MEMORY LANE: Sail back in time to solve ship mystery

LEFT TO ROT: The Duke left high and dry in Hartlepool after being pulled from the water in around 1992.
LEFT TO ROT: The Duke left high and dry in Hartlepool after being pulled from the water in around 1992.
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MYSTERY surrounds the final resting place of a Victorian pleasure steamer which may - or may not - have ended her days in Hartlepool.

Derek Hinds, editor of shipping journal Tees Packet, is appealing for help from Mail readers on tracing the whereabouts of the grand old vessel Duke of York.

BUILT TO CRUISE: The Duke of York pictured on the River Thames when it was working as a passenger cruiser.

BUILT TO CRUISE: The Duke of York pictured on the River Thames when it was working as a passenger cruiser.

“Before work on the marina started, around what is now the Old West Quay pub, several boats were lifted out of the water and onto the quayside,” he said.

“This area was originally known as the Ballast Quay, as it was where sailing ships of old loaded and unloaded ballast as they made their way between ports.

“The Duke of York was among the boats lifted onto this quay in the early 1990s. She sat there for several years, and I’d like to know what happened to her.”

Derek’s interest was sparked at a recent North East Tug Society meeting, when he was shown a photo of Duke - prompting him to seek out details of her history.

The Duke of York was among the boats lifted onto this quay in the early 1990s. She sat there for several years, and I’d like to know what happened to her.

Derek Hinds, editor, Tees Packet

All attempts failed, however, until he contacted Robert Beale - author of books on Lake District ships - who identified her as a River Thames pleasure boat.

“She was built in 1894 as a single-screw steamer by Edward Finn, of Isleworth, to carry up to 120 passengers on pleasure trips along the Thames,” Derek said.

“The Duke continued this work until 1914, when she was sold to Joseph Mears - who ran a large fleet of steamboats. She was then used on the river until 1941.”

The Blitz saw London repeatedly targeted by the Luftwaffe during this time and so, when the Duke of York sank, she was left to rot in the water until 1945.

“She wasn’t needed for the war effort and only raised after it ended. She was then sold on to the Cattell family, who took her to Chersey Meads,” said Derek.

“In 1946 she was moved to Laleham Reach, where she was used as a houseboat until 1982. After that she was sold to unknown owners, who took her to Windsor.”

The Duke was quickly sold on again, to a Mr Hole, who had her towed out of the Thames and up to Hartlepool - where she was lifted out of the water around 1992.

“Whilst she was on the quayside at Hartlepool, an attempt was started to restore her,” said Derek.

“But caulking between the planking started to come out as she was being stripped, causing problems. I think the owner lost heart after that.

“Then, as plans moved ahead to create the marina we know today, the site had to be cleared and it was decided that the Duke be broken up.

“But I don’t know what happened to her after that. Was she burned up on the quayside, or was she taken away to be restored? I hope someone knows.”

• Can you shed any light on the fate of the Duke? Contact Derek via email at derek.hinds@ntlworld.com