The Paddle Steamer “Britannia”

The Paddle Steamer “Britannia” (1840). — “the first Cunard liner.” “Painted by W. J. Huggins, engraved by E. Duncan.” Source: Muir's Bygone Liverpool, Plate 40. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Text accompanying the engraving

This famous vessel was the first Cunard liner. She was built by Messrs. Robert Duncan and Co., at Port Glasgow, for the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, soon afterwards known as the Cunard Line, and was launched on February 5, 1840. Her dimensions were — length 270 feet, beam 34 feet, depth 22½ feet, tonnage 1150. Her engines were designed and built by Mr. Robert Napier, of Glasgow, and her indicated horse-power was 740, giving an average speed of 9 knots per hour on a consumption of 38 tons of coal per day.

She left Liverpool on her first voyage on July 4, 1840, and reached Boston, U.S.A. on July 19, 1840, her passage occupying fourteen and a half days. Under contract with the British Government she carried the mails from England to America, and was required to be of sufficient strength and capacity to be used as a troopship in case of necessity, and also to receive a proper armament of guns for her own protection and for the protection of British commerce on the seas. The vessel took part in the first ocean race between British and American steamships. In the year 1847 the "Britannia" and the "Washington" — a new American ship, much longer and more powerful than the "Britannia" — left New York on the same day, the former for Liverpool, and the latter for Southampton. The "Britannia" won by two days. [40]

Formatting and text by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.


Muir, Ramsay. Liverpool illustrated by ninety-seven plates reproduced from original paintings, drawings, manuscripts, and prints with historical descriptions by Henry S. and Harold E. Young. Liverpool: Henry Young and Sons, 1913. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library

Last modified 14 January 2013