The Doric Columns
William Rennie - Marine Designer
‘NORMAN COURT’ Built 1869.
William Rennie was a Scottish Naval Architect, Shipbuilder and Ship-owner who operated a Shipbuiding Yard in Footdee Aberdeen and sought further success in Nova Scotia but returned to Liverpool to become a Shipbuilding Partner and operate as a freelance designer of China Clippers. He also worked out of Rotherhithe, London.
Earl of Eglinton - frigate wrecked at St Margarets Bay in 1859. Her bell was recovered and housed at Buckland School, in Dover which had been newly built and stood on a frame outside having been purchased from the salvage by the church for a few shillings.
model ship, called the Fusilier, was launched, on Tuesday, from the yard
of Messrs. Rennie, Johnson, and Rankin, at the Dingle. This
handsome craft, which was designed by Mr. Rennie, is of the following
Empress Eugenie was launched, on Wednesday, about noon, from the yard of
Messrs,. Rennie, Johnson, and Rankin, in the presence of a large company.
The launch was superintended by Mr. Rennie. The Empress Eugenie is
the property of the Northwest of France Steam Navigation Company, and her
managing owners are Messrs. McClune and Tamplin, of this town. Her dimensions
As a rule these famous clippers were designed in the drawing lofts of their builders; in fact, there were only 2 outside designers of any note, Bernard Waymouth, Secretary of Lloyd's Register, and William Rennie. Waymouth was responsible for the lines of the Leander and Thermopylae, whilst Rennie designed Fiery Cross, Black Prince, Norman Court, and John R Worcester.
The Lord Seaton, a barque built in 1840, sailing regularly to North America. It was built at Miramichi River, New Brunswick in Canada by Joseph Cunard and Company and supervised by a William Rennie who had previously worked in the ship building industry in Aberdeen. Joseph Cunard ran a shipyard in the Miramichi area in partnership with his brother, Samuel Cunard, the founder of the Cunard line. Cunard’s shipbuilding activities were extensive. A number of vessels were built for him in the years 1827–38, but by 1839 he had two shipyards of his own in Chatham. There he had at least 43 vessels built, including the Velocity, the 1st steamboat constructed on the Miramichi, which was launched in 1846. Cunard began building ships at Bathurst in 1839 and from 1841 to 1847 was the only shipbuilder in the area. Between 1839 and 1847 he built at least 24 vessels at Bathurst. At his shipyards at Richibucto and Kouchibouguac, which began operations around 1840, he had at least 9 vessels constructed in the years 1840–47.
A Mr. Rennie travelled on the steamer St. George from St. John's, Newfoundland to Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to newspaper "Voyage Notes," July 14, 1851
Rennie in London
Between 1860 and 1887 the King and Queen Dock at Rotherhithe (formerly the King and Queen Lower Yard) was held by William Rennie a noted naval architect and designer of Clippers but most of his designs were built elsewhere. Yards in the area included Nelson Dock Co Ltd, Rotherhithe; J & R B Brown, Rotherhithe; Johnson & Co, Millwall; R&H Green, Blackwell
Nelson Dock dates from before 1800 but it up until the 1820s
it was known as the yard at Cuckold's point. Rankin suggests that the
name change came about when the lease was taken by a shipwright named Nelson
Wake. After the Randalls and Brents left the yard in 1818 it
was split into 2 sections.
Correspondence with Robert Todd Nicols of Barings, concerning the extensive refit proposed for the ship in order to obtain an extension of her A1 certificate at Lloyds Specification and estimate of the work necessary; estimating the total value of the ship at about £6,000. ‘Composite ships are now quite out of favour, and nobody would think of building them on account of the expense - and indeed the price going for them indicates that -something like £4 per ton...’
Such a change in value would have indicated a reduction in the demand for Rennies expertise in building composite clippers
Rennie's Aberdeen Built Ships
Subscribing Owners: Alexander Adam, Shoemaker, 12 shares; James Hector, Salmon
Boiler, 12 shares; Robert Gilbert, Shipmaster, 8 shares.
Intent Date: 23rd Nov
1826 Fishing Lugger
Barbara - Launched in March 1829
Built in 1829 but only recorded in the Shipping Registers on 12th April 1830 .
Built with Birch & Oak and listed in Lloyds in 1840 as a Schooner.
1 Deck, 2 Masts, Hermaphrodite Rigged, Standing Bowsprit, Square Sterned, Carvel
British built, no Galleries or Figurehead.
Ariel was a clipper ship famous for making fast voyages between China and England in the late 1860s.
Ariel was a full rigged ship of 853 tons net register, measuring 197.4 feet (60.2M) x 33.9 feet x 21 feet (6.4M). She was designed by William Rennie, and built in 1865 by Robert Steele & Co., Greenock for Shaw, Lowther & Maxton of London. Like most tea clippers she was composite built, of timber planking over iron frames. Ariel is most famous for almost winning The Great Tea Race of 1866, an unofficial race between Foochow, China and London with the first tea crop of the 1866 season.
