few ships were built during this period, and Barnard died in March 1795.

William Barnard was survived by his wife Frances and their two sons, William and Edward George (shipwright apprentices), and three daughters, Ann, Frances and Elizabeth.  The business passed into their control and they continued to run it out of Deptford Green and later the former Wells yard north of Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe.  Frances eventually died in 1825 at the age of 88.

The story of the Barnards in Rotherhithe continues, already covered on an earlier post.

Some of the ships mentioned in this post will be looked at in greater detail in future posts.

As with the previous post, this piece was almost entirely dependent upon the research of John E. Barnard, captured in his book Building Britian's Wooden Walls:  The Barnard Dynasty c.1697-1851 (Anthony Nelson 1997).


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lavender Dock, Lock and Pumphouse

Timber handling in the
Surrey Commercial Docks, 1930s
In the early 1800s timber imports began to increase substantially, leading to a requirement for more timber-handling facilities.  There was plenty of land behind Norway Dock (today's "The Lakes" development) and in 1811 No.3 pond was built, directly to the north of Norway Dock to which it was connected by a small cut, and later named Lady Dock.  Lavender Pond was the third in the succession of timber ponds that were added, each connected to its predecessor by  a cut - No.4 in 1812 (which later became Acorn Pond), No. 5  by 1827 (renamed Lavender Pond in 1864) and finally, much later, the small No. 6 pond by the 1861 (Globe Pond).

The building of Lady Dock had to accommodate Commercial Dock Road (now Redriff Road), which passed over the cut between Norway Dock and Lady Dock.  The other cuts were crossed by foot bridges.  See the maps of 1876 and 1914 at the bottom of the page.

Lavender Lock was truncated and the pumphouse was
built behind it, but hte remains of the lock are
clearly visible where it opens out onto the Thames
Like its neighbours, the purpose of Lavender Pond was to float timber.  The floating of timber was a very efficient form of storage.  The timber, already cut into shape, was organized into rafts, which was moved by skilled rafters and could be maneuvered in that form out onto the Thames (see photograph at the top of the page).  

The Commercial Dock Company had planned for a new lock entrance to this part of their system, near the apex of Rotherhithe as a second access point for large ships so that they did not have to negotiate Greenland and Norway Docks to access the inner docks.  They obtained an Act of Parliament in order to carry out the works in 1860.  Although the lock that opened in 1862 and opened into Lavender Dock was designed for small rivercraft, it was sufficiently large to handle larger vessels as well (320ft long, 34ft wide and 18.5ft deep).   Although it ceased to be functional in the late 1920s its foreshortened remains are still in situ, visible from the Thames Path and Rotherhithe Street.

The Lavender Pumphouse, facing into the remains
of Lavender Pond, now a nature reserve.
In 1864 the Commercial Dock Company, which occupied the top half of Rotherhithe, was ammalgamated with their competitors the Grand Surrey Docks and Canal Company, which occupied the lower half of Rotherhithe and included the Grand Surrey Canal.  The combined company was named the Surrey Commercial Dock Company, and links between the two systems were created and it was at this time that the docks and ponds were renamed. 

Water-loss was an ongoing problem in the docks.  Stuart Rankin writes that up to 2ft could be lost from seepage, through the use of locks and leaking lock gates and evaporation between tides.  An LDDC document says that as much as 4ft could be lost during neap tides (when high tides are at their lowest).  In order to maintain levels a decision was made to build a pumping station the purpose of which was to pump water from the river to maintain dock levels. In 1928/29 the Lavender pumping station was built to a design by the Port of London Authority, which had taken over responsibility for all the London docks in 1908.  Lavender Lock was closed at the same time, again to reduce water loss, although it was not removed and remains in situ today.  

The Lavender Dock Pumphouse was built over the infilled inland end of the sealed off lock (SE16 5DZ), and was separted from the Thames-side section of the lock that remained by a draw bridge that allowed traffic to cross Rotherhithe Street.  It was made of the ubiquitous yellow brick known as "London stock" and was provided with a round ornamental oculus window in the tympanium at one end, the PLA logo in the circular window frame at the other end, and big rectangular windows with gauged arches inset into rectuanguar recesses.   The sills beneath the window recesses were made of a charcoal-coloured brick that was much-used in this area.  It was an impounding pump station, a design that had already been tried and tested in other docks in London, as early as 1828.   Its pumps were driven by electricity. 

