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By David Rooney on

Thornycroft The Destroyer

My daily commute to work is a nightmare. Seriously. Look at the view I have to put up with every morning:

Tower Bridge from Thames Clipper, 13 October 2009 (David Rooney)
Tower Bridge from Thames Clipper, 13 October 2009 (David Rooney)

Sorry. That was smug of me. Unless I’m in a tearing hurry (I try not to be) I commute by fast clipper along the River Thames to work. It’s a glorious way to travel! Sometimes, big ships come up the river and park alongside HMS Belfast (a Second World War ship now part of the Imperial War Museum). This week we’ve been visited by Brazilian Navy training ship ‘Brasil’:

Brazilian Navy ship Brasil, 11 October 2009 (David Rooney)
Brazilian Navy ship 'Brasil', 11 October 2009 (David Rooney)

‘Brasil’ was built in Britain by Vosper Thornycroft in the early 1980s, as part of a series of frigates based on the Royal Navy ‘type 21’ craft. Vosper Thornycroft (now the VT Group) was formed in 1966 by a merger of Vosper (Portsmouth) and Thornycroft (Southampton), the latter having been set up a century previously by John Isaac Thornycroft. Here’s a Vanity Fair caricature from our art collection, entitled ‘Destroyers’:

John Thornycroft in Vanity Fair (Science Museum / Science & Society)
John Thornycroft in Vanity Fair (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Thornycroft’s company made ships, boats, cars, trucks and other big heavy things, but perhaps his biggest claim to fame was making the Royal Navy’s first torpedo boat, HMS Lightning, in 1876. We’ve a model in our Shipping gallery:

Detail of HMS Lightning (David Rooney)
Detail of HMS Lightning (David Rooney)

Interested? The Science Museum Library has lots of useful references (search for Thornycroft), and we also have a substantial archive of the Thornycroft car business. And if you’re really keen, there’s other Thornycroft stuff scattered around the Shipping gallery here at South Kensington. As for ‘Brasil’, it looks like she’s due to leave on Thursday 15th at about 11.05am, if I interpret the Tower Bridge lifting schedule correctly.

2 comments on “Thornycroft The Destroyer

  1. There is a lovely 1870s Thornycroft steam launch, Eva, in the River and Rowing Museum, Henley – very elegant, very fast – I helped restore and run her on the Thames back in the early 80s before she fell into the hands of the museum and becam a static exhibit.

  2. Interstingly enough, I’ve just fond otu that John Thorneycroft trained at my mother’s relative’s shipbuilding firm, Palmers of Jarrow.


    It is of interest to add that many eminent shipbuilders and engineers have been trained at the works, or have passed some time in the Company’s service, including …..Mr John Thornycroft, the well-known builder of high-speed vessels

    And there are models of Palmers ships in the Shipping Gallery at South Kensington too. Battleships Lord Nelson and Resolution, and an oil tanker.

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