SS SHIELDHALL Returns To Southampton

SS SHIELDHALL (last steam-powered cargo vessel in Europe and part of the National Historic Steamship collection) returned about 6AM berth 29 in Southampton after a 22 hour voyage from her scheduled dry-docking in Falmouth, Cornwall.  The required dry-docking, which followed a fundraising drive, was needed for reissuing her passenger carrying permit.

SS SHIELDHALL in the Eastern Docks, Southampton, photo © MaritimeMatters May 25, 2011

Captain Gareth Peaston brought SHIELDHALL round the coast with an all volunteer crew.  What had been expected to be a joyful return was dampened by the news that further work would be needed before her license would be granted.

While in drydock, she had her hull painted and propellers polished but the discovery of corrosion on some aft frames meant that her compliance could not be granted at this time and passenger-carrying voyages have to be postponed for now.

The captain remained upbeat, reporting that the marine surveyor was impressed with her overall condition — with only a very specific fix needed for clearance.

SS SHIELDHALL was laid down in October 1954 and launched on July 7, 1955 in Scotland, entering service in October of that year. Built by Lobnitz & Co., of Renfrew, on the Clyde.

She was built on older, classic lines with a traditional wheelhouse, riveted and welded construction, a vertical stem and a cruiser stern.  SHIELDHALL was operated by Glasgow Corporation to transport treated sewage sludge down the River Clyde to be dumped at sea. She continued a tradition dating back to the First World War, that Glasgow’s sludge vessels carried organised parties of passengers when operating during the summer months. Thus, SHIELDHALL was built with accommodation for 80 passengers.

In 1976, after 21 years of faithful service on the Clyde, SHIELDHALL was laid up, then purchased by the Southern Water Authority in 1977 and after minor modifications, carried sludge from Marchwood, Millbrook and Woolston in Southampton to an area south of the Isle of Wight for five years from 1980. When, due to rising fuel prices, she was suddenly withdrawn from service in July 1985, active preservation began. As a result of an initiative by the Southampton City’s Museum Services, a preservation society was formed and SHIELDHALL was purchased from Southern Water in 1988 for £20,000. The Society is registered as an Industrial and Provident Society as The Solent Steam Packet Limited and operates as a charity.

All work associated with the society and SHIELDHALL is carried out by unpaid volunteers.


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