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  • Writer's picturePaul Whittle

South Coast 1800 - 1960


Possibly the earliest dredging for aggregates on the south coast in the modern era was carried out by the Kendall family who still operate there today. Based in Langstone Harbour, the first member of the Kendall family to be involved in marine aggregates was Southampton born general haulage contractor Charles Henry Kendall who, with his sons, operated tugs, barges and dredgers in the area from the late 1800’s. Included in Kendall family’s portfolio of contracts undertaken is their involvement in the construction of the Hayling Island timber railway bridge and dredging the sites for the Hayling Ferry pontoons.


An article in the Arcadian Times dated May 7th 2011 recorded the following regarding the origins of the Ham River Grit Company:- In the late 1890’s William and George Brice had taken over their father’s business as clay merchants and barge owners in Rochester Kent (W & G Brice). In the process of obtaining clay from the marshes of Kent, they also came to have an interest in sand and ballast after finding very good quality sand on a hillock called Motley Hill in Rainham which they had excavated.

In 1903, whilst taking a stroll along the towpath of the Ham one of the brothers noticed a small excavation of ballast. Impressed with the quality and discovering the land belonged to the Earl of Dysart, he made enquiries in taking a lease on the land with the intention of excavating it. A lease was granted and in 1904 eighty acres were taken over on a royalty basis and the lease also allowed for plant and machinery to be installed in order to process the ballast into different grades of aggregate and sand.

Following the signing of the lease, the two brothers separated with George remaining in Rochester whilst William took over the new business at Ham.

When work began at Ham the industry was quite small scale, basically because the infrastructure did not really exist to support large scale excavation. In the early days, the ballast was dredged by small punts that scooped the material from the river bed and then raised by a (hand driven) winch. Material was then transported by horse drawn carts to building sites. Here the article includes a sketch of the dredging punt manned by two men entitled “Dredging by Punt & Spoon” clearly being an example of the “bag a spoon” method of aggregate dredging known to have been widely used elsewhere round the coast in the 1800’s and before. The article continues. Digging below the water level was impossible in the early days, until the advent of steam driven pump mounted on a concrete pontoon that pumped ballast through a pipe to reception bins.

The company does not appear to have developed their dredging for aggregates, preferring to extensively work the riverside land based deposits of material and transporting them away from site by barge.


Circa 1910, the Kendalls began aggregate dredging with the development of a small wharf in Milton Lake opposite St James Hospital and a second wharf in Southampton. Two sailing barges purchased for the trade carried shingle from the West Winner bank at the entrance to the Langstone Harbour.

Records of the equipment used by the Kendalls in the earliest days are sketchy but it is apparent that sailing barges were used to transport the marine aggregate which were loaded by way of “fixed dredging equipment” moored over the bank and by hand using wheelbarrows and shovels on the sandbanks at low water. Sailing barges gave way to steam powered vessels loaded by grab before the advent of today’s suction dredgers. In the early days barges were discharged by steam grab with the aggregate being transported from the wharfs by horse and cart.

Charles Henry Kendall anticipated that the family would obtain work from the proposed development of Langstone Harbour. However, after moving equipment to the harbour the development was not proceeded with and he moved his equipment back to Southampton “although there were little work prospects”. Kendalls continued in the Southampton area for some years doing a variety of marine work which included dredging at Bembridge, off Langstone and the Spit Bank. Dibden Bay was also dredged as the 14th June 1935 minutes of Southampton Harbour Board’s monthly meeting attest: - “The Mercantile Marine office of the Board of Trade have received an application from Mr C. Kendall for permission to dredge for gravel over the mudlands near Dibden Bay for, over a period of years, to remove 5000 to 10000 tons by grab dredger and lighter” The minutes record that there was “No objection to the proposal”.


Around 1916, one of Charles Henry’s four sons, Charles Samuel Kendall, seeing few further opportunities within his father’s business decided to set up on his own in the marine aggregate business. He moved his family to Portsmouth and established a wharf in VelderLake which was accessed by Warren Avenue, being the foundation of today’s Kendall Brothers’ company.


