Stephanotis was built by the Scottish shipyard Hawthorns of Leith
As well as building ships, Hawthorns were long-established railway locomotive and boiler manufacturers as can be seen from the advert below. One source states that their first locomotive was named Modling and built for a railway in Vienna; others that their first was in 1831 and built for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Whichever it was, they were considered very innovative and exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace held in Hyde Park.
From the 1850s Hawthorns placed more emphasis on marine engines. Their output included engines for paddle steamers, compound engines and Tramway engines. In fact if you wanted any kind of steam engine - Hawthorns claimed that they could build it.
The company started as R & W Hawthorn & Co in Newcastle but later purchased Leith Engineering Works from James B. Maxton & Co, to set up a works to build railway locomotives in Scotland.
Hawthorns gave their address as Sheriff Brae, Leith and I believe their yard was where an Engineering Works is shown just below the Water of Leith on the extract from a 25" OS map from 1914 below:
The drawing below from the History of Leith website is said to show the Hawthorns premises in Leith. The horsedrawn bus and carriage suggests this is from either the late 19th or early 20th Centuries.
Hawthorns made just 8 steam yachts between 1900 and 1910 with most of their output being commercial vessels - tugs, trawlers, whalecatchers and the occasionally cargo vessel.
Below is a list of steam yachts they produced in this timeframe. Stephanotis was the smallest of these.
|1900||Waturus||628||Built for H.I.H.Archduke Carl Stefan of of Schloss Taybusch, Austria . Renamed Hochelaga 1917 and taken over by Canadian navy|
|1902||Surf||496||Designed by Cox & King. Later owners Alexander D Axarlis, George H. Upjohn and Skiathos Shipping Co|
|1903||Venetia||589||First owner was F.W. Sykes of Huddersfield. Later owners were in the USA and Canada.|
|1903||Stephanotis||120||Built for Charles Arkcoll|
|1905||Corona||304||Original owner H.A. Laughlin of the USA. Taken over by US Navy 1917 before returning to private use. Lost when she capsized 20 miles South-West of Guanape Island 25 Apr 1941 carrying cattle|
|1906||St Serf||300||Original owner John Nairn of Kirkaldy followed by George H Strutt of Derby from 1915. Hired by the Admiralty as an auxiliary patrol vessel at Dover, fitted with two 6-pounder guns and renamed HM Yacht Sanda. Sunk by shore batteries on 24 Sep 1915 near Blankenberghe with the loss of 13 lives.|
|1906||Caroline III||137||Built for Marquis de Montaigu, St Nazaire. Later history unknown|
|1906||Adele||288||Built for Edward A Mundy, South Australia. Several Australian owners and finally wrecked at Port Kembla 7 May 1943|
I have reproduced below a transcript from an article in Country Life magazine from 26 May 1960 which I bought on eBay in Jan 2020 - about the last place I would expect to find information about a steam yacht. The article that follows was written by Ernle Bradford. It contains a number of inaccuracies but I have copied it verbatim.
I first saw the Wendorian on a cold, wet evening in autumn a few years ago. I was down in Wapping, sitting in a warm bar, looking out over the Thames and very glad to be ashore. It was almost high tide and the wind was beginning to bring up the rain. I looked out at the dark water, saw the lights of a vessel coming up stream—and put down my glass in a hurry. An Edwardian steam yacht! Immaculately kept, her gleaming white ship's side and her bright-work shining as if she had just returned from the Cowes of King Edward VII, she was just turning to come into the basin.
"There's the old Wendorian," said one of the locals, "Always on time."
Since then. I have been aboard her many times, and been on several training cruises, but at that moment I could not ask enough questions. Most of them were quickly answered, for the Wendorian is one of the sights of the river. Of 150 tons and with a triple expansion engine and auxiliary sails, she can claim to be the largest yacht of her type on the Thames. In fact, there can be few of her size and vintage left afloat anywhere, for she was built in 1903 in the great era of steam yachts. There may be one or two like her still working as passenger boats round the Greek islands, but in any case they no longer have the "yacht look." What startled me so much on first seeing her was that neat-as-a-new-pin and truly-cared-for appearance.
She was built for an Edwardian businessman, and her history is much like that of many another of her type. In her long life she has cruised the warm waters of the Mediterranean and idled in the harbours of the Riviera. She survives today, still in active commission, as the training ship for the cadets of the King Edward VII Nautical College.
When I first visited her, the thing that seemed so neatly to epitomise her career was the four-poster bed in what is now the Chief Officer's cabin. An elaborately-carved four-poster with heavy hangings, it is the bed that was once occupied by the King of Spain in the now distant and semi-legendary 'twenties. But, while most of her contemporaries have long since gone to the breakers' yard, the Wendorian still sails every week of term-time from Wapping Basin down the Thames estuary. Come hail, rain, or fog, this survivor from an era when income-tax was low still carries out a regular and valuable job, training future officers for the Merchant Navy.
