Niagara Rejoins the Fleet

If you had been in the vicinity of Berry Wiggins Jetty on the river Medway today, 6 August 2012, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were watching Reminder sailing.   How wrong you would have been, for today Niagara made her welcome return to the active barge fleet.   She slipped her mooring at Hoo and made her way out into the river in the late afternoon.  All around thunder rattled and lightning flashed, but unperturbed the crew of the Niagara was determined to set sail.

Niagara was built of steel in 1898 by Forrestt of Wivenhoe, who also built Atrato and Wyvenhoe.  Niagara was the biggest of the three barges by some 30 tons.  Originally built for Augustus George Hughes of East Greenwich, she was sold to the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Co Ltd of London in 1906, and by 1916 she was sold to John George Hammond of London. 

Niagara as a motor barge, India & Milwall Docks, June 24 1973

By 1924 her owners were the London and Rochester Trading Co Ltd, and, after being requisitioned by the Ministry for War Transport, she was fitted with a 3 Cyl. Kelvin engine in 1940.   After another spell requisitioned, she was sold in 1970 to William Mulcuck of Chatham who was her skipper at the time, and then in 1975 to Richard Twining of Battersea.

Niagara spent many years trading as a motor barge and her end was destined to be at a scrap yard, but her present owner, Peter Sands, acquired her in 2001 and set about returning her to sail.  Almost unnoticed down at Hoo in Kent, Niagara slowly started to take shape. And today Peter finally saw his hard work pay off as the Niagara set sails for the first time in over 70 years.

For just over an hour the crew put her through her paces, even boldly sailing her into the creek for a triumphant sail by at Whitton Marine where her rebuild took place.

It was a pleasure to witness, and to my untrained eye she looked to be going quite well.  It is hoped that she will sail in the Swale Barge Match on Saturday 11th August.

Well done to Peter and we wish you and Niagara well for the future.

An exclusive for The Barge Blog  –  words and pictures by Dave Brooks

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Posted on 06/08/2012, in sb Niagara and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. she has a pretty shape to her transom, welcome back Niagara !

  2. Great to see the pics of Niagara under sail. I remember many (30?) years ago seeing her in Poplar Dock after some initial restoration, which was seemingly abandoned, had taken place – new decks and hatch coamings with rounded corners – do they still survive? Perhaps as a research society we should take care to note that her builder was Forrestt, not Forrest, to put the record straight. As one time owner of her sister Wyvenhoe, this is as exciting as any Olympic medal haul! Well done.

  3. Thank you Richard. Will amend accordingly.

  4. Andrew Mulcuck

    Truly amazing what you bump into on the internet — FYI, I am the grandson of William (Bill) Mulcuck and have somewhat distant but very enjoyable memories of visiting my grandparents in Kent during the 70s, one of the undoubted highlights of which was being on board Niagara going up and down the Medway with my father, brother and grandfather – seeing the old 70s pic takes me back but agree she puts on a much finer show now! Well done. Andrew Mulcuck, Nov 13, Dubai

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