IN THE East End more than a century ago a little cargo ship was built at Bow Creek, one of 1,500 made there between 1840 and 1956.
But the 366-tonne SS Robin, a “dirty British coaster”, as John Mansefield called the type, is not just still with us, it is one of only three London vessels in the National Historic Ships core collection. Aye, aye, me
At least it should be: what is thought to be the world’s oldest complete steamship rests on a pontoon in Royal Victoria Dock in need of more money to finish its restoration.
The trust now thinks that solely heritage use is unlikely and is looking into the possibility of more commercial ideas.
The National Historic Ships Register describes Robin as the “sole remaining representative” of the cargo steamers that comprised the British merchant fleet at its peak.
She worked around Britain and other parts of western Europe before threatened with being scrapped in 1974. Happily, she was brought back to England and eventually given to the Robin Trust. The Duke of Edinburgh became interested and is said to have started the campaign to have her restored.
The trust has been working with local schools and colleges to provide educational facilities, work experience, volunteering roles, tours and outreach events. It says: “We see our mission as being to work within the community.”
Now crowdfunding is the hope for this little piece of London history, languishing like a fish out of water and sadly only a mile from the East End creek where it emerged. Press this link if you think that should change.
David Altheer 230915
* Backstory: See Leamouth while you can
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.