THE SUNDERLAND SITE - PAGE 208
EPPLETON HALL - A DISTINGUISHED PADDLE TUG
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Corrections in any of the material which follows, however tiny, would be most welcome. And additions, of course!
This page is a page in progress - much more data needs to be located, researched & incorporated. So do forgive the webmaster if the page appears disjointed while it advances.
A brief introduction to the subject.
Basic data about Eppleton Hall.
The William Featherston article about Eppleton Hall, published in the Aug. 7, 1970 issue of 'Model Engineer'.
At Clayton and Davie Ltd., ship breakers, of Dunston upon Tyne, to be scrapped.
At the R. B. Harrison shipyard at Bill Quay, Gateshead, to be rebuilt/refurbished.
The voyage to San Francisco.
At the San Francisco Maritime Museum.
'The River Wear, Sunderland, 1961', a YouTube video which features Eppleton Hall.
Some 'Eppleton Hall' images. Hover your mouse over each thumbnail to read the subject matter.
It is hoped that one day this page will contain a comprehensive history of Eppleton Hall, a most famous paddle tug which had a long & distinguished history of service on the River Wear & also on the River Tyne & at Seaham. The vessel is today in a maritime museum at San Francisco in the United States. Having 'paddled' her way for 11,000 miles, unassisted, across the North Atlantic, having transited the Panama Canal & made her way up the W. coast of the U.S. to her final destination.
Today, the page is largely photographic in nature. And is made possible by the keen interest of a friend of the site (thanks!) who has generously provided material from his image collection.
That friend would, I know, wish me to reference the fact that many of the photographs which follow came from the collection of William Featherston, known as 'Feathers', of Newcastle. 'Feathers' had a great interest in tug boats, related surely to the fact that his father had been a tugboat skipper on the Tyne for all of his working life. I understand that 'Feathers' wrote an article about Eppleton Hall entitled 'The Paddle Tug Eppleton Hall', published in 'Model Engineer' in 1970. We would like to think that 'Feathers', were he still with us, would be gratified to know that his collection of images of Eppleton Hall, passed on to our site friend, are made widely available through this page to all who have an interest in her.
One day perhaps the page will contain detail operational history of Eppleton Hall, but it does not do so today. Need I say it, additional data about the vessel & its history would be most welcome.
That's William Featherstone at right - in 1969 - aboard Eppleton Hall at the R. B. Harrison & Son's shipyard at Bill Quay, Gateshead.
Eppleton Hall was not built at Sunderland. It was rather built, in 1914, by Hepple & Company Ltd., ('Hepple') then at South Shields. Not a giant shipyard by any means, but a long established company that in various incarnations dated back to 1852. The company built ships at South Shields from 1894 thru 1914 building modest cargo vessels & tugs, along with a variety of other vessel types including a ferry, an icebreaker & some trawlers. In 1919 Hepple became 'Hepples (1919) Ltd.' - The yard closed in 1923 & was sold to neighbours 'Brigham & Cowan' in 1924.
Eppleton Hall, of 166 tons, 100 ft. 6 in. in length, with a single wooden mast forward, was one of the 34 tugs that they built - built of steel & wood for Lambton and Hetton Collieries Ltd. & launched on Sep. 17, 1913. Her livery was black with a smoke stack, also in black but with three horizontal red bands - to identify the 'Lambton' fleet. Her crew was likely five in number. She was, in fact, the second to last paddle tug to be built in the U.K. - only John H. Amos was built later, in 1931.
Eppleton Hall? A source of some authority states (at true page 11) that the vessel was named after Eppleton Hall, the ancestral home of the Lambton family located near Penshaw, just west of Sunderland. But that would seem not to be so. Eppleton Hall was not the ancestral home of the Lambton family. So I cannot tell you the reason why the tug was so named. Do read this 'Hetton Local History Group' 'pdf' page if you wish to know more of Eppleton Hall's history.
Eppleton Hall was, indeed still is, a steam powered side wheeler or paddler. I read that her designed speed was 12 knots & she had twin 'surface condensing side-lever engines (also known as grasshopper engines)', which engines, described as 'crude, heavy, cranky, primitive', could function independently of each other even work in opposite directions - since like all tugs she had to be manoeuvrable.
