SSBR at Southend Barge Match

If you’re coming to the Southend Barge Match on Sunday and watching from the Pier, do come and see us in the Royal Pavilion. SSBR has an exhibition there, and Graham, Tricia and Don would love to see you.

Pudge to be at Ipswich Maritime Festival

There’s a chance this weekend to have a look on board a Dunkirk Little Ship, sb Pudge.IpsMaritFest

Pudge is going to the Ipswich Maritime Festival and you can visit her there on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th August.   She will be moored at Orwell Quay, Ipswich, and will be open to the public from 10.30 to 18.00 each day.   Entry on board is free, although donations to the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, which owns and maintains Pudge, will be very welcome and will go towards her upkeep.

If you’re in the Ipswich area this weekend, do pay Pudge a visit and find out about the story of her involvement at Dunkirk.

Here’s the link to the Maritime Festival’s website, which has all the details.

the gentle author sails on Repertor in the Swale Match

My Google alert today told me about a really nice article on the Spitalfields Life

sb Repertor, Swale Match 2015

sb Repertor, Swale Match 2015

website entitled “Barge Racing on the Thames Estuary”.   It is written by the gentle author and is about his day last Saturday on board sb Repertor for the Swale Match.

First our author outlines the history of the barge matches, and then goes on to write about his own experience of the day.   I was struck by this paragraph which sums up his reaction:-

“For an inexperienced sailor like myself, this was an overwhelming experience – deafened by the roar and crash of the waves and the relentless slap that the wind makes upon the sail, dazzled by the reflected sunlight and buffeted by the wind which became the decisive factor of the day. The immense force of the air propelled the vast iron hull, skimming forward through the swell at an exhilarating speed, yet required immense dexterity from the crew to keep the sail trimmed and manage the switch of the mainsail from one side to the other, accompanied by the raising and lifting of the great iron  ’leeboards’ – which serve as keels to prevent the flat bottomed barge capsizing while sailing upwind.”

Like many before him, our author’s conclusion at the end of the day was:-

“Observing these historic vessels in action, and witnessing the combination of skill and physical exertion of a crew of more than eight, left me wondering at those men who once worked upon them, sailing with just a skipper, a mate and a boy.”

And as we know, many barge skippers sailed without a third hand.   Here’s the link to the full article.   All photographs courtesy of the gentle author.

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Doggett’s Coat & Badge is 300

Tomorrow sees the Doggett’s Coat & Badge Race rowed on the Thames in London.   The Race starts at 11.30am at London Bridge and finishes at Cadogan Pier, Chelsea.   The prize-giving will be at Fishmongers’ Hall at approximately 1.15pm.  And this year, it’s an important one  –  the 300th Race.

Here’s a report on the 100th which took place in 1815.

doggetts 1815

And here’s a report in 1915, which says that as “one of the minor hardships of the war” the Race will not take place.

doggetts 1915


Medway Match 2015 taken by Chriss Hallam from Cambria

We’ve added to our list of videos the lovely film made by Chriss Hallam

Photo courtesy Chriss Hallam

of the 2015 Medway Barge Match.   He was on board sb Cambria, so there are some good shots of her deck, rigging, and so on, including a nice one of Skipper Ian at the wheel.   We like the music too!

Here’s the link

Barge peeps into old picture of Southend Pier

Here’s a picture I like very much.   It appeared today in the Echo, the localSouthend Pier Head 1905 paper circulating in South Essex.   It shows Southend-on-Sea Pier Head in 1905, packed with trippers in Edwardian dress.   Probably many of them will have disembarked from ships bringing them down from London or from other places.   That still happens sometimes even now when cruise ships put in to the Pier.

The structure shown changed over the years, and sadly the buildings at the Pier Head disappeared in fires until all that was left was the relatively new RNLI station and shop, (fortunately untouched), a small cafe and some public loos located in a sort of container. Even the train station with its crenellated platform cover went, and for years much of the Pier Head was just an empty space.   Now there is the very modern Royal Pavilion as well.

As the Echo says “She’s the grand old lady of Southend.   She’s withstood the elements, raging fires and dwindling pots of cash to repair her and has always risen phoenix-like out of the ashes to continue thrilling new generations”. Now Historic England, the successor to English Heritage, has named Southend Pier as one of England’s Seven Seaside Wonders.

And what’s that just appearing in the left-hand side of the picture?   If I’m not mistaken that has to be a Thames sailing barge.

Picture courtesy of Echo Newpapers



Barge Archaeology in Maldon this weekend

CBA FOA Poster 300dpi (2)SSBR is pleased to help advertise this event in Maldon, which is part of the important work being done by the CITiZAN scheme around our shores to record the vast amount of our history at threat from coastal erosion.   Abandoned ships, barges and boats are included, and there are of course very many sailing barges in this category.   The Maldon event is part of a much wider project.   The leaflet below tells you all about it.