By 1932 Acorn and Lavender Ponds had been deepened to serve as docks and were provided with timber sheds.  The increasing popularity of plywood over deal boards meant that new storage facilities were requried.  Plywood is an artificially assembled composite made of thin sheets of wood veneer that were glued together;  they would have delaminated if exposed to water.

Priming Pump from Surrey Docks, now
at the Brunel Museum.
Photograph by Mike Peel
( CC-BY-SA-4.0
When the docks closed in 1969 the station was closed, but one of the pumps was moved to the Brunel Museum where it is still preserved. The rest of the machinery went for scrap. The Pumphouse was renovated in 1981 by The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) at the cost of £270,000, preserving some of the water as a large pond, and creating a small but attractive wetland and woodland wildlife zone of 2.5 acres (now maintained by The Conservation Volunteers, which was formerly the Trust For Urban Ecology). Lavender Pond received a Green Flag Community Award in 2012, and it continues to be supported by the volunteers of the Friends of Lavender Pond.

In 1988 the Pumphouse became a museum, the Lavender Dock Pumpuhouse Education Museum.  The museum was divided into three parts, with one section dedicated to local history, the Rotherhithe Heritage Museum.  Although it was awarded a Southwark Civic Award for its work in both 2002 and 2003, the museum was closed by Southwark Council in 2011.  There is a post by councillor Lisa Rajan on her blog about the closure.  The Pumphouse Educational Trust was was awarded a Blue Plaque in 2011, which was unveiled on June 12th of that year.  It has since been used as a storage facility by a local business.  It is a charming building, unique to Rotherhithe, which fortuitously survived the Second World War bombings that destroyed so much of Rotherhithe's heritage.

Although the land around the Pumphouse was classified as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2005, and is on Public Open Land, the Lavender Pumphouse is worryingly not listed, and must therefore considered to be under potential threat from development.   The terms of the land as a Local Nature Reserve does not preserve either the building or the land from planning projects, as this statement from a Southwark Council website makes clear: "A LNR does not enjoy immunity from possible future development or planning ‘applications’. However, as the Lavender Pond site is Council owned, it is unlikely that there will be any applications forthcoming for alternative uses in the foreseeable future. The site is already designated as Metropolitan Open Land, under the new Unitary Development Plan.  Should there be any planning applications in the Future; and the LNR designation agreed.  Members would have to take into account the LNR designation as a material factor."

The Heritage Museum collection is now held by Redriff School, and visits can be arranged in the evening by prior appointment only but may be subject to change if the premises are required for school activities.

1876 and 1914. Lavender Pond is at the very top of Rotherhithe. The 1976 map clearly shows
where the lock entered Lavender Pond from the Thames, crossed by Rotherhithe Street.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Planning Application for the Clipper Pub, Rotherhithe Street

Further to yesterday's post, thanks very much to Michelle for the planinng reference for the Clipper Pub:  14/AP/140.

As Michelle says, the cut-off date for making your comments on this application is 27th June 2014.  For full details, including documents, see the Southwark Council planning page for this application:  The planning officer for this application is David Cliff whose contact details are: 020 7525 4351 or

An artist's impression of what the new development will look like is shown above.  The short description on the Southwarm website is as follows: "Demolition of existing building and erection of new building comprising commercial unit (Use Classes A1 or A2) at ground floor and basement levels; and six residential dwellings on first, second and third floors, along with associated car parking and amenity area."  The developer is McCullochs. 

I cannot work out where the "associated car parking and amenity area" is to be located, as the only immediately visible land is the children's play area next to the Clipper, at the entrance to Russia Dock Woodland.   The Vehicle Parking section of the developer's application form shows that two car parking spaces are to be allocated, and that seven other spaces are to be allocated for "other" purposes but it is not stated what these "other" purposes are (that part of the form has been left blank).

Site plans and consultation details are on the Documents page (from which the image shown on this post is taken).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Update re The Clipper Pub, Rotherhithe Street

I have been asked many times about what is happening to The Clipper, the former pub on Rotherhithe Street near to the Hilton Hotel, one of the few 1930s buildings of this very distinctive type remaining on Rotherhithe.  