She could spin in a circle like a top!
She burned coal for power &, most unusual, used sea water for steam. (Another unusual feature of the EPPLETON HALL is its hand-forged boilers designed to use seawater. Every six weeks the accumulated salt had to be chipped out of the boilers and rinsed away. The advantage was that large freshwater tanks did not have to be carried aboard.)
She also had 'feathering' paddle boards - as you can see on the drawing below (click the image if you wish to see the drawings in a larger version). Her purpose was to serve shipping in the River Wear, then a busy scene both with general shipping & with colliers galore carrying coal from Lambton family coal mines, to ports & power stations in the south of England & elsewhere. She was, by all accounts a workhorse, towing ships out to the North Sea & guiding them safely in the narrow confines of the River Wear & the docks of Sunderland. And often Newcastle upon Tyne also.
What did she look like? We first offer you some drawings of the tug and, after her working life was over, an image of the vessel - now with an extra mast and equipped with sails & also converted to burn diesel instead of coal to fire her boilers. Passing the Pilot Jetty at South Shields - coming back up the river Tyne after carrying out sea trials before sailing for the U.S. in Sep. 1969.
The vessel served 'Lambton & Hetton Colliers Limited' for over 30 years. In 1946, however, the vessel was sold to 'France, Fenwick, Wear, and Tyne Ltd.', of Sunderland, a company also deeply involved in the coal trade. Some changes were made to the vessel to permit the vessel to obtain a certificate to carry passengers. Not to become a ferry or an excursion craft, rather to permit the vessel to 'do a little moonlighting as a passenger vessel' & to transport officials from newly-launched steamers. Her real role was essentially unchanged. The tug also operated on the Tyne River.
Robert Hunter advises that Eppleton Hall used to attend the ship launches at Bartrams - her paddles apparently making her particularly suitable for collecting the launch timbers & ways after a launch.
'Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in Pictures', advises us, here, that Stag, also a tug, capsized in 1950, presumably with loss of life. And that a year later, in 1951, a memorial service was held aboard Eppleton Hall as per the image which follows next.
In 1964, the vessel was sold to 'Seaham Harbour Dock Company'. Seaham is a man made harbour carved out of the cliffs, with waters protected by sea walls & a gated harbour entrance. A coal shipping port supplied by the coal mines in the hinterland by railway lines. The vessel assisted colliers into & out of their mooring berths within the confined area of Seaham Harbour. But for a short while only. In 1967, the vessel was sold to Clayton and Davie Ltd. of Dunston upon Tyne, near Newcastle. That company, in existence for over 40 years, had been started in 1926 by Mr. Herbert Clayton after returning from WW1. He later was joined by William Alexander Davie hence the name. Clayton and Davie Ltd.'s business was ship breaking - Eppleton Hall was to be scrapped.
It is most fortunate that the scrapping did not proceed rapidly though much of the ship's wooden interior & structure was burned off & destroyed by an intentional fire. She sat and sat on the mud at the Clayton and Davie Ltd. yard, with water rushing in and out of her, through holes in her hull, as the tides ebbed & flowed.
I referred above to a William Featherstone article about Eppleton Hall - an article which was published in 'Model Engineer', in the Aug. 7, 1970 issue #3398. The article proves to be most informative article indeed - it will, I am sure, be of interest to many site visitors.
I do hope that including the article on this page is acceptable to the folks at 'Model Engineer'. Certainly those who knew William Featherston when he was alive, will affirm to his love for the paddle tug & his enthusiasm for its rescue from the scrap yard. They believe that he would have wished his article to be made available in this way. But ... I will, of course, remove the content should 'Model Engineer' so request - with regret, however.
The cover of the issue in question is at left.
Each thumbnail image below is 'clickable'. And the image on each of the pages that you come to can be clicked again to see that particular page in a larger size.
A wonderful image of Eppleton Hall taken in Nov. 1967 when she was lying at the yard of Clayton and Davie Ltd., at Dunston upon Tyne, near Newcastle, i.e. before she was 'saved' & taken to R. B. Harrison & Son's shipyard at Bill Quay, Gateshead. The image was taken by 'M. Donnelly' who granted, in Mar. 1969, permission to use the image to 'Feathers'. The image & I trust the related copyright permission, was later transferred to our friend of the site.
