Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,467 pages of information and 233,893 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

PS Lelia

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During the American Civil War, the Confederacy responded to being blockaded by building ironclad ships to defeat the blockading fleets as well as commerce raiders to sink Union shipping and draw their warships away from the blockade. Neither of these strategies proved ultimately successful. They also acquired fast steamships, mainly paddle steamers, from British and other shipbuilders. They hoped that these could breach the blockade by a combination of speed and stealth, carrying cotton and tobacco out and war supplies back in. The Lelia was one such steamship, built in Millers shipyard in Toxteth, Liverpool. She is recorded as having steel frames and shell plating (a steel ship would be lighter than an iron vessel of the same size). Although steel was difficult to obtain in the necessary quantities or quality, Millers was one of a number of Liverpool shipbuilders experimenting with the use of steel. The use of steel would allow greater cargo space and greater speed, highly desirable characteristics for blockade runners.

1865 Left Liverpool for Bermuda on her maiden voyage on 14th January 1865. The Lelia foundered in Liverpool Bay as a result of the force of the weather, with the loss of 47 lives. Another 7 lives were lost when the Liverpool No 1 lifeboat was lost whilst being towed out to pick up Lelia survivors from the NW Lightship.

1990s The wreck was discovered and identified in the early 1990s when a bell marked ‘Lelia 1864’ was recovered. In 1997 a diving inspection was undertaken by the Archaeological Diving Unit. An abortive diving investigation was carried out by RDF Media in 2003 for an episode to the Wreck Detectives TV series and Chris Michael published his research into the wreck in 2004.

2019 The survey company Osiris carried out a sidescan sonar survey; its successor company Bibby HydroMap recently carried out a high quality multibeam survey.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Historic England