The paper surveys the development of commercial steam navigation in Cornwall, concentrating on contributions by local entrepreneurs. It examines three areas of mercantile activity under steam well represented in the county: coastal and short sea liner operations, ocean tramping, and carriage of coastal bulk cargoes, and places each into the wider context of their development in England as a whole. Tentative conclusions are drawn about the effects of geography on the development of steam navigation locally, especially the county’s relative isolation from centres of population and its mineral resources.

Roy Fenton has been interested in ships and shipping since he grew up alongside the Manchester Ship Canal in Cheshire. His research concentrates on the British coastal trade under steam, on which he has written several books. In 2005 he was awarded a PhD for a thesis entitled ‘Transition in the UK coastal bulk trade, 1850-1914’. He has been a council member of the World Ship Society and co-editor of its journal and is Secretary of the Maritime Information Association. He edits the journal ‘Ships in Focus Record’ and is a partner in Ships in Focus Publications.

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