Sunday, March 18th: An afternoon of archive Thames sailing barge films


George Holmes’ legendary Eel is for sale

The famous Eel is for sale. She was designed by Albert Strange associate George Holmes in 1896 and built by JA Akasters of Horsea in 1897, and as you can see she’s a beautiful little canoe-stern gaff-rigged Humber yawl and is said to have represented an important turning point in the design of small cruising yachts.

She is planked in larch on English oak with iroko topsides and a Douglas fir main and mizzen.

She’s said to be in gorgeous condition, having been restored while in the hands of her present owner who has spent a total of £66,000 (all the invoices are included in the sale) over the period 2007-2013. the work was done by Alan Staley of Faversham, who has known the boat since 1963,

She comes with a mass of material, including a copy of the book Holmes on the Humber, and printouts about her trips from Classic Boat and Yachting Monthly going back as far as January 1915.

There’s a bit more information at the Albert Strange Association website.

Henry Charles Coppock, lighterman

Our musical friend Kathy Wallwork’s grandfather was a Thames lighterman and she takes great interest and pride in his medallion presented by the Amalgamated Society of Foremen Lightermen, and the photos.

Here’s what she says about them:

‘My Grandpa, Henry Charles Coppock, was a lighterman on the River Thames in the Pool of London. He became apprenticed to his father, William Joseph Coppock on 3th June 1893 at the age of 15, and gained his freedom on 10th July 1900 age 22. He then served in the Second Boer War from 1901 until 1902. Three of Grandpa’s brothers were also bound apprentice to their father as lightermen.

‘A late uncle of mine told me that Grandpa walked from his house at 326 Southwark Park Road in Bermondsey, up through Cherry Garden Street, then left along the roads that border the Thames to either Butler’s Wharf or Hay’s Wharf to board the lighter and begin work on transferring goods between the ships anchored in the Thames and the docks. He was well known in the area and as regular as clockwork, and my uncle said that you could set your watch by him. People would say: “There goes Harry, off to work.”

‘Lightermen had to be fit and healthy, for physical strength was required for the unpowered lighters, and the job demanded a higher level of intelligence than many of the available trades. There was the necessity of being able to read and interpret tide tables and negotiate the tides and currents in the river and the docks with the lighter. According to Charles Booth (who carried out his survey of life and labour in London between 1886 and 1903) his category F included: “Higher class labour and the best paid of the artisans. Earnings exceed 30s per week. Foremen are included, city warehousemen of the better class and first hand lightermen; they are usually paid for responsibility and are men of good character and much intelligence.” Grandpa worked for the Union Lighterage Company, and joined the lightermen’s union, the Amalgamated Society of Foremen Lightermen. Their motto was “At command of our superiors”. It merged with the Transport and General Workers Union in 1969.

‘Grandpa’s later career saw him promoted to a supervisory position in charge of all oil transport. He died in 1941 from pulmonary tuberculosis, age 63.

‘I would like to discover a bit more about the medallion in the [second] photograph. Does it represent the year (1916) in which my Grandpa held the position of President, or whatever the head role was, of the union?’

If you can answer Kathy’s question, please write to me at, and I’ll pass the message on.

Old boats, traditional boats, boat building, restoration, the sea and the North Kent Coast – Gavin Atkin's weblog