Certificate no 17
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Service Vessel
Location Bristol
Vessel type Dragboat
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Lunnel, G & Co, Bristol
Built in 1844
Hull material Iron
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Steam
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam
Boiler type Unknown
Boilermaker Abbot & Co, Newark
Boiler fuel coal


Breadth: Beam
13.48 feet (4.11 m)
4.00 feet (1.22 m)
Length: Overall
49.97 feet (15.24 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed


BERTHA is believed to have been designed by John McLean, who also designed the drag boat DRAGON, the first vessel of this kind built for service in Bristol.

BERTHA was supplied to the Port of Bridgwater, which was subject to siltation from mud carried by the River Parrett on the incoming tide.  The function of this vessel, like close counterparts in the Port of Bristol, was to move mud across the floor of the dock to a position where it could be flushed away when the tide had receded.  A rectangular blade suspended vertically beneath the drag-boat transported the mud as the drag-boat employed its onboard steam engine to warp itself across the dock, using wires or chains attached to fixtures on the quay.

BERTHA is a nickname believed to have been coined about 1970, before which this vessel had no recorded name.

Source: John Robinson, Advisory Committee, March 2009.


Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994 
Hudson K, A Pocket Book for Industrial Archaeologists, John Baker, 1976
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp139, Edition 2, 1993
Burrow, Edward J, The Official Bridgewater Guide: No. 147 The Borough Guides1910

Key dates

  • 1844 Built in Bristol as a drag boat
  • 1844-1968 Worked the Bridgewater Docks
  • 1972 Removed to Exeter for display afloat at Exeter Maritime Museum
  • 1997 Removed to Bristol and then transferred with other vessels from the EISCA collection to Lowestoft and thence to Eyemouth
  • 2015

    Removed to Bristol after Eyemouth Maritime Museum closed down.

  • 2019

    Currently stored off-site and inaccessible to the public.

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk