The SS Robin: A Unique Ship

This is a short history of the SS Robin. Click here for a factsheet, or here for a more detailed history.

SS Robin Timeline

1890   SS Robin built and fitted out in London. Used to carry cargo around UK

1900   Sold to Spanish owners and renamed Maria

1974   Returns to England

1979   Restoration finishes, moves to St Katherine’s Docks

1991   New mooring at West India Quay

2002   Placed into trust

2008   Restoration in Lowestoft starts

2011   Moves to Royal Docks on pontoon

2017   Planning fo move to East India Dock Lock Entrance in 2018

2018-19 East India Dock plans abandoned

2019 Planning to remain at the Royal Docks as part of new docks regeneration plans.

The SS Robin, and her sister ship Rook, were built in Orchard Yard, Blackwall in London in 1890. Their triple expansion engines were fitted in Dundee by Gourlay Brothers. Both the hull and engineering were top rated by Lloyds of London.

The Robin carried cargo around the UK from 1890 until 1900. Cargoes included barrelled herring, coal, china clay and granite for the Caledonian Canal.

The Robin was sold to a Spanish company in 1900. She was renamed Maria. She worked in Spain until 1974, mostly carrying coal along the North West Atlantic coast.

In 1974, the Maritime Trust were looking for ships that were historically important. They bought Maria, sailed her back to the UK and named her Robin again. The Robin was restored between 1974 and 1979 by Dousts shipyard in Rochester to how she looked in 1890. After restoration, she was moved to St Katherine’s Docks near the Tower of London. She was part of the National Historic Fleet as a visitor attraction.


The Robin was moved to West India Quay in 1991. She remained there throughout the 1990s, by which time she was in need of additional restoration. In 2002 she was bought by David and Nishani Kampfner and put in trust, and was open as a photo gallery from 2004-2007. She was assessed in Lowestoft, and a Heritage Lottery Fund bid was successful to conserve her, open her to the public fully and to support the Trust's community work.

The Robin was moved onto a floating pontoon so that her hull stays original and can be seen. This is a new and innovative approach for conserving a ship. You can get a glimpse of her at London’s Royal Victoria Dock alongside the EXCEL Centre, where she’s undergoing final restoration work only a mile from where she was originally built. We hope to complete the internal restoration soon and fit out the pontoon for the benefit of visitors.