ss Robin

Coastal built 1890 by Mackenzie, MacAlpine & Co, Blackwall

Ensign House flag

1794

National Historic Fleet


Cargo Vessel

Coastal


Coastal

London


Museum based

Museum: floating


No

No


04/10/1999

07/11/2017



Gallery


Propulsion

Steam

Steam triple expansion


Unknown

Unknown


Dimensions

To be confirmed

22.00 feet (6.71 metres)


142.92 feet (43.59 metres)

12.98 feet (3.96 metres)


366.00


History

ROBIN was built by Mackenzie, MacAlipine & Co. in Orchard House Yard, Bow Creek, in East London, who had received an order for two identical coasters from Robert Thomson, a London ship owner. The keels were laid in December 1889 and ROBIN was launched on 16 September 1890 (her sister ship, ROOK, was launched in the previous month). She was fitted out in the East India Docks and moved in October to Dundee in Scotland to have her triple-expansion engine, boiler and auxiliary machinery fitted by Gourlay Bros.

On her maiden voyage, which started from Liverpool on 20 December 1890, ROBIN steamed further than on any other voyage in the next ten years, reaching the port of Bayonne on France's Atlantic coast. She continued to trade around the south and west coasts of England, the Thames and Medway, and to France's channel coast. Her ownership in the first two years was complicated, as shares were transferred between various part-owners, but Arthur Ponsonby of Newport, Monmouthshire, was apparently the main owner.

She was bought in 1892 by Alexander Blackwater to form the Robin Steamship Company; trading between Britain, Ireland and the continental ports, she carried cargoes including grain, iron ore, scrap steel, pit props, china clay, railway steel, general cargoes of casked and baled goods, and granite blocks for the Caledonian Canal. In her first decade of service, she visited 140 ports.

In May 1900, she was sold to Blanco Hermanos y Cia, of Bilbao, Spain, the beginning of seventy-four years under the Spanish flag, under the name MARIA. Her ownership passed to Hijos de Angel Perez y Cia, of Santander, in 1913 and to Eduardo de la Sota Poveda, of Bilbao, in 1965. She traded around the Spanish coast with cargoes such as coal and scrap iron.

During the First World War, she carried pig iron for the French government from the foundry at Santiago to Bayonne and Burdeos under French naval escort. Her appearance remained little changed for many years until, in a 1966 refit, her coal-fired boiler was converted to oil, the stern whaleback and the mizzen mast were taken out, the foremast, main mast and funnel were shortened, and the forecastle was extended. In May 1974, she was purchased by the Maritime Trust and, in June, steamed under her own power to St Katharine Docks, London. She was restored at Rochester, renamed ROBIN, and opened to the public as part of the trust's collection of ships, which at that time were berthed in St Katharine Dock.

In 1991, she moved to West India Quay and was subsequently bought by, what is now, the SS Robin Trust. New restoration work began in March 2002, and she was equipped as an innovative education centre with a successful photographic gallery. In June 2008, a £1.9m funding package was raised from Crossrail by Kampfner Development Consultancy and an extensive programme of conservation work began. SS Robin made her first sea journey for 35 years when she was carefully towed from her berth in London's West India Dock to a slipway in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

She was extensively restored under the guidance and management of KDC, who conducted an extensive appraisal of costs and conservation options, arriving at a unique and radical solution to the combined challenges of a fixed budget and the tender condition of the vessel's riveted hull. In order to preserve and display her original riveted fabric, the vessel was lifted onto a purpose-built floating pontoon, commissioned and built in Poland, in a dramatic and successful crane operation in June 2010.

Now restored to her former glory, she has returned to the Victoria-Albert docks in London, where fundraising and fit-ouut works for a future training centre and museum are being carried out.

C.V. Waine & R.S. Fenton, Steam Coasters and Short Sea Traders (Edition 3, 1994, pp49,149,163)

Significance

Recalling Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’, ROBIN is the last surviving “dirty British coaster”. Whilst ROBIN is the sole surviving British-built steam coaster, of classic long raised quarter-deck design, it could be argued that her significance is far greater. No other British cargo steamer of considerably larger proportions, whether Cardiff tramp or Liverpool cargo liner has survived, and so, with her riveted hull and triple expansion steam propulsion, she is the sole remaining representative of all those cargo steamers that made up the vast bulk of the British merchant fleet at its apogee.

Previous names

  1. 1900 – 1974Maria

Subsequent Developments

  1. 2007 A Conference & Training Bursary of £138 to facilitate attendance of the RINA Conference was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships. Source: National Historic Ships
  2. September 2010 After successfully completing two years of major conservation works the historic ship, SS Robin, one of London's only three Core Collection ships, left Lowestoft, on Friday, arriving at Tilbury on Saturday 18 September. After being delayed by adverse weather conditions since Sunday 12 September, London’s SS Robin arrived back on the River Thames having celebrated her 120th anniversary on Thursday. The £1.9m programme of conservation works, funded by Crossrail, was completed on SS Robin this summer, converting the 1890 built ship into a dynamic floating museum for 21st Century London. Before she reaches the capital, the SS Robin has been given a temporary home by Forth Ports PLC, owners of the Port of Tilbury, while the Trust which owns her evaluates options for her future base in the capital. Regarded as one of the most important British built ships, SS Robin will spend the final stage of her journey to London at the capital’s key port, the Port of Tilbury after she was restored to her former glory at Lowestoft. Source: ssrobinorg
  3. February 2012 Vessel due to reopen to the public in time for the london Olympics. Heritage Lottery Fund money of £1million will create a visitor centre within the vessel, hosting activites, events, training and volunteering opportunities. Source: ssrobinorg

