The Solent Steam Packet Limited, the charity operating Southampton’s heritage steamship SS Shieldhall, are celebrating as the vessel is set to embark upon her 500th voyage since charitable status began in 1988.
Originally constructed in 1955 as a vessel to carry treated sludge down the River Clyde to the dumping grounds for the Glasgow Corporation, Shieldhall was sold to Southern Water in 1977 to perform a similar role out of Southampton. Her role was discontinued due to rising costs and Shieldhall was due to be sold for scrap. However, a group of enterprising individuals saw her heritage value, forming the charity and purchasing her for her scrap price of £20k. Amongst the 500 sailings since have been trips to Dordrecht in Holland and to her home port of Glasgow for Shieldhall’s 50th birthday celebrations in 2005. Although currently limited to sailing in Solent waters (with passengers) it is hoped to extend the list of cruise destinations in future years.
Saturday’s trip will see Shieldhall set sail at 10am for an all day Solent cruise (returning to berth at 5pm), giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of the Round the Island Yacht Race. Regularly attracting over 1700 boats, it is one of the largest yacht races in the world. Shieldhall will head out towards the Palmerston Forts, with members of the Maritime Archaeology Trust on board with displays relating to the Trust’s ‘Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War’ project.
As with all Shieldhall cruises, there will be an opportunity for passengers to see the impressive Shieldhall engine room with its original steam engines at work, and the Bridge, with its traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork. Shieldhall also has a saloon and bar, with a selection of hot and cold food and real ale available.
Shieldhall Chief Engineer Graham Mackenzie is delighted at reaching the 500th voyage milestone. ‘It is a credit to our great band of volunteers that Shieldhall is 500 voyages strong, with the promise of many more to come. We are all united in our love of steam and keeping the tradition of steamships in Southampton going strong. The first steam packet companies operated out of Southampton in the 1820s and nearly 200 years later passengers can still get to appreciate this wonderful mode of travel. Shieldhall is a living time capsule, the skills of our volunteers fast belonging to a forgotten age. However, thanks to a recent HLF grant we have been able to secure her future for many years to come, and are reaching out to new audiences who have never set foot on board a steamship. The smell of the steam, the distinctive sound of the Shieldhall whistle, the opportunity to feel the heat of the Boiler Room – these are experiences that are never forgotten by our passengers.’
Tickets for the 1ST July All Day Solent Sailing are £48 Adults, £10 children and a family ticket of 2 adults and 2 children £100. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ss-shieldhall.co.uk or by calling the Ticket Manager on 0844 357 2329 (calls cost 7p per minute from landline, calls from mobiles may vary).
Today Shieldhall is the largest operational, passenger-cargo steam ship in Britain. A member of the National Historic Fleet she serves as a sea going tribute to Britain’s maritime heritage. Shieldhall is based in Southampton Docks, and full details of the 2017 cruise programme and berthing information can be found at www.ss-shieldhall.co.uk
Shieldhall’s July schedule:
Sat 1 July – All day Solent Sailing, including opportunity to see the Round the Island Race – 10am – 5pm
Sun 2 July – American Independence Day Jazz Cruise with the Shieldhall Stomper’s Jazz Band and see 4 cruise ships depart – 3pm – 7pm SOLD OUT
Sat 22 July – Family Cruise – Docks trip to see 4 cruise ships 11am – 1pm
Sat 22 July – Head to the Solent Cruise and see 4 cruise ships depart 4pm – 7pm SOLD OUT
Sun 23 July – Eastern Solent Cruise, passing the Strawberry Coast and Ryde. Hampshire Food Festival. 12 noon – 6pm
Tues 25 July – Family Cruise of Southampton Docks – 2pm – 4pm