Faversham Society talk: VIC 56 – A steamship’s journey 7.30pm 25th March at the Fleur Hall

VIC56. Picture source: https://www.geograph.org.uk/more.php?id=5531907

VIC56 is an 85 foot steamship constructed in 1945 as part of the wartime shipbuilding programme, and now preserved in working order by a small group of volunteers.

She is technically a steam coasting lighter or a ‘puffer‘and is one of 98 victualling inshore craft built to the orders of the Ministry of War Transport between 1941 and 1945, as part of the enormous Government wartime ship-building programme.

VIC 56 was one of two puffers built by Pollocks of Faversham.

Henry Cleary, the owner of VIC56, will be coming to speak about the boat at a Faversham Society open evening. With efforts going on to create a Heritage Harbour here in Faversham, now is a good time to consider whether VIC56 should come home to Faversham.

The Faversham Creek Trust is a member of the Heritage Harbour Group and the Bridge Steering Group and is working to regenerate Faversham’s Maritime Heritage.

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The Medway by paddlesteamer

VIC 56 Medway

VIC 56, just outside Chatham Dockyard. Click on the images in this post (and most others!) for much larger photos

The weather forecast predicted strong winds and thunderstorms – so I decided against going sailing. But what to do instead? Julie and I decided to take a river trip down the Medway on the wonderful paddlesteamer Kingswear Castle, starting¬† from Rochester Pier, just by the city’s impressive Norman castle, and these are a selection of photos from the outing.

I hope you’re seated comfortable, for there are lots of shots here – and quite a few questions. If you know the answers, please fill me in using either the Comment button below, or by emailing me at gmatkin@gmail.com.

TID 164 steam tug Medway redundant lightships houseboats medway

TID 164, VIC 56, redundant lightships on the Medway

unusual schooner - who designed and built her? Pretty motorsailer Medway paddlesteamer

The river had a lot to show us that was intriguing, to say the least. What’s the story, we wondered, behind this neat little schooner? Or the pretty and comfortable-looking motorsailer?

Sweet cutter - is she a conversion? Pretty little clinker yacht outside Medway cruising club's premises Elegant wooden yacht, apparently on the brink of going somewhere

There was this beautiful old cutter – is she a conversion? And this pretty little clinker built pocket cruiser. And what about this elegant cruiser apparently on the brink of going somewhere?

Old fashioned yacht A smack moored opposite the dockyard

Two photos of the same old-fashioned yacht, and a smack yacht moored near Upnor Castle

This old fashioned chine-hulled dayboat, much like one I've seen many times moored at Queenborough Roskilde - very pretty, but what is she? Sinking building in the Chatham Dockyard grounds

This old fashioned chine-hulled dayboat, very like one I’ve seen many times moored at Queenborough – I wonder whether they were made by a local builder? I’m sure generations of visitors have been intrigued by this sinking building in the grounds of Chatham Dockyard

Smacks moored and ready for a race Harvest Queen looks like a converted wooden motor fishing vessel

Old smacks stand ready for a race; Harvest Queen looks like a converted wooden motor fishing vessel

Dutch tjalk Small Thames barge Whippet

There was this pocket cruiser – I haven’t figured out to which design she was built, but will be looking her up – and this smart Dutch tjalk, and the small Thames barge Whippet

Hope of Porthleven

Hope of Porthleven, and cormorants guarding their buoys

Paddle steamer tug Mystery yacht

Steam tug John H Amos – I gather there’s hope she will be restored; a mystery yacht I’d like to know more about; one of the forts known as Palmerston’s follies

A squib returns from racing Double ended motor fishing vessel Double-ended motor fishing vessel

A Squib returns from Sunday racing; a motor fishing vessel that looks a lot like Jay Cresswell’s model of a ring-netter

Another double-ended MFV Edith May is still looking very smart following her restoration at Lower Halstow

Another very well looked-after MFV conversion, Thames barge Edith May is also looking great following her restoration

Russian submarine in the Medway conning tower Russian submaring Black Widow on the Medway

The Medway’s Cold War-era Russian sub, however, is very down-at-heel

No vessel to anchor opposite Powder magazine

You can’t moor here; and here’s why

Bella something of Dover

Finally, what’s this craft? I’ve never heard of the Bella-something of Dover, and the Internet seems to be unaware of her also. What is her future to be, I wonder?


The Medway Pilots webpage has a useful history of the River Medway.