CITiZAN 2015 (2)

New video of Thalatta, courtesy of Shipping TV

This very pleasing and peaceful video of sb Thalatta working her way out of HarwichThalatta at anchor in Queenborough Creek (DB) on 7th July 2015 was highlighted on the Felixstowe News website.   By Shipping TV, it is a joy to watch.   Here is the link to the film.

The photo illustrating this post is by SSBR Committee Member Dave Brooks, and shows Thalatta at anchor in Queenborough Creek.

Would you buy a “Used” barge off E-bay? Fertile is for sale.

Here’s another barge for sale on E-bay.    This time it is sb Fertile, offered becauseFertile the owner of 30 years needs to give up living afloat for health reasons.   The price asked is £165,000.

Fertile was built in 1936 as a steel swim-headed lighter, and converted to a swim-headed, stumpy-rigged spritsail barge by the present owner in 1996.

She is based at King Edward Quay in Colchester.   From the advertisement it looks as though the marketing angle is that she would make a good base for someone commuting to London.   There’s also the suggestion she could be used for river trips, as she has been in the past.

In the advertisement, under “Item Condition”, it says  “Used”  –  er, yes.

Here’s the link to read the advertisement on E-bay.

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A good day for an AGM

Very well attended SSBR AGM today at The Three Daws, Gravesend.   The room was full.

Chairman, Elizabeth Wood, had come to the end of her three year term of office, in which much has been achieved. She thanked all her fellow Committee members for their help to her and to the Society.

Secretary, John White, said that inquiries from people seeking information about barges on which family members had worked, etc, averaged two a week.   In addition, he was working on a book about the 4,500 sailing barges for which he held records.   It would probably be called something like The Barge Directory.   He was making good progress with it, but there was still much to do.   The earliest barge he had found was built in 1751.

Treasurer, Graham Dent, presented audited accounts for 2014, which showed a loss of £2,877, but this had been caused for good reasons.   There had been extra expenditure to mark our 50th anniversary year, and members had received free of charge two books, The Prowess of Charlie Fielder and Still in the Samphire, which involved printing and postage costs.    Excellent value for members.   Graham thanked Chris Snelling for examining the accounts.

Membership Secretary, Margaret Blackburn, reported that membership in 2014 totalled 421, so keeping us well above what had been our target of 400.   27 new members had joined in that year.   To date, in 2015, 369 membership subscriptions had been received, including 9 new members, so hopefully we would maintain our numbers and maybe increase them.

Charles Traill, Editor of the twice-yearly Mainsheet, said he was very grateful for the news and information provided to him by members and for photographs he was sent.   He thanked Margaret and Brian Blackburn for proof-reading and despatching the magazine.   Next year would see the 100th edition of Mainsheet published, and in the same year the annual Topsail publication would reach its 50th edition.   So something special would be needed.

As well as being Editor of Topsail, Richard Walsh co-ordinates other Society publications and keeps us informed about other barge publications.   Still in the Samphire by the late David Wood reflects the history of the Society gathered from Committee minutes and the recollections of David and other members, and had been published in 2014 to celebrate the Society’s 50th anniversary.   Also written by David Wood, (a long-serving Committee member), together with Richard Walsh, is The Prowess of Charlie Fielder.   It has received excellent reviews, including one by a distinguished reviewer who described it as “ground-breaking”.

The next Society publication, (currently being prepared), is the history of EJ Goldsmiths of Grays, the company which had the biggest fleet of sailing barges.   It is being written by Graham Dent and edited by Richard Walsh, with many pieces of information about both the fleet and the Goldsmith family continuing to be received.

Our Archivist, Don Wright, reported that 2014 had been a good year for the donation of photographs, manuscripts, books, etc, to our Archive at Fambridge.   More than 16,000 items had now been catalogued, with a further 4,000 partly done.   Don said that members were welcome to visit the Archive by appointment, and that anyone who wished to do so should contact him.

The next item on the Agenda was the election of officers and Committee members followed by the presentation of the Society’s three trophies to the winners for the year.

Richard Walsh was elected SSBR’s new Chairman;  Charles Traill was elected Vice Chairman;  the other members of the Committee were re-elected, to be joined by a new member, Linda Hoy.   Since the meeting, Tim Mileson has been co-opted to the Committee.

The trophy winners were:-

Half Model  –  Robin Neale for cataloguing the Charles Dance collection.

Colindell  –  Toby Lester and Linda Hoy for the restoration of sb Ironsides.

Deadeye  –  posthumously to the late David Wood for The Prowess of Charlie Fielder.

Chairman Emeritus, Tony Farnham, kindly donated a barge picture  –  a steel engraving  –  to be raffled for the Society’s funds. 

After a break for a welcome cup of tea, two films were shown:  a short dvd made by Robert Gillard of his father’s cine film of the 1966 Medway match, and one by Simon North about the restoration of sb Centaur.

See what you’re missing if you’re not a member!

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