Shieldhall on the Clyde
Port of registryUnited Kingdom Glasgow
BuilderLobnitz & Co., Renfrew, Scotland
Yard number1132
Laid downOctober 1954
Launched7 July 1955
CompletedOctober 1955
In service16 October 1955
FatePreserved as Museum ship
StatusIn service
General characteristics
Tonnage1,792 GT[1]
Length81.69 m (268 ft 0 in)
Beam13.56 m (44 ft 6 in)
Draught4.11 m (13 ft 6 in)
Installed power2 triple-expansion steam engines of 800 IHP each
PropulsionTwin screw
  • Service: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
  • Maximum: 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph)
Capacity1800 tons of sludge and 80 passengers

SS Shieldhall is a preserved steamship that operates from Southampton. She is one of the last reciprocating steam engined ships built, using technology that dated back to the last quarter of the 19th century and which was obsolete at the time of her construction.[2] She spent her working life as one of the "Clyde sludge boats", making regular trips from Shieldhall in Glasgow, Scotland, down the River Clyde and Firth of Clyde past the Isle of Arran, to dump treated sewage sludge at sea. These steamships had a tradition, dating back to the First World War, of taking organised parties of passengers on their trips during the summer. SS Shieldhall has been preserved and the accommodation is again being put to good use for cruises.


Passengers can go down into the engine room between the two steam engines.
Passengers can go down into the engine room between the two steam engines.

The 1,972-ton Shieldhall was laid down in October 1954, built by Lobnitz & Co. of Renfrew who also constructed the two triple expansion steam engines which are set vertically in a similar way to the much larger engines on the RMS Titanic. By the 1950s Lobnitz usually built its engines with enclosed crankcases but the Shieldhall was deliberately fitted with traditional open-crank engines. Glasgow Corporation had long allowed day-trippers access to the engine room of its ships while at sea and the older-style engines allowed passengers to see the workings of the engines in operation.

She was built on the classic lines of a 1920s steam tanker with a traditional wheelhouse of riveted and welded construction, a slightly raked stem and a cruiser stern. Her length is 268 feet (82 m) and breadth 44 feet 7 inches (13.59 m). Accommodation was provided for 80 passengers. She entered service in October 1955 and was operated by Glasgow Corporation to transport treated sewage sludge down the Clyde to be dumped at sea. She and her sister ships were jocularly known as Clyde banana boats as the livery resembled that of a well known banana shipping company.[3]

In 1976 after 21 years of service on the Clyde, Shieldhall was laid up, and in the following year was bought by the Southern Water Authority to carry sludge from Southampton, England, to an area south of the Isle of Wight.


SS Shieldhall moored at Custom House quay, Greenock in 2005.
SS Shieldhall moored at Custom House quay, Greenock in 2005.

Due to rising fuel prices she was withdrawn from service in 1985, then was taken over by a preservation society, The Solent Steam Packet Limited, which operates as a charity. All work associated with the Society and Shieldhall is carried out by unpaid volunteers. The remaining Glasgow sludge boats kept going into the 1990s, when changing environmental standards led to new ways of treating the sludge.[4]

She has been restored to sea-going condition, and is listed as part of the National Historic Fleet. Shieldhall is now a frequent sight around the Solent running excursions, crewed by volunteers. She has been to the Netherlands for the Dordrecht Steam Festival and has been at International Festivals of the Sea at Bristol and Portsmouth. Passengers are encouraged to visit the bridge and see the engine room, getting an understanding of the days of steam.

In 1999, the ship was used in Rede Globo's Brazilian telenovela "Terra Nostra", playing a fictional Italian ship Andrea I.[citation needed]

In July 2005, Shieldhall made a return visit to the Clyde, taking part in the River Festival in Glasgow, and berthing at Custom House Quay, Greenock. She made a number of excursions, taking passengers on cruises from Greenock on her old route down the Clyde to Arran.

Shieldhall in "White Star" livery on Southampton Water
Shieldhall in "White Star" livery on Southampton Water

In 2012, to mark the centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic, Shieldhall was repainted in the same White Star Line livery of black hull, white upper works, and buff funnel as the liner.

A £1.4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was announced, in April 2013, for essential hull works to meet modern regulations, improved passenger facilities and interpretation.[5] Further grants were made in 2019 and 2020.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Technical information – Steamship Shieldhall".
  2. ^ Willis, Sam; Mackenzie, Graham. "Titanic in Miniature' – The Wonderful ss Shieldhall". The Society for Nautical Research. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  3. ^ Patience, Kevin; MacKenzie, Graham (2003). Shieldhall, A "Clyde Banana Boat". Solent Steam Packet Ltd.
  4. ^ Shieldhall Sewage Works, The Glasgow Story
  5. ^ "SS Shieldhall project boosted by £1.4m lottery grant". BBC News Online. 2 April 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  6. ^ "SS Shieldhall - Steaming Towards a Resilient Future". National Heritage Memorial Fund. 20 March 2019. Archived from the original on 29 September 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  7. ^ "Steamship Shieldhall receives UK National Lottery funding to prepare for post-pandemic sailings". Nautilus International. 27 July 2020. Archived from the original on 18 January 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.

Coordinates: 50°54′29″N 1°26′31″W / 50.907950°N 1.441965°W / 50.907950; -1.441965