Caernarfon Packets and Coasters

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

The First Steamers and Competition[edit]

Caernarfon (in those days generally spelled as Carnarvon) had a steam packet carrying freight and passengers from 1848. The ship was an iron paddler, the Erin-Go-Bragh which operated a twice weekly service from Liverpool but was owned not in Wales but by the Dublin Steam Packet Co.[1] The opening of the standard gauge railway presumably put an end to this service. In 1852 Caernarfon's standard gauge railway station of the Bangor & Carnarvon Railway Company opened and with the network connected through to Merseyside will have taken much of the coastal shipping traffic of passengers and freight. Even so, ships could still compete for certain types of cargo. In 1868 Victoria Dock was opened.

Locally Based Cargo Ships[edit]

The Liverpool, Carnarvon and Menai Straights Steamship Co. Ltd. was formed in Liverpool in 1873. The leading light behind its formation was David Richards, an shipowner and shipbroker. The other founding directors included Jeffrey Parry de Winton, a member of the de Winton family that owned a foundry and engineering business in Caernarfon on a site across the road from the current WHR passenger platforms. Iron for de Winton's foundry as well as household goods, groceries and coal would have been an outward cargo from Liverpool to Caernarfon while slates would have been the main return cargo.[2] These slates would not just be destined to cover the roofs of Lancashire, Cheshire and the North of England but after transshipment to larger vessels were exported all over the world.

In 1874 the ship King Jaja was bought by the Liverpool and Menai company from Glasgow shipowners. The name was after the King of Opobo in Nigeria. She must have sailed regularly between Caernarfon and Liverpool with intermediate stops at Menai Bridge, Beaumaris and Bangor. Competition with the railway must have been intense for within a few years all the network in the region was controlled and operated by the London and North Western Railway. In July 1890 the King Jaja was replaced (and sold the following year) by the new steel vessel Prince Jaja which was built at Amlwch by William Thomas with boilers and engine built by de Winton. For an account of life on the Prince Jaja when renamed the Natje see the book by Owen Spargo.[3] He served as mate of the S S Natje for over two years from late 1928.

Endings and Beginnings[edit]

The oil depot to the north of Victoria Dock opened in 1913 and was still operating in 1989 but threatened with closure. That closure has happened and the land redeveloped. The coastal tankers presumably berthed in the dock. One of these was called Shell Supplier. Victoria Dock itself has been converted to a yachting marina.


  1. ^ Fenton R S (1989) Cambrian Coasters, World Ship Society p 15.
  2. ^ Fenton R S (1989) Cambrian Coasters, World Ship Society pp 126 - 129.
  3. ^ Spargo Owen G and Thomason Thomas H (1982) Old Time Steam Coasting, Waine Research, Wolverhampton, UK pp 31 - 35.