New Book Charts Scilly’s Shipbuilding Heritage

town beach shipbuildingA new book on Scilly’s boatbuilding heritage has gone on sale.

Local historian Roger Banfield, whose family started the industry, has co-authored ‘Built On Scilly’ with Richard Larn.

It documents the business, which produced 176 ships between 1774 and 1891, and as many as 8 vessels in one year at the height of the industry.

The boats, often built for locals, sailed the world and documents have shown they regularly visited New Zealand, Hong Kong and the American Eastern Seaboard ports.

Scilly’s shipbuilding had an excellent reputation and Roger says insurers Lloyds of London gave the boats an A12 rating, meaning they were well-constructed and seaworthy for 12 years before checks were needed.

Unusually, at a time when they were rarely involved in business, a number of local women were shareholders in the ships.

Richard said he wanted to undertake the research because no one had recorded what is considered to have been a major part of island life.

The book contains pictures showing the extent of the operations of the 17 shipbuilders who were mainly based around Town Beach and Porthcressa.

It lists all the boats built here during the period.

Surprisingly, business was good even though all materials, other than those salvaged from wrecks, were imported.

And Richard says it wasn’t just raw materials that had to be brought over. Skilled shipwrights, sail makers, blacksmiths and plumbers were recruited nationally to fuel building demand.

The 1841 census reveals many family names that remain prominent here today, were evident back then, including Jenkins, Woodcock, Watts, Webb, Legg, Stevens, Sherris and Thomas.

The new book has gone on sale priced at £5.99.

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