This report on steam vessel accidents during the previous decade was commissioned by The Right Hon. Charles Poulett Thompson, President of the Board of Trade, on 2 January 1839.
It was entrusted to Capt. J.W. Pringle, R.E., and Joseph Parkes, Esq., (1793-1871) Civil Engineer, with the instruction that “It will be necessary for you to visit the principal ports; to confer with the local authorities there; the owners and officers of steam-vessels; and the most eminent constructors of marine engines”. Given the geological timescale for the publication of reports in the 21st century (will Chilcotever see the light of day?) the report was delivered with astonishing rapidity, to the Board of Trade on 29 May 1839 and published two days later.
During the five months they were at work, Pringle and Parkes collected an amazing amount of information. Parkes was a drainage engineer, but also regarded as an expert on steam engine theory.
Government had always adopted a policy of “laissez faire” for the developing technologies of steam ships and railways, but as the 1830s passed, shading into the 1840s growing casualty lists caused Parliament to demand some action. This report was one of the first steps toward imposing some regulation on steam-vessel operation, a precedent which would soon be applied to the railways.
The report examines 22 serious accidents to steamships, including the Rothsay Castle and theForfarshire. The report notes that in the 15 months from January to date, there had been 137 fatalities caused by wrecks, founderings, explosions, collisions and one fire.
This is a useful and interesting document throwing much light on the early days of steam navigation in Britain. (Note;- does not include schedules).
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