I heard today (with thanks to Charles) that there is now a small notice on the pub itself saying that the pub is to be knocked down and replaced with a four-storey modern building, which will include six apartments.  Only two carparking spaces have been allocated.

There is only a 21 day window to respond to the planning application and I can't find the planning application number on the Southwark Council website, so I'll try to go up there tomorrow and find out what's on the sign that has been attached to the pub.  I don't know when the sign was put up and therefore I have no idea how many days are left for people to respond.  

If you are local to the pub and have views about this, please go and have a look at the notice and respond either online or in writing to the planning application.

Wildflowers in Russia Dock Woodland

I walked across Rotherhithe from Greenland Dock to the Hilton the day before yesterday, and it was nice to see it looking so green and vibrant.  It has clearly benefited considerably from all the sun and rain.  Last year there were various areas fenced off, and although it was unclear what for, it was clear that something was being planned.  Today I walked past one of those areas and it was full of wild flowers, with a laminated page of A4 attached to the fence to say that it was designed to attract butterflies.  There were very few butterflies or bees around today, but the display of wild flowers was beautiful.

Apart from the verdant effusion, which was lovely, there were lots of people using the green to sunbathe or to watch their children play.  Around Globe Pond, various ducks, geese and coots, all with their young in tow, were foraging for leftovers provided by the numerous people who had been feeding them bread.  


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yatala, the fastest of the Orient Line ships, 1865-1872

Yatala. Painting by Thomas Goldworth Sutton.
Yatala, a 1127 ton clipper, was completed in 1865 for the Orient Line.  She was built by Thomas Bilbe, who specialized in tea and wool clippers, and worked out of Cuckold's Point in Rotherhithe, where the Hilton Hotel is now located.  Bilbe has been mentioned on previous posts about other ships that he built:  Orient, Wynaud and Borealis. A most remarkable man, some of his enterprises seem highly questionable when considered from a modern perspective.  He built, for example, a ship that was armed with canons which was designed to operate in the illegal opium trade,  and he transported Chinese coolies as cheap labour.  However, he was an inventor of genuine talent and skill, pioneering a new method of iron hull framing and inventing a mechanical slip, which he patented.   The slip can still be seen today immediately next to the Hilton Hotel's car park on Rotherhithe Street, its engine house preserved immediately behind it, facing onto Rotherhithe Street.

Yatala was specifically designed as a passenger ship for the Orient Line, although she also carried cargo.  It is unclear how Bilbe became involved with the owners of the Orient Line, but he built a number of clippers for them (when they were operating under the names James Thomson and Co. and Anderson, Anderson and Co.) at the Rotherhithe yard.  His first commission for them was Celestial, which he built for James Thompson and Co. in 1851 and the last were Yatala in 1865 and Argonaut in 1866, both of which Bilbe built with his business partner, the former shipmaster William Perry.

was the name of both a town on the Gold Coast in eastern Australia and a rural district near Adelaide in South Australia, an Aboriginal word, but this particular Yatala was probably named for an earlier Yatala of the Orient Line, a 65ft wooden schooner, built at Port Adelaide in Australia and launched on July 28th, 1848.   She was a composite (iron framed) clipper registered with a tonnage of 1127 tons, was 204ft long, 35ft wide, with a depth of 21ft.  The had two decks, three masts and carried full rigging.  Although she conformed to the Lloyds Registry requirements, she was not registered with Lloyds, for reasons unknown. 

There is a lovely account of Yatala's launch in 1865 from the South Australian Register, dated 14th August 1865:

