King Edward VII Nautical College - Stewardship

History of the College

The King Edward VII Nautical School was founded in 1902 by the British and Foreign Sailors' Society. The Directors of the Society acted as the first governing body of the School, which was based over a seamen's hostel at 680 Commercial Road, Stepney, London. In 1926 the School became a recognised school of technical instruction aided by the London County Council (LCC). In 1949 the LCC implemented a further education development plan for nautical education. Under this scheme, senior courses would be established at Sir John Cass College, while junior courses would be run at the King Edward VII School (and later at a new college at Greenhithe). Further rationalisation occurred when the Department of Navigation at Sir John Cass College merged with the King Edward VII Nautical College in 1969 and moved to a new building at Tower Hill, London.

The College Building

King Edward VII
Ex King Edward VII Nautical College building from Google Street View captured Jan 2020 [43]
King Edward VII
Ex King Edward VII Nautical College building taken Feb 2020 [16]

Construction was paid for by businessman and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards (1823-1911). Edwards was born in Cornwall and became a journalist and magazine proprietor. He was a lifelong champion of the working class and over a period of 14 years funded over 70 hospitals, drinking fountains, libraries, schools, convalescent homes and art galleries. He gave money to the Tilbury Hospital and wards at the Wembley Cottage Hospital and Willesden General Hospital were named after him. He also contributed substantially to a museum (now defunct) in Stratford, London that I used to visit many years ago when studying at what has become the University of East London. The former museum building is now used by the Students Union.

King Edward VII
Panel above entrance of building [16]

The building was originally constructed as "The Sailor's Palace" - a residential hostel for Marine Officers. The architects were Niven and Wigglesworth - who incidentally also designed the interiors of Castle Line ships. The builders were Dove Bros.

King Edward VII
Building plaque naming the architects and builders [16]

The Foundation stone was laid in 1901 by the Duke of Fyfe, Vice Patron of the Society and Lord Lieutenant of London, and a Memorial Stone by Frank Green, Lord Mayor of London.

King Edward VII King Edward VII
Foundation and Memorial Stones [16]
King Edward VII
Detail over side window [16]

The building is predominately of brick, with bands of Portland stone and arched windows at ground-floor level. The main entrance and turreted gatehouse, described as a very free Tudor adaptation, is the dominant feature of the building. Above the doorway is a magnificent figurehead of Britannia holding a ship in each hand, behind each of which a cherub blows wind into its sails; it is carved in Portland Stone.

Around the arch of the door, below the figurehead, are names of the continents: America, Africa, Oceania, Australia, Asia and Europe, whilst above Britannia's head are the names of the Anemoi - the ancient Greek wind gods associated with cardinal directions Eurus (south-east or east wind), Notus (south wind), Boreas (north wind) and Zephyrus west wind). Interestingly Oceania was originally intended to mean the region of islands in the Pacific Ocean including Australia and the term is still used with that meaning in some countries including Brazil who do not regard Australia as a continent in its own right.

King Edward VII
Figurehead over entrance doorway [16]
King Edward VII
Royal Coat of Arms at top of building over main entrance [16]

Loan of Stephanotis

On 24 May 1952, the Illustrated London News reported that Mr. G.E. Milligen had placed Stephanotis - by then named Wendorian - at the disposal of the King Edward VII Nautical College in December 1951. The vessel had been refitted.

Cutting from Illustrated London News 24 May 1952 [35]

Earlier on 19 May 1952 the Coventry Evening Telegraph had reported that the first voyage under King Edward VII Nautical College would be taking place during the week. It also noted that Mr. Milligen, a Norfolk Farmer, would be meeting the costs of maintenance up to £2,000 per year and charges for dry-docking, painting and repairs.

Cutting from Coventry Evening Telegraph 19 May 1952 [36]

Wendorian was known and loved by a large number of those attending courses at King Edward VII Nautical College. Malcolm Salter was one of many who spent time on this vessel whilst at 'King Ted's' and there is a reference to this in the Recollections section of the Benjidog website HERE.

This is a 1952 Newspaper cutting recording the delivery of Wendorian to King Edward VII Nautical College. [6]
This is an example of a King Ted's blazer badge. [23]

Early in her period with King Ted's, Wendorian had an outing to the Coronation Review of the Fleet that took place on 15 June 1953 - just two weeks after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. George Milligen used her to take the Commodore of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Sailing Club to what must have been a spectacular event at Spithead. Her sails can be clearly seen in this photo.

