10 historic vessels in London’s Thames…2. HQS Wellington…

A former World War II convoy escort ship, the HQS Wellington, which is moored alongside Victoria Embankment in the River Thomas, is unusual in that for the past 75 years it has served as the headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

The HQS Wellington seen in 2007. PICTURE: JPLon (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Constructed in the Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, in 1934 for the Royal Navy as a two-masted Grimsby-class sloop, the HMS Wellington served in the Pacific in the lead-up to World War II, based mainly in New Zealand (she was named for the capital of New Zealand) and patrolling the South Pacific.

Following the outbreak of war, the HMS Wellington – which featured two 4.7-inch guns and one 3-inch gun as well as carrying other anti-aircraft guns and depth charges – served mainly as a convoy escort in the North Atlantic.

During this time, the vessel was involved in the sinking of an enemy U-boat, the evacuation of Allied forces from St Valery-en-Caux, north of Le Havre, and the Allied landings in North Africa in late 1942. In 1943, the HMS Wellington was one of the first escort ships to be fitted with Hedgehog, an anti-submarine weapon, which replaced the three inch gun.

The ship ended the war having travelled almost 250,000 miles and escorting 103 convoys.

Following the war, the 265 foot long ship was initially transferred to the Reserve Fleet in Milford Haven before, in 1947, the Admiralty made the ship available to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners to serve as a floating livery hall. She was converted for that purpose – and renamed the HQS Wellington – at Chatham Dockyard using funds raised through a public appeal.

The interior features a grand wooden staircase taken from the 1906 Isle of Man ferry SS Viper which was being broken up at the time.

The HQS Wellington arrived at Victoria Embankment in 1948 for service as the livery company HQ.

The ship had a major refit in 1991, during which it was fitted out with carpet and new displays showing off the Company’s collections, and in 2005, ownership of the ship was transferred to The Wellington Trust.

In April this year it was announced that due to safety concerns the Honourable Company of Master Mariners would have to leave the vessel. The company, which has relocated to a temporary on-shore headquarters in Greenwich, are now developing plans for a new floating headquarters.

10 historic vessels in London’s Thames…1. PS Tattershall Castle…

HMS Belfast is one of London’s star tourist sites. But what are some of the other vessels moored in the Thames? In this series, we’re taking a look at the history behind 10 other vessels, starting with PS Tattershall Castle.

The PS Tattershall Castle in 2017. PICTURE: Tony Hisgett (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Now a floating restaurant moored off Victoria Embankment, the steam-driven, steel-hulled PS Tattershall Castle was constructed by the West Hartlepool-based company William Gray & Company as a ferry. Its name comes from a castle in Lincolnshire built in the first half of the 15th century/

Launched on 25th September, 1934, with a license to carry 1,000 people, the 209 foot-long ferry was one of three sister ships – the others being the PS Wingfield Castle (now a museum ship in Hartlepool) and the PS Lincoln Castle – which were built to transport passengers along the Humber between Kingston upon Hull, in Yorkshire, and New Holland, in Lincolnshire. It could make eight trips a day and could carry vehicles and livestock.

World War II broke out not long after her launch and the ferry was used to transport troops and supplies along the Humber. Due to the heavy fogs on the river, the Tattershall Castle became one of the first civilian vessels to be equipped with radar.

Following the war and the 1948 nationalisation of the railways, the PS Tattershall Castle became part of part of British Rail’s Sealink service. In 1973, the vessel, with repairs deemed too costly, was retired from service.

Subsequently towed to London, the PS Tattershall Castle was converted into a floating art gallery which was formally opened by the Lord Mayor of London on 27th February, 1975.

In 1981, the former ferry was acquired by the Chef & Brewer Group. After some repairs on the River Medway, she was opened in 1982 as a bar restaurant.

There have been several refits since, the most recent being in 2015, when the former ferry was returned to Hull for some £1.5 million work to be carried out. The former ferry is typically moored off Victoria Embankment opposite the London Eye.

For bookings, head to www.thetattershallcastle.co.uk.