This page is an entry in Shonas Wreck Guide.
Few ships are as impressive as the shieldhall as any diver who visits her will testify. Registered with a gross tonnage of 1792, she was built by Lobnitz & Co (The same people who built the St Dunstan in Lyme Bay) in Renfrew in 1955 as a cargo steamer for Glasgow Corporation. With an overall length of 285 ft, beam of 43 ft and draft of 13 ft, she plied her Ďtradeí up and down the Clyde for 20 years.
The first thing that strikes the diver is her overall appearance and construction. Although built in the fifties, she was put together using traditional materials and methods, just as ships like her were being scrapped!. You can still see the traditional riveted hull and teak decks when you first come across her, and she was laid out in traditional style with central wheelhouse making her look like a much older vessel.
From the bow, the diver passes over the steam winch, which was used for raising anchor and pulling hawsers, past the ships bell, and down onto the foredeck, passing the focísle opening. Other than the deck cargo loading derricks, the foredeck is featureless as the forward hold is not open from above and access is not very easy. From here, the diver can look astern and get an impressive view of the wheelhouse and flying bridge. Rising up the starboard side of the central structure, you pass the pursers office before coming across the starboard bridge wing. One of the two bridge telegraphs still stands here, waiting to transmit instructions to the engine room. The diver can go through the bridge, past the helm and compass binnacle and emerge on the port side, before dropping down to the boat deck where both lifeboats are still visible in their davits. From this position, you can peer down through the saloon skylight and still see the galley machinery.
Going aft from here, passing the single stack and steam whistles, you come across the engine room skylight. Access is possible here, but itís easier to drop down to the main deck and enter from either side. From the top of the engine room you can make out the cylinder heads of her two massive triple expansion steam engines, capable of pushing her along with 1600 ihp. Dropping down past the cylinder heads, you come to the engine room floor. From here, you can explore both engines, condensers and numerous steam pumps and auxiliaries. To the front of the engine room can be seen her two massive oil-fired Scotch type boilers, which provided power for the whole ship. Rising up
The sheildhall lies in approx position 40,52,20N 01,19,34W and is well worth a visit. As she is intact, and still has all of her brasswork, I would urge you to leave you hammers and chisels at home as itís rare to see a ship in such an original condition.
This all sounds to good to be true - but it is!. The Shieldhall is one of the last examples of a traditional steamer still afloat. She's run by a dedicated group of volunteers who maintain and operate her in tip-top condition.
This is a MUST for any wreck diver to visit. She's an absolute joy to explore, and her engine room is an education in itself. Better yet is to book a day out on her on one of her may 'cruises' throughout the year. This will give you a better appreciation of her splendour, when you can stand in the middle of the engineroom whilst her triple-expansion steam engines are in full operation.
Run by the Solent Steam Packet Ltd, the Shieldhall is currently located at 48 Berth, Eastern Docks, Southampton, and is open to the public between 11am and 5pm. They are happy to take parties around the ship and will also give illustrated talks to interested parties. For further details phone the ship on 023 80 230405 to check sailing schedules and opening times.