🚢From sludge ship to flag ship – the story of Steamship Shieldhall🚢


It was 30 years ago on 28th July 1988 that Southern Water passed ownership of an unheralded vessel that had been in service between 1980-85, to a recently formed charity. That charity was the Solent Steam Packet, and the vessel Steamship Shieldhall. Performing a very perfunctory role for Southern Water – taking treated sludge to the ‘dumping grounds’ to the east of the Isle of Wight – Shieldhall was destined for a more glamourous future role as a passenger vessel and as a flagship for the National Historic Fleet, which she continues to perform to this day.

Shieldhall had been constructed in 1955 by the Lobnitz Shipyard in Renfrew, Glasgow, on the banks of the Clyde, where she was to perform a sludge disposal role for the Glasgow Corporation. Daily trips past Garroch Head on the Isle of Bute to the ‘dumping grounds’ where the water was ’70 fathoms deep’ lasted some 8 hours. During the summer months Shieldhall would welcome groups identified by the Corporation who could enjoy trips ‘Doon the Watter’ – doubtless enjoying the sea air before retiring to the Shieldhall saloon shortly before her tanks were emptied.

On Saturday 28th July 2018 Shieldhall will mark her 30th year of charitable ownership in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Southampton; representatives of Southern Water; founding members and current volunteers. An extended cruise between 11am – 6pm will visit the near mythical Nab Tower, close to the dumping grounds Shieldhall visited when in the employment of Southern Water. To add to the celebrations the Shieldhall Stompers Jazz Band will be playing on board, and much tooting of the Shieldhall whistle and playing of the Shieldhall organ is expected on her return to berth when she passes the outgoing Independence of the Seas and Sapphire Princess.

Tickets and more information on the anniversary cruise can be found by clicking here.

Shieldhall is also sailing on Sunday 29 July – the last of her 3hr ‘Head to the Solent Cruises’ for the 2018 season, passing the Britannia and Ventura on her return to berth.

Tickets and more information on the Head to the Solent Cruise can be found by clicking here.

As with all Shieldhall cruises, passengers are encouraged to see Shieldhall’s impressive engine room with its original triple-expansion steam engines at work, the Boiler Room (where temperatures regularly reach in excess of 110 degrees) and the Bridge, with its traditional instrumentation. There will be a full commentary on the sights of Southampton Water and the Solent on both trips.

Shieldhall’s Saloon and Galley will be open with refreshments including tea/coffee, real ale, a range of Titanic Ales, wine, ice cream and hot and cold food.

Help Shieldhall celebrate this special weekend in style – it’s set once again to be a glorious weekend, and there is no better place to be than out on the water!

Posted by Lewis Folland, Wed 25 Jul 2018