Certificate no 66
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Sewage Disposal vessel
Location Southampton
Vessel type Sewage Dumping Vessel
Current use Private use
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No


Builder Lobnitz & Co Ltd, Renfrew
Built in 1955
Hull material Steel
Rig None
Number of decks 2
Number of masts 2
Propulsion Steam
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam triple expansion
Boiler type Scotch Return Tube
Boilermaker Lobnitz & Co. Ltd, Renfrew
Boiler year 1955
Boiler fuel oil


Breadth: Beam
46.70 feet (14.24 m)
13.25 feet (4.04 m)
Length: Overall
268.00 feet (81.74 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

Completed in 1955 SS SHIELDHALL was built to transport sewage sludge from Glasgow to the limits of the Clyde estuary where it was discharged. She was also used by Glasgow Corporation for river inspections and official engagements. Her design and construction reflect these divergent functions, with the sludge tanks and discharge equipment surviving intact, as does the fine, large, wood-panelled saloon where civic receptions, other formal functions, and passengers were hosted and entertained. SHIELDHALL's hull and superstructure are a mix of riveted and welded construction incorporating a traditional bridge and wheel-house amidships, a straight stem, and cruiser stern. Her oil-fired boilers and triple expansion steam engines are original, with the latter of similar configuration (though smaller) to those on much earlier vessels such as RMS TITANIC. The steam-powered auxiliary machinery is also original. Overall SHIELDHALL is substantially intact from the time when she was built whilst being highly evocative of pre-Second World war steamships in style and features.

What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

SS SHIELDHALL was a notable feature on the Clyde enjoying strong links with the people of Glasgow. In addition to her official/civic functions she was regularly used to carry up to 80 passengers (many of them children, disadvantaged families, and wounded or recuperating servicemen) on day trips along the river and out into the estuary. Her associations with the Solent stem from her service between 1977 and 1985 carrying sewage sludge from Marchwood, Millbrook and Woolston to an area to the south of the Isle of Wight where her cargo would be discharged. With a gross tonnage of 1,792 tons and a length of 268.00 feet overall, SHIELDHALL is the largest operational steam vessel in Europe, undertaking a regular programme of passenger trips and participating in events along the south coast of England and ports in France and the Netherlands. The volunteer society which owns and operates her is also developing her potential as a training vessel for aspiring engineers. Her significance is reflected in her status on the National Register of Historic Vessels as one of only 200 in the National Historic Fleet of the United Kingdom. In 2009 she was accorded the accolade of being the first UK Historic Flagship of the Year.

How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

SS SHIELDHALL features a large-volume hull to accommodate the sewage tanks. Her straight stem and full bows contribute to achieving maximum capacity within the overall dimensions of the ship, whilst the cruiser stern brings an element of elegance to her workaday hull-form. The opulent saloon reflects her passenger-carrying role whilst open decks provide both working spaces and areas where passengers can congregate. The galley, crew cabins, and wash facilities installed for overnight operations are original to the build date.

Source: Martyn Heighton, Director, National Historic Ships, September 2011.

SS SHIELDHALL was built for Glasgow Corporation as a sludge disposal vessel replacing an older namesake. She spent her working days moving treated sewage sludge from Shieldhall and Dalmuir down the River Clyde for disposal in the deeper waters around Garroch Head. These vessels had a long tradition of passenger carrying going back to the First World War when they used to take soldiers convalescing from their injuries on their runs to sea. Since that time all the ships, including SHIELDHALL, were fitted with comfortable accommodation and trips were provided mainly for disadvantaged people who otherwise would not have experienced a trip in a pleasure steamer. They were kept spotlessly clean with no trace of their humble task. SHIELDHALL was built on classic lines with a riveted and welded construction, a straight stem, cruiser stern and a traditional wheelhouse. She is fitted with two Scotch Boilers providing saturated steam to two triple expansion engines driving twin screws. Normal operating speed was 9 knots with a maximum of 13 knots. She entered service in 1955 and operated on the Clyde until 1976 when she was replaced by the motorship SS GARROCH HEAD and laid up. In 1977 she was purchased by Southern Water Authority to carry sludge from Southampton for disposal in an area south of the Isle of Wight. In 1985, the rising cost of fuel made her uneconomical to run and she was withdrawn from service and again laid up. As a result of an initiative by the Southampton City Museum, a preservation society, The Solent Steam Packet Ltd, was formed and, in 1988, SHIELDHALL was purchased for £20K. All work on the ship was carried out by unpaid volunteers and much has been done to bring her up to and keep her in seagoing condition. In 2006, SHIELDHALL was awarded a grant of £275500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to continue restoration and contribute towards extending her seagoing life by enabling her to remain fully operational and renewing the passenger carrying certificate.

Source; David Newberry, Committee Member, December 2008.



Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp173, Edition 2, 1993
Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994  
O'Hagen, Andrew, The Glasgow Sludge Boats The Atlantic Ocean - Essays on Britain and America, Faber & Faber, 2008
Classic Boat: Heritage Lottery Fund - SS Shieldhall in pp1000 award, August 2012
Ships Monthly: Preservation News: Bright future for Shieldhall, December 1989
Ships Monthly: Shieldhall - Still in Steam, April 1991
Ships Monthly: Still in Steam - Shieldhall, December 1982
Transport Digest: Shieldhall beats scrapyard, Summer Edition 103, 2011
Ships Monthly: NHF Flagship, November 2018

Key dates

  • 1955

    Built by Lobnitz & Co of Renfrew for Glasgow Corporation

  • 1955-1976

    Moved treated sewage sludge from Shieldhall and Dalmuir down the River Clyde for disposal in deeper waters around Garroch Head

  • 1977

    Purchased by Southern Water Authority

  • 1977-1985

    Carried sludge from Southampton for disposal in an area south of the Isle of Wight

  • 1985

    Withdrawn from service and laid up

  • 1988

    Solent Steam Packet Ltd company was formed and purchased the ship for £20K

  • 1988-1991

    Vessel fully restored for operational use

  • 2009

    Awarded National Historic Ships' Flagship of the Year.

  • 2012

    Took part in the commemorative events for the 100 year anniversary of the loss of the TITANIC and changed her hull colour to black

  • 2018

    Awarded National Historic Ships UK's Regional Flagship (Solent).


  • 2014

    Headley Trust awarded £10,000 towards apprenticeship training

  • 2011

    A grant of £32,000 was given towards urgent steel and engineering works by The Headley Trust

  • December 2011

    A grant of £32,000 has been awarded from The Headley Trust, which will go towards the repairs that we are currently undertaking to get the ship back to sea in April 2012

  • 2011-2012

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £1,612,400 for a conservation project

  • June 2009

    A Flagship of the Year Award of £1000 for a detachable canvas side was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • 2010

    A Sustainability Award of £1250 for stability books was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • October 2008

    A Sustainability Grant of £2000 for the renovation of crew quarters was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships

  • 2006-2007

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £279,500 to carry out conservation work

  • 2001-2002

    The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £286,500 to enhance educational provisiosn to the public and to secure her future

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