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   The Society for Sailing Barge Research

 SAILING BARGE PORTS TODAY


As we move into the 21st century  there are some thirty private, Company, Charter, Club and sail training barges which may be seen under sail around the Thames estuary.    During the summer months they still visit the various traditional ports and participate in the series of matches now coordinated through the Sailing Barge Association.   Usually the craft  will be sailing someway off shore but they can be seen at close quarters in various berths around the country, particularly Maldon in Essex, Faversham in Kent and St.Katharines by the Tower in London.

Below is listed the various ports and places around the Thames estuary where the traditional Thames Sailing Barge may be found.  Sailing barges move around  and there is no guarantee that any of the craft will be in the places described.  Indeed it is to be hoped that they will not; for it is only by keeping the craft sailing and moving about that they will stand any chance of surviving the twenty first century.

THE RIVER THAMES

Although spritsail sailing barges evolved on the Thames, there are now only a few craft with permanent berths on the river and the best place to view them is in the docks.

The main London river fleet is now based in St.Katharines Yacht Haven by the Tower of London where there are usually, half a dozen fully rigged barges mainly involved in corporate hospitality. Amongst those that can often be seen are ARDWINA,  PHOENICIAN, RAYBEL WILL and WYVENHOE.  St.Katharines by the Tower is private property but the owners welcome members of the public to see the sights from the quayside and visit the shops and pub in the dock although access to the pontoons is restricted to boat owners and crews.

Out on the river near the Temple underground station WILFRED is permanently moored as a restaurant. In the Battersea area ATRATO is on the riverside walk between Albert and Battersea bridges with MONTREAL berthed with a number of other house-barges at Battersea Old Church Wharf.  All craft further upstream have been stripped of their spars,  ARCTIC on the Fulham bank, RESOURCEFUL and LEONARD PIPER at Chiswick Mall are
S.B.Tollesbury in Millwall Dock. S.B.Convoy at Wandsworth Bridge St Catherines Yacht Haven St Catherines Yacht Haven
S.B.Montreal at Battersea S.B. Atrato at Battersea S.B. Leonard Piper at Chiswick Mall S.B. Resourceful at Chiswick Mall

ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP REFERENCES

Wandsworth Bridge   (Convoy) TQ.259.754
Battersea                  (Atrato)  TQ.272.773

Ordnance Survey  1:50,000    sheet 176

Victoria Embankment (Wilfred)    TQ.311.808
St.Katharines Yacht Haven       TQ.339.805
   

Ordnance Survey  1:50,000    sheets 176 or 177

 

SUFFOLK AND ESSEX

RIVER ALDE, Suffolk
The limit of navigation on the River Alde is Snape Bridge and close by is the old Snape Maltings now converted into a concert hall. Often the miniature barge CYGNET can be seen moored at the quay. A delightful walk from here (1.5miles) downstream will bring you to the village of Iken where the yacht barges BLACKTHORN & DINAH are based at.
Cygnet at Snape Maltings Cygnet at Snape Maltings
IPSWICH, Suffolk
At the head of the Orwell is the old port of Ipswich.  The modern town centre lies back from the port which is only a short walk away from the station where you turn right in the forecourt down the hill.  Visitors by road should turn off the A12 before crossing the Orwell Bridge.    The Dock is now a thriving Marina but there may be visiting barges during the summer
PIN MILL, Suffolk 
On the south side of the Orwell, Pin Mill, is about half mile from the bus stop at Chelmondiston on the B1456 road to Shotley.  Barges may be lying on the hard near the Butt & Oyster public house. MELISSA is based here  among the housebarges and hulks nearby including MOUSME, VENTURE and WATERLILY.
The Butt & Oyster, Pin Mill, Suffolk   Hythe Quay, Maldon  
MALDON, Essex
 Undoubtably the main base for the barge fleet is now Maldon on the Blackwater.  The picturesque town is reached on the A414 road by turning off the A12 where signposted before Chelmsford.   By public transport take a train to Chelmsford and cross to the bus station where there is a reasonable weekday service.  At Maldon the bus stops just past the former bus station leaving a short walk to the Hythe forking left down Church Street.    

Walter Cook and Sons yard closed in 1992 but others now carry on the work and there are still a number of craft around The Hythe under repair and restoration including GEORGE SMEED.   Maldon is the main base for the charter barge fleet of HYDROGEN, THISTLE, REMINDER and REPERTOR, managed by Topsail Charters who operate GLENWAY as a Maritime Heritage Centre.   Also based on the Hythe are the East Coast Sail Trust, school ship THALATTA; the Cirdan Trust¹s XYLONITE and the Thames Barge Sailing Club barges PUDGE and CENTAUR and the lighter SAILORMAN. Privately owned craft include NELLIE, and LADY JEAN.

Upstream towards Fullbridge there are working yards, clubs and the famous salt works on the river bank.  It is possible to walk upstream from the Hythe to the Fullbridge by Downs Road, the Recreation Ground and a footpath with views towards  to the entrance to Heybridge Creek where a number of craft have been hulked. 

ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP REFERENCES

River Alde  
Snape Maltings TM.392.576
Iken TM.410.559

Ordnance Survey  1:50,000 sheet 156    

River Orwell  
Ipswich Mills  TM.168.441
Pin Mill hard     TM.205.380

Ordnance Survey  1:50,000 sheet 169    -   1:25,000 sheet 197  

River Blackwater    
Maldon Hythe    TM.858.068

Ordnance Survey  1:50,000  sheet 168   -   1:25,000 sheet  176

 

KENT

HOO, Kent
 Motorists may take the A228 way out to The Isle of Grain, to visit Hoo Marina taking the turning after the deep cutting signposted to Hoo St.Werburgh.  On reaching the cross roads by the bus stop, pub and shops, turn right then left down Vicarage Lane across open fields.  There is a “rush hour only” bus stop at the end of the lane where one way leads through the Caravan park to the Hoo Marina clubhouse, and a track leading off to the left to Lapthorns shed and the seawall.   The seawall walk is part of the Saxon Shore Way, and leads away from the busy yards into the saltings.  At R.Lapthorn & Co,Ltd., Whiton Marine and Stargate Marine, run by Robert Deards there are usually a number of barges including his own humber sloop and the barge yacht MARJORIE with restoration projects, ENA and  FELIX, the housebarge SCOTSMAN.    These are very much working yards set behind security fences with working machinery, dust blowing in the wind, and deafening noise from  grinders.  SPINAWAY C, and DANNEBROG are now hulked nearby with ADRIATIC,  ESTHER and ALAN.
    S.B.Will at Acorn Bargeyard ,Rochester.  
THE MEDWAY TOWNS, Kent     
 Returning towards the Strood another signposted turning on the A228 leads towards the new Medway tunnel and a turning to the pleasant riverside village of Upnor where, opposite the Pier p.h. and the bus stop on the route from Chatham to Middle Stoke, are Owen Emerson¹s former lighter conversion, WHIPPET and sometimes other barges awaiting repair.   Near the former entrance to the Thames & Medway Canal are the remains of MAYFLOWER and VIKING and on the Rochester bank just below the railway bridge lies the fully rigged survivor of the giant Everard quartet, WILL. Now rebuilding in a lighter in Gillingham Marina is the former explosives barge SEAGUL II while further away at Lower Halstow EDITH MAY is also under active restoration.
SITTINGBOURNE, Kent 
On the Bourne, a tributary of Milton Creek is the sail loft and forge of the yard known as Dolphin Yard where craft were built and repaired for the farmer and building supplies entrepreneur Charles Burley.  Dolphin Yard later became a Sailing Barge Museum which unfortunately is now closed. The yard is situated down the former A.P.C.M. road which turns off Crown Quay Lane at the new roundabout opposite the Barge P.H.  The Lane is a short walk from Sittingbourne Station under a railway bridge opposite the Council Offices just past the Fire Station.  (Note: Museum is now closed )
    Barges at Faversham  
FAVERSHAM, Kent  
This is now the main barge centre in Kent with the creek running parallel with Abbey Street from the town centre.  At the end of the historic street visitors may turn left onto Standard Quay where a number of bargeowners and local businessmen took over the old black sheds in 1992 and set up moorings.  DECIMA, GRETA, HENRY, LADY OF THE LEA and REPERTOR are based there.    
Just upstream of “the big building”, blockmaker Colin Frake is still making slow progress on the long term restoration of WESTMORELAND   Beyond these refurbished offices is the “Iron Wharf” where Peter Dodds MIROSA is based in a traditional boat yard. ORINOCO is berthed in Chambers Dock which runs inland at the downstream end of the busy boatyard.  On the opposite bank at the confluence of Oare & Faversham is Hollowshore, it is reached down Ham Road, a turning off the road to Oare signposted to the "Shipwrights Arms", a visit to which is reason enough to make the journey.

ORDNANCE SURVEY MAP REFERENCES

River Medway  
Strood Pier  TQ.742.692
Upnor          TQ.761.711
Hoo St.Werburgh  TQ.783.721

Ordnance Survey  1:50 000 sheet 178    -  1:25,000 Sheet 163

The Swale  
Dolphin Yard   TQ.912.643
Hollowshore        TR.017.636
Faversham, Iron Wharf,     TR.022.621

Ordnance Survey  1:50 000 sheet 178    -  1:25,000 Sheet 149


FURTHER  AFIELD

Both in their trading days and as yachts barges have ventured far from their home waters.  Recently some of those in corporate entertainment have circumnavigated the country passing through the Caledonian Canal to visit Irish waters.  

The Society for Sailing Barge Research organises walks to ports and locations associated with the sailing barge.  For details see "WALKS" page.


Society for Sailing Barge Research
c/o  Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre,  13,Preston Street, Faversham, Kent, ME13 8NS, England


Updated 19/10/2010