Key dates

  1. 1890 Built by Mackenzie, McAlpine & Co. in Orchard House Yard, Bow Creek, East London for Mr Robert Thomson, a London ship owner
  2. 1890 Steamed further on her maiden voyage than on any other in the next ten years, reaching the port of Bayonne
  3. 1892 Bought by Alexander Blackwater to form the Robin Steamship Company
  4. 1892-1900 Carried cargoes including grain, iron ore, scrap steel, pit props, china clay, railway steel, general cargoes of casked and baled goods, and granite blocks for the Caledonian Canal
  5. 1900 Sold to Blanco Hermanos y Cia, of Bilbao, Spain and renamed MARIA
  6. 1913 Bought by Hijos de Angel Perez y Cia, of Santander
  7. 1914-1918 Carried pig iron for the French government from the foundry at Santiago to Bayonne and Burdeos under French naval escort
  8. 1918-1965 Continued as a coastal freighter
  9. 1965 Sold to Eduardo de la Sota Poveda, of Bilbao
  10. 1965-1974 Traded around the Spanish coast with cargoes including coal and scrap iron
  11. 1966 Coal-fired boiler converted to oil, the stern whaleback and the mizzen mast taken out, the foremast, main mast and funnel shortened and the forecastle extended
  12. 1974 Purchased by the Maritime Trust and steamed under own power to St Katharine Docks, London
  13. 1991 Moved to West India Quay and bought by the SS Robin Trust
  14. 2002 New restoration work began for use as an education centre
  15. 2008 A £1.9m funding package raised from Crossrail and an extensive programme of conservation began
  16. 2010 Lifted onto a purpose-built floating pontoon for long-term preservation
  17. 2010 Returned to Port of Tilbury
  18. 2011 Permanently moored at Royal Victoria Docks, London

Bibliography

    ROBIN was built by Mackenzie, MacAlipine & Co. in Orchard House Yard, Bow Creek, in East London, who had received an order for two identical coasters from Robert Thomson, a London ship owner. The keels were laid in December 1889 and ROBIN was launched on 16 September 1890 (her sister ship, ROOK, was launched in the previous month). She was fitted out in the East India Docks and moved in October to Dundee in Scotland to have her triple-expansion engine, boiler and auxiliary machinery fitted by Gourlay Bros.

    On her maiden voyage, which started from Liverpool on 20 December 1890, ROBIN steamed further than on any other voyage in the next ten years, reaching the port of Bayonne on France's Atlantic coast. She continued to trade around the south and west coasts of England, the Thames and Medway, and to France's channel coast. Her ownership in the first two years was complicated, as shares were transferred between various part-owners, but Arthur Ponsonby of Newport, Monmouthshire, was apparently the main owner.

    She was bought in 1892 by Alexander Blackwater to form the Robin Steamship Company; trading between Britain, Ireland and the continental ports, she carried cargoes including grain, iron ore, scrap steel, pit props, china clay, railway steel, general cargoes of casked and baled goods, and granite blocks for the Caledonian Canal. In her first decade of service, she visited 140 ports.

    In May 1900, she was sold to Blanco Hermanos y Cia, of Bilbao, Spain, the beginning of seventy-four years under the Spanish flag, under the name MARIA. Her ownership passed to Hijos de Angel Perez y Cia, of Santander, in 1913 and to Eduardo de la Sota Poveda, of Bilbao, in 1965. She traded around the Spanish coast with cargoes such as coal and scrap iron.

    During the First World War, she carried pig iron for the French government from the foundry at Santiago to Bayonne and Burdeos under French naval escort. Her appearance remained little changed for many years until, in a 1966 refit, her coal-fired boiler was converted to oil, the stern whaleback and the mizzen mast were taken out, the foremast, main mast and funnel were shortened, and the forecastle was extended. In May 1974, she was purchased by the Maritime Trust and, in June, steamed under her own power to St Katharine Docks, London. She was restored at Rochester, renamed ROBIN, and opened to the public as part of the trust's collection of ships, which at that time were berthed in St Katharine Dock.

    In 1991, she moved to West India Quay and was subsequently bought by, what is now, the SS Robin Trust. New restoration work began in March 2002, and she was equipped as an innovative education centre with a successful photographic gallery. In June 2008, a £1.9m funding package was raised from Crossrail by Kampfner Development Consultancy and an extensive programme of conservation work began. SS Robin made her first sea journey for 35 years when she was carefully towed from her berth in London's West India Dock to a slipway in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

    She was extensively restored under the guidance and management of KDC, who conducted an extensive appraisal of costs and conservation options, arriving at a unique and radical solution to the combined challenges of a fixed budget and the tender condition of the vessel's riveted hull. In order to preserve and display her original riveted fabric, the vessel was lifted onto a purpose-built floating pontoon, commissioned and built in Poland, in a dramatic and successful crane operation in June 2010.

    Now restored to her former glory, she has returned to the Victoria-Albert docks in London, where fundraising and fit-ouut works for a future training centre and museum are being carried out.

    C.V. Waine & R.S. Fenton, Steam Coasters and Short Sea Traders (Edition 3, 1994, pp49,149,163)

Grants

  1. Financial year April A Sustainability Grant of £1732 for survey was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships
  2. 2005/06 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £39,7000 for a complete survey
  3. April - June 2010 A Sustainability Grant of £1000 for expert advice was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships
  4. 2009/10 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £999,000 for the Open Doors project
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

copper fastened:

a vessel whose plank fastenings are of copper rather than iron