Fragments survive of the liner ‘Doric’ which ended in Newport

WE recently reported on the St Julian’s Inn in Newport which has been featured in local good beer guide Camra every year for the past 30 years.

And it reminded us of that story we told back in 2015 about the interesting interior of the pub…

She was a ship built to cross the high seas in style. Belonging to the Titanic-renowned White Star Line, the Doric sailed between Liverpool and Montreal carrying passengers in luxurious comfort. But 80 years after she died in a Newport shipbreaking yard, parts of this ship from a bygone era still grace parts of the city.

The smoking room of the liner Mauretania. Many rooms in the Doric would have been fitted out in a similar style

The Doric belongs to a time before the crossing of the Atlantic in a few hours.

In the 1920s, when it was built, it took at least a week.

To persuade the passenger to part with his money, shipping companies had to make their ships as comfortable as possible. They always had to boast that their ships were the best equipped, in which the luxury of the environment would make the roughest crossing pleasant.

As an architect who designed the interiors of the great cruise ships of the time said, “you have to make people forget that they are at sea”.

Doric was no different.

South Wales Argus: TASTY: The Doric's Smokehouse, from illustrated plans belonging to former Cashmore worker Tony Whitcombe.

The Doric’s Smokehouse, from illustrated plans owned by former Cashmore worker Tony Whitcombe

Built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff in 1922, it could carry 2,300 passengers and depending on the price of their ticket, in luxury or comfort. A crew of 350 attended to their needs during the voyage.

Although not a giant like her larger sisters, like the Titanic, the twin-funnel Doric shared her majestic lines and sported the same color scheme as the tragic ocean liner. Its interior was every bit as chic as its stable mates.

Dining rooms were clad in oak and mahogany, marble was widely used. The mirrors were delicately engraved. Even the ashtrays were silver or brass and delicately engraved with the White Star flag emblem.

The ship’s maiden voyage, June 8, 1923, was from Liverpool to Montreal in Canada. She would cover the 2,385 miles in just under seven days at a constant speed of 15 knots on this route which she sailed until 1932.

From 1933 the Doric began a quieter career and was only used for cruising, based in Liverpool she was one of ten White Star liners transferred to the newly merged Cunard White-Star.

Her voyage was to come to a premature halt in September 1935 when she struck the French ship Formigny off Cape Finisterre.

Her passengers were rescued and emergency repairs carried out in Vigo, northern Spain, but on her return to the UK she was declared a “constructive total loss” or, as one might call the cars today, “a radiation”. It was then, as his fate had been decided, that Newport entered the scene.

Cashmore’s was a Newport business whose name would have been known around the world as the place where ships came to die.

South Wales Argus: SCRAPED: A steel panel is hoisted from the Doric as it is dismantled at Cashmore.

A steel panel is hoisted from the Doric as it is dismantled at Cashmore

Despite the thousands of hours of labor by riveters to assemble large sheets of steel and carpenters to fashion elegant fittings, a ship’s life would end with a sharp torch in a place like this.

Newport was a natural place for a shipbreaker.

Local historian Jim Dyer says the Usk, with its great tidal range, meant the largest of ships could sail upstream.

The yard’s appetite was prodigious.

Mr Dyer said: “They have scrapped over 1,000 ships, of all sizes, famous warships, ocean liners, paddle steamers, tugs and coasters have been scrapped metal and fittings all sold and recycled.”

Sitting on the banks of the River Usk between where the SDR and George Street bridges now stand, the yard saw the end of ocean liners like the fantastically named Reina del Pacifico, the Empress of France and great battleships like HMS Collingwood and, of course, the Doric.

Another chronicler of Newport’s past was Jan Preece and he remembered how these leviathans traveled up the river on their last voyage: “When I lived on Raglan Street in Pill, you could see the great majestic shapes that stood at the above the streets. We took it for granted, but at the same time it was so impressive.”

Cashmore’s made a fortune from the scrap metal gleaned from these great ships; their bindings and accessories were small beer. Proceeds from furniture sales were often donated to local causes.

Doric oak paneling and etched mirrors would keep Royal Gwent in pre-NHS times.

South Wales Argus: Steve Williams owner of the St Julians Inn in front of the liner's facilities

Steve Williams owner of the St Julians Inn in front of the facilities of the liner ‘Doric’ which was scrapped at Cashmore’s in Newport

Many Pill houses would give home to a salvaged sideboard, lamp, or door from a wrecked ship at Cashmore, the Doric included.

By 1937 over 280 ships had been scrapped, but many more would lie along the river bank on the mud of the Usk and be slowly dismembered.

It seems fitting that further up the river are the remains of one of Cashmore’s most famous projects, the Doric.

Steve Williams owns the St Julians Inn and is one of Newport’s longest-serving owners. But some of the fittings in his pub overlooking Caerleon date back much longer than that.

The walls of the pub’s lounge are clad in oak paneling saved from the Doric.

“The saloon was built over the original part of the pub between the wars,” says owner Steve Williams, “and they clad it in wood from the saloon of the liner.”

“Some of the doorbell keys used to summon a steward are still there,” he adds.

He says it’s a “special feeling” that this part of the great ship remains.

“You can’t keep something as big as an ocean liner, but it’s good that pieces were kept and are still in use here.

“I saw a picture of the original square on the Doric where the paneling came from, and it’s laid out exactly like the living room here. It has the same feeling of comfort.

It’s no wonder he looks so at home in a pub. When the architects designed these palaces by the sea, they wanted to recreate the intimate atmosphere of a club or a restaurant.

“There aren’t many people alive who would have seen the ship when it arrived in Newport,” adds Steve, “so it’s great that people can come and see some of it here.”

Overlooking the Usk as it heads towards Caerleon, St Julians Inn is named after the patron saint of boatmen who was also renowned for helping travellers.

It is therefore also fitting that fragments of the Doric survive here, where this great liner last traveled.