You can’t see this strange sight any more in Newhaven Harbour. It would have been possible with the last ferry, the Brighton 6, for she was the last large vessel to use the grid iron, in conjunction with the paddlers from the Isle of Wight. Here we see the Dieppe of 1905 and by the look of her this must have been pretty early in her life span for the lamp standard on the quayside, aft, rather suggests this and her funnels are still black and white. Of course they were later black and yellow.
To recreate this picture I think it would be best to go to the car park of the pub, The Ark, on the riverside and look across the river, then turn your head to the right so as to see the curved roof of A Shed. That’s the same one as in this picture. So, in fact, if you look across the river, turn your head half right till you can see the near end of the original A Shed, the space between would have held the grid iron. The two open doorways in her side are for bunkering. When in service, a barge with the right amount of coal would be taken out to the vessel, after the vessel’s passengers had disembarked and then the long procession of men with sacks of coal on their backs would take the next consignment of coal out of the barge, up the steps into the ship’s side for the next hour or so to give her enough to get to Dieppe and back. It certainly was a back-breaking experience for these men who took on this service. Now of course this little episode was open to a bit of variation, which happened in 1955.
When the grid iron was in use with a steamer wishing to use it, there was an agreement for the Isle of Wight paddlers which came round to Newhaven for overhaul to have their use as well. An employee of the railway company would take on the job of sweeping the upper lengths of wood so that the users to be would know that they were clean and tidy. Sid Gravett, a well remembered customs clerk, was striding back home after an exhausting day when he came across a man with a broom, washing the lengths of the wooden framework. In other words the water was just over the woodwork and he was just busy brushing off the slime.
There is a considerable (or there was) area to be done, so when he got home he approached his son and suggested to him that he goes to the site and sees for himself. I had taught him the basic requirements of photography pre-war, but now he shot off like a rocket to this scene of interest and produced a wonderful shot of the sea being swept by a Raymond Stevens on 16 May 1955 – in the American magazine Life. The best time to remove the slime is when you have water with you.
The photography was extremely cleverly employed with this gentleman leaning heavily on his broom, which was being pushed by this energetic man, who’s feet do not betray him.