Laid up during the war, she was bought shortly afterwards by Mr. G. E. Milligan, who, having had fun with her himself for several years, offered her on loan to the College. It is not every day that a nautical college can expect to find a Father Christmas who will put a large yacht in its stocking, and Captain H. F. Chase was more than happy to accept her. In return, the cadets, supervised by their officers, keep the Wendorian as immaculate and as near to her original condition as possible. Her engine room alone, with its magnificent old triple-expansion engine, gleams like a Christmas tree. I can think of few other engine rooms where even the heads of the cylinders are polished so that you can see your reflection in them.
The King Edward VII college was founded at almost the same time as the Wendorian was launched. Its founders, the British Sailors' Society, had as their object the training of cadets and apprentices for the merchant service. To-day something like 180 cadets every year pass through the college on their way to their first jobs in the shipping lines, and all of them will have spent at least a week aboard the Wendorian. Every term, one week out of 12 will have been spent putting into practice at sea what they have learned in the classroom. The great advantage of a large old steam yacht like the Wendorian is that she can carry several boats for sail and pulling-training. Old though she is, she is a power vessel, so cadets can learn in practice the elements of handling such vessels in a congested area like the Thames estuary. She also has auxiliary sails, and I remember one fine day when with a wind of about Force 4 we had the old lady gliding along under sail off Southend Pier. It was one of those days when the low cloud base was sepia-brown, rather than grey, and the whole scene might have been an old daguerreotype.
Despite her age, the Wendorian is one of the best-equipped vessels of her size afloat. Apart from the latest radar, she has echo-sounding gear, radio navigator and ship-to-shore telephone. Cadets thus learn aboard her not only the staple aspects of the seaman's craft such as boat work, sailing, and rope work. They are instructed in, and become familiar with, all the devices that modern technology has produced for the sailor. The use of the sextant, log and lead, anchor, and cable work occupy the day but in the evening radar and modern scientific navigational methods are being studied in the chart room. I remember one such evening when, in contrast to the glow of the radar scanner in the darkened chart-room and the voices of cadets calling out distances and bearings of ships in the Thames estuary, the saloon seemed like another world. Here all was polished panelling and heavy mahogany fittings, with a roaring coal fire reflected in a vast brass coal-scuttle that must have been as old as the ship.
As well as these weekly training voyages, the Wendorian goes on a summer cruise every year—to the West Country, or across to France, or over to Zeebrugge. Antwerp and Rotterdam. Every year, too, she acts as the control ship on cross-Channel swims. There was an occasion quite recently when cadets from the Wendorian landed some officials responsible for a swim at Cap Gris Nez at a time when fishermen manning other rowing boats said it was too rough to get ashore. Manned by cadets the old ship was present at the Spithead Review, and there can have been few, if any, other ships there that could boast that they had lived during the reigns of five monarchs and seen a Queen again on the throne.
The most striking thing about being under power in an old steam yacht of this type is the absence of noise or vibration. Even in the engine-room there is little more than a steady-sigh, a hiss and a gentle "clink clank". After the noise of most modern power yachts this quietness is a revelation. The great disadvantage of the old-fashioned steam yacht is immediately apparent, though—the immense amount of space that must be given up to engine and boiler room. The Wendorian's sails are, of course, auxiliary or steadying sails. Even so, with the engine just turning over at slow way, she is suitable. Her fine lines and clipper bow and the sweet flow of her counter make her hull more akin to a sailing vessel than a steamship. Surveyed last winter, she was again passed A.1. — a tribute to the metals, materials and workmanship of 57 years ago.
Unfortunately I do not know exactly when this letter appeared in Sea Breezes but believe it may have been some time in 2005-2006. Similarly I don't have a copy of the previous article that Captain Miller refers to.
I write with reference to the Wendorian (ex-Stephanotis) featured in August 'Readers' Album'. She was a steel screw schooner. 143 tons, Thames. L.O.A. 124 feet, 135 feet including bowsprit, beam 17 feet 2 inches, draught 8 feet 9 inches.
Wendorian was built in 1903 in Leith for the owner of the Red Lion Brewery of Rochester. There were only four bunks in the owner's accommodation and entertaining was probably on a day basis under a complete set of awnings which covered the ship from forward to aft. The crew lived aft and when they shifted ship to the next regatta they unshipped the beautiful carved skylights on the fore-deck and battened down for sea. When safely in port the skylights were shipped, the awnings rigged and the owner's party returned to watch the racing.
At some time in the late 1920s she was bought by the Duke of Tarifa and taken to Spain where it was said that King Alphonso used her for duck shooting expeditions.
She fell out of class in the 1930s and was bought by a Colonel Llewellen (not the show jumper) and came back to the UK where the outbreak of war found her lying in the river Itchen in a mud berth. During the war the area was heavily bombed because Supermarine were building Spitfires about half a mile away.
