BBA student to build replica of Dorset crab and lobster fishing boat Witch of Worbarrow

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Witch of Worbarrow Dorset crab and lobster fishing boat

Witch of Worbarrow

A student at the Boat Building Academy is appealing for information and old photos relating to the Witch of Worbarrow, built in Weymouth in around 1902.

Student Ian Baird is building a replica of the rare Dorset crab and lobster fishing boat as part of his 38-week boat building training.

Now in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, the original boat was rowed from Weymouth to Worbarrow Bay by Jack and Tom Miller, where it worked the crab and lobster grounds for many years, before becoming a gaff-rigged pleasure boat. In 1979 she was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum by her late owner, Philip Draper of Arne, near Wareham. She is of historical interest because she is believed to be the only boat of her type still surviving.

Ian says that he wanted to build something that was unusual and local to his home county of Dorset. Recreating Witch of Worbarrow offers just that opportunity, and he wants to know much more about her history and the people who worked in her.

‘Apart from her life in Weymouth Bay and Poole Harbour we also know that she spent some time in Southampton Water or the Solent as there are old pictures of her close to the bows of the Queen Mary at Southampton,’ he says.

The project has attracted great interest from the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, which is planning to put the new boat on display alongside the original. The museum’s interest is that the original Witch is far too old to put on the water: ‘We don’t really know how she would have behaved on the water,’ says curator of boats Andy Wyke. ‘Ian’s reconstruction of the boat, which will follow as closely as possible to the original, will help us to learn a great deal about this historic fishing boat.’

5 thoughts on “BBA student to build replica of Dorset crab and lobster fishing boat Witch of Worbarrow”

  1. Morning Gavin, is the boat Ian Baird building similar to those in Turner's painting of Weymouth? The engraver's image here
    is easier to see than the painting, which waqs my mother's fovourit work. BTW many fair representations of boats on beaches on this site.

    I have a cataloge from a Turner touring exhibition in 1996. I visited 4 times and saw more turners there than I managed in Britain. But you cannot better his Trafalgar at Grenwitch. I was fascinated and sat for an hour.

  2. Hello Jeff

    Thanks for your post on Witch. I have had a look at the Turner. The boats in that picture look more like the renowned Lerret to me, but equipped with a mast and sails.

    The Lerret worked from Chesil Beach and was used by the RNLI as one of its first lifeboats. It is a very long time since they were last built but one has been built and was launched this weekend by Gail McGarva at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis. I have no doubt that this will be gracing intheboatshed's pages very soon.

    The Lerret was a double-ender rowing boat propelled by two pairs of copsea oars, but I am aware that some early Lerrets were equipped to sail.

    Witch is a smaller vessel (14' as opposed to 16') with much less freeboard than a Lerret, being designed for waters that were protected by the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach to the west, away from the prevailing weather systems but other than that she is a bit of a mystery!

    Her name is a mystery too. Why 'Witch of Worbarrow'? I have been doing a bit of digging on this and there seem to be a few stories about local witches but none yet that I can positively put my finger on that are directly related to the boat! Any assistance with this would be warmly welcomed.

    Launch day for Witch and the other boats being built at the BBA this year is 9th December at 0830 at Lyme Regis Harbour, Dorset, UK. Come and join in the fun!


  3. My husband's family lived in the coast watcher's cottage for many years. Pat took a photo of the area back in the 1950s/1960s and a work colleague painted a copy. There is a boat in the background. If you would like to see the photo please let me know.

    Sheila Leach

  4. An old friend of mine who once wrote the book "Shipwrecks of The West country" would be very interested in any information regarding the old crab boat -"Witch of Warbarrow" and any photos, please could you let me see a photo.

    Kind regards

    Susan Ansell

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