West Bay Discovery Centre, West Bay, Bridport, DT6 4EN.

Reconnecting to the past at West Bay

Published by Editor on

So much of history and personal stories get lost in the realms of time. One of our tasks in the Discovery Centre is to rediscover information about West Bay and share it with you. Until we opened in 2018 there was very little in West Bay to show that it had been a major ship building centre where over 350 ships were built in almost 100 years. Our permanent ship building display tells this story and our pop up exhibition in 2019 ‘Down the Slipway’ provided more of an insight into this industry. (All our pop up exhibitions are recycled and reproduced as information folders available to view in the Centre.)

Shipbuilding area of West Bay Discovery Centre

The Speedy was a full-rigged clipper ship and the largest ship to be built in the shipyard in 1853. She was built of teak and English oak, weighed 1060 tons and was over 200ft long. She was designed to transport cargo and a limited number of passengers charged at one uniform rate to Australia. When she was built she excited much confidence, which is shown in the fact that heavy bets were put on her accomplishing the voyage to Sydney faster than any other ship had done. She made the first trip in 92 days but did not beat the record at that time.

Recently we were delighted to welcome a visitor whose relative had been on board Speedy’s first trip to Australia and had their own story to tell which is reproduced below:

Gerard looking at the information and image of the Speedy
Gerard looking at the information and image of the Speedy

My Great- Great Uncle William Taprell Graves was on the first trip Speedy took to Australia.  He was born in 1853 and had been a Cadet at Addiscombe College until he was dismissed. A fellow cadet asked him to sign a note to the effect to excuse him for absence for family reasons and he had persuaded William to sign the request by using his father’s name. Unfortunately, the stupid boy took the note up to his superior officers while the ink was still wet and the ruse was discovered. William’s father was so infuriated that he sent him to Australia! On the trip on the Speedy he met fellow passenger Miss Annie Wallis, who he married on arrival in Australia. William and Annie had four children, William sadly died at the age of 47. He was supposedly lost in the Australian bush a fate that occurred to many others who sadly perished too.” Gerard Molyneux

Personal stories allow us to connect with history giving us a greater insight into peoples lives. We always welcome any stories that are connected with West Bay such as this one from Gerard.


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