A little higher on this page I indicated that Eppleton Hall 'sat and sat on the mud at the Clayton and Davie Ltd. yard, with water rushing in and out of her through holes in her hull, as the tides ebbed & flowed'. Those words essentially originated on this page, in the words of 'Islander' 70% down the page. One wonders whether those words are consistent with the comments of William Featherston, who stated (in italics just below), that the ship's hull 'was in fair condition'. Holes in the hull do not sound like fair condition, do they? I am advised, however, that it is common practice in ship breakers, once they have the ship where they want it, to cut holes in the hull to sink it in situ. On the mud beside the quay in this case. Why? To ensure that the vessel could not break its mooring lines & float off downriver some dark stormy night. And be lost. And more importantly cause untold damage to other ships, quaysides, small boats, yachts etc. & create huge damage liabilities for the ship-breaker as a result. So any such holes may not have been indicative of the condition of the hull as I had thought likely. Can anybody tell us whether that is what actually happened in Eppleton Hall's case? Richard adds that such flooding would not have helped the condition of the engines, also stated by 'Feathers' to have been in fair condition.
Enter Scott Newhall (1914/1992), a newspaper magnate from San Francisco, California, who wished to preserve a British paddle wheel tug. While Eppleton Hall was not Scott's first paddle tug choice (he would have preferred to have acquired Radiant, also then at Seaham) he bought the vessel in 1969 for £2,400. My he moved fast! The derelict vessel was delivered to the R. B. Harrison & Son's shipyard at Bill Quay, Gateshead, to be repaired & rebuilt. Just three months later the job was accomplished!
Derelict? William Featherston describes her as follows: 'What actually arrived at the slipway was a sorry wreck, for only the steel hull, the funnel, the engines and the new boilers were in fair condition, but the bridge, the paddle casings and the forward port and starboard bulwarks were missing; the paddle wheel and the floats were in a very bad condition.'
My mind wonders what it cost to rebuild & refurbish Eppleton Hall back in 1969. Does anybody happen to know?
Webmaster's comment:- Scott J. Newhall, by all accounts a most flamboyant newspaperman indeed, was the executive editor of The San Francisco Chronicle from 1952 to 1971. Under his leadership, the paper became the leading newspaper in San Francisco with a dramatically increased circulation.
It is however his role as founder & a trustee of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, that most concerns this page. It is on the museum's behalf that he acquired the Eppleton Hall in 1969.
Scott passed away, at age 78, on Oct. 26, 1992, as you can read here & here.
The next three photographs are of Eppleton Hall at the R. B. Harrison & Son yard at Bill Quay, Gateshead, on Aug. 15, 1969.
The interesting image above shows one of the vessel's two 'crude, heavy, cranky & primitive' side-lever (also known as grasshopper) 'Hepple & Co.' steam engines.
At left, the vessel is shown on the R. B. Harrison & Son yard slipway.
The next images were all taken on Aug. 30, 1969. Of Eppleton Hall at Bill Quay, Gateshead, being rebuilt at the R. B. Harrison & Son shipyard there. I note that in the first image below, you can see William Featherston, known as 'Feathers', at the site along with his wife Kitty.
Another fine image below shows the vessel's wheelhouse, with a lifeboat from Cornhill, a Sunderland tug, mounted on the stern section of the paddle casing.
Eppleton Hall at the R. B. Harrison & Son yard at Bill Quay, Gateshead, on Sep. 6, 1969.
Eppleton Hall at and off the R. B. Harrison & Son yard at Bill Quay, Gateshead, on Sep. 14, 1969. I wonder to whom Scott Newhall is chatting. Jonathan Marsh has come to our rescue (thanks Jon!). Scott is talking with Stanley Rooke who was involved with the re-fitting of the tug.
Eppleton Hall in an image stated to be dated Sep. 17, 1969.
Eppleton Hall at Quayside, at Newcastle upon Tyne, on Sep. 18, 1969.
An image, of Scott Newhall & Eppleton Hall, widely published in the newspapers - an AP Wirephoto dated Sep. 15, 1969. The related text read.
