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Shamrock

Frederick Hawke

Category

Boats, ships and related material

Date

1899

Materials

Place of origin

Stonehouse

Order this image

Collection

Cotehele, Cornwall (Accredited Museum)

NT 348277

Summary

Tamar sailing barge, Shamrock, built in 1899 by Frederick Hawke at Stonehouse, Plymouth. Shamrock is one of the last of the West Country ketch-rigged sailing barges. Because of alterations during her 70 years as a working vessel, she has represented several forms of typical barge to be found on the south-west coast of England. Designed and built for specialised trade in Plymouth Harbour as a ketch rigged inside barge, she was converted to an outside barge with a larger ketch sail plan for coastal work. Later an auxiliary engine was fitted and she was smack-rigged, working in the Truro-Falmouth area for many years in the stone trade.

Full description

According to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, c.1982: “Shamrock was built at Stonehouse, Plymouth in 1899 by Frederick Hawke for Tom Williams who, with his brother Fred, both of Torpoint, owned her for the first 20 years of her life. Designed with shallow fraught and drop keels, she could penetrate the shallower parts of the tributaries and reach the quays before other barges could approach. She could also be easily beached and unloaded when engaged in her regular trade: carrying manure and fertiliser between Torpoint and Plymouth. Shamrock also carried general cargo or, when none was available, dredged for sand to be sold to Torpoint builders. After 1918, with the development of road transport, many cargoes were fast disappearing, and more of Shamrock’s time was spent carrying stone from quarries along the River Lynher. Then, in 1919, the Williams brothers sold her to a group of quarrymen for £600. Following alterations to the hull and installation of an auxiliary motor, the ketch-rigged Shamrock continued to carry stone, not only inside Plymouth Breakwater as previously, but also to the creeks and harbours between Dartmouth and Falmouth. During the 1930s, Shamrock moved from her home port, Plymouth, to operate from Truro, carrying stone from Porthoustock Quarry near Manacles Point to the County Highways Depot at Tresillian, and creeks and quays around Falmouth. After 42 years in the stone trade, Shamrock was sold in the same area, to be used prospecting for tin, off the Red River in St Ives Bay. By now she had lost all her sails and was purely a motor vessel. In 1966 she was again sold, and converted into a diving tender, returning to Plymouth to continue salvage work until 1970. After working 71 years, Shamrock was finally laid up in Hooe Lake, Plymouth, where she rested for the next four years. “Shamrock was designed to carry a specialised cargo which had to be discharged into horse drawn carts on an open beach. The result was a hull with a much flatter bottom than was usual in most of the West Country barges combined with great beam, a broad transom stern and a very shallow depth of hold. To enable her to take the ground, remain upright, and float off without difficulty, Shamrock was built with a keel consisting of a plan of extra thickness which projected a few inches from the bottom of the hull. This took most of the wear of constant grounding. To compensate for the lack of a keel of normal depth Shamrock was fitted with metal drop-keels to provide the lateral resistance required to prevent excessive leeway when beating to windward. The vessel’s draught could also be rapidly reduced when approaching the beach by winding up the keels with the hand winches. “Shamrock was saved in 1974 and brought up river to Cotehele Quay. Preparations were made by the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum to restore her to her original condition. The first problem associated with restoring historic vessels – particularly smaller and less well-known types – is their location. The first indication that Shamrock still survived came from her owner, Mr Fildew, who had bought her at the end of her working life. Although the restoration proved too expensive, he was able to halt further deterioration of the hull. “Following correspondence between the owner and Commander McKee, consultant to the National Maritime Museum, and Basil Greenhill, the director of the museum, a survey was carried out to establish the viability of restoration. A committee was set up and Shamrock was acquired by the National Trust on February 11th 1974. As Shamrock was little more than a hulk, excessive stopping and plugging of leaks was necessary before her passage from Hooe Lake, Plymouth to Cotehele Quay. This was accomplished following a survey by the Queen’s Harbour Master, Plymouth. A slipway and cradle and a large shed with facilities for preparing timber were constructed. The cradle was lowered down the slipway and Shamrock floated on to it for hauling up to the restoration berth. “Between the two World Wars, a few far-sighted individuals began collecting as much information as possible from the remaining small merchant sailing vessels. Their work formed the basis of the research programme initiated by the National Maritime Museum. The alterations to Shamrock’s hull and rig over the years posed problems which required further information. Copies of her registration documents were obtained, then the museum began to seek out first-hand knowledge. Places where Shamrock had traded were visited, which led to contact with two former masters. The sail loft where her sails were made was discovered and details of her voyages and cargoes recorded. More photographs were found, and drawings and models made and checked by the men who had commanded her. As a result, Shamrock is now a faithful portrayal of her appearance in the 1920s, the period chosen for her restoration. “Despite the problems of tracking down materials and forgotten skills, Shamrock was restored using the traditional tools and methods used to build her in 