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National Maritime Museum

John Cowl & Sons


Reference code(s): GB 0064 CWL

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: John Cowl & Sons

Date(s): 19th century

Level of description: Collection


Name of creator(s): John Cowl & Sons


Administrative/Biographical history:

Not a great deal appears to have been generally known about John Cowl and Sons save that it was one of five shipbuilding yards - of which the other 4 were Stribley, Rawl, Willment and Tredwen- located along the banks and in the shallow creeks of the Camel river at Padstow. The yard seems to have been opened in the early 1870s by John Cowl, whose indentures of apprenticeship (CWL/2) show that he began his time as a shipwright with John Tredwen, Carpenter of Padstow in 1836. Cowl appears to have put in some time at sea, though for how long it is difficult to say. Joseph Cowl, his father or more likely a brother or younger relative is credited (CWL/4) with having designed a number of Padstow built ships in the years 1855-70: e.g. the schooner JANE BANFIELD, in 1866 of 320 tons, built by Stribley's; the SAPPHO, also built by Stribley's and the EMPRESS OF CHINA, the same; the MORNING STAR, 480 tons, also built at Padstow, is said to have been designed by Joseph Cowl also.

The vessels built by the Cowl yard include the following:-

The EMMA, of 138 tons, in 1877 and the JANIE, of 134 tons, in 1878, both for Jenkins of New Quay, as was the KATIE, built by Cowl at Padstow in 1881, and which was in due course to become, in the hands of the Stephen family of Par, one of the last schooners still trading from a British port which had not been fitted with an engine. (CWL/12- appears to be the builder's specification for KATIE). Other ships built by the Cowl yard were the J. K. ALLPORT, of 100 tons, in 1876 for C ALLPORT of Plymouth, and the FAIRY GLEN, also of 100 tons, in 1879 for W. B. Williams. It would appear that the last clipper schooner built by John Cowl and Sons was the AMARANTH, in 1886 for WC Phillips. The company, which continued repairing ships into the 1890s, appears to have failed eventually with the demise of wooden shipbuilding at Padstow.


Scope and content/abstract:

A small collection of loose papers relateing to the shipbuilding firm of John Cowl and Sons of Padstow.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were presented to the Museum in 1964 by a direct descendent of Joseph Cowl, almost certainly the last surviving member of this old shipbuilding family.



Archivist's note: Edited by Sarah Drewery, Sep 2011.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2010-12-23

Shipbuilding | Marine engineering | Transport engineering

Personal names

Corporate names
John Cowl & Sons