SS Robin, with the Canary Wharf skyline in the background (photo by Dean Nicholas)
While the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast are well-known icons of Britain's marine history, London's only other National Historic Ships Register Grade I-listed vessel was, until recently, in serious danger of being scrapped.
The SS Robin
, built at Bow Creek in 1890, is the world's oldest working steamer, and hauled raw materials all over Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Bought by a Spaniard in 1900, the vessel went on to see action in WWI and the Spanish Civil War, yet in old age she was moored in Docklands and largely forgotten.In 2002 David and Nishani Kampfner bought the ship, starting a restoration fund and setting her up as an education centre for schoolchildren. Incredibly, the Robin retains her original steam engine and winches, yet decades of neglect meant a long-term refit was a necessity. A £1.9 million donation from Crossrail in May this year secured the Robin's future.On Saturday, the ship left West India Dock for the first time in 17 years, heading to a drydock in Lowestoft and a proper maritime makeover. She'll be returned to London in around six months time to resume her latter-day career as a pedagogical pleasure boat. Londonist was on hand to wave her off as she took to the Thames and beyond.
Last Updated 29 June 2008