‘ARIEL;’ Built 1865.
Composite ship. Fast Tea Clipper that sailed well against all others in
her tea races. She was part of the finish of the great tea race of 1866
when she and 2 other ships; ‘Taeping’ and ‘Serica’ arrived in England, all on
the same tide having left China almost at the same time.
One of the problems with the Clippers was loss of buoyancy at the stern, which could cause a heavy sea to swamp the stern. A famous clipper with this tendency was Ariel. In 1886, the Ariel and another Scottish ship, the Taeping, raced neck and neck to Britain with a fresh cargo of tea. They arrived so close to each other that prize money for the achievement was divided between them.
Although her fine lines gave her a good turn of speed, there were several occasions when the Ariel was swamped by seas washing over her stern. When the ship disappeared without trace in 1872, it was assumed that high seas had washed her helmsman overboard and engulfed the vessel herself.
Sea King (or the Shenandoa of the American Civil War)
Built of iron by A Stephen and Son of Glasgow, for Robertson and Co of London, who ordered her for the lucrative China Tea trade. She arrived in Auckland on January 27th 1863 as the Sea King. Those were the days of the Maori wars, and under the command of Captain Pinel, she brought Colonel Williams and other officers, 185 non-coms, men of the first battalion, 4th Brigade Royal Artillery, plus 23 women and 43 children to the young settlement. This fine vessel made a rapid passage from Woolwich to Auckland in 77 days, mostly under sail. She had auxiliary engines, which were only used on the odd occasion.
Fiery Cross l
ship built in
Rennie, Johnson & Rankin,
Liverpool - Launched at the shipyard of Thomas
Vernon & Son, Liverpool, who had taken over after the bankruptcy of Rennie,
Johnson & Rankin. Launched 31st July.
Fiery Cross II
‘FIERY CROSS’ Built 1860. Wood ship of 695 Tons. Length; 185 ft. Breadth; 31.7 ft. Depth; 19.2 ft. Built by Chaloner of Liverpool for J Campbell. Master; Captain Dallas then Captain Richard Robinson. This vessel was the longest surviving Tea Clipper. She should not be confused with the ‘Fiery Cross’ that was wrecked in 1859. The vessel shown here was sold to the Norwegians in 1889-90. [ Tea Clipper and Passenger ship]
My great grandfather George Murray was captain of the 'Fiery Cross' from 1870 -73 (From Lloyds register he departed Shanghai 4/12/72 arrived London 2/4/1873 -119 days)
The famous British Clipper Fiery Cross built by Chaloner of Liverpool in 1860, was the winner of the premium for the 1st ship home on no less than 4 occasions.- note the double spars
Designed by William Rennie - Equipped with Cunningham's roller reefing top-sails and steel masts
The great danger attending the operation of reefing topsails in heavy weather by the usual mode of men laying-out on the yards, and gathering up and confining the sail to the spars by reef-points and earings, and that fearful accidents are of frequent occurrence on such occasions. Mr. Cunningham's plan of reefing from the deck proposed to mitigate these dangers; and favourable reports of a large number of experienced Captains, who tested the system and acknowledged great benefits from it. Mr. Cunningham was successful in the accomplishment of his object when he patented his laudable and ingenious invention; having it generally adopted, particularly among the merchant marine. The sail can be close-reefed in heavy weather by one man and a boy, in 2.5 seconds - an operation which, under the old system, would occupy at least half an hour, and require many men. The yard necessarily turns round as it descends the topmast, and the sail is rolled up accordingly. By hoisting the yard is par-buckled up, and the sail unrolled.
Roller reefing involves rolling or wrapping the sail around a spar to reduce the sail's exposure to the wind. The mainsail is wrapped around a boom which contains a mechanism in the gooseneck that rolls in the sail. These later systems were known as mainsail furling systems. Furling systems can be controlled with lines led to the deck or some other safe position, so that the sail can be reefed without going aloft. Roller reefing also allows a more gradual reefing than conventional or jiffy reefing. The downside is that the furled sail seldom has an optimal shape and that replacing or repairing the sail was more difficult
Great Tea Race of 1866
Cross - Lines
SS Black Prince
‘BLACK PRINCE’ Built 1863. Composite ship of 750 Tons. Length; 183 ft. Breadth; 35 ft. Depth; 19.6 ft, Built by A Hall and Co for Baring Brothers. Master: Captain Inglis. Used as a British Tea Clipper and she ended her days lost in the Java sea. [Passenger and Tea Clipper]
BLACK PRINCE'S Captain (Inglis) was criticised for being too cautious and never achieving the vessel's full speed. But Captain Inglis was a major shareholder in his ship and made sure that it did return very good profits.
