PEGGY is a clinker-built open vessel with fitted sawn frames. She was built for George Quayle of Castletown, Isle of Man, in the form of a small working boat with six oar holes and was schooner rigged with a bowsprit. She was one of three similar vessels built for the Quayle family between 1789 and 1793. There was some confusion over which of these vessels survives today, not least because two of them were named PEGGY, one referred to as ‘new Peggy’, and the third was named NEPTUNE.
Her first owner, Captain George Quayle (1751-1835) was a member of the House of Keys for 51 years and, during the wars with France from 1793, he was an officer in successive Manx forces raised for Island defence. He was co-founder of the earliest bank in the Isle of Man and also an enthusiastic inventor and traveller.
PEGGY was discovered in 1935 in a walled up cellar in Castletown. This was built for her by Captain Quayle and she lay there more than 150 years. In 1941, when the Bridge House was sold by the Quayles, PEGGY was presented to the Manx Museum together with the boathouse. The museum was opened in 1951. At some point, the cellar entrance through which PEGGY used to pass into the harbour was walled in.
Upon her discovery, PEGGY caused considerable interest among maritime historians. She was surveyed, measured and plans were drawn by Naval Architect P.J. Oke on behalf of The Society of Nautical Research. PEGGY and all related documents were examined in detail in 1967 by Doctor Basil Greenhill, then Director of the National Maritime Museum, as part of his investigation into the vessel’s provenance. The resultant paper, published in 'Mariner’s Mirror', is the most accurate and thorough assessment of the vessel. He concluded that the existing PEGGY is the one built in 1791.
It is likely that PEGGY was one of the first vessels to be fitted with ‘sliding keels’, the forerunners of the centreboard. Three in number were fitted through her keel. An enthusiastic letter to George Quayle from his brother Thomas in the summer of 1791 has survived and discusses a meeting he had with the sliding keels inventor, Captain (later Admiral) Shank. While the vessel’s present keel is not original and is not formed to have sliding keels, the original keel, with three sliding keel slots, has survived and is stored in the loft room of the boathouse.
There is evidence of extensive early alteration to PEGGY’S structure. A portion of the gunwale was largely removed and an additional strake, topped with a new gunwale, was fitted. The six oar-ports were plugged and the five original thwarts were removed and replaced with three new thwarts, at a higher level to suit the extra strake, but in different positions to the originals. The transom was likewise altered and increased in height. Alterations were also made to frames and floors. Greenhill suggested that the combination of alterations turned a relatively light, fast, pulling boat into a heavy, pure, sailing one.
Further structural repair work was carried out during the late 1940s when PEGGY was repaired by local craftsmen. This involved the replacement of the keel, stem post and two planks, all of which were damaged when she lay on her starboard side. She was placed in a support cradle in advance of the museum opening to the public in 1951.
PEGGY’s form and rig are contemporary with similar shaped vessels of the late 18th century, used in Manx waters and the Irish Sea as well as on the eastern seaboard of the USA, north of Boston. Craft similar to PEGGY were used by Captain Cook’s ships RESOLUTION and ADVENTURE. PEGGY had a relatively mixed usage. A record exists for 1796 when she attended a regatta on Lake Windermere and took part in races on the lake. She also visited Liverpool on family business, sometimes with passengers and cargo – on one occasion carrying a phaeton - and even smuggling French brandy. However, there is some doubt about her cargo carrying capacity. Greenhill commented that if PEGGY were fitted with the raising and lowering gear for three sliding keels there would be little space for cargo. There is also evidence that at one stage she was armed and she is currently equipped with eight cannon - six 1 foot long, mounted three a side and two slightly longer as stern chasers.
Source; John Kearon, Advisory Committee, March 2009
Source SNR Sep 2022: She is still in a climate controlled warehouse where her moisture content has now been reduced to 14%, along with a reduction in the corrosion of fittings. Full CAD drawings were produced for her in lockdown. Lincoln Conservation has carried out paint analysis and the plan is to fully re-rig her in a purpose built museum. SNR Notes, drawings and sketches made have been uncovered, from 1935 in the NMM archives and these will be used to inform her interpretation.
What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?
