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Edmund Gardner

Pilot ship
Edmund Gardner pilot ship

Technical details of the Edmund Gardner

pilot cutter ship in dry dock

View of after starboard side

The Edmund Gardner is built of riveted steel and powered by two six cylinder single acting 640bhp National diesel engines which together drive a generator for the electric propulsion motor attached to the single propeller shaft. Both engines together could give her a speed of 14 knots, but she usually operated while on station with one engine shut down for economy and maintenance. She is equipped with Kelvin Hughes radar type 7/12, Marconi ‘Corvette’ VHF radio and a Marconi Radio Telephone.


The ship has accommodation on board for a crew of 54, consisting of a master, second master, chief engineer, second engineer, 2 greasers, 5 galley crew, 11 apprentice pilots and up to 32 pilots

pilot cutter ship in dry dock, seen from below

View of stem and fore quarter from dry dock floor


  • Length overall 54.1m
  • Length (bp) 50.5m
  • Breadth 9.6m
  • Depth 4.4m
  • Draught forward 3.1m
  • Draught aft 3.7m
  • Displacement (loaded) 768.36 tonnes
  • Deadweight (mass of cargo) 109.62 tonnes
  • Gross registered tonnage 701tons (70100 cubic feet)
  • Net registered tonnage 202.5tons (20250 cubic feet)
  • Maximum accommodation 57 people
  • Watertight bulkheads 5
  • Call sign GRCX
  • Official number 185476
  • Boats (motor) 2 x 5.8m
  • Boats (oar) 2 x 8.2m
  • Liferafts 1 x 20 men, 1 x 10 men

Build details

Ordered by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, Liverpool, in July 1951. Launched 9 July 1953 and handed over 2 December 1953. Cost of build:

  • contract price £189,230
  • extras £4,186
  • increased costs £16,457
  • deck stiffening £89 (for the Admiralty)
  • profit £1,114
  • additions to the contract price £2,061
  • additions to profit £3,243

Further information

Bridge deck

The bridge was manned by two of the apprentice pilots, who worked in shifts throughout the day and night, plus a master was available at all times.

The principle features of the bridge are the compass and helm used for steering the ship and the telegraphs used for signalling the engine room of speed and direction. Instructions are written clearly on the telegraph, as it would be too loud to hear verbal directions over the roar of the engines below decks.

The pilots navigated by means of radar, echo sounder and chart work. Radio was the main form of communication but pilots could also send messages by signal flag, whistle, loudhailer or using an Aldis lamp, a visual signalling device used to send Morse code.

Other equipment on the bridge includes a clearview screen, Loudaphone system for internal communication, batteries and charger, the light switches for the deck and navigation lights and emergency equipment such as rockets, flares and sirens.

Above the bridge is the Monkey Island. This carries the radar mast, vhf radio aerial, wind vane and another compass used for taking bearings.


From the bridge if you look towards the bow (the front of the ship) you can see the foredeck. Machinery on the foredeck includes the windlass used for handling the mooring ropes and the anchors.

The mast is the foremast, which contains navigation, identification and signalling lights and halyards, the ropes used for hoisting and lowering flags.

Boat deck

Also from the bridge, if you look in the opposite direction towards the stern (the back of the ship) you can see the boat deck. This deck is dominated by the funnel, with the whistle on top, the main mast, the ship’s radio aerial running between the masts, plus various vents and fans to ventilate the lower decks.

Two boats can be seen on the port side of the boat deck. During the Edmund Gardner’s working life there would have been two more on the starboard side as well. The yellow boat closest to the bridge is a motor launch, also known as a punt, which would have been used to transport the pilots to other ships. The punt is stowed in davits, with an electric winch to lower it into the water. Behind the punt is a white lifeboat.

The Edmund Gardner originally had wooden boats but these have been taken off and stored. The replacements on display are fibreglass replicas, which lessens maintenance. This is an important consideration given the exposed position on the banks of the river Mersey.

