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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)

In a Blackwall Liner

In a Blackwall Liner.

In 1856 Matthew Clayton, now a chief mate, entered the service of one of the finest sailing passenger lines that kept the seas, the Money Wigram fleet. Those were the days when builder vied with builder in producing sailing-ships of great beauty and speed, and fitted up for cabin passengers in a style that was comparatively luxurious. He signed on as chief officer of the ship Kent, a “Blackwall Liner,” after an interview with the famous old shipowner, who was the chief partner in the firm of Wigram and Sons. This firm owned besides the Kent a splendid fleet of passenger ships of the highest class, most of them named after English counties, such as the Norfolk, the Suffolk, the Essex, the Yorkshire; another of the fleet was the True Briton. The Kent was his floating home for seven years, for the latter half of this period he was in command. She was frigate-built; she was described as a semi-clipper. Though not regarded as a flyer, she nevertheless beat some of the tea-clippers under certain conditions of weather, as will be seen later on. She carried the old-style single, or whole, topsails, huge expanses of canvas with four rows of reef-points. In all detail of rig she exactly resembled a frigate. All the rigging when Clayton joined her was of hemp; wire rigging only came in after he had made two or three voyages. Her masts were of the best Norway pine; all her yards were banded with iron every three feet. An Ai specimen of maritime workmanship was the Kent. She was considered one of the finest ships trading out of the port of London in her day.