Wendorian leaving Lowestoft on her way to the Spithead review. [9]
Wendorian at Wapping with a group of students aboard. She does not appear to be making smoke and some kind of anchor training seems to be in progress. Date not known. [3]
Enlargement of previous photograph showing activity on the foredeck. [3]
Enlargement showing the gilded decorations on Wendorian's bow - commonly known as 'gingerbread work' from the old tradition of applying gold leaf to gingerbread by confectioners to make it attractive. [3]
A group of cadets that took Wendorian to Southend-on-sea and back in November 1958. The young man on the extreme left is SeaTheShips member John Firmin who said that the chap in white was the cook. [3]
Another photo of the group of cadets in the previous photo. [3]

Wendorian in the Solent

The image of Wendorian on the postcard below appears in many places online as copies were handed out to the cadets after their trips. Many of the on-line images are degraded but this is a fresh scan from one of the copies.

Wendorian in the Solent [1]

This image was also included in the Country Life article HERE and has the following caption:

"The Wendorian in the Solent. The clipper bow with gingerbread work, the white hull and yellow funnel and the auxiliary sail combine in the memory of Edwardian splendour. The modern world is represented by the radar aerial above the bridge. She is now in active commission as the training ship of the King Edward VII Nautical College."

The date is not known. The vessel is clearly under way but looks deserted, however a close-up view of the original photo that you can see above reveals that she is manned by people on the bridge hidden behind a canvas screen.

This an enlargement of the previous image showing the bridge and radar [1]

Wendorian's Mooring at Shadwell Basin

Between trips during her King Ted's days, Wendorian was moored in Shadwell Basin, not far from the college. Once joined to the London Docks, Shadwell Basin still exists - but not functioning as a commercial dock - and the Western and Eastern Docks to which it was joined have been filled and the area redeveloped. The image immediately below shows the area from a 6" Ordinance Survey map of 1952 and the one beneath an aerial shot from Google Earth.

Shadwell Basin
6 Inch O.S. map from 1952 showing Shadwell Basin and adjoining docks [44]
Shadwell Basin
Aerial view of Shadwell Basin from Google Earth captured 14 Jan 2020 [43]

The Limehouse/Shadwell/Wapping area is of personal interest to me for two reasons.

  • In the 1960s I was a regular patron of the riverside pub 'The Prospect of Whitby' on Wapping Wall. It was very rough back then and the local kids would offer to 'look after your car so it don't get scratched Mister'. It didn't take much to read between the lines and it was well worth coughing up a half-crown. The pub was popular on Saturday nights with yobs like myself singing rugby songs. They had a small band - one guy playing a hawaiian guitar, and a lot of beer got thrown around.
  • In the 1920s my grandfather had been working in the area installing electricity cables. He told me that he had walked along the side of one of the docks where a group of Chinese people were gambling heavily on Mah Jongg when there was a police raid - they were stamping down on street gambling for some reason. Anyway the players all ran off and my grandfather stole their Mahjong set - which I still have.
Mahjong Set
Mahjong set [16]

Rescue of Asangyo 1952

On 16 Aug 1952 the Liverpool Echo reported that Wendorian, captained by A. Miller and with a crew of cadets, had rescued crew members of the yacht Asangyo off Shoeburyness.

Cutting from Liverpool Echo 16 Aug 1952 [33]

Support for a Cross-Channel Swimming Events

Captain James Webb was the first person to successfully swim The English Channel on 24 August 1875, crossing from Admiralty Pier in Dover to Calais and taking 21 hours 45 minutes to complete the crossing. Sadly he lost his life in 1881 attempting to cross Whirlpool Rapids at the foot of the Niagara Falls.

A number of other people successfully completed the crossing between WW1 and WW2 and the event became very popular in the 1950s with commercial sponsorship.

  • 1950: The Daily Mail First International Cross-Channel Race (24 contestants)
  • 1951: Festival of Britain International Cross-Channel Race (sponsored by the Daily Mail)
  • 1953-1959: Butlin International Cross-Channel race
  • Since 1959 no race has since been sponsored.

Wendorian was used as a radio control boat during the Billy Butlin 1956 International Cross-Channel Swim. The photo below shows members of the Team 21st S.A.S. Regiment aboard the vessel in the Dover Straits. It is not clear whether the man on the left is yawning or shouting encouragement to the swimmers. My money is on yawning.

