The steam yacht Sea Swallow was built in 1878 for Mr S. Addison. Originally, she had a keel length of 40′ and a length from stem to taffil rail of 43′. In 1881, a further 7′ was added by the head, taking the LOA to 50′. She had a beam of 9’6″.
The photo above may be of Sea Swallow. I don’t know for sure, yet. Using some crude photogrammetry, the boat in the photo is of a very similar length.
From THE ESSEX NEWSMAN May 25 1878
LAUNCH OF A STEAM YACHT AT BURNHAM – On Saturday last a small steam yacht, which has just been built for Mr. Wm. Stebbings for Mr. Spencer Addison of Southend, was successfully launched from the quay, in the presence of a large number of spectators. The ceremony of naming the vessel, which will be known as the Sea Swallow, was performed by Miss Minnie Stebbings. The yacht is considered very smart. It is propelled by a screw worked by one of Plenty’s double-cylinder engines. The Sea Swallow is the first steamer ever launched at Burnham, and she will will form an important additional to the numerous craft belonging to this place.
It is not entirely clear for what purpose Sea Swallow was originally built. In Essex Gold, Hervey Benham reckoned she was built as an oyster dredger, but she also appears in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts, as a screw steamer. This suggests she was built for pleasure rather than trade, or at least converted to pleasure at some point.
In September 1905, Sea Swallow was put up for sale with a price of £300. William Stebbings was the agent for the sale. It needs further research, but this may have been the point when Sea Swallow was taken to the Falkland Islands for use by civil administrators as a water ‘runabout’. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 the Falkland Islands was a busy port of call for ships en route around Cape Horn.
In the 1920’s the Advertiser ran the following piece in its ‘A Look around – by “A Native” ‘ column.
Memories of Burnham in pre-railway days are revived by a paragraph which was quoted in the Essex Chronicle on Friday last from its files of fifty years ago. The paragraph is as follows: “On Saturday a small steam yacht built by Mr Wm. Stebbings for Mr Spencer Addison of Southend, was successfully launched at the quay at Burnham in the presence of a large number of spectators. The ceremony of naming the vessel, which will be known as the Sea Swallow, was performed by Miss Minnie Stebbings. The yacht is considered very smart and is the first steamer ever launched at Burnham.”
At that time there were only about two other yachts on the river, one being a yawl belonging to the late Mr Philip Patmore of Creaksea, and the other a steam yacht belonging to the late Mr Charles Auger, of Burnham. The Sea Swallow was kept in commission for many years and was finally sold to the Falkland Islands, where she was used by officials who superintended dredging for gold in the rivers of that remote British Colony.
After the battle between Admiral Cradock’s ill-fated squadron and a detachment of German cruisers off the coast of Chili, on November 1st, 1914, the Otranto, a liner which had attended the British squadron, put into the Falkland Isles, and some of the local officials boarded her to offer their congratulations on her escape. There happened to be two or three Burnham men on board the Otranto, and they remarked as they saw the visitors approaching the ship that if they were at Burnham they would say it was Mr Addison’s steam launch in which they were riding. On return to Burnham they heard to their astonishment that it actually was the Burnham built launch in which the visitors to the Otranto arrived.
Plenty and Son advertisement courtesy of Grace’s Guide.