Before leaving the economically confused days of 2017, I thought I would remind ourselves of some of the staple trades that still fill the holds of short sea ships around our coasts.
It must be said that so many freights in the UK, these days, are imports, even items that the UK once produced in great quantities (like bricks…!) One cargo that has been a reliable export from the West Country, for well over a hundred years, is China Clay, used as it is in a bewildering range of products including ceramics, an additive in paints and pastes of all kinds and in the paper industry.
Though, of course, like everything else in trade, the nature of the material and how it is sourced and used has changed over the years, with internationally obtained clays increasingly competitive. Once China Clay was a massive source of UK coastal traffic from the West Country, famously from Par and Fowey, especially to the Mersey where transhipment would take the clay to the Staffordshire potteries not least via the River Weaver and Trent and Mersey Canal.
Such clay freights varied in type and consistency and note the steamer Moelfre Rose dating from 1931 being worked by steam cranes at Runcorn on the Manchester Ship Canal where the clay in the form of white rubble is termed here ‘China Stone’ and I assume it is to be crushed and processed before its final and unknown use.
Bringing us right up to date, Viv Llewellyn pictured vessels loading a form of the clay termed ball clay for export from Poole to Castellon in Spain earlier this year by Celtic Venture 2,999,’02 and more recently, by the fine Dutch Elisabeth K 2,449,’94.