Category Archives: Steam power

Wanted: Capstan cigarette brand drifter poster

Wills Capstan poster

Fishing boat author, editor and all round herring expert Mike Smylie (AKA Kipperman) is on the hunt for an original example of this fabulous old poster showing a steam drifter in rough weather.

If anyone has one they would be happy to sell, please either drop me a line at and I’ll pass the message on, or contact Mike via his website! : the Internet’s leading database of paddle steamers past and present


I am delighted to have discovered the wonderful – a must-read for anyone with an interest or affection for these smooth-running, shallow draft vessels.

I developed a liking for them as a kid, when the (now sadly demolished) Lincoln Castle and the Tattershall Castle were working as ferries across the Humber, before the mighty and reliable but rather less interesting bridge was built.

There are pages about paddlesteamers in and out of service around the world, but I’ll include these links to working vessels around the UK: the lovely Kingswear Castle, the little Monarch (to my shame, I didn’t know she was built at Hoo in Kent) and the mighty Waverley.


Does anyone know the story of the steam yacht Lady Nell?

Liz Jones has written to ask for information and photos about the steam yacht Lady Nell, which was built 1884 for Lord Shrewsbury, as she has a gavel inscribed with the yacht’s name. If you have information you’d like to share, please email me at and I’ll pass on the message.

Here’s what she says:

‘As you can see, the gavel is wooden, and is about 30cm long.

‘Lady Nell was sold to the Uruguayan Navy in about 1890 – her new owners fitted her with guns. She then becamse a training ship, then the headquarters of a local rowing club, then a heap of wood in the mud of a tributary of the main river in Uruguay in 1950, so she had a long life.

This link includes some information, although Google translates it quite amusingly. The letters ‘ST’ are for ‘Shrewsbury Talbot’ – Talbot is the Shrewsbury family name.

‘Lord Shrewsbury (great grandfather of the present earl) use to run hansom cabs in London, which also had ST painted on them. But that doesn’t explain why a gavel…

And now I think I’d better clean it up.’

I Googled about a bit and found a website that had this to say:

‘Ceremonial gavels (right) are presented to recognize a person or commemorate an event. These typically have an inscription attached to the gavel on a metal band, or lettered in paint directly in the wood. As collectibles, they are worth more if the recipient was a famous person or if they commemorate a significant historical event.’

It also seems they were sometimes made from the timbers of famous vessels. Since the Lady Nell ended her days so far from her original home, I’d guess this is a ceremonial gavel, rather than one made from her timbers.