On Sep. 18, 1969, the vessel steamed down the Tyne for the last time, under the command of Scott Newhall, bound 'across the pond' for distant San Francisco. With a crew of 11 - Scott Newhall, of course, as her captain, Karl Kortum, first mate, of the San Francisco Maritime Museum along with Karl's son Johnny, Bill Bartz & his children Heide & Billy, Scott Nicoll, Chief Engineer, also engineers including Bill Graham, & a purser. (We yet need to identify all 11 who were aboard - it would seem that Franci Neale & Jeanmarie Maher were aboard).
A most interesting press image was eBay available as this page was first created, in Jan. 2014, of the crew of Eppleton Hall as she was ready to set sail back in 1969. Now I appreciate why the eBay vendor feels that his listing image must bear a logo - but that logo, modest by most standards, spoils the visual impact of the image. Might I hope that the winner in due course of the item will see these words & provide for inclusion here a quality scan without the logo? Or alternatively someone who possesses another copy of the press image might come to the page's rescue. But I include it, logo & all, because it is worthy of inclusion. It's source.
It would appear that the tug headed west by a circuitous but safer route. She travelled across the Bay of Biscay, south along the coasts of Spain & Portugal. And then via Madeira, Las Palmas & Saint Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands, westward for Georgetown, Guyana, & the coast of South America.
En route, she had to stop at Dover to get a fuel pump repaired. In the Bay of Biscay, she ran into inclement weather conditions, to put it mildly. Her crew suffered illnesses.
Off the NW coast of Spain she had to broadcast for help - she was out of fuel! The first vessel that stopped & tried to help had the wrong sort of diesel fuel. But a British freighter did the necessary. Not an easy task - it took 8 hours using a pipe the size of a garden hose!
Scott Nicoll, Chief Engineer, left the vessel in the Canary Islands.
Eppleton Hall had a speed of 8 knots only (have also read 6 & 7 knots only) but, equipped with sails for the journey, was helped along modestly by wind power. It took her about 6 months to complete the voyage via the Panama Canal, though much of that time would appear to have been consumed in goodwill stops in ports along the route. She steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge on Mar. 24, 1970 & arrived at San Francisco to the tumultuous welcome of an assembled fleet of fire-fighting ships & pleasure craft.
Per Scott Newhall. 'The ship has handled beautifully'.
Scott Newhall wrote a book about Eppleton Hall's voyage & of the vessel's acquisition & rebuild. Entitled, per the cover at left, 'The Eppleton Hall', but sub-titled 'Being a true and faithful narrative of the remarkable voyage of the last Tyne river steam sidewheel paddle tug afloat - Newcastle-upon-Tyne to San Francisco 1969-1970'.
Published in 1971 by Howell-North Books, of Berkeley, California. Of 304 pages including 56 pages of photographs. ISBN 0831070854
The U.S. National Park Service took over ownership of the tug in 1977.
If you are able to provide information or images about the tug, they would be most gratefully received.
Alas, the data that has now been received about the vessel is not good. An article, complete with an image ex a recent (Feb. 26, 2010, I believe) issue of 'Sunderland Echo'. An article written by Bob Horn, Ex-Shipping Reporter, it would appear. The tugboat, over 100 years old, is now in very poor condition, indeed one can no longer even go aboard the vessel at its mooring at San Francisco. The sad reading is here. Later in 2010, the vessel was featured in 'In Bristol Fashion', a 268 page soft cover volume published by 'AuthorHouse', authored by William E. Burgess, Jnr. of the U.S., as per here & here.
Next, I show you an item distantly related to Eppleton Hall, a routine cheque that to the webmaster at least is visually most interesting. A cheque issued by 'France Fenwick Tyne and Wear Company, Limited', of Newcastle, which company owned the tug. The cheque was issued in 1933, as you can see, payable to 'The Wearmouth Coal Co. Ltd.'. The item appears here thanks to eBay vendor 'jojolovely-2007' who most kindly provided to the webmaster a fine image of her eBay item which sold in early Mar. 2009 for GBP 16.00. Her eBay store is here. Carol, we thank you!
