Steamship SS Robin & Pontoon
Mackenzie and McAlpine
- Original design
- Mackenzie and McAlpine, 1890
The 2020 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2021 programme mid August 2021
SS Robin is internationally recognized as being the only complete Victorian steam ship in existence and the only one left fitted with original steam engine and boiler. She is also the last large coastal cargo steam ship surviving of several thousand built around the world between 1850 and 1950.
A unique relic from when Britain’s Empire was at its height and London was the world centre for maritime trade and shipbuilding, SS Robin was built by Mackenzie, McAlpine and Co of Orchard House Yard, Bow Creek, Blackwall. She was launched in 1890 and sailed UK and continental waters, carrying a variety of cargo under several owners before ending her career in Spain in 1974, by then the last of her kind still sailing.
Saved from scrap by the Maritime Trust she steamed back to the UK to be restored, preserved and opened as a museum ship at a range of London locations, with thousands of visitors onboard over a forty year period. Run by dedicated volunteers she has been supported by grant making trusts and through donations from public and private benefactors ever since.
She is cared for by us the SS Robin Trust a registered charity in partnership with nearby Trinity Buoy Wharf (Urban Space Management) and others.
Moored less than a mile from where she was built, Robin sits in London’s greatest urban regeneration zone; the ‘Royal Docks’ dating from 1855 and made up of 3 kilometres of water, once the largest of its kind in the world. The water, dockside edges and derelict land which surrounds them are to be transformed to become a cultural and heritage destination to match central London and Greenwich in scale and offer.
The Trust aims to support these plans, perhaps as part of a wider London themed collection of historic boats with SS Robin as the ‘mother ship’ at its centre as a new open air museum collection for the visiting public. With almost no mooring spaces in London, this is a golden opportunity for the small number of historic vessels surviving.
SS Robin due to her age, condition and historical rarity no longer floats, but instead sits on a specially constructed display platform or Pontoon, currently moored beside Millennium Mills, opposite the ExCel Centre.
The mighty Pontoon built in 2010 with its huge interior space is designed to contain museum, cafe, classrooms, toilets and services not yet installed. With plans for the Royal Docks underway these spaces are perfect for temporary pop up events and other exciting meanwhile uses.
SS Robin is in good condition having been restored and painted externally in 2010-11. Interior spaces of the ship require some restoration works to allow full public access onboard. The Victorian steam engine requires refurbishment so that it can be turned for display, some cabins need to be reinstated to represent the era when the ship was launched and a few missing parts need to be faithfully replicated. Sound, light, interpretation and artefacts are needed to bring the ship back to life to give visitors a taste of life at sea.
1st Framework presents an international, inter-generational collaboration inspired by French Artist Dominique Pinchi and his remarkable seven-metre sculpture ‘The Shield of Achilles’ as described in Homers epic poem The Iliad which was exhibited in Venice during the Biennale 2019 at Thetis Culture and Ecology Centre.
The Shield appears in poem during the final stages of the gruesome ten year Trojan War. The symbols of the images on The Shield represent the key elements required for future protection of a balanced harmonious civic society: including dancing groups, farmers, crops, cities at war, at peace, justice, the moon, stars, constellations, sea, justice and many other visual metaphors. The poem was relayed by word of mouth across Europe from the late bronze age to the point where it was written down for the first time in the great library at Alexandria c. 280 BC.
The intricate seven-metre sculpture will be installed in the vast cargo hold. Taking two years to build, it was recently shown in the ancient dockyard Arsenale of Venice by the culture, ecology and engineering group Thetis.