The backbone of the Navy

Keeping the ships armed

During The First World War the Tamar sailing barge SHAMROCK played an important part in keeping Britain’s forces supplied with ammunition. She was engaged in off-loading 18-lb shells from Canadian supply ships anchored in Plymouth Sound and transporting them to the rail head at Oceans Quay in Plymouth.

SHAMROCK was a sailing ketch originally built in 1899 by Frederick Hawke of Plymouth for Tom Williams. Between 1899 and 1919 Tom and his brother Fred were engaged in a highly specialised trade, which involved transporting raw animal manure from Cattedown, on the lower reach of the Plym, up the Hamoaze to an open beach at Torpoint. Here it was baked into briquettes for use as domestic fuel. The briquettes then formed her return cargo.

SHAMROCK was in continuous service throughout the war. When she was not transporting munitions she played her part in recycling an important resource, horse dung, and in making it available as a fuel, helping to keep the population warm. After the war she was engaged in the stone trade between quarries on the Lynher River and Plymouth.

SHAMROCK was built with a flat bottom to enable her to easily trade where there was no quay. She remained upright when she was beached, greatly simplifying loading and unloading on either side. She had a small, simple hull with a flat transom stern, round bows with no overhang, and a shallow draft to enable her to trade far up-stream in rivers.

SHAMROCK was rigged in such as a way as to enable her two-man crew to lower her masts more conveniently when shooting under low bridges. Her construction was of pitch pine and oak.

SHAMROCK was one of the very last Tamar sailing barges ever built, and the additional technological innovations that were incorporated made her arguably the most advanced Tamar sailing barge ever built.


Where is she now?

SHAMROCK is owned jointly by the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum. She is a floating museum and is on public display at the National Trust’s Cotehele Quay near Plymouth. The Quay is open daily throughout the Summer  11am to 5pm.


Viner, Alan (1983) The Restoration of the Ketch-Rigged Tamar Sailing Barge SHAMROCK 1974-1979. London:  National Maritime Museum.

Shamrock Restored. Ships Monthly, 11, November 1979. 


 National Register of Historic Vessels entry

 The National Trust, Cotehele