On One night in 1918 one of the Kendall’s bucket dredgers, possibly the 80ft Excelsior”, inexplicably sank at the entrance to Milton Lake where she remains to this day.

During the First World War a plan to build a series of eight towers across the English Channel armed with 4-inch guns and supporting an anti-submarine net. They were to be sited in the Dover Straight. In the event, the only tower completed by the end of the war was the built in Shoreham Harbour and it was decided to use it to replace the Nab Lightship. Two paddle wheel tugs towed the 90x40 foot tower to the Nab Rock on a calm day in 1920 where it was flooded and settled at an angle of 3 degrees to the northeast that can be seen today. Additional aggregate for ballast was shipped to the tower by the Kendall sailing barges.


Thames Grit and Aggregates Ltd merged with Hall & Co in 1931 to form Hall & Ham River Ltd.


It was Paul Penfold’s enthusiasm which saw P.E.Penfold Ltd become involved in the aggregate dredging industry when, in 1945, he was instrumental in acquiring an ex-War Department landing craft which he had fitted with no less than four cargo hoppers and a grading plant. The grading plant was designed to screen into the hoppers four sizes of material, 1.5.inch – 01/4inch - 3/8inch and sand. Originally the Producer, as she was named, had a forward facing suction pipe which was let down on a slide, but this was found too rigid and was discontinued in favour of a moveable pipe. It is interesting to note that it was some 20 years before the dredge pipe slide carriage arrangement was to become an industry norm and that screening, as Paul Penfold envisaged, never became established on board aggregate dredgers.

Although the Producer, proved successful when first tried out on the mud flats at Hayling Island, Penfolds did not add to their fleet for another eight years when, in 1963, they acquired the Dale Sand & Gravel Ltd.


With its roots in the 1911 Oakdene Shipping Company, South Coast Shipping Co Ltd was formed in 1921. South Coast Sand & Ballast Co Ltd was inaugurated in 1946 by Burness Shipping Co Ltd. In 1952 the company became Zinal SS Co, another Burness Shipping company, and South Coast Shipping Co Ltd in 1956 jointly owned by Burness Shipping Co Ltd in association with Wm. Cory & Son Ltd. 1971 saw Cory-Hall Aggregates Ltd merge their sea-dredged aggregates operations ashore and afloat. In 1988 the company merged with East Coast Aggregates Ltd which included the acquisition of the “Bow” ships. Renamed RMC Marine Ltd on 25th September 2002, the company most recently became CEMEX Marine Ltd on 22nd July 2005 when acquired by the Mexican company CEMEX.


Next on the south coast scene were the Sand Skipper and Sand Runner who heralded the arrival of South Coast Sand & Ballast Co. Ltd. into the industry in 1947. Built as the Empire Skipper and Empire Runner these 313grt ships were built by R. Dunston of Thorne for the Ministry of War Transport as part of a class of six “Severn Collier” type coasters built to transport coal from the South Wales ports to the power station at Gloucester. Risdon Beazley Ltd first converted the Sand Skipper to a suction dredger in 1947 and the Sand Runner in 1950.

Sand Runner

The Sand Runner was the first to retire when she arrived at the Northam yard of Pollock, Brown & Co on 1st August 1967 to be broken up. Four years earlier, on 5th December 1963, she was nearly lost when she sprang a leak en route for Shoreham. Four of her seven crew were taken off by the newly commissioned Shoreham lifeboat Dorothy & Philip Constant [ Now named Pettlandssker and running boat trips out of South Ronaldsay to the Pentland Skerries] before she arrived in Shoreham under her own power with a 30 degree list.

The Sand Skipper traded for a few more years until, in July 1970, she went to be broken up by Tom Holden of Bittern Manor at his Quayside Road yard in Southampton.

