A heritage cargo-passenger ship, included in the National Historic Fleet, SS Shieldhall was built and launched on the Clyde in 1955, to a classic pre-Second World War design.

She had a long and successful first career with Glasgow Corporation – year round, carrying treated sludge out to sea and, in the summer, taking passengers ‘doon the watter’ on pleasure trips. Bought in 1977 by Southern Water she was finally withdrawn from commercial service in 1985 – but saved and purchased for £20,000 in 1988 by the charity that still operates her now.

Today the 2,000 tonne Shieldhall is a  unique seagoing ‘time capsule’. She provides a working example of steamship machinery both above and below deck, typical of the cargo and passenger ships that plied the oceans of the world between the 1870s and 1960s, after which they became all but extinct.

Whilst other heritage ships are held permanently in dry dock, Shieldhall remains active, with a cruise programme that allows passengers to access the engine room with its two impressive 800HP steam engines at work and
the bridge, complete with traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork.

News - Apr 2017: SS Shieldhall awarded Regional Flagship (Solent) award by NHS-UK 

Following nine successful years of very different kinds of vessels from around the UK winning this award, National Historic Ships UK has again extended the scheme this year by making one National Flagship and two Regional Flagship awards to recognise the impact that many vessels make in their home cruising grounds as well as further afield.

SS Shieldhall was National Historic Ships UK’s first National Flagship in 2009.  This year (which marks her 30th anniversary in current ownership), she has been awarded regional status in recognition of her continual and extensive sailing programme in the Solent area which has seen passenger numbers increase exponentially each year. 

Full story here.


News April 2019: Major boost for Steamship Shieldhall - the historic steamship has received a Resilience Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) totalling £85,000.  By funding professional help, this will assist its dedicated band of volunteers to explore new revenue streams and ensure the structure of the organisation is best placed to take advantage of future opportunities.  The project will commence this summer and will conclude at the end of December 2020.

Utilising the skills and experience of professionals to critically examine Shieldhall’s current mode of operation and governance, the project will determine if the skills contained within the society’s volunteers are best placed to enable her success story to continue. There will also be an element of training for the ship’s volunteers to increase the capacity to fundraise, and ensure that Shieldhall continues to sail and to provide a steamship experience into the future. Education is also reflected, with local schools participation amongst the initiatives that will derive from the project.

The goal is to keep Shieldhall operational for a good number of years yet to provide a satisfying challenge for future volunteers, to give first hand educational opportunities for young people and also, to allow the population at large to experience and enjoy a voyage from the age of steam.

Shieldhall’s Graham Mackenzie, Project Director, commenting on the award, noted: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will support our volunteers in making Shieldhall sustainable moving forwards. We all feel it is so important for this and future generations to be able to continue to enjoy the magic of ‘Steam at Sea’.

Expressions of interest in working with Shieldhall on the project can be made by emailing inform@ss-shieldhall.co.uk

News - New for 2017: Blow the Shieldhall whistle and help keep her afloat

Help keep SS Shieldhall in steam by letting off steam! Now, for just £5, you can enjoy the experience of visiting the bridge, and – under the supervision of the Shieldhall captain – sound the whistle! ‘Whistle blowing’ is available on Shieldhall trips to meet departing cruise ships, with numbers strictly limited. It’s great fun, with the cruise ships usually responding in turn!

News - SS Shieldhall group packages well received at Great for Groups Show
SS Shieldhall was present at the Great for Groups Show at Kempton Park, promoting joint group packages with SeaCity Museum and Southampton Tour Guides, and also Hollycombe Steam in the Country.  Groups can book special ‘In the Footsteps of Titanic’ all day Southampton packages on all of Shieldhall’s 3hr sailings in 2017, whilst there is a chance to enjoy ‘Steam on Water, Steam on Land, Steam by Day and Steam by Night’ when Shieldhall links with Hollycombe, based at Liphook on the Hants / Sussex border. The steam based attraction commences its Fairground at Night season on Sat 16 September, which coincides with Shieldhall’s last Saturday sailing in 2017.

SS Shieldhall passes Old Harry Rocks coastline (c)  Andrew Cooke