As a Research Society, one of our aims was to have a place of our own where barge-related documents and photographs could be securely stored, and then made accessible to members, barge historians and maritime researchers.

Some sixteen years ago we achieved that aim when we set up the SSBR Archive, based at North Fambridge, Essex, to provide a home for the collections of photographs, papers, books, etc, kindly donated to us by former bargemen, their families and others who have an interest in sailing barges.

Archivist Don Wright and The Late SSBR Secretary John White at the Archive. Credit: Tricia Gurnett

The secure Archive is within the bounds of the Yacht Station at North Fambridge which is more or less central in barge terms. There is a railway station within a ten- minute walk, and the location is approximately half way between Whitstable and Ipswich by road.

Don and John at work in the Archive. Credit: Tricia Gurnett

Great care has been taken in providing the correct storage conditions within the Archive for catalogued collections of photographs, documents, visual records and related materials in a format which will enable members and researchers to obtain information where required.

Since the Archive opened in 2005 the number of items preserved there has increased to well over 40,000.

The poster, designed by Richard Walsh, for our Open Day in 2018
Tents were used at the Open Day to show some of the memorabilia and barge books were on sale. Credit: Tricia Gurnett

In June 2018 an Open Day was held at the Archive to enable members to visit and see what was held there. We also had our supply of surplus copies of second-hand books and some new barge books for sale. On a lovely day, North Fambridge Yacht Club provided teas at the Clubhouse which was decorated with our display boards about sailing barges.

We had been storing our event and display equipment at the Archive, but felt the ever-increasing number of photographs and papers meant we should look elsewhere for temporary extra accommodation for these heavy items such as tents, tables, chairs and display boards. A convenient building was found and rented on a shared basis with the Thames Sailing Barge Trust who also wanted extra storage.

At the same time it became apparent that the Archive unit itself was coming to the end of its useful life. A full review was carried out and work is taking place to provide secure future housing for this outstanding collection of barge-related material.

Don Wright is the Society’s Archivist and Curator. Don carries out the huge task of cataloguing and storing new items, and in addition deals with members, authors, film and television programme makers who are seeking photographs and historical information about Thames sailing barges and those who sailed them. The Society makes modest charges for photographic reproductions and photocopied material

Matt Houston from sb Raybel restoration team visited the Archive where Don showed him material on Raybel. Credit: Raybel Charters

Visiting the Archive

Records in the Archive are available for inspection or for research purposes. Please contact Don Wright to make an appointment. His email address is:-

Historical Records

Members of the Society hold all sorts of documentation, photographs, information and records about Thames sailing barges, the people who built and sailed them and the ports from which they sailed.   Most of this information is held in private collections and not readily available to others.   Through the auspices of the Society we will where possible try to answer any queries members may have or put them in touch with people who may be able to help.”

Donating your barge related items

Our members often wish to donate part or all of their private collections to SSBR so that they may be sure the material will be preserved, and we are then pleased to include them in the Archive.

Please contact Don Wright – email:  if you wish to donate material now.

Or if you wish to leave the material to SSBR in your will, please click on the button below which will download the Bequest Form. This should be completed and forwarded to SSBR so that we are aware of your intentions.