Sand Skipper

Both ships were first registered in Goole and were classified “for coasting service Great Britain & Ireland…” but dredged almost exclusively inside the Solent, running firstly to 110 Berth in the New Docks [now Western Dock] with the Sand Skipper delivering the first cargo to South Coast Shipping’s new wharf at 28 Berth in the Old Docks [now Eastern Docks] on the 4thApril 1960.

The World War II ‘Empire’ ships covers a wide range of vessels, ranging from tugs, coasters, tankers and cargo ships to passenger liners, both wartime built, requisitioned and post war reparations ships. Mostly they were used during World War II by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT), who owned the ships but contracted out their management to various shipping lines. Some ships requisitioned during the Suez crisis were also given the ‘Empire’ prefix. They were acquired from a number of sources. Many were built for the MoWT, others obtained from the USA still others were captured or seized from enemy powers.


Acquired from British Dredging in 1950 who had converted her to an aggregate dredger in February 1939 when named Hartford working the Bristol Channel, this steam ship was renamed Seaborne Alpha by Seaborne Aggregate Co Ltd which company having been formed by Husband’s Shipyard of Marchwood in 1948. The 410gt Seaborne Alpha was built in 1912 by J.P.Rennoldson & Sons of South Shields and traded until 1966 when she was broken up in Portsmouth.

Seaborne Aggregate Company Limited was destined to become part of Penfold Holdings when, in 1964, that company acquired a controlling interest in the company. Seaborne Aggregate Co Ltd became Amey Marine Ltd on 1st January, 1969, having made a profit after tax the year before of £167,903. The company name changed again, to A.R.C.Marine Ltd, on 1st January 1973 which was tidied up to ARC Marine Ltd. on 16th May 1986. The 19th January 1999 saw the another change, to Hanson Aggregates Marine Limited, which name has thus far been retained by the new owners, Heidelberg Cement of Germany, who acquired the company on 22nd august 2007.

The post war years saw a country wide increase in demand for aggregates and which benefitted many a marine aggregate company with C.S.Kendall & Sons being no exception. In 1950 the business became Kendall Bros. (Portsmouth) Ltd with the five children of Charles Samual being its directors. Ten years later Charles Kendall died aged 82 shortly before the compulsory purchase of the company’s Milton premises which saw the company relocate to its current site in Broom Channel.


South Coast Shipping next acquired the 633grt Rookwood which had been trading for British Dredging in the Bristol Channel since her conversion was completed in February 1940 when owned by F. Bowles. Re-engined in 1951 with a 6 cylinder Crossley Bros. main engine, she was built by Henry Robb Ltd of Leith in 1936 where the Royal Yacht Britannia is currently berthed. She was re-named Sand Martin when Zinal Steamship Company (effectively South Coast Shipping Ltd.) acquired her in 1951. Tragically, on Christmas Eve 1971, an explosion, whilst trying to free munitions jammed in the ship’s dredge pump, killed one of the attending bomb disposal personnel. She traded until, at the age of thirty eight, she went to the breakers at Passage West, Ireland in January 1974.

Sand Martin


E.Coles & Sons (Cowes)Ltd was an old established firm operating from Shamblers Yard at Cowes on the Isle of Wight when, in 1952, they started in the sea dredged aggregate trade with the grab dredger Crownmoor, reportedly an ex-paddle steamer with a very narrow beam.

Crownmoor - Alongside at Coles' yard Cowes being broken up.

Photo provided by R.Jolliffe who points out what looks like an old paddle box on her side.

In 1965, E.Coles & Sons was purchased for some £15,000 by Amey Director “Bill” Cottell using his own money in order to assist his employer’s cash flow. Cottell’s christen name was in fact Douglas, he only being called Bill because his father was called Bill and called his son “Young Bill”. He later sold the company to the Amey Group for the original purchase price and as Managing Director of A.R.C Marine, ran the Coles’ ships separately from the rest of the fleet often sighting the thrifty management of the brothers Stan & Sid Coles as an example for his A.R.C. marine managers.