Master's accommodation

The master’s accommodation is immediately below the bridge deck, providing quick and easy access. It consists of two identically furnished cabins and a shared bathroom.

On the bulkhead outside the cabin and at regular intervals around the ship are battery powered emergency lights.

Pilot's entrance

Also known as the Sun lounge, this was used as a waiting area for pilots going on duty. The bulkhead (wall) is beautifully clad in oak panelling.

On the bulkhead below the builder’s plate there is a clock and barometer. These were presented to the ship by its namesake, Mr Edmund Gardner, who was chairman of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board 1948-1950. The Edmund Gardner and her sister ships, the Sir Thomas Brocklebank and the Arnet Robinson, maintained the tradition of naming pilot ships after former Board chairmen.

Dining saloon and lounge

One of the two magnificent dining tables in the oak paneled saloon is laid for a typical meal of the period. The starboard (right) table was generally used, with the master at the head of the table. The second master and pilots would be seated down the sides in order of seniority. As was usual at the time, the crew was segregated according to the traditional social hierarchy, so the engineers, greasers, apprentices and galley crew had their own less luxurious mess rooms and accommodation.

In bad weather fiddles (guardrails) were fixed around the table and the cloths were dampened to prevent things from sliding about as the ship pitched and rolled.

Pilot's accommodation

A staircase from the saloon leads down to the pilot’s accommodation. The Edmund Gardner had up to 32 pilots on board at any time, all of whom had to share the 11 cabins and washroom facilities on this lower deck.

As pilots didn’t spend much time on board their cabins are small and basically furnished. They also had the use of a small TV lounge next door to the saloon to relax in.

Pantry and galley

Meals for the whole crew were cooked in the galley and served from the adjoining pantry, located next to the saloon on the port side. The galley staff were the only people in regular contact with everybody on board, as the rest of the crew were separated into different mess rooms and accommodation and worked varying shifts, so they were an important source of news and gossip.

The cook, assisted by two galley boys, originally prepared food using a coal fired cooker. This was replaced by a bottled gas cooker in the mid 1970s, which was later superseded by an electric oven. The pantry was staffed by the steward and mess boy. It contains an electric oven to keep meals warm, an electric water boiler and plenty of storage space for cutlery, cups and plates.

Chief engineer's cabin

This cabin has more storage space than any other on the ship because the chief carried all the technical data and drawings as well as his own personal belongings. Additional charts were stored in a spare corner of the adjacent washroom.

Boarding stations

The boarding stations are located on both sides of the ship immediately below the punts, providing easy access for the pilots. Once the punts had been lowered into the water the pilots could step onboard relatively safely. In previous boats access to the punts had been via a ladder from the main deck.

The Edmund Gardner carried two punts, which were built stoutly with extra wooden sheathing in order to withstand the stresses of being lowered regularly and going alongside large steel ships.

Cook's cabin

All the accommodation along the port alleyway belonged to the galley crew. Everyone except the galley boys had single cabins and they shared shower and mess room facilities. The cook’s cabin is typical of their accommodation.

Engine room

The Edmund Gardner is a diesel electric ship. Two 640bhp National diesel engines drive generators to provide power to a propulsion motor, this electric motor drives the propeller. Using both engines would give the ship a top speed of 14 knots (16 miles per hour). Generally on station only one engine would be required.

Electrical power is also provided for auxiliary machinery, steering gear, pumps, heating, lighting and ventilation, all of which are controlled from the engine room.

An engineer would be on watch at all times in the engine room, with a greaser to assist him. The engineering crew had similar accommodation to the galley crew, including cabins, a mess room and washroom facilities, on the other side of the ship. On the deck below is the apprentices accommodation.


The machinery on the afterdeck is the capstan, a rotating machine which is used mainly for handling the mooring ropes. The two green hatches provide access to the stearing gear compartment and an escape route from the engine room.

Behind the ship on the dry dock wall you can see the date that the dock was originally opened, 1813, plus depth markings in roman numerals. Next to this ‘DEEPENED AND REBUILT 1840’ has been carved in the stonework.