S.V. Penang

The S.V. Penang was a three-masted steel barque built in 1905 in Germany, and was originally named the “Albert Rickmers”. In 1910 she was sold, renamed Penang and used in the South American nitrate trade. After a few more changes of ownership, in 1923 she was sold to the Finn Gustaf Erikson and used in the Australian wheat trade. This trade made her a frequent visitor to Millwall Docks.

S.V. Penang in Australia

Mozart (left) and Penang (right) off Falmouth in 1933:

mozart and penang 33

Mozart and Penang

On 7th July 1934, this photo was taken of Millwall scouts paying the S.V. Penang a visit while she was in Millwall Docks. In the photo are, left to right, Jack Blackshaw (Mellish St), Arthur Cole (Mellish St), Alf French (West Ferry Rd), Henry Anderson (Tooke St), Victor Spring (Scoutmaster), William Summerskill (Mellish St), Dave Lewis (Tooke St) and Len Hickman (Mellish St). The man on the bowsprit is a member of the ship’s crew.


Photo: Island History Trust

Around the same time as the visit by the scouts, the S.V. Penang was moored in the Britannia Dry Dock for maintenance and repairs. This photo shows how necessary these repairs were.

S.V. Penang

S.V. Penang

This dry dock was located approximately where Mast House Terrace is now, off West Ferry Rd near Cahir St. Here is an old map that shows the dry dock and its surroundings. The P.H., by the way, is the Ironmongers’ Arms, which was approximately half way between the Magnet and the Vulcan.


Map of Britannia Dock area.

This magnificent photo shows the S.V. Penang in Britannia Dry Dock, looming over the back yards of the houses on Deptford Ferry Rd and Totnes Cottages.

Embed from Getty Images

The houses in both these streets were out-and-out slums, and had already been condemned in 1899.

The houses were now squeezed between industrial sites and were at the end of their useful life. They were shabby, insanitary and structurally unsound. It was becoming obvious that the estate would have to be redeveloped on reversion. Only the public house and the beerhouses seemed of much value. A new lease of the Magnet and Dewdrop was granted in 1899 and new leases of the Vulcan and the Ironmongers’ Arms were sold to brewers in 1916.

Plans for redevelopment drawn up in 1916 by George Hubbard, the Ironmongers’ surveyor, were set aside because of the war, and as the leases fell in the company took over direct management of the houses, which were now falling to bits. Several were subject to closing and demolition orders. Despite the wartime shortage of labour and materials, a gang of builders worked continually on urgent repairs, but the estate remained in ‘deplorable’ condition.

The former Welcome Institute [run by Mrs Jean Price, who opened a new institute on East Ferry Rd, which later became Dockland Settlement] and the house next door had already been pulled down when, in May 1919, the freeholds of the estate were put up for auction. Of eight lots, only two, the Ironmongers’ Arms and the Magnet and Dewdrop, made more than the reserve. Most of the houses failed to sell, and the old pasture failed even to draw a bid.

Totnes Cottages were demolished c1936. Totnes Terrace (by then renamed Mast House Terrace) was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.

– British History Online

Another interesting photo taken at the time is this view from the path that ran south along the wall of St. Andrews Union Wharf towards Totnes Cottages.

Embed from Getty Images

And this view from the other side of the ship, in Deptford Ferry Rd.


Deptford Ferry Rd

The S.V. Penang also did not survive the war. Sailing from Australia, it disappeared in 1940. A few months later, Berlin Radio announced that she had been torpedoed and sunk off the Irish cost by the German U-boat U-140 with the loss of 18 lives on 8 December 1940. There were no survivors.

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4 Responses to S.V. Penang

  1. Some great photos here , the ships over the houses are amazing !

  2. Jim Campbell says:

    I knew a man called James (family name) he lived next door to us Warren Road Donaghadee. He was AB on the Penang and sailed twice round the Horn on her. He was a lighthouse keeper. I could be mistaken, but it was one of the P boats.

  3. John Line says:

    Has anybody got information or images of 85/87 West Ferry Road during the early 1900’s.
    My family ‘J Line’ were Cartage Contractors and also seed merchants in that era.
    Any assistance would be invaluable in tracking down the proud history of family on the island.
    Thank you
    John Line

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