Team 21st S.A.S. aboard Wendorian [32]

Wendorian was once again supporting the Channel bid in 1957 and is mentioned in the article below from the Shields Daily News of 21 August 1957.

Cutting from Sheilds Daily News 21 Aug 1957 [34]

Acommodation in the King Ted's Years

I was contacted in November 2020 by Jim Martin who kindly provided the following interesting information about the accommodation on board and how it was used. I hadn't really thought much about it but they seemed to have squeezed a lot in there. I would love to get hold of plans for the vessel but I very much doubt whether any are extant.

Have just read the article on SY Stephanitis/TS Wendorian - fascinating.

The photographs of the splendid interior brought back a lot of memories as I was at King Edward VII Sea Training School 1957/8 and made several trips in her. However, the accomodation for the crew of cadets (the "half deck") right aft, over the propellor & immediately beneath the steam steering engine, was much more spartan and confined. However, there was also a tiny double-berth cabin in the halfdeck for the cadet captains. In this cabin was a small wash hand basin with the taps still marked "Fria" and "Caliente", Spanish for "cold" and "hot".

The Mate lived in a cabin forward below the windlass and the Master's palatial accomodation was in the owner's suite in the deckhouse. I think the Cook, the only other regular crew member, lived in a small cabin somewhere amidships.

Captains of Wendorian during her days at King Edward VII Nautical College

Based on the information in the articles I have discovered, Wendorian had the following Captains during the period she was with the King Ted's though I am not entirely sure that the list is complete or in the correct sequence:

  • Captain Hubert Frank Chase O.B.E.
  • Captain A.G.W. Miller
  • Captain Glynn Griffiths - later Captain of the Training Schooner Sir Winston Churchill

Both Chase and Miller are quoted as revisers of 'The Boatswain's Manual' - the original version of which was written by William A.McLeod.

Commander P. Clissold and Captain A.G.W. Miller are quoted as the authors of 'Basic Seamanship'.

The photo below was taken in 1958 at Wapping Basin at the end of the trip shown in photos above. The ship in the background is Kingfisher according to my friend George Robinson - and who am I to argue?

Captain Griffiths on Wendorian. [3]
This is Kingfisher mentioned in notes for the previous photo. [8]

Replacement of Wendorian

As already stated on the page for George Milligen, in 1961 the vessel was found to be beyond economical repair and was taken for breaking. The need for a training vessel continued and Wendorian was replaced with Glen Strathallan, a converted fishing vessel [138].

On further investigation I found that Glen Strathallan had never caught a fish in her life. She was completed in 1928 as a 330 GRT trawler by Cochrane & Sons of Selby but the company that ordered her went bankrupt. The vessel was purchased by millionaire Robert Alfred Colby Cubbin at a bargain price and converted into a pleasure yacht and registered on the Isle of Man. Glen Strathallan was refitted as an escort vessel during WW2. She was returned to Cubbin at the end of the war.

When Cubbin died unexpectedly in 1951, it was found that his will stipulated that he wanted the vessel to be used as a floating school room and that if no useful employment could be found for her she should be taken out to sea and sunk. So Glen Strathallan became the replacement for Wendorian at King Ted's and served in that capacity for many years until her ageing condition made her uneconomical.

Cubbin's Trustees then decided the time had come to fulfil his wishes and to sink her in the Hurd Deep in the English Channel. Before doing this, her engine was removed by Clifton Slipways Ltd. of Gravesend and donated to the London Science Museum where it was on display until 2004 but is now in storage.

The Trustees were approached by Plymouth Ocean Projects of Fort Bovisand who appealed to them to sink the ship near the entrance to Plymouth Sound instead. Here they said the ship could be used as an underwater classroom and so still be of some educational value. This was agreed and the vessel was scuttled about 200 yards off the Shagstone. Unfortunately the wreck was found to be a hazard to shipping and had to be dispersed - though it is still used as a diving site.

Glen Strathallan
Glen Strathallan - date and location not known [140]

Please click the Next link at the foot of the page to access the final page which includes supplementary information about the builders of Stephanotis, original articles that were used in creating this material (with additional photos) and photos of Medea, a contemporary steam yacht that is preserved at the San Diego Maritime Museum.