Thursday, April 3, 2014

The last Royal Navy commissions in Rotherhithe: Hind and Jackdaw 1850s

Horseferry Yard
HMS Hind and HMS Jackdaw were built by John Jenkins Thompson of Horseferry yard, Rotherhithe, who has already been mentioned as the builder of the paddle steamers Ariel and Banshee for other clients.  They were commissioned in 1854 by the Royal Navy as gunboats for service in the Baltic during the Crimean War, and were launched in 1855.  

John Jenkins Thompson was born in the Bermondsey area in around 1794. He specialized mainly in the construction of yachts, small prestige vessels and lifeboats.  His Horseferry yard, near the Horseferry stairs, was established from around 1830, and by 1843 consisted of three large workshops, sheds, a slipway, sundry other buildings and a home and garden.  The dry dock was built diagonally across the yard.  As Rotherhithe Street ran parallel to the Thames, the space for establishing docks was confined to the strip between the road and the river.  The construction of a dock that ran diagonally across the shipyard gave the builder the ability to build much longer ships than neighbouring Globe and Lavender yards. From the above map it also looks as though Jenkins built out into the Thames to further extend his operations.  Sadly, there are no traces of it now, but it was located where Sovereign Crescent (the modern Barratt development) now stands. 

As traditional ship building yards closed all around him, Thompson seems to have seen the opportunities offered by steam and moved into larger projects. His successes with the construction of paddle steamers resulted in the two contracts for screw steamers.  Screw propelled ships were an innovation that changed the face of ship building forever, and Thompson was an early builder to be entrusted with the construction of the new technology. 

Both were of the Dapper class gunboats designed by W.H. Walker, who also designed the Gleaner and Albacore classes, two of around twenty Dapper class gunboats built for the Crimea.  They were 106ft long with a 22ft beam, weighing 232 tons, with a total carrying capacity of a crew of 36 men.  They were shallow drafted, for use in the shallow waters of the Baltic.  Both were fitted with four guns, a 69 pounder, a 32 pounder, and two 24 pounder howitzers.  Both were of single screw propulsion design, and were fitted with two-cylinder horizontal single-expansion direct-acting steam engines built by Maudslay, Sons and Field, with three boilers.  They could also run on sail when required. 

The Baltic Fleet leaving Spithead
Hind was ordered on the 18th October 1854 and launched on the 3rd May 1855.  The specification for the ship indicate that her keel should be built of oak or elm, with oak planking for sides and fir for decks. The fifteenth ship to hold the name Hind, she won the Battle Honour for her role in the Baltic and took part in the Royal Ship Review of 1856 to celebrate the end of the Crimea War.  She was broken up in October 1872 at Devonport.

Jackdaw was also ordered on the 18th October 1854 but was launched two weeks later than Hind on the 18th May 1855.  Her hull was specified to be either oak or elm.  She was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Joshua Berkeley in the Baltic (as tender to Duke of Wellington) from the 10th September 1855 and then, from  the 8th February 1856 she was commanded by Lieutenant commander William Swinburn.  Jackdaw was hulked as a cooking depot in 1868 and sold to C. Wort, presumably for breaking up, in November 1888

Sadly, after hundreds of years of naval commissions, Jackdaw was the last Royal Navy ship to be built on Rotherhithe.  Only 15 years later, in 1870, Lothair was the last big ship to be built on Rotherhithe, constructed for the tea trade.  Between them they mark the end of Rotherhithe's ship building industry.

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