Orient Line of Packet Ships.— A correspondent sends us the following:— 'A splendid new ship of 1127 tons register, specially built for this line, was launched on the River Thames on the 10th June, from the yard of Messrs. Thomas Bilbe and Co., Nelson Dock, Rotherhithe, the well known builders of the Orient and Coonatto. As the vessel glided into the water she received her name from Mrs. W. L. Marchant with the usual ceremony. After the launch the company, including upwards of 100 South Australians, ladies and gentlemen, accompanied by the band of the London Scottish Rifle Corps, proceeded in a steamer, hired for the occasion, to the Ship Tavern, at Greenwich, and partook there of an excellent luncheon, provided by the owners of the ship. Among other loyal and customary toasts the health of Mrs. Marchant, who had named the ship, was proposed by the Chairman, Mr Anderson, and enthusiastically received.  Mr. Marchant proposed 'Success to the Yatala, and Captain Legoe's health.' Mr. Purdy. Mr. Bakewell, and Mr. Paxton spoke ably on subjects connected with South Australia. The Yatala is a composite ship (iron frame and wooden planking) her length is 215 feet, her breadth 35 feet, her depth 21 feet 4 inches. Her graceful, almost yacht-like appearance inn the water was the subject of general remark, and as everything has been done that money and science can do to make the Yatala worthy of the Orient Line, and equal to the requirements of the colony for passenger and general purposes, we venture to predict that the good wishes expressed at Greenwich for her success will at least be approximately fulfilled. We have seen plans of the ship, but of the unrivalled accomodation and comforts provided on board colonists ganerally will no doubt have the opportunity of judging for themselves when Captain Legoe arrives here with this Yatala in the end of October. The Murray, hitherto commanded by Captain Legoe, was to sail from Plymouth on the 1st July in command of Captain Smart, late chief officer of the same ship, with a large and valuable cargo and a full complement of passengers. The Yatala was to follow, sailing from Plymouuth on the 1st of August.

Her captain from her launch until her demise was Mr John Legoe, who had held a Certificate of the Board of Trade since 1856 as Master Mariner.  He had regularly run the route from London to Adelaide since 1861, and had had great success at the helm of the Murray, which was a fast ship built for Anderson of the Orient line to run between Plymouth and Adelaide carrying both passengers and cargo.  At the time of Yatala's wreckage off the coast of France was listed as a part-owner of the ship. 

Yatala was the fastest of the Orient Line ships.  In 1867, and for 14 years she shared the record of completing the voyage from London to Adelaide with Devitt and Moore's clipper City of Adelaide in 65 days. In 1866 both ships left Adelaide late in December 1866, headed for Plymouth, and engaged in a friendly race.  Races from one port to another were common, and a ship's worth was measured partly on the speed with which she completed a journey each season.  City of Adelaide (which, with the Cutty Sark is one of the last two remaining composite clippers to have survived into the 21st Century) was under the command of Captain Bruce.   The following account comes from one of the ubiquitous Australian shipping newspapers, the South Australian Register, dated  June 11, 1867:

The Ocean Race – The interest which has been excited by the race home between the two celebrated clippers, YATALA and CITY OF ADELAIDE, will be increased by the extracts from letter which we publish below. It is clear that they are about a match in speed. A lady passenger on board the ship YATALA on her last voyage writes:-
"We arrived on the 8th April, and were in the Docks at about 5 o’clock. Captain Legoe is deservedly popular; he is such a nice person, so kind, attentive, and obliging; the perfection of a captain and a seaman, always at his post and attending to his duty. The ship is beautifully clean, kept in order, and well found. When we went into the Cape it was in the teeth of a strong south-easter, and of course we had to tack. We afterwards heard on the shore that numbers of people were watching the vessel, and the exclamation was – ‘That ship has a first-rate seaman on board’. We went in with one tack, which they say is a most unusual thing, and that the vessel looked beautiful, she was so well handled…. You will have heard that we beat the CITY OF ADELAIDE. Several times when we were becalmed or had light winds we saw her quite near; it was very close; but in the end we were in the Docks 48 hours before her; but the precise time I am not sure of; it was at least a day. We passed quite close to St Helena on a lovely day; we could almost distinguish the people in the streets.”

The City of Adelaide
The following is an extract from a private letter from Captain Legoe, dated London, 25th April:- “I arrived in London on the 8th instant, and Bruce (CITY OF ADELAIDE) passed through the Downs on the following morning, but did not get in dock for two days, owning to the heavy weather from the westward. We had a close run for it. I was through the Downs on Sunday, and Bruce on Tuesday following. I saw him at sea 12 days before I arrived, and as the breeze freshened I went away from him.”

