Shieldhall, the largest working steamship in Britain arrives at the docks next week for her biennial dry-docking before taking up cruising duties out of her homeport of Southampton.

The Solent Steam Packet Limited, a registered charity which operates the classic ship previously awarded the A&P group a major contract in 2016 to carry out extensive hull repairs and modification work in dry dock, extending the life of the steamship for another 25 years. The work was funded by a £1.4 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

The company has had a very close working relationship with A&P Falmouth going back over a decade.

A heritage cargo-passenger ship, included in the National Historic Fleet, Shieldhall was built and launched on the Clyde in 1955, to a classic pre-WW2 design. She had a long and successful first career with Glasgow Corporation – year round, carrying treated sludge out to sea and, in the summer, taking passengers on pleasure trips. Bought in 1977 by Southern Water she was finally withdrawn from commercial service in 1985 – but saved and purchased for £20,000 in 1988 by the charity that still operates her now.

Today the 2,000 tonne Shieldhall is a unique seagoing ‘time capsule’. She provides a working example of steamship machinery both above and below deck, typical of the cargo and passenger ships that plied the oceans of the world between the 1870s and 1960s, after which they became all but extinct.

Whilst other heritage ships are held permanently in dry dock, Shieldhall remains active, with a cruise programme that allows passengers to access the engine room with its two impressive 800HP steam engines at work and the bridge, complete with traditional instruments and gleaming brasswork.

The 1,972-ton Shieldhall was laid down in October 1954, built by Lobnitz and Company, of Renfrew, who also constructed the two triple expansion steam engines which are set vertically in a similar way to the much larger engines on the ill-fated Titanic. By the 1950s Lobnitz usually built its engines with enclosed crankcases but the Shieldhall was deliberately fitted with traditional open-crank engines.