SS Norman Court
Stuart Hodgson, Esq. of Surrey, in conjunction with his partners of the firm of Baring Bros & Company, enlisted William Rennie to design the Norman Court, (named after the home of the Barings in Salisbury Wilts.). Although ostensibly built for Baring Bros., the chief shareholder was one Charles L. Norman, a Merchant of London.
Norman Court was a composite built clipper ship, designed by William Rennie, measuring 197.4 ft x 33 ft x 20 ft, of 833.87 tons net. The ship was built in 1869 by A. & J. Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow. On the night of 29 March 1883 in a strong gale it was driven ashore and wrecked in Cymyran Bay, between Rhoscolyn and Rhosneigr, Anglesey. All bar 2 of the crew were saved by lifeboats from nearby Holyhead. Andrew Shewan was captain of the Norman Court from its launch until he retired in ill-health in 1873, following an extraordinarily difficult passage from China. His son, also Andrew Shewan, who had previously sailed as first mate, became captain. It was this son Andrew Shewan who recounted many tales of the ship and of the clipper ships in his book Great Days Of Sail: Reminiscences of a Tea Clipper Captain, published in 1926 when he could plausibly claim to be the last surviving Tea Clipper Captain. He died in December 1927.
Next to Cutty Sark the most important clipper launched in 1869 was the Norman Court. Designed by Rennie, she bore a strong family likeness to Fiery Cross and Black Prince, and was a very beautiful ship in every way. She should have been Rennie's masterpiece, but the builders made some slight deviation from his design in the moulding of the iron frames, which, though it did not interfere very much with her speed, made her more tender than she should otherwise have been. This little deviation was necessary in order to bring Rennie's measurements within the Lloyd's scantlings for a 1000-ton ship.
However, with the exception of this alteration which affected her stability, Norman Court had beautifully fair lines, and she was most perfectly built and finished. Unlike the Cutty Sark's, her iron work was especially good. In fact, a London blacksmith, who was employed repairing one of her trusses some years later, was so lost in admiration of her ironwork that he declared it must have been made by a watchmaker.
As to her deck fittings, her bulwarks were panelled in teak, with a solid brass rail on top all round. And even her foc's'le lockers were panelled better than those of many a ship's cabin. Norman Court, indeed, rivalled the Steele clippers in looks and beauty, and was considered at one time to be the prettiest rigged vessel sailing out of London.
She was very heavily sparred and extremely lofty, so lofty, indeed, that one 4th of July, when she was lying in Shanghai with several other clippers, including Thermopylae. The American superintendent of the Hankow Wharf came off with a star-spangled banner and asked Captain Shewan to fly it at his main truck, remarking that it would be seen further from there than from any other point within leagues of Shanghai. Captain Shewan was also asked whether he gave an apprentice a biscuit before he sent him up to furl the skysail. Indeed, if the Baring clipper had been as square as Thermopylae with her own loftiness she would have been very much over-hatted, but, luckily for her stability, she had a narrow sail plan.
Like most of the tea clippers, her masts were raked well aft, in fact, they had more rake than was usual, and this, Captain Shewan thought, rather spoilt her sailing in light winds. The chief reason for this rake was that it kept a wooden ship from diving too much into a head sea.
In her paces Norman Court was a bona fide tea clipper in every way - fast in light years, at her best with fresh whole sail beam winds but not the equal of Cutty Sark when the royals were fast, and perhaps a good half knot slower than the Willis crack when off the wind, for Norman Court's best point was to windward - indeed, she was one of the most weatherly of all the tea clippers. Owing to the way in which her bilge was carried right away to her stem (though there was nothing above the water line to stop her) she went into a sea like a rubber ball, and very rarely buried herself like some of the Aberdeen ships. She required careful watching, however, and if caught by the wind freeing 2 or 3 point in a squall when going close-hauled under a press of sail she would go over till the lee bunks of the midship house were underwater.
With regard to trim, she sailed best, especially running, when well down by the stern. On one occasion, when she left London for Sydney with a light load-line, Captain Shewan kept her on an even keel, but found that she not do as well as usual running the easting down. On the other hand, in 1871, when she made the fast run of 67 days to the South Cape, Tasmania, she was very deep with Manchester bales and nearly a foot by the stern. This trim gave her some splendid runs in the "roaring forties", but she also took a tremendous lot of heavy water over aft in making them. Once she left Macao in heavy weather with no chance to get her proper trim. This passage she sailed first rate on a wind, though very wet forward, and on her arrival she was found to be 6 inches by the head.
