Newhaven Artist G. Sims

The First

By Richard Beckett

The 19th century brought the first known steam crossing of the English channel from Newhaven.

In 1815, in order to prove that steampower was a viable proposition for shipping, M. Pierre Andriel purchased the steam ship MARJORY, a 70 ton, 63 foot long paddle steamer which had been built by Denny’s of Dumbarton. Having changed the vessel’s name to the ELISE so that it would be recognised as an all-French exploit, on 17th March 1816, he set out from Newhaven in East Sussex and headed towards the French coast.

Things did not go well from the start for the ELISE ran into gale force winds and high seas with large waves crashing down on the deck. When the crew threatened mutiny unless the Captain turned back, M. Andriel drew his gun and threatened to shoot anyone who disobeyed his orders. But at the same time he offered 3 bottles of rum to the first person to spot the French coast.

This combination of threat and reward worked, and 17 hours later they steamed into Le Havre. The vessel then made its way up the river Seine all the way to Paris, and as it entered the city it was greeted by cheering crowds and brass bands.

This page was added by Richard Beckett on 15/07/2010.
Comments about this page

Interesting article on the very first ferry! I note the pen and ink sketch by the late Mr George Sims, (Artist ) who I believe worked at the Marine Workshops drawing office. I remember as a lad observing George, working on his easel in Denton village where he was working on a painting of that local scene during the 1960's. I also recall seeing a palette knife painting of 'Beachy Head' which George had produced which was truly amazing as it seemed to stand off the canvas! He was a real gentleman. I know he also lived on Mount Pleasant, Beresford Road, at this time.

By Chris Young
On 17/07/2010

Interesting to note her builders. Dennys were to go on to build many of British Railways' steamers, including most (if not all) of the British vessels on the Newhaven-Dieppe route.

By Andy Gilbert
On 17/07/2010

The name of the ship was Margery (not Marjory, but it is a matter of spelling). You may read an account of Andriel's crossing in the Journal de Rouen, mars 23, 1816, p. 3-4, which is available online on

Interesting. As far as I know, all our records spell it with an 'o'. I think we'd have to go back to Denny's records to get the definitive answer! - Andy-Editor


By Philippe Rouyer
On 23/01/2016

The Clydebuilt ships database mentions the Margery. I found a comment in the Engineer, March 26, 1880, p 223 (available on ) and the name is spelled MARGERY. What really matters is that the ship received a new engine in 1825 and she was commissionned to the Dieppe-Brighton line.

By Philippe Rouyer
On 04/02/2016

In his  British Mercantile Marine (1897), Edward Blackmore wrote Marjory. This is not an issue but it reminds us that in the 18th and early 19th century, the spelling of names was somewhat erratic. So, when searching in an index or in a datable, one should look for all possible spelling.

By philippe.rouyer
On 13/02/2016

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