To these we add the following extracts from a letter written to a gentleman in Adelaide by Captain John Bruce, then chief officer on the CITY OF ADELAIDE. His friends will be glad to see that he is promoted to the command of the vessel which his father has made so popular:- “London Dock, April 26th – No doubt this trial of prowess between the two vessels is of subordinate importance to you; but the ocean race possesses on this occasion features that should not be passed over without being noticed. The register tonnage of the ‘CITY’ is 791; of the ‘YATALA’ 1,217. I don’t know whether in Adelaide this fact is known. At the Cape, in a newspaper paragraph, they were said to be an unfair match in class, age and size. The YATALA, if you remember, took the initiative in starting from the Lightship on account of our having to wait for some papers that were forgotten.

She got under weigh at 6 o’clock, while we had a ‘five hours’ cruise in the Gulf until we got the missing documents at 11am. At daylight on the following morning we found ourselves within a short distance of our competitor, and the evening saw us abreast of each other, with a fresh south wind, and not more tan a quarter of a mile apart. The custodians of the Cape Borda Lighthouse must have taken notice of us as they would have an uninterrupted view of the course for many miles.

During the night we did not steer parallel courses, for the next day the ‘YATALA’ was nearly hull down in a S.W. direction. Fog came on and lasted three days – rather unusual on the Australian coast I should imagine. The wind, E., was of course very light, as is the case with fogs. Light and variable winds characterized the passage to Cape Lewin, which we rounded on 7th January. On the 12th a large vessel was seen astern. Speculation was rife, and tendered to one conclusion – it was the ‘YATALA’. This probed so far on the 13th that the rig corresponded to the ‘YATALA’s. On the 14th all doubts were removed, as she was near enough to exchange signals. At noon on that day we were in Lat. 30o S., long. 100o E.

The ships parted company during the day, the wind a pleasant and increasing south east trade. Tedious weather succeeded in a few days, and we made slow progress to the Cape. On February 10, off Cape Afulhas (land in sight), the ‘YATALA’ was seen three miles ahead of us, gradually increasing the distance; the wind at the time was of the description that figures in sea logs as ‘faint, variable airs’. Three days afterwards (13th February) we anchored at Table Bay at 10pm. The ‘YATALA’ reached the same place at 6pm, four hours sooner. It blew hard from the south east during our stay, which terminated on the 16th, both ships leaving within half an hour of each other, ‘YATALA’ first. The ‘CITY’ crept up in the night, and the following evening she was six miles ahead. A head wind sprung up separating the ships. The ‘CITY’ made all speed through the trade winds S.E. and N.E.

To our amazement the ‘YATALA’ appeared right astern, in lat. 27o N., long. 40o W., on the 23rd March. It was calm at the time. The ‘YATALA’ brought a breeze with her, and both ships were again in competition. Heavy weather came on soon after, and on arriving in the Downs we got information from the tug steamer that the ‘YATALA’ had gone up the river the day before. The steamer that took her up came down to look for another job, and picked up our ship. We were detained 48 hours in consequence of the violence of the N.W. winds. Nothing happened to mar our comfort or enjoyment; fine weather nearly all the time. I am promoted to the command of the ‘CITY’. In the meantime my father will superintend the building of a new larger ship. The ‘YATALA passed the Downs 24 hours before our ship.”

The record of 65 days was held until the famous Torrens broke it in 1881.  Yatala's longest run was between Plymouth and Adelaide in 88 days, her last trip.

A typical entry for the arrival of Yatala in the Monthly Shipping Summary for England, published in Australia, is this brief entry from the South Australian Register on 13th October 1869:  "YATALA. Ship. 1127 tons. J.Legoe, Master, from London; 22 passengers.  General cargo." 

Beltana (from a painting by H. Percival)
Yatala only sailed for seven years.  Together with the clipper Beltana, with whom she entered an informal race, she left Port Adelaide on the 19th December 1871, bound for London under Legoe. She was carrying 35 hands and 35 passengers, and cargo of wool, copper, tallow and wheat, amongst other items, a cargo that the South Australian Advertiser referred to as "an ordinary cargo, but a large and valuable one."  She was wrecked on the 27th March of 1872, after only 7 years of service near Gris-Nez, north of Boulogne, France. All lives were saved, the survivors being taken to the nearby village of Andreselles, and most of her cargo of wool was recovered, but the ship was a total loss.  Beltana arrived home safely, but even that voyage had been plagued with ill luck and the ship's captain, Richard Angel, lost his command of the ship on arrival, having run her aground without reporting the incident, causing damage that caused the ship to leak so badly that she had to pull in for repairs.