1899. Timber: Local barge-building yards had vanished, stocks of large shipbuilding timber no longer existed, and seasoned curved grown oak required for knees and frames were virtually unobtainable. Timber was therefore obtained from the National Trust Killerton Estate, near Exeter. Masts and spars: Shamrock’s main mast was sound, but a new mizzen mast and other spars were required for her ketch rig. Hulks with their masts still standing were investigated. Eventually all these were obtained from a London firm specialising in large solid spars. Ironwork and iron winches: Ironwork for hanging knees and deck and mast fittings were no longer manufactured, but many such items were found on the hulk of the schooner Millom Castle in the River Lynher and recovered by a naval party from HMS Raleigh, Devonport. Three cargo winches were located in the Tamar Valley and at Beesands, near Start Point. These were used to build Shamrock’s cargo winch. Running rigging: Manila rope was used for running rigging throughout Shamrock’s life and for her restoration. Although this is one of the least durable materials used, the longer life of synthetic rope did not justify such a departure from accuracy. Blocks and rigging gear: Recourse was again made to shipyards and marine scrap dealers for blocks for hoisting and controlling the sails. Wire for standing rigging, sail hanks, chains, shackles and eyebolts were also found and purchased. Sails: Shamrock’s sails were made from flax canvas, 24 inches wide, sewn together by hand. Sailmakers able to make a suit of sails for a working vessel – as well as the materials – were increasingly hard to find. A retired sailmaker was found and produced sails to the original specification. “The craftsmen: A vessel of Shamrock’s dimensions presented problems in preparing and handling heavy timbers. The National Trust engaged Tom Perkins, a shipwright experienced in wooden shipbuilding techniques, to take charge of the restoration. With skilled men from the Cotehele estate and staff provided through Manpower Services Commission, Shamrock has been restored using traditional tools and methods. “The restoration work: By summer 1974, Shamrock was secure on her cradle above the tide, with every part of the hull accessible. A careful and systematic stripping of the hull began, to ascertain fully the extent of the deterioration caused by rot, worm and hard usage. Until the exploratory survey was complete, the extent of the work required remained unknown. When it was possible to see how much was involved, the decision to restore Shamrock was shown to be fully justified, although further delay would have made the task impossible. After five years’ work Shamrock was completely restored, fully rigged and ready for her first sea trials, which took place in spring 1981. Restoration was achieved by leaving the deck beams in place and the old outer planking intact, girdling the hull by steel wires to prevent distortion, stripping out the inner planking or ceiling, as each rotten frame was removed replacing it with new oak timbers. The same procedure was carried out with the remainder of the vessel’s internal structure, until an inner framework of new and old timbers was formed within the original hull planking. The old strakes of unserviceable hull planking were then removed and one by one replaced by new strakes of larch, pine and elm. The new inner pine ceiling planks were then put in, deck beams, decking, bulwarks and hatchways were fitted and all the other work necessary to finish the hull was completed. “On 26 April 1978 Shamrock was floated off her cradle and moored in the dock where she was to be fitted out. The Museum provided many of the contemporary fittings required to mast and rig the vessel, and Museum staff made the rigging in an improvised loft at Cotehele Water Mill. On 15 August 1979 the completion of the restoration was marked by the unveiling of a plaque on board the vessel at Cotehele Quay. As well as paying tribute to the craftsmen involved Mr Michael Holland-Hibbert, the Regional Chairman of the National Trust, and Dr Greenhill, the Director of the National Maritime Museum, thanked the many generous donors who contributed to the project. Notable amongst these were – Mr Geoffrey Le Mare, Ocean Trading and Transport Ltd; The Maritime Trust; Torpoint Slipping Company; The Government Fund for the Preservation of Technological and Scientific Material; The Manpower Services Commission, and the Trustees of the Caird Fund at the National Maritime Museum. During succeeding winters Shamrock lay in her dock protected by a cover specially made to fit the hull. The strong back for the cover is provided by the mainmast in its lowered position and the bowsprit, run inboard for the purpose. The rest of the spars, and all the rigging are stored in the quay shed where maintenance work is carried out by the Museum’s staff. In the spring Shamrock was re-rigged and fitted out with her suit of hand-sewn flax canvas sails. She now lies completely restored to her working condition during the 1920s, looking very much as she did then, having just discharged a cargo at the quay. “Voyages of the restored vessel: Shamrock’s first sea trials took place, successfully, in Plymouth Sound in May and October, 1981. As an irreplaceable historic vessel, whose restoration was a long and expensive exercise, her use under sail must be carefully controlled by a suitably experienced master and with all the possible precautions taken for the safety of the crew, the vessel and all her gear and historic equipment. However it is the intention of her joint owners, the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum that she will not remain permanently in the dock at her Cotehele Quay home, but will undertake a programme of occasional voyages.” Possibly the words of Basil Greenhill, Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, c.1982.

Makers and roles

Frederick Hawke, builder

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