With the arrival of the Amey Group the dry dock / slipway at Shamblers Yard was refurbished / re-commissioned in July 1966 and was clearly used to good effect for in the first year eleven ships used the facility for “in house and third party repairs”. The winding gear for pulling the ships up the slip was originally driven by the very highly geared 9hp 1890 built Philadelphia Grasshopper engine pump once used to draw water from the 160ft well at the nearby Carisbrook Castle. The yard’s refurbishment saw the Grashoppers steam drive replaced by compressed air and the wooden gates with iron ones made by Coles and operated by an electric winch.


Purchased in 1952 by Zinal SS Co. July 1953 saw the arrival of South Coast Shipping’s 379grt Sand Diver. Another ex-Empire ship built in 1944 by Henry Scarr Ltd at Hessle; she started life as the Ministry of War Transport’s Empire Farrier having first been laid down with the name Chant 48. Acquired by R.J.Hunt & Sons in 1946 who renamed her River Ouse. Briefly owned by Braywick Shipping Co Ltd who acquired and sold her on in 1952 but not before giving her the name Braywick. On 14th January 1958 she had a close shave when she was holed below the waterline by Union Castle’s Pretoria Castle which was manoeuvring in Southampton Water. She survived the encounter and traded as the Sand Diver until September 9th 1966 when she was taken under tow to Grays in Essex to be broken up by T.W.Ward Ltd at their Columbia Wharf.


The first named aggregate dredger identified as being owned & operated by Kendall Brothers (Portsmouth) Ltd was the 296gt steam ship Multistone which they acquired in 1955. Launched in Middlesbrough at Smith’s Dock.Co. Ltd on 20th August 1910 for United Stone Firms (W.Bryant) of Bristol. She was briefly owned by the Ministry of War Transport (1942/42) before being acquired by Robert Gardner of Lancaster who sold her to the Kendall brothers. Kendall Bros. traded her in and around the Solent and exclusively within the Solent when her Lloyds Register class expiring in March 1957. In November 1976, at the age of 66, she arrived at Burcht, Antwerp where she was broken up.

South Coast Shipping’s next ship was the 498grt Sand Star which started life as the Empire Dyke built by Clelands Ltd in 1942 for the Ministry of War Transport. Sold by the Ministry of War Transport to the Dutch Ministry of Fisheries in 1943, where she remained under the name of Prinses Margriet until purchased and converted in 1955 by Zinal Steamship Co Ltd. who renamed her Sand Star. She traded until she was in collision with the Caroline M off the Prince Consort buoy, Cowes in March 1966. She capsized and was beached in a sinking condition. Refloated and towed to Husband’s shipyard at Marchwood where she remained laid up until 12th September 1966 when she was taken in tow by the tug SunXXV to Grays, Essex where she was broken up by T.W.Ward Ltd.

Sand Star

Coast Farmer

Approaching Portsmouth Harbour 1st July 1985

Coast Farmer of Northwoods (Fareham) Ltd, started life in October 1955 from shipyard Cook Welton & Gemmell Ltd at Beverley as the 313gt 4-tank tanker Shell Farmer. Driven by a 324bhp 4-stroke 6-cly Blacksone engine, she was built for Shell Mex & BP Ltd. for the Humber / Trent Service. Reportedly sold and renamed about 1975/6 when owned by Mr. A. Cornish of London she changed hands again in 1976 when A W R Twine of Portsmouth acquired her (and named her Coast Farmer?) In March 1993 she arrived in Dibden Bay to be broken up by Portswood Demolition.


The 246gt River Trent was built by Goole Shipbuilders and Repairers Co Ltd where she was launched on 8th December 1934 for owners R.H.Hunt of Hull. A year after she was sold to Hull Gates Shipping, on 2nd October 1955 the newly named Friargate went aground off Flamborough Head during a snow storm. Refloated the next day, she was subsequently sold on 10th February 1956 to E. Coles & Sons who converted her to their first suction aggregate dredger. One of her claims to fame was for disrupting the Cowes power supply which she achieved by coming alongside the Coal Quay when the unloading cranes were in the loading position (horizontal) which demolished the ship’s wheelhouse whilst ruining the grab cranes and cutting off power to the town for a few hours. She was subsequently taken out of class at the owners’ request in April 1958 as she traded exclusively within the Solent. She was finally sold to Bowen and Caines of Portsmouth and arrived to be broken up at Grimsby on 2nd October 1959.


