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Warship Wednesday7th December 2022

Warship Wednesday: The ROBIN Steam Coaster & HMS REINDEER

For this month’s Warship Wednesday, we take a look at two festively named vessels, the ROBIN Steam Coaster and HMS REINDEER.

The ROBIN Steam Coaster:

The ROBIN is the last survivor of a once plentiful type of ship classified as a Steam Coaster. The overwhelming proportion of the British population and industry was sited within easy reach of navigable water, so from the earliest times the coasting trade was of immense importance in the late 19th century.

The ROBIN was built by Macenzie, MacAlpine & Co in the Orchard House Yard, Bow Creek, East London and launched on 16 September 1890. The Steam Coaster was constructed with a riveted iron hull. She is 143ft long x 22ft wide with a 13ft draught and has a Gross tonnage of 366tons. Propulsion was provided by coal fired steam triple expansion engine, in 1966 the vessel was converted to oil fired boiler.

Between 1900 – 1974 the vessel was owned, in turn by three Spanish companies and the name was changed to Maria. During her career the cargoes carried varied and included grain, iron ore, scrap iron and steel, pit props, China-clay, railway steel, general cargoes of casked and baled goods, pig iron and granite blocks for the Caledonia canal.

The ROBIN is listed by the National Historic Ships as a part of the National Historic Fleet and is now moored in the Royal Victoria Dock, London.


REINDEER was a Cameleon class Wooden Screw Sloop constructed at Chatham Dockyard. Sloop is an obsolete naval term for a small warship, lightly armed but designed to act independently over long distances on foreign stations.

REINDEER was 185ft long x 33ft wide x 14’ 8” in draught, with a displacement of 1365tons. The ships complement was 180 men, the ship was both sail (barque rigged) and steam powered. REINDEER was armed with five 40 pounder muzzle loading smooth bore guns and twelve 32 pounder muzzle loading smooth bore guns.

Laid down in May 1860 and launched in March 1866. REINDEER had two commissions to the Pacific 1866 – 1871 and 1871 – 1875. Between these commissions REINDEER underwent refits at Portsmouth Dockyard.

During construction REINDEER was cancelled, in May 1865, but construction work was resumed prior to the vessel being removed from the building stocks.

REINDEER paid-off from naval service at Sheerness in 1875 and was broken up at Sheerness in December 1876.

REINDEER was fitted with similar arrangements to HMS GANNET, the funnel was telescopic allowing it to be lowered when under-sail. A hoisting screw (propellor) meant the screw could be raised while under-sail to reduce the ships drag, thereby improving sailing performance.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the festively named ROBIN Steam Coaster & HMS REINDEER.

This month we are getting in the festive spirit as we open our doors for Mission Christmas for the first time. Find out more about the Christmas experience at the Dockyard this winter here.

With thanks to Reading Room Volunteer Tony Peacock for the writing this blog.

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