PEGGY is a clinker-built open vessel built in 1789. She is a small pleasure boat with six oar holes, and the surviving ironwork fittings and spars indicate that she was schooner rigged with a bowsprit. Extensive early alterations were made to her structure in 1802. An additional strake, topped with a new gunwale, was fitted. The six oar-ports were plugged and the original thwarts removed and replaced with three new ones in different positions at a higher level to suit the extra strake. Clear marks on the planking still indicate where the original thwarts and thwart knees were fitted. The transom was altered and increased in height but the letters of her name, PEGGY, are still visible on the historic paintwork and match the earlier, shallower transom. Alterations were also made to frames and floors, with most of the original cross-beams for the floor boards surviving in the stern. The combination of alterations turned a relatively light, fast, pulling boat into a heavier, sailing one. Originally fitted with three ‘sliding keels’, the forerunners of the now widely used centreboard, she was one of the first vessels to use that technology. The sliding keel were removed in the 1802 renovation. The majority of her original structure has survived. While her present keel is not original, and is not formed to have sliding keels, the original keel, with three sliding keel slots, has survived and is stored alongside her. Further structural repair work was carried out during the late 1940s when PEGGY was repaired by local craftsmen. This involved replacement of the keel, stem post and two planks, all of which were damaged when she lay on her starboard side. She was placed in a support cradle in advance of the museum opening to the public in 1951. She is currently equipped with eight cannon - six 1 foot long, mounted three a side and two slightly longer as stern chasers, as there is evidence that at one stage she was armed. Her mainmast indicates the iron collar fitted at original thwart height and the gooseneck, but this and her other surviving spars may never have been used in the vessel’s later configuration.
What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?
PEGGY is principally associated with the Isle of Man. She was built for Captain George Quayle (1751-1835) of Castletown, who was a member of the House of Keys for 51 years and, as such, was a prominent politician and businessman. There is a historical connection to Lake Windermere where in 1796 she raced in a regatta, possibly against the yacht MARGARET currently displayed at the Windermere Jetty. Quayle corresponded with Captain (later Admiral) Shank, the inventor of sliding keels who used her as an experimental craft for his design. She was discovered in Castletown in 1935 in a walled-up cellar, where she had lain for more than 150 years. She was measured and her plans drawn by naval architect P.J. Oke, on behalf of the Society of Nautical Research, as part of a general survey of British working boats and small craft. In 1941 Bridge House was sold by the Quayle family and PEGGY was presented to the Manx Museum together with the boathouse. PEGGY and all related documents were examined in 1967 by Dr Basil Greenhill, including analysis of surviving correspondence detailing the Quayle family and their boats. Being under 33 feet in length she is listed on the National Small Boat Register rather than the National Register of Historic Vessels. However, her details are retained by NHS-UK as she is listed as a member of the National Historic Fleet as she meets all criteria for inclusion other than length overall. She is the last remaining intact shallop and the world’s oldest surviving schooner.
How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?
PEGGY is one of very few surviving 18th century wooden boats and is a unique source of information relating to small vessel structure and form of the period. Her form and rig were perfectly suited to her intended use for pleasure and communication in Manx waters and the Irish Sea. However, she was a little narrow for her length and her freeboard was low, making her rather wet to sail, as is documented on her return from Lake Windermere in 1796. The structural changes made to her included adding an additional strake, which lessened her original aesthetic appeal but would have improved her seaworthiness. She is a rare example of everyday vessels of the time, providing a unique representation of small wooden boat-building at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Her shape is typical of other craft in use in the late eighteenth century as documented in the Irish Sea and America, on coasts north of Boston. She remains in the geographical area where she once operated, stabilised and conserved by Manx National Heritage.
- Norman J. Brouwer, International Register of Historic Ships. Second edition, 1993. Oswestry, Shropshire: Anthony Nelson, 114.
Built for Captain George Quayle as a clinker-built open vessel
Put into a boat cellar with harbour access
Evidence of early alteration to change a relatively light fast pulling boat into a heavy sailing vessel
Took part in a regatta racing on Lake Windermere following a perilous journey across the Irish Sea
Captain Quayle died and the vessel, being of little interest to the family, was hauled up into her cellar
Vessel enclosed by solid masonry and forgotten
Vessel re-discovered, still with cargo on deck which included French brandy
Vessel placed in a support cradle prior to the opening of the Manx Maritime Museum in Bridge House
Vessel continues to be housed in her boathouse but there are concerns about flooding
A Sustainability Grant of £1000 was awarded by NHS-UK towards the commission of a laser survey
A Sustainability Grant of £1000 towards the commission of a laser survey made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships
Greenhill, Basil, Mariner's Mirror: The Schooner Peggy, pp313, Volume 53, Editioin 53, 1967
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, Edition 2, 1993
The Nautical Museum, Manx National Heritage
Greenhill, Basil, American Neptune: The Schooner Peggy: An eighteenth century survival, pp54-61, January 1969
Sailisbury, W, Mariner's Mirror: The schooner Peggy of 1789 and her boathouse, pp146, Volume 49, Edition 49, 1963
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