There was a detailed technical account of the last hours of Yatala's journey as recounted to a Court at the Greenwich Police-Court by the ship's master John Legoe reported in the South Australian Advertiser.  Present at the proceedings wre the Magistrate, Nautical Assessors, a represetative of the Board of Trade and another for the owners. The Master, John Legoe, had no legal representation.  the courts were asked to consider whether the loss of the ship was an accident or caused by negligence, and witnesses were produced to testify.  The Court's conclusion was as follows:

Taking all the circumstances into consideration, the Court is of the opinion that the Yatala was lost by the default and careless navigationof the Master, Mr John Legoe; but, giving due wieght to the evidence that has been adduced in his favour as to his long service and character, adjudge that his Certificate be suspended for six calendar months from this date.

This was followed up the following day, July 3rd 1872, also on the South Australian Advertiser, by an account of the event by one of the passengers, Mr John Richardson, who was on board with his family and gave a very different and far more personal account of what it felt like to be on the wrecked ship and how the rescue was actioned.   

She finally settled down nearer to the shore, very near to a small plateau of rock, upon which after great difficutly the passengers were landed.  This is very easily and soon told, but the detail was truly dreadful and never shall I forget that night.  A cry, "Everybody come on deck and dave yourselves if you can."  Men, women and children rushing up in their nightdresses; some screaming, some imploring help, the sea washing over them . . . .The captain ordered all the passengers to go below, as he was going to cut away the mast, and there would be great danger to those remaining on deck from the falling yeards etc. . . . It was indeed an awful sight to see most of the large ship cut away, the falling of the heavy yards and spurs into the sea, and hear them crushing against her sides, and the sea washing over all, a gale blowing and quite dark.  It was indeed a fearful sight.  After the masts were cut away the hull was comparatively quiet, and the captain ordered the boat to be lowered, which, after great difficulty, owing to the position of the ship, was completed in safety.  The Gendarmes, who had now gathered in good numbers on the rocks, made into the sea with a rope, which they fastened to the head of the boat, and they fastened to the head of the boat, and the sailors to one at the stern, so that they had good command of her in the surf.  A rope was then made fast to the bullwarks of the vessel, and lowered to the boat, and by this rope the women and children were lowered one at a time in the most deplorable condition, half-naked, shivering from cold, the spray washing over them, the night dark, and the wind howling.

The passengers and crew were lucky; other clippers had been lost with all hands.

With thanks to the Trove website ( for its wonderful archives.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

SE16 Printworks: Stage 1 consultation findings

Sorry for the lack of updates - a very busy time in my other life.  I hope that everyone is doing very well.

I have just received this from SE16 Printworks development consultants:

Dear All

We are pleased to circulate a report of the findings from the first stage of community engagement on the SE16 Printworks site, please click here download the report.

The report summarises what has happened so far and tracks the issues and aspirations raised by the community in relation to the Printworks site. Findings have been passed directly to British Land and the masterplanners Allies & Morrison to help inform the next stages and development of a Draft Masterplan.

Please do forward onto your neighbours, colleagues or anyone who may be interested in the project and we welcome any comments or questions you may have. You can also find a resource of information about the project on the website

On Wednesday 11th June we will also be holding a drop-in session and short presentation of the findings. This is a feedback session primarily aimed to share the outcomes of Stage 1 with those who contributed, it may also be an opportunity for anyone who would like to get involved to find out what’s happened so far.

For clarity, this is an informal feedback session; the second stage of scheme consultation will take place later this summer - we will be in touch with details of this as soon as they are known.

Stage 1 Findings – community review session
Venue:            Decathlon Café, Canada Water Retail Park
Date:    Wednesday 11 June
Times:             2pm – 6.15pm             Drop-in mini exhibition
                        6.30 – 8pm                  Presentation of the findings and Q&A / discussions

British Land and Soundings will be on hand throughout the day to answer any questions you may have.

If you would like to attend the 6.30pm presentation, it’s always extremely helpful if you can let us know, but not essential! Otherwise, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

With best regards

Amanda Walker

Senior Associate


   020 7729 1705