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.

8 thoughts on “Does anyone know the story of the steam yacht Lady Nell?”

  1. My Grandfather was Valet to the Earl of Shrewsbury and served as chief steward. I have the menu book used on a cruise round the Med It has a coronet and initials ST on the front. I have details of the build details

    1. Hi Bob-I am putting together an article on the Lady Nell history from the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury to its decommission in Uruguay. Do you know what was the ships colour of hull? (black or dark blue?). What is the date of your menu. Thanks-John L

      1. John, A friend and I are also writing a history of Lady Nell. Our interest stems from our interest in the Earl of Shrewsbury. Can we exchange notes on our research?
        Stephen Lally

      2. John
        I didn’t click to receive replies. If you are good enough to reply, please do so here so it will come straight to me. Thanks. Stephen

    2. Bob. A friend and I are putting together a history of Lady Nell. Our interest is in the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot who had the yacht made. In 1902 he founded the Talbot car company and our interest lies there – in knowing more about the founder of this company that built the cars that we now own. We have a lot of information which we are about to publish in our club journal and a copy of this menu would be a great feature, no doubt demonstrating the Earl’s lifestyle. We would be delighted if you would send a copy and would be happy to share all the information we have with you.

  2. lists a LADY NELL built 1884 as a 3-masted schooner by Ramage & Ferguson in Leith. First owner to be Earl of Shrewsbury & Talbot, Ingestre Hall, Staffordshire. Later owners Wallace M Johnstone, London, George A C Schenley, Warsash, Hampshire and Henry Osborne O’Hagan, London.
    At some point renamed NORMANIA and later DIEZ Y OCHO DE JULIO when sold to Uruguay 1904.
    I ran into your request when searching for history of steam yacht NORMANIA, according to contemporary Swedish news articles having visited Stockholm, Sweden twice (1891 and 1894) then said to be owned by Wallace Johnstone. Reason for my search is a couple of nice bl/w photos of an unidentified 3-masted yacht anchored in Stockholm. The actual yacht in those photos could possibly be this Normania, ex Lady Nell, but still not fully confirmed.

    1. Mats, A friend and I are researching Lady Nell. Have you managed to identify your photos? Are they Lady Nell (Normania)? If so, would love to have copies and be happy to give you a lot of information in return.
      Stephen Lally

  3. Any information on Lady Nell or the Earl of Shrewsbury will be gratefully received. Lots of information to share.
    Stephen Lally

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