Making ships

It was very windy in Canary Wharf today. So windy, in fact, that I started to regret my decision to wear a hat. Mind you, it wasn’t windy when I left Farnham first thing this morning so I can be excused for making a stupid wardrobe call.

I was in Canary Wharf for the Sixth Thames Shipbuilding Symposium at the Museum of London, Docklands. I noticed it online at the beginnng of the week and, given I’d used some of the research from the first one, I figured it would be invaluable. I was right. In part.

When I told Nick at Work yesterday, he was dead jealous and demanded that I tell him all about it when next we met. One of the speakers was a historian he much admired, a Dr Ian Friel. Nick extensively used one of Dr Friel’s texts on Tudor shipbuilding during his days studying the building of ships. However, to be honest, after the big build up, Dr Friel was rather disappointing. This was mostly because of delivery rather than content, something quite a few of the speakers suffered from.

Museum of London Docklands

Museum of London Docklands

There were two sessions I was particularly interested in. They both dealt with obscure shipbuilding yards (Dudmans & Dudgeons), something I’m always coming up against in my research at work. The Dudmans paper, while interesting, was not particularly well delivered but the Dudgeons talk was excellent.

Given by a medical doctor who has had an interest in Dudgeons ever since he read the diary of someone who worked for them which mentioned Brunel “walking into the office.” The story of this small yet very successful shipbuilding yard was fascinating. It grew with the American Civil War when ships were wanted to run the blockades in the south. They also developed and perfected the twin screw propulsion concept in steam ships.

I was very interested in the lifting devices they used and, in fact, I wanted to ask a question about it. However, time and the ramblings of members of the symposium soon put paid to that. My hand was left waving uselessly in the air as the 15 minute Q&A session at the end of the day, drifted off to nothing.

Getting ready

Getting ready

Still, all in all, it was a good symposium with some interesting and very diverse subjects discussed.

I feel it would be remiss not to mention the session (sadly just after lunch) on The London Men and Women who Made the Tools that Made the Sails, given by a chap in a red beret. While the subject promised to be quite interesting (these people worked in terrible conditions in the East End, usually in squalor), it paid little attention to the people and more about the actual sail making tools (sail palms, prickers, stitch heavers and needles, to name but a few). Slide after slide of specialised tools were explained and dissected until I drifted off into a deep and satisfying slumber.

I’ll just add that the guy giving the talk opened a museum of knots and sailor’s ropework back in 1996. Enough said.

Apart from that session and one about JM Turner and his ship paintings, the symposium was well worth attending and now it’s just a long wait for the proceedings to be published and the subsequent more indepth information to be delivered.

Knocker White

Knocker White

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1 Response to Making ships

  1. Mum says:

    Its a shame that a lot of people know there subject backwards and forwards when they are doing it but when it comes to giving the Talk there is always something that’s let them down.
    Love mum xx


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