The oldest of Bristol museum’s working exhibits - the Mayflower steam tugboat - marks her 150th anniversary on Wednesday, May 18. The Mayflower is the oldest Bristol-built ship still afloat and is believed to be the oldest steam tug in the world.
The little steam tug Mayflower was launched from a shipyard at what is now Pooles Wharf on May 18, 1861. She went to work on the ship canal between Sharpness and Gloucester and managed a working life of over 100 years. The Mayflower then spent 15 years narrowly avoiding the scrap yard before she came back to her birthplace in 1981 to be restored by Bristol museum staff and volunteers. The restoration work, which took six years culminated in an official ‘re-launch’ in 1988.
The Mayflower has been a familiar sight in the harbour, running regular weekend trips for those who enjoy the peace and serenity of steam-powered ships. The Mayflower has just undergone a complete overhaul and refit ready to resume trips just before the opening of M Shed on Friday, June 17.
Andy King, Bristol City Council’s curator of Industrial & Maritime History, says: “The Mayflower is a much-loved working exhibit and we are all incredibly proud of her long history. It’s amazing to note that the Mayflower has now spent 20 per cent of her life in the care of the city council.
“It’s really rare for any ship to survive as long as Mayflower, let alone an ordinary, hard-worked tugboat. It’s also a great credit to the efforts of the museum’s brilliant volunteers that we’re still able to keep her steaming and giving great pleasure to our visitors. We’re always looking for more people who are interested to help out with the tug and M Shed’s other working exhibits.”
Mayflower will be steaming on the weekend of May 21/22 and on other dates later in the year.
Trips cost £5/£3 and last about half an hour. Passengers can explore the boat and experience the quiet engine at close hand. Tickets are available on the day from Princes Wharf, outside M Shed.