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British King...


Ships Official Name:- British King

International Code Signal Letters:- V.L.T.P.

Master during voyage:- Mr. S. Lecky

Registered Tonnage:- 2278 ton

Net Tonnage:- 3559 ton

Gross Tonnage:- 3255 ton

Length:- 410 feet 3 inches

Breadth:- 39 feet

Depth:- 28 feet 9 inches

Poop Deck length:- 50 feet

Forecastle length:- 86 feet


Compound inverted 4 cylinder 28 and 60 inches by 54 inches

Steam Pressure:- 90 PSI

Rating:- 400 H.P.

Builder:- J. Jack & Company. Liverpool


Ship was constructed at Belfast by Harland & Wolff.

Machinery was certified by the Engineering Surveyor to Lloyds during construction.

Ship was built in March 1881. (Probably took 1 month).

Owner:- British Shipowners Company.

Registered Port:- Liverpool.

Port of Survey:- Liverpool.

Anchors and Chains approved

Date of last Survey:- March 1882.

Ship was built under special survey.

The ship contained 6 steel bulkheads, 3 decks of which 2 were steel and iron beams.

(Information taken from Lloyds register of Shipping 1883.)

(Provided by the Auckland Library)

Why the ‘British King’?

The first direct steamer lines between London and New Zealand followed the tracks of the sailing ships of the Shaw Savill Company’s and the New Zealand Shipping Company’s lines. These went out via the Cape of Good Hope and crossed the southern ocean to Wellington and other ports in New Zealand. Homeward bound, the steamers ran with the westerlies to Cape Horn and so home via Monte Video or Rio de Janeiro or Tenerife. Since the opening of the Panama Canal most of these liners, and those of other more recently formed companies, crossed the Pacific and used the Canal, but some vessels still regularly used what long ago became known as the ‘blue water route’.

Both the New Zealand Shipping Company and the Shaw Savill & Albion Company - the latter formed by the amalgamation of the Shaw Savill and Albion Companies - went into steam in 1883, using chartered ships at first. The New Zealand Shipping Company’s pioneers were the British King and the British Queen, both four-masted vessels of 3558 tons gross register, owned by the British Shipowners’ Association.

The British King, sailing from London on the 1st January 1883, was the first of the chartered steamers to arrive in New Zealand waters. She was also the first steamer to carry frozen meat to London via Cape Horn, though not the first to leave New Zealand with this class of cargo. The German steamer Marsala was the first, though she lost it en-route. The Elderslie, of 1801 tons, which took a cargo in 1884, was six months after the British King.


After the British King and British Queen were used to prove the possibilities of the ‘blue water route’ for steamers, William Denny & Bros. of Dumbarton built for the New Zealand Shipping Company 5 steamers, - the Ontario, Aorangi and Ruapehu, all of 4163 tons, and the Rimutaka and Kaikoura of 4474 tons. The first to arrive was the Tongariro, which reached the southern Dominion on the 11th December 1883

The above information from:-

Pacific Steamers

By Will Lawson

(pages 214 -215)