The James 47 had been converted to a trailer dredger at Westminster’s Bromborough yard in Liverpool and the company claimed to have carried out Europe’s first capital dredging contract using her at the mouth of the River Tyne in 1956. Described by the company’s chief engineer at the time, Mr.Bram de Smit, as “a real hash up but we learnt a lot from our mistakes” It is worthy of note that the development of trailing suction dredging for maintenance dredgers was considered, at the time, to be the biggest development in the company’s history. The trailer suction dredger had been widely used in America for some time but Westminster Dredging Company were the first company to use trailer dredgers on a large scale in Europe, some 35 years after the first trailer aggregate suction dredger sailed from Bristol.


Launched on 27th May 1957 at P.K. Harris & Sons’ Appledore yard, the 499grt Sand Dart was South Coast Shipping’s first purpose built suction dredger and one of a similar class of “500 tonners” which was to serve the company well for the next decade and more. On 10th March 1962 she went aground off St. Alban’s Head in thick fog. The crew climbed overboard, made their way up the cliff and walked to the nearby village of Worth Matravers where, it is reported: - “the ship’s Mate, one Frank Honour, found the Square & Compass so congenial that he settled there, working for the then landlady, Eileen Newman and doing other jobs around the area until he died…” Later the ship, whilst till fast on the rocks, was damaged by fire. Eventually refloated and towed first to Portland and then Newhaven, she was purchased as a constructive loss by P.E.Penfold Ltd who towed her back to Appledore for repair. When she returned to service in 1964, as the Pen Dart, she was to prove a particularly reliable vessel.

She experienced another near miss when, in February 1970, she dragged her anchors off Shoreham in almost hurricane force winds and was unable to manoeuvre. Shoreham's own tug Kingston Buci was not able to assist her in the foul conditions and the Newhaven tug Meeching was dispatched. The rescue saw Meeching going inshore of Pen Dart, putting herself perilously close to the shore, before eventually towing her to the safety of Shoreham harbour

Still under the same management, her ownership was transferred to Seaborne Aggregate Co Ltd in 1966, to Amey Marine Ltd in 1969 and to A.R.C.Marine in 1973. Sold to Ilias Marakis Kifisias of Greece in July 1978 where she traded as the Irini. Her last owner was Marisant Ltd of Greece who acquired her in 1989, first naming her Skorpios before changing it back to Irini under which name she was on the Greek coast with a crane on her deck still trading in 2011.


In May 1959 J.Bolson & Son Ltd launched yard number 523 at their Poole shipyard with the name Sand Grebe being South Coast Shipping’s next new building. The Sand Grebe began South Coast Shipping’s association with the Bolson’s yard which would continue for exactly twelve years when the seventh ship built for South Coast Shipping, the 67mtr Sand Skua, was delivered in May 1971. The 531grt Sand Grebe was to prove notoriously heavy to steer even with the lazy spoke fitted to her wheel. With diesel-electric power she was sold to Wyvern Maritime Ltd who registered her in Padstow as the Sand Wyvern in 1973. She dredged off Hayle and also ran into Plymouth, Appledore and Barnstable with some dredging off the Britanny coast. Her ownership changed again in 1978 when acquired by Westminster Gravels Ltd. who briefly considered changing her name to Padstone but settled on Sea Driver in 1982. Her last owners were T.J. Bowen & P.D.Cains who acquired her 1985 and sent her for breaking up in June of the same year.

Sand Grebe

Sand Wyvern grounding March 1975

Sand Skua

Sand Wyvern

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