It would have been better if the cheque showed an image of a paddle tugboat! But such is not the case as might well have been so with a share certificate. Now I had forgotten how elaborate & how large, physically, was an early cheque & the fact that the recipient had to not only endorse the cheque on its rear but also acknowledge its safe receipt on the front of the cheque. Were such procedures still to be followed, the banking industry of today would surely grind to a total halt!
A page about the vessel at 'Wikipedia'.
A U.S. 'pdf' file of historical & descriptive data, & data sources, relating to Eppleton Hall.
'The Eppleton Hall: Being a True and Faithful Narrative of the Remarkable Voyage of the Last Tyne River Steam Sidewheel Paddle Tug Afloat' - by Scott Newhall.
A 'Sunderland Echo' article dating, I believe, from Feb. 26, 2010.
8 images, by 'photographic allsorts' of Cardiff, of Eppleton Hall, at Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco, in Apl. 2009.
A series of 28 black & white images of Eppleton Hall, ex Library of Congress
The webmaster has learned that the broad subject of Sunderland is truly vast, its maritime history particularly so. Contrary to most site visitor's belief, the webmaster does not have a vast library of Sunderland related history & maritime books, nor does he have a vast collection of images. He really has nothing physical at all. Nor, for a whole variety of reasons, does he wish to acquire & own such materials. So he frequently needs the help of site visitors, in areas where needed data is not WWW available or has not yet come to hand. If you can help out with any of the following items, do please consider doing so.
A good scan of the cover of the Scott Newhall book referred to above. I really need also to access & read the book itself but borrowing & returning a copy internationally is uneconomic with today's postal rates. I need to borrow & return a copy now located in Toronto, Ontario.
Appleton Hall in the, I believe, 1950's. From the book "Steam tugs, a colour portfolio by David L. Williams". The funnel colour are those of "France Fenwick Tyne and Wear", a company my late Grandfather worked for. The funnel colours are a combination of those of the Sunderland Towage Co. Ltd and the Anchor Steam Tug Co. Ltd. The blue and white stripes are based on the arm band worn by the Police of the time.
As she was no longer a vessel used for commercial means, she was registered as a yacht. This allowed her to take on a volunteer crew and have an easier time finding accommodations in ports. She remained registered as a private yacht until 1979. The vessel was donated to the National Park Service in 1979. She is now berthed at Hyde Street Pier.
EPPLETON HALL PADDLES ON - Eppleton Hall should now be nearing her new home at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. She was forced to put in to Dover on September 24th to repair a fuel pump. Mr Scott Newhall, her skipper and owner decided to make straight for Lisbon and she received rough treatment in the Bay of Biscay. So slow was her progress that she ran out of fuel off the north west coast of Spain. After refuelling at sea, she reached the Portuguese capital on October 10th. Since her departure from Lisbon, Eppleton Hall has been progressing leisurely, sometimes under sail, down the West African Coast. Calls were made at Madeira, Las Palmas and St.Vincent in the Cape Verde Island. "The ship has handled beautifully" wrote Mr Newhall. Instead of the shortest route across the South Atlantic to Brazil, the course was changed to make straight for Georgetown, Guyana. Eppleton Hall arrived there on December 10th 1969 - the last paddle steamer to cross the Atlantic, and probably the only one to do it under its own power this century.
She was purchased by the San Francisco Maritime Museum and Restored at Bill Quay, Sunderland, from 1969-1970. She was modified to enable her to cross the Atlantic Ocean under her own steam, requiring the fitting of modern navigational aids, radio, an enclosed wheelhouse and conversion from coal to diesel oil.
The blue anchor featured on the houseflag and funnels of Tyneside steam tugs in the early 20th Century provides a direct link with the Anderson family and it is still afloat...half a world away at Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco. On the preserved paddle tug Eppleton Hall it can be seen in the livery created when her last owners France, Fenwick took over the Anchor Steam Tug Company in 1920. In his book 150 Years of the Maltese Cross, published in 1993 by Tyne & Wear Tugs, John H. Proud traces the North Shields tug-owning partnership of John Anderson (1836-1919) and Robert Chater in detail from c.1867 and tells how it was converted into a limited liability company - the Anchor company - in North Shields on May 25, 1903. Kelly's Directory still lists a Robert Chater as manager as late as 1914 but the company's independent existence ended with the France Fenwick take-over in July 1920, just one year after the death of John Anderson. Among the best-remembered Anderson & Chater tugs was the paddler Stag (1885), notable as being also fitted out for trawling with the North Shields fishing number 12 SN painted next to her name. The 1914-built Eppleton Hall, though never owned by the Anchor company, today provides a lasting link with the North Shields firm and, in turn, with the Andersons' shipowning days.