Norman Court could out-weather and out-sail the fleet on a wind but was not so fast running. Yet taking them all round there was very little difference in speed between the best known of the clippers, and in the racing one can safely say that their Captains had as much or more to do with their success or failure than the ships themselves. Sir Lancelot and Norman Court were a week in company going down the China Sea homeward bound in 1874. In the same year Norman Court and Kaisow were in sight of each other most of the way between Beachy Head and the line.
The Norman Court sank on 29th March 1883 after hitting the rocks in Cymyran Bay, near Rhosneigr, Anglesey. She had misjudged her passage past Anglesey on her way from Java to Glasgow (carrying sugar), and the winds were then too strong for her to escape.
A composite ship built in 1865 by Marine Investment Co. Ltd. (Patterson), Port Glasgow. Tonnage 844 GRT, 844 NRT and 781 tons under deck. Originally rigged with double main and fore top-sails and a main sky-sail. Judging from paintings the single mizzen top-sail was later replaced by a double. Reduced to barque rig before 1889
The John R. Worcester was designed by William Rennie built by the Marine Investment Co Ltd (Patterson, Port Glasgow, Scotland. The ship was 844 tons register and it measured 191 feet 5 inches (58.34M) long, 32 feet 4 inches (9.86M) wide, and 19 feet 9 inches (6.02Mm) deep
The John R. Worcester probably made its last tea run in 1877. Like most clippers, it was then shifted to the Australian wool trade. It was sold to John Stewart and Co. London, in 1884 and reduced to a barque rig. In 1889 it was sold to F. Lubrano, Castellamere, and was renamed L’Immacolata. It was grounded and dismantled in Naples in 1896 and hulked at Montevideo in 1902.
Rennie left for Nova Scotia returned to Liverpool to design and build china clippers
Two ships built in 1853, were the Gauntlet and Lord of the Isles from shipyards on the River Clyde. An engraving of the former published in the Illustrated London News described her as 'the most perfect clipper ship ever launched on the Clyde, and she appears more like a yacht of large tonnage than a private merchant ship.
William Rennie marine architect was building and designing ships in Liverpool and London
There is a William Rennie born about 1787 who married Margaret Neil. They are from Old Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland.
Liverpool Yards 1860
Most of the shipbuilding yards were situated along the foreshore to the south of the town in rather cramped conditions. Building wooden ships was the job of skilled craftsmen, usually working in small yards with minimal capital and equipment. Although the yards were paying dues to the Town Council, they were taking up space that many thought could be better utilised within the dock expansion programme. As a consequence, leases tended to be short, offering little stability in security of tenure. High rents were the norm given the geographical position, and shipbuilders were moved about without compensation. When the shipyard sites they occupied were finally required for dock extension, the tenants were turned out without compunction by the Town Council, often resulting in the closing of business. In 1850 the shipyards on the Liverpool side of the Mersey were situated to the west of Queen’s Dock (Baffin Street) - southwards to Aetna Street and also to the westward of the Brunswick Graving Docks - southwards to the Brunswick half-tide dock. The 4 principal shipyards in the Baffin Street area were, from north to south, Thomas Royden, Joseph Steel, & Co., T & R Clarke and P. Chaloner & Son. Clarke’s’ yard had no river frontage and had no alternative but to launch vessels into the nearby dock basin creating difficulties and dangers for those concerned. By the mid-19th century, there were 55 shipbuilders listed in the port. Only 16 appeared to have the capacity to actually build ships, while 10 were 'boat-builders' and the rest ship repairers. In 1849 only six of the 16 yards built ships. Ocean-going cargo vessels numbered 5, one a sail pilot cutter and 5 were paddle steamers. Most of the bigger yards migrated to the Wirral
Contemporaries - John Scott Russell,
Engineer and pioneering Naval Architect. Born in Glasgow and educated at the University of Glasgow, Russell was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, aged just 24. He later went on to work in London. He developed an interest in the construction of steam engines for road transport and set up a steam carriage service between Glasgow and Paisley in 1834.He is noted for his innovative work on ship design. He contributed significantly to the design of Brunel's Great Eastern, launched in 1858. In 1860, he designed HMS Warrior, the world's first ironclad battleship.
While testing a new experimental design on the Union Canal at Hermiston, he observed that a canal boat stopping suddenly gave rise to a solitary wave which travelled down the canal for several miles, without breaking up or losing strength. Russell named this phenomenon the 'soliton'. Russell built at 9.1m (30-foot) long tank at his home in Stafford Street in Edinburgh's New Town to study these waves. Today, similar waves are of key importance in carrying information along optical-fibre communications networks, which are the back-bone of the Telecommunications Industry and the Internet.
Scott was Secretary to the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851 and founded the Institution of Naval Architects. He published his landmark treatise The Modern System of Naval Architecture in 1865.
In 1995, the aqueduct which carries the Union Canal over the Edinburgh Bypass (A720) was named the Scott Russell Aqueduct in his memory.
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