Monday, 16 November 2015


A good friend of mine Julie Ford Oliver (see her blog here Link
left a comment to my last posting that included the following:

"At one time I thought teak was best for boats, but remembered a friend using it and the glue didn't stick or something like that"

Julie knew nothing about my 'thing' with teak.

Here's the story:

As a shipwright apprentice, in my third year, I worked on a floating dock for a while. You can see a tiny bit of it in the top right hand corner.

To get to it we walked past the white building along a gangway, out over two pontoons, and over a brow (gangplank) onto the dock. All this was called the 'Cornwallis Jetty'.

In 1964 the dockyard was sold by the Admiralty (Navy Dept) to a private company, who were to convert the place to a Container Port. The private company ripped out everything you can see on the photograph, and below all that planking was ...HMS Cornwallis

Whereas all British Warships were made of Oak, or so we generally believe, the Cornwallis was made completely of Teak, the finest boat building timber possible: it is almost impervious to seawater constantly generating oil - this oil makes it difficult to glue, but glue wasn't used on such ships.

The Cornwallis was unusual as she wasn't built in Britain but in Bombay, India.

Bombay was famous for its Parsi families whom were descended from Persian Zoroastrians who had emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution from both Muslims and Christians. These families provided great Wadias (shipwrights), and it was to these that the Royal Navy turned. One in particular was the Master Shipwright that built the Teak, 54 gunner Cornwallis, and his name was Jemsatjee Bomanjee.

 He also built at the same time (1815) HMS Trincamalee which is still afloat in the UK at Hartlepool. Here are a few images of the Teak ship.

Incidentally, the Cornwallis fired the last shot in the American War of Independence. The Treaty of Nanking was also signed on her quarterdeck.

Finally, the private company that bought the dockyard ... burnt the Cornwallis!!!!


  1. A very interesting story, but how awful that they burnt the ship - vandals! Valerie

    1. They certainly were; they decimated Samuel Pepys's dockyard ... burying history in concorete

  2. What a fabulous and interesting post, John. Cant wait to show it to my friend who built the teak boat (with glue!!) I am always happy when I find out things I did not know about and to see the photos too. Well, you made my day!
    A good friend indeed...

  3. Glad you enjoyed it, Julie. it's quite a saga