Tag Archives: Thames

The Apprentice Lighterman (1963)

The Apprentice Lighterman (1963) – a short film about the work of lightermen on the Thames five decades ago.

My thanks to Andrew Craig-Bennett for spotting and sharing this video on The Liquid Highway’s YouTube account.

Barge rowing on the Thames

I didn’t know the sport of barge rowing or ‘driving’ even existed until I read about the 2014 Thames Historic Barge Rowing Event on The Liquid Highway. It’s being held on the 28th June and if the YouTube above is anything to go by, it’ll be quite a spectacle.

The racers have a Facebook page offering information, photos and films.

Centaur wins Heritage Lottery funding

Sailing barge SB Centaur

We’re delighted to learn that the Thames Sailing Barge Trust has won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for restoration work on Centaur – and I gather that the work is to be done at Oare Creek by Tim Goldsack.

The spritsail barge is to receive £100,000 to pay for restoring the wooden planking on Centaur’s bottom to its original thickness after nearly 118 years of sailing in the Thames Estuary and East Coast rivers.

Sailing barges are built with two layers of planking on their flat bottoms – a 2in inner layer and a 1in outer layer that is designed to be sacrificial – that is, it protects the inner layer of the hull planking from the wear that occurs in the course of normal activity when the barge settles on a beach or river bank.

After 118 years, Centaur’s sacrificial planking has worn thin, and it is this work that the grant is to pay for.

The repair work begins in August and the project is planned for completion by early 2014. The project will allow some trainee shipbuilders to extend their skills to larger wooden vessels.

This project will allow the TSBT to continue to operate her for the use of local groups and members of the general public, and will also provide opportunities for volunteers, youth organisations and schools to research or explore Centaur’s early history.

SB Centaur was built in 1895 at Harwich, Essex, and is one of the oldest surviving wooden barges. She carried bulk cargoes on the Thames Estuary and the rivers of Essex, Suffolk and Kent for over sixty years.

Thames Sailing Barge Match, Saturday 13th July – renamed in honour of Mark Boyle



The annual race is renamed for its 150th anniversary year in honour of Mark Boyle, who revived the event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in 1995.

Mark went on to be the match’s driving force and his sudden death just before Christmas at the age of 55 was a blow to the sailing barge community.

Read more at the Barge Blog.

Photos of Spider T’s trip to the Jubilee

Spider T on the Thames during 2012 Jubilee trip


The Humber Keels and Sloops website has a nice photo record of the Humber sloop Spider T’s trip down to the Thames and back for the Jubilee last summer.

I gather from owner and restorer Mal Nicholson that a DVD of the Spider T’s earlier trip to Arbroath is now available for a very reasonable £10. Contact him at the Spider T website.

Henwood & Dean 30th anniversary book

Head, Heart, Hand – a Boatbuilder’s Story (the link goes to an impressive collection of sample pages) is a beautiful book documenting the work of Thames-side traditional boat building firm Henwood & Dean, with photographs and design by Michael English.

The book is published to celebrate three decades of the Henwood & Dean boatyard – an event that is also marked by local newspaper the Henley Standard.

I’d guess that it would make a nice Christmas present for quite a few folks out there…

By the way, if like me you feel a little awed by the the varnished finishes the Henwood & Dean team achieve, you may be interested to know that Colin Henwood will be leading Boat Building Academy courses on renovation and finishing at Lyme Regis next year on the 18th-22nd February and 18th-22nd November (by coincidence the dates fall on the same dates each month).

Sailing barge Edith May wins National Historic Ships national flagship title for 2012

Thames sailing barge Edith May has been named National Historic Ships national flagship for 2012.

In the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant, it seems particularly appropriate that the winner for 2012 is a vessel specifically designed to trade on the Thames.

Edith May is an 86ft barge built by J&H Cann of Harwich in 1906 for the coastal trade carrying wheat and grain products.

She also had a successful racing career before falling into sad disrepair in the 1990s before being purchased and then restored by her current owners.

The flagship of the year title is awarded to the owners of the vessel with the most impressive seasonal programme of public events in the forthcoming year, and is designed to promote engagement and appreciation of historic vessels in the UK’s heritage.

Each year’s flagship vessel receives a traditional swallow-tailed broad pennant to fly from the masthead wherever she goes to mark her flagship status, and a grant of £1000 towards the cost of keeping her in operational condition and opening for public viewing.

The judges decided that the submission from the Edith May was outstanding. Her extensive public programme over the coming season includes festivals, barge matches, public cruises and taking part in the Queen’s pageant.

Edith May is registered on the National Register of Historic Vessels held by National Historic Ships. She can be seen at her berth in Lower Halstow in Kent during the winter, and is also available for sailing charter trips on the Medway and as a static venue for events.

PS – on the subject of the National Historic Ships, there’s still lots of time to enter the annual photographic competition. Details are here and here.