The Whippingham on the gridiron

Bailey 2012
Bailey 2012
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I had just come round the corner when I realised I had a picture waiting for me, a pleasure steamer on the gridiron, The Whippingham, and a channel steamer, Ther Brighton, beyond. But the nearer steamer is the one of the moment.

Around this time, the usual situation prevailed. Paddle steamers from the Isle of Wight crossings seemed to have retained their route to Newhaven for the hull of the vessel to have an overhaul so far from home.

But what is she doing? She is squatting on the gridiron, a strange mixture of old timber. The gridiron was a structure of very solid timbers arranged in a pattern beneath the hull of the vessel in such a way that when the tide is right, and this is about so, then a squad of workers would descent on the scene with their little pots of paint and brushes to get the red lower section of the hull panted so that by the time the paint had dried, the tide has gone down even further and then come up again.

Even the much larger Brighton beyond would have to go through the same experience. This was the norm at Newhaven for many years.

Of course this gridiron has always been the subject of a bit of Micky taking and a similar picture appeared in the American Life magazine of 16 May 1955. A customs officer on his way home, up this stretch of quayside, saw a fellow with a broom standing on the wooden framework of the vacant gridiron. He was leaning heavily on the broom.

Now this picture was taken after the father had got home and advised his son to go back down with a camera.

Beyond the gridiron is a small paddle steamer waiting to go on the gridiron eventually, but it has to be cleared first.

Of course by now the chap with the broom is well and truly in the picture sweeping the length of the gridiron.

But you see nothing but a man, out from the quayside on what appears to be the water, bending down on his broom which is being pushed into the water.