Unloading a collier
This is a good illustration of what was known as 'whipping' , the classic way of unloading coal in particular but also similar loose cargo or ballast. The vessel is probably a north-eastern collier brig on which a jeer has been rigged, footed at the base of the main mast. At the peak of the jeer is a large metal pulley with a four-tail 'whip' to the hoist by which the men heave a basket of coal from the hold and discharge it down a shute into a lighter alongside. In the mid-19th century as many as 600 colliers might be seen on any day in the Pool of London. They were sturdy and flat-bottomed and many illustrations also show them in more rural locations, beached at low tide and whipping coal into horse-drawn carts driven out on the foreshore.
Major overseas buyers of British coal were the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the Baltic states. Coal had always been regarded as a national asset, and thus the British government imposed heavy export duties and gave preference to British shipping. The general export duty was dropped in 1834, with a duty on exports in foreign ships remaining until 1851.
John Augustus Atkinson (artist & engraver)
Original size: 232 mm x 168 mm
- Image reference: PU7770
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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