Furness Diving Club and the National Historic Fleet – DOLLY
I only recently became aware of the direct link between Furness Diving Club and one of the world’s most important and interesting vessels which can be found at Windermere’s Steam Boat Museum.
DOLLY’s significance is largely due to her age. Built in 1850, she is a rare example of a very early steam boat showing the transition from sail and oar to mechanical power. The Guinness Book of Records lists her as the oldest mechanically powered boat in the world.
She was built for the Alfred Fildes who lived on the western shores of Lake Windermere near Sawrey. She may have been the first steam powered screw steamer to operate on the Lake as all earlier Railway vessels were paddle steamers until SWAN was launched in 1869.
In 1894, a Mr Bowness purchased the vessel and had her transported to Ulswater. Soon after her arrival, the country was gripped in one of the great frosts. In 1895 DOLLY lay offshore at her mooring and, pinched by the ice, began to take in water, sinking to a depth of about 40 feet which was well below the capabilities of the salvage men of the day.
The wreck was discovered by accident early in 1960. After several exploratory dives on the vessel, it became obvious that, even though she was buried in the mud from the stern forward to the cabin, and though she lay in some 45 feet of cold water, a steamer of great importance and interest had been discovered.
The wreck presented a finely raked clipper bow with fine gold leaf line extending from the bow along the full length of the ship below the gunwale level and terminating at her counter, thus emphasising her beautiful lines.
In early 1962 the Furness Diving Club representative presented the first survey report and suggested that the salvage operation be undertaken by a single group. The Northern Federation of Divers asked the Furness Branch, under the chairmanship of Gerry Jackson, to undertake this responsibility.
A salvage operation was subsequently planned and completed later that year in November 1962.
After being raised and towed by hand to Glenridding Pier she was taken away for conservation and overhaul. She was steamed again in 1965.
Her original boiler, which still exists, was replaced in 1975 by a new all welded Scotch type. Her hull and engine are original, as is the steering wheel and all iron deck fittings.
An account of the Salvage was reported by Gerry Jackson. 1st Class Diver and member of Furness Diving Club BSAC 61 and chairman of the NORFED Salvage Committee and can be found here- Raising of the Dolly – NORFED | Northern Federation of Divers
The Windermere Historical Trust actually have a book all about the discovery and restoration Salvage of Steam Launch Dolly: Amazon.co.uk: Windermere Nautical Trust: Books