Book Review-‘Built on Scilly: The history of shipbuilding on the Isles of Scilly between 1774 & 1891’ by R. Larn and R. Banfield

By Fred Hocker, published October 2020

Abstract

The Isles of Scilly, at the extreme western end of the English Channel (or the first landfall for eastbound vessels in the Western Approaches), have a rich maritime history as a navigational landmark and harbour of refuge. For a brief period of little more than a century, the islands had a small shipbuilding industry centred on a handful of families who built mostly small to medium-sized sloops, cutters and schooners of less than 150 tons, although a few larger vessels, including several barques of up to 528 tons, were built towards the later years. They did this despite having to import all of the raw materials from the mainland or abroad. These vessels were built primarily for local owners and were often engaged in supplying the islands or the transatlantic fruit trade. The total number of vessels built, 153, a little more than one per year between the first and the last, is only a drop in the very large ocean of the British merchant fleet, but the construction and operation of these small traders was a significant part of the economy of the Isles, and the yards engaged in construction and repair were a prominent feature of the waterfront in the built-up area around St Mary’s and Porthcressa. The shift to steam and iron doomed the Scillonian yards, as the islands did not have the infrastructure or resources to support the more elaborate and fuel-intensive physical plant needed for cutting and shaping plate or fitting engines…

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Filed under: Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design

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