PICTURES OF THE MONTH - December 2005

Capt Shippick's Audrey Transforms Thames & Medway Excursions

 

Capt Shippick became master of Cosens' Brodick Castle (pictured above) in 1908 and stayed with the ship until her withdrawal with boiler trouble in 1910. In the odd way that life sometimes pans out, this bit of bad news for Capt Shippick, depriving him of a command so soon after being promoted had, in the longer term, a seismic effect on excursion steamer sailings on the Thames and Medway.

 

In 1913, Capt Shippick took the plunge and left Cosens to set up his own business, buying the small clinker built paddle steamer Advance (pictured above). He renamed her Studland Belle and put her into service on local trips from Bournemouth, particularly to Studland Bay where passengers were landed on a pontoon which was towed ashore onto the beach.

 

Unfortunately the wooden hulled Studland Belle burnt out at her winter moorings in Poole Harbour and so, for 1914, Capt Shippick acquired the slightly larger Audrey. In this wonderful picture of her about to leave Bournemouth Pier, you can see the captain's arm extending out through the wheelhouse window to ring the engine room telegraph situated on the deck below. The caption on the picture calls the ship Stirling Castle. This is the photographer's mistake. This is not the Stirling Castle. This is the Audrey!

 

1914 was not a good year for the world in general with the outbreak of the First World War but, as is ever the case, wars can be good news for some and the war was good news for Capt Shippick. He and his Audrey were hired by the Admiralty for full time government work at Sheerness on the Medway.

 

After the war and now firmly established in a new area, Capt Shippick set up the New Medway Steam Packet Company to acquire the assets of the old Medway Steam Packet Co. He was off and with his excellent commercial sense expanded the company quite dramatically. In 1924 he had the Medway Queen built. In 1927 he bought two enormous Ascot Class Paddle Minesweepers, HMS Melton and HMS Atherstone which he renamed Queen of Thanet and Queen of Kent. Other vessels joined the fleet including the Queen of Southend ex Yarmouth Belle in 1928, The Rochester Queen ex Gertrude in 1932, the Clacton Queen ex Duchess of Kent in 1933 and  the Royal Daffodil ex Daffodil in 1934.  The following year he really hit the jackpot and stamped a new era on Thames excursion sailings by building the first of the giant Diesel excursion vessels Queen of the Channel which was followed two years later by the Royal Soveriegn.

 

After the war the Audrey continued her sailings on the Thames and Medway being much associated with the services between Sheerness, Southend and Herne Bay.

 

For 1929, her last season before being scrapped, she was billed to run short trips from Ramsgate where she is pictured above.

 Despite her small size, the Audrey has a big place in Thames and Medway excursion steamer history. Who knows how things might have turned out if Capt Shippick had not had his Brodick Castle sold from under him. Perhaps he would have stayed with Cosens for the rest of his career. He would not then have bought the Advance and the Audrey. Without the war he might not have moved to the Medway. The development of Thames and Medway excursions might have been very different had this chain of events not diverted the course of the career of this Cosens man with his considerable Cosens paddle steamer experience. 

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