Haughty Belle, the most aristocratic sailing barge or a cheat?

Haughty Belle

This is Haughty Belle, a barge built for racing that was either an aristocrat among Thames sailing barges, or a black sheep that should never have been built, depending on how you view these things.

My thanks to Simon North of the excellent Thames Sailing Barges Facebook group for spotting this photo.

The National Maritime Museum has a striking model of her hull, which shows just how far her hull deviated from the usual Thames sailing barge form – but even in the photo above, the yacht-like cutaway stem and stern are clearly unlike other barges.

There’s a drawing showing the form of most Thames sailing barges here (scroll down a bit).

She was built for EJ Goldsmith in wood as a counter-stern racing barge with iron leeboards. She won a race in 1896 and her design was described as ‘astonishing’ – however,  I gather she did not compete in further races because the owners of most of the other barges declined to race against her on the grounds that she wasn’t a bargbe but a yacht.

However, Haughty Belle did carry cargoes for a living, and I gather she had to have her beatiful counter cut off after about 10 years in trade, as it was too easily damaged.

She was eventually broken up at Cubitt’s yacht basin at Chiswick.