New York Times, Nov. 24, 1987, The world's largest assembly of historic ships lies rotting and covered with rust along the waterfront here, a victim of inadequate maintenance that officials attributed to insufficient Federal financing. The fleet, owned by the National Park Service, includes the Eppleton Hall, the only paddle wheel tug known to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean this century. Last week, its former skipper, Jack Watson, 73 years old, was rowed out to see the tug. Its antique side-lever steam engine was full of dead pigeons. ''It is disgraceful,'' Mr. Watson said. ''I never dreamt she would be in such condition.'' The fleet also includes the 97-year-old ferryboat Eureka and the C. A. Thayer, a three-masted schooner. Because of a lack of money the Park Service has been forced to forgo maintenance work. But as a result the ships now need millions of dollars in repairs to remove dry rot, rust and pigeon droppings. 'Threatened Landmarks' Proper upkeep would require a staff of 42 and an annual budget of $3 million, says Glennie Wall, manager of the National Maritime Museum of San Francisco. She has a staff of 23 and a budget under $1 million and calls the situation ''frightening, really frightening.''
In June, a museum staff member, Will Gillman, was assigned to see what could be done about the Eppleton Hall, anchored along with part of the museum's fleet in the Aquatic Park lagoon. ''The interior was literally a rust-explosion,'' Mr. Gillman said. Karl Kortum, 70, founder of the maritime museum, sailed aboard the Eppleton Hall under the command of Scott Newhall, an amateur seaman who was executive editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Newhall restored the old tug in the 1960's and sailed with a hand-picked crew on a 10,000-mile, six-month voyage from England to San Francisco, where he gave the boat to the museum. After that, the state turned the museum over to the Federal Government. $19 Million Held Needed Mr. Kortum became a vocal critic of the bureaucracy and was once suspended from his job as curator for insubordination. Ms. Wall and Mr. Kortum agree that it will cost $19 million to restore the fleet, and that if the work is not begun within three years it will be too late to salvage some of the vessels. The Park Service will begin charging admission to the ships in January to help cover the costs, Ms. Wall said. Also, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would sever the museum from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in an effort to secure a stable source of money for the fleet.
Now to the main point of this long-winded story: The book mentioned above; this recounts how that old tug ended up several thousand miles from its birthplace on the Tyne. It starts when, in San Francisco, two men, both avid marine enthusiasts heard that the world’s last remaining paddle tug was to be scrapped and they resolved, there and then, to journey to England, buy it and sail it back to San Francisco as a working exhibit in the Museum of that city. This ‘last paddle tug’ was not the EPPLETON HALL but its near relative RELIANT and, on arrival in England, they were told that they could not buy RELIANT as it had been promised to the National Maritime Museum (as it is now called) at Greenwich. On enquiring at that Museum, the two Americans were shocked to hear that the Museum wanted only one engine and one paddle – the rest was to be scrapped. This seemed sacrilege and, knowing of another old paddle steamer, the very similar EPPLETON HALL, which had been lying at the ship-breakers for several years, the two proposed to the Museum that, if they delivered, at their expense, an engine and a paddle from the EPPLETON HALL, would the Museum waive their claim to the complete RELIANT so that they could buy it and sail it across the Atlantic? Five months elapsed until, after a lot of prodding, the Museum said, without any elaboration, NO.
It looked very much like the little paddle-boat that was used by David Niven in Around the World in Eighty Days, or sixty days, whatever that was. And it appealed to me.
The scenes of the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by steamship took place off San Francisco and were shot on a specially built prop steamer, a converted barge mocked up to resemble a small ocean-going steamship, with mock paddles driven by the electric motor from an old streetcar. In his memoirs, Niven described the whole thing as being dangerously unstable (though stability improved as it was dismantled as though to feed it into its own furnaces as the plot required). The Henrietta - paddle steamer - Around the World in 80 Days (1956 film)
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