Discovering Bulli

When I wrote the piece about the East Greenwich dry dock I knew of no ships that had been built there- indeed I rather doubted that any had although I had some vague information about Lewis and Stockwell’s ship building activities. One day I was looking up some local place names on the Internet when I noticed a site set up by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service describing some wrecks of their coast. To my surprise, one of these, the Bulli had been built by what they described as ‘Lewis and Stackwell at Greenwich, England’. So – what do they have to say about her?
They say she was built in 1872 and was registered at Sydney, New South Wales, with an Australian coal mining company – the Bulli Company. I think we sometimes forget that coal mining took place far and beyond north east England and that we built collier ships for that trade too! Bulli was steel hulled with a twin compound steam engines – no information as to who built the engines, though! She was also rigged as a three masted topsail schooner, measured 180′ x 23.2′ x 15.9′ and was 486.77 tons gross, 337/06 tons net.

She was wrecked in June 1877 when carrying coal from Newcastle to Launceston – and I think these must be Australian place names. Captain Randall was forced by ‘heavy southerly gales’ to shelter at Erith Island in the Kent Group. When she tried to leave she was forced back and, rounding Erith Island, she struck a rock. Eventually, despite efforts by the crew, the forward bulkhead failed and they abandoned ship. There was an attempt to reflect her in 1879 but this failed.
From the tone of what is on the Tasmanian web site it appears that she is now seen as an attractive venue for leisure divers! It would be very interesting to know what remains on her and if there is any information which would give us more information about Bulli. As far as I am aware she is the only Greenwich built ship of this period which still exists and she is a very exciting find. Lewis and Stockwell are almost unknown as Thames shipbuilders and do not appear in standard works – in particular Philip Banbury, in Shipbuilders of the Thames and Medway makes no mention of them. Although wrecks specialists have contacts all over the world I think it is unlikely that we would have located this ship without recourse to the Internet. I hope this is something which can be investigated further. The website address is http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/historic/shipw/bulli.html

ps – a number of people have told me they saw my piece about Bulli and tried to trace a Lloyds registration, and failed. Very Strange

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