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British Industrial History

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PS Marjory

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Steam ship Marjory built by William Denny. Some sources say she was built by John Wood and Co with engines by James Cook (see note below)

1814 December. Announcement of the arrival in London in a very quick time [1]

1814 December First steam boat constructed in England started from the canal near Limehouse. About forty tons and carries two to three hundred passengers. Another of two hundred tons is being built to run between London and Ramsgate. [2]

1815 January. 'The public are respectfully informed, that the NEW LONDON STEAM-ENGINE PACKET, Marjory, Captain Cortis[3], will start precisely at 10 o'clock on Monday morning, the 23rd instant, from Wapping Old Stairs, near the London Docks, to Milton, below Gravesend, and will return from thence on the same hour on the succeeding morning to the same stairs; the said packet having superb accommodations passengers and their luggage will be conveyed to and fro, with more certain speed and surety than on any other conveyance, by water or land and on reasonable terms. Passengers are requested to be punctual to the time specified'. [4]

1815 October. Announcement of a service from Tower Steps to Milton near Gravesend. [5]

She was bought by Pierre Andriel as Margery, and renamed Élise. The Élise departed from Newhaven on 17 March, with a heavy sea. At midnight, a tempest broke out, and Andriel had to threaten his own crew at gun point and award three bottles of rum to the first man to spot the French coast. After 17 hours of sea, the Élise reached Le Havre.

1816 March. She sailed from Newhaven on the 17th March 1816 and after a stormy voyage across the Channel reached Le Havre after 17 hours at sea, the first paddle steamer to make the crossing. She then sailed down the Seine to receive a tumultuous welcome on arrival in Paris, the occasion being celebrated with the issue of a coloured print inscribed; Arrivée de Londres à Paris le 29 Mars 1816 du bateau à vapeur 'Elise'

1816 March. 'A Mr. Pierre Andriel one of the company of undertakers for acceletaed navigation. has arrived here (Havre) from London in the Eliza steam-boat which was built at London. This vessel was navigated by Captain Curtis, one of Fulton's fellow workmen, who has agreed to devote his talents to the application of this useful discovery to the rivers and waters of France. It is proposed that this steam-boat shall navigate the Seine as far as Paris.' [6]

1816 April. 'The Elise steam-boat, which left Paris on the 11th, at half past seven in the morning, arrived at Rouen at six in the evening of the 12th, having been obliged to lie-to by the fogs on account of the islets in the Seine near Andelys. The vessel will, it is said, be established as a regular passenger-boat between Rouen and Elbouf'. [7]


  • Displacement: 70 tons
  • Length: 21 m
  • Propulsion: Steam engine, 14 shp
  • Speed: 6 knots

Margery 1815/15 [8]

The Marjory is generally accepted as the first passenger steamer to work regularly on the Thames: she was built of wood in 1814, at Dumbarton, by William Denny, founder of the famous firm of W. Denny and Brothers, Dumbarton. (These details are accepted as being correct although the following sources state that it was built by J. and C. Cook and Co., Glasgow:- Charles Knight, 1842[9]; The History of Waterman's Co. Vol. 3. 1874; Sandham, Proc. Inst. Mech. Engs., March 1885; Paddle Wheel Steam Navigation; Ravenhill, Proc. Inst. Naval Architects, 1880; Passenger Steamers on the Long Ferry, Aylmer; Early London River Steamers, 'The Engineer', 9/9/1932.)

The Marjory was built to the order of Mr. Anderson, a Glasgow merchant. She was of 70 tons burthen, 63 feet in length and had an engine of 14 n.h.p.

After running on the Clyde she came via the Forth and Clyde canal to the Thames in January, 1815, and ran between London and Gravesend making the passage between the two places on alternate days; she is said to have continued to ply for a few months. during which time, it was no uncommon thing for her to lay up for several days at a time for repairs. At the end of her first season she was withdrawn. (Aylmer quotes her as running up to 1858)

At Gravesend pasengers landed and embarked in rowing boats. The Waterman's History states that 'Proceedings under the Waterman's Act were taken against the Captain for navigating the vessel, and his place was then taken by a freeman of the Waterman's Company.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, December 1, 1814
  2. The Morning Chronicle, Friday, December 16, 1814
  3. Possible Captain Richard Cortis of Hull
  4. The Times, Saturday, Jan 21, 1815
  5. The Morning Post, Saturday, October 31, 1815
  6. The Times, Tuesday, Mar 26, 1816
  7. The Times, Monday, Apr 22, 1816
  8. Steamers of the Thames and Medway by Frank Burtt. 1949
  9. The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Difussion of Useful Knowledge, by Charles Knight, 1842, Volume 22