Tuesday, October 25, 2022

'MV Royal Iris'

London The Unfinished City
A forlorn sight.

As I was wandering along the River Thames from Greenwich to Woolwich, I spotted this rusting hulk, moored on the quayside, just east of the Thames Barrier.

She looked like a ferry, but not one that I was use to seeing on this particular river, so I knew that I would have to do some research, when I had finished my walk.

Brief History

Launched in 1950, the ferry was built by William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton and was used on the river Mersey.

Her twin screw, diesel-electric engines allowed her to reach a maximum speed of 12 knots.

The Royal Iris entered service in May 1951 and was licensed to carry almost 3,000 passengers, during its ferry duties, or 1,000 when cruising. Her livery was green and cream.

London The Unfinished City
From riches to rags.

She had many onboard amenities that included a dance floor, stage, tea room, buffet, cocktail bar and she even had a fish and chip saloon.

On Friday September 7, 1951, the HMS Duke of York, which was under tow, collided with the Royal Iris, resulting in some of the passengers to require medical attention.

Throughout the 1960s the ferry had various acts perform onboard her. These included Duke Duval, The Beatles and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Between 1971-72 the Royal Iris underwent a major refit, which included having a steak bar installed. Her livery was also changed to blue and white. Following the refit the vessel was used predominantly as a cruise ship.

During her annual survey, in January 1975, a fire broke out in her engine room, which caused some electrical damage.

As part of the Silver Jubilee, in June 1977, the Royal Iris carried HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Duke of Edinburgh along the river Mersey.

In April and May 1985 the ferry left Liverpool Bay and embarked on a 1500-mile round trip to London. Sailing around Land's End she then headed up the River Thames, under Tower Bridge and docked adjacent to HMS Belfast. Her livery was now red, white and blue.

In the early 1990s the Royal Iris was becoming noticeably slower and was in urgent need of an upgrade. However, the cost to bring her up to scratch was deemed too high. On April 21, 1991, she made a farewell cruise with 600 passengers aboard.

In August of the same year she was placed in the hands of a shipbrokers.

But, all was not lost. In November 1991, a consortium bought the Royal Iris with the idea of converting her into a floating nightclub, restaurant and conference centre. This, however, fell through.

In 1993 she was bough by Parkway leisure who were going to convert her into a floating nightspot in Cardiff. Once again this idea fell through.

In 1996 a consortium, in Liverpool, attempted to buy her back and make her seaworthy again, but this, too, never happened.

In 2002 the Royal Iris was towed to London and berthed near Woolwich. 

In 2010 it was noticed that she had been taking on water, as there was now a hole in her lower side.

Today, she still rests on a mudbank, taking in water and tilting more to her starboard side.

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