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

Shipbuilding in West Bay

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Our shipbuilding exhibition is running until the end of October. The importance of Bridport Harbour’s shipbuilding industry has surprised visitors, who didn’t realise the scale of the operation up until 1879 when the last ship was launched.

Of course, the weather and waves have little respect for exceptional craftsmanship and inevitably even the fine vessels built here were lost at sea. Such a calamity was visited upon the brig, Titania, built in Bridport Harbour in 1850 for CT Bowering & Co of Liverpool.

Captain Frame steered the Titania away from Philadelphia on the morning of October 9th 1865, carrying a cargo of coal and hay, along with a few passengers. Four days later a severe gale hit and the ship sprang a leak which, despite every effort of the crew with the pumps, continued to spew water into damaged hull. As much as could be was thrown overboard was jettisoned, along with the cargo, in the forlorn hope that the Titania would be able to limp to safe harbour or be rescued.

Two days passed ‘in this incessant labour’ when it was discovered the water was now 11 feet deep. The six crew and 10 passengers – nine men and one woman – abandoned the vessel and boarded a 10 foot raft. They saw the Titania sink only two hours later, while they floundered in the sea, the weight of them sinking the raft to one foot below the surface.

As a newspaper reports, “In this wretched state, without food or water, they floated for about 24 hours”.

Well, that’s just one of the many fascinating stories waiting to be discovered at the West Bay Discovery Centre. We hope to welcome you soon.

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