The River Itchen joins the River Test and empties into Southampton Water. The Supermarine factory on the East bank of the river at Woolston was opened in 1913 by Noel Pemberton-Billing who used the telegraphic address 'Supermarine'. The company manufactured many famous types of aircraft at this factory - none more famous than the Spitfire. Full-scale aircraft production ceased in September 1940 due to heavy bombing.
After the war, Wendorian came into the ownership of Mr G. E. Milligen of Stalham, Norfolk. Mr Milligen collected things only if they worked and he had her towed to Poole to be refitted but it was found that the main engine bed plate was cracked, presumably by a near miss. This necessitated some welding to cast iron which was specialist work. Mr Milligen used the yacht on the south coast but had some difficulties with the crew and with the supply of coal which was rationed at the time.
The year 1952 saw Wendorian once more back in class at Lloyds having been completely overhauled by Richards Iron works in Lowestoft.
During the war the Prince of Wales Sea School had been evacuated to Norfolk and Mr Milligen offered the use of the yacht to the British Sailors Society who had found a new home in Dover for the school. The Prince of Wales Sea School being unable to see a use for the vessel, the idea was put to Captain H. F. Chase, the Principal of King Edward the VII Nautical College. A committee of staff visited the ship in Lowestoft and proposed that in spite of the difficulties of coal and food rationing, she should become a sea training vessel working out of a berth in Wapping Basin by courtesy of the Port of London Authority.
The photograph reproduced in the August issue of 'Ships Monthly' was taken by Sport and General Press Agency in 1952. Ford Jenkins of Lowestoft look some interiors in 1952 and Beken of Cowes look some in 1956. 'Country Life' did an article in I960.
I am the character on the bridge shouting "Go aft and take that fender in". Chief Officer Eric Drage was in charge of the party cutting the anchor; he was trained under Captain C. B. Fry aboard the Mercury in the Hamble so of course he ate glass and cadets who did not obey smartly. After two years I went back to lecturing in the college and I think that Captain Griffiths was the third master of the ship in college days.
When it was certain that the first sail training race would take place from Torbay to Lisbon nothing would content Griffiths until he had borrowed the 60-ton ketch Berenice and entered it in the college name. I relieved him and took the ship to the regatta which preceded the race.
Sadly, it was not long after that when the surveyors decided to inspect the margin plates and diagonals under the deck. The teak planks were fastened secretly with brass screws through the steel beams and those of us who knew what electrolysis had done in sixty years knew that the job would never be done. There was a suggestion that a pine deck could be fitted on new beams but there was no finance available.
I did not see Wendorian go, but I was told that she steamed across to a scrapyard on the Continent with the man at the wheel grumbling that after all those years no one had thought of building a wheelhouse.
CAPTAIN A. G. W. MILLER.
I presume that by the time Wendorian was being used at King Ted's, her original tender had either been disposed of or that it was out of action and stored by George Milligen in one of his barns. In the 2004 auction of items in George's collection, the following items relating to Wendorian's tender were included. The engine is clearly an internal combustion engine as it has spark plugs. Whether this is the engine of the original tender is open to question.
To support the sale, Bonham's catalogue included two additional photos showing Wendorian and her tender.
I am including information and photos about Medea as she was built for William Macalister Hall by Alexander Stephen & Sons Ltd. at Govan and completed in 1904 to a similar standard and design to Stephanotis - though at 112 GRT she was a fair bit smaller. She had an interesting career and served in both World Wars - as a gunboat with the French Navy in WW1, and as a barrage balloon vessel in the mouth of the Thames and later with the Norwegian Navy as an accommodation ship for commando officers in WW2. She was eventually purchased by oilman Paul Whittier who restored her and donated her to the San Diego Maritime museum.
The photo below shows Medea in front of the paddle steamer Berkeley in San Diego harbour. I was told by the curators of the museum that she had sails in the past but of the hundreds of photos of her they have, just a few show sails and they are furled. They also have a couple of oil paintings showing her under sail but given the deck configuration the usefulness of sails is very much open to question and I suspect they were primarily ornamental or for use in an emergency. Medea was modified a number of times over the years including a conversion from coal-fired to oil-fired boilers. There are remarkable similarities with Stephanotis when you look at her lines and the bow area.
The photo below showing the port bow shows the 'gingerbread work' decoration which is very similar to that on Stephanotis.
The photo below shows the entrance to the cabins and a canopy which would have been very useful in hot weather. Stephanotis probably had a similar canopy. The high standard of workmanship is clear - as it is in the photos of the interior.
The photos below shows the dining/seating area.
The photos below show a power winch on the foredeck. It would have been used to raise and lower the anchor and for other purposes but I suspect it was not one of the original fittings.
The short video below shows the engine room of Medea in 2017. This is a compound engine rather than a triple-expansion one but gives some idea of the size of the engine of Stephanotis. The boilers of Medea were converted to burn oil some time ago.