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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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Three great trailers for Simon North’s premiere of the Centaur film

We’ve already posted about the Film Premiere on Saturday 7th March at Maldon Town Hall.   What film?   The premiere of Simon North’s film of the Restoration of Centaur.   Scroll down the page to see the poster for the performance giving all details of the Premiere which is in aid of the Thames Sailing Barge Trust.

Now Simon has produced three trailers for the film show, and, having seen them, each of them is a beautiful piece of art in its own right.   Here are the three trailers, the first introducing the film:

the second when the Lottery grant was awarded:

and the third showing Tim Goldsack, the Master Shipwright, at work with tar and horse manure:

Now go along to Maldon Town Hall on 7th March and see the whole thing  –  Enjoy!

Centaur Restoration Film Show (3)

 

Centaur film show in Maldon on 7 March

Great opportunity to see the film of the Restoration of Centaur, and support the Thames Sailing Barge Trust’s work of maintaining its two barges, Centaur and Pudge.

Centaur Restoration Film Show (3)

Nice story about Thames barges in Telegraph article

There’s a good article in The Daily Telegraph about Thames barges.   Written by Adam Lusher, it describes his joining the crew of Centaur for the 2013 Pin Mill Match.

Adam was clearly smitten by the barges:-

“As the red ochre sails clustered around the mouth of the Orwell, it was as if the river had returned to the days when the Thames sailing barge was the East Coast’s cargo vessel of choice, not the giant container vessels that now unload at Felixstowe, more maritime tower blocks than ships.   It felt all the more dreamlike because it had seemed so improbable.”

He joined Mate, Chris Martin, on a winch but not for long:-

“…….paying crew members can choose their own activity level.   Those who wish can take a turn at the winch.   The seriously enthusiastic can train to be mates and skippers.   Others, however, prefer to help cook lunch or simply to admire the view.

“I strongly recommend the latter.   When your smiling crewmate offers you a winch handle, remember that the leeboards both weigh 1.5 muscle-sapping tons.   I lasted precisely one tack, before I gasped my excuses and abandoned my station.”

Here’s Adam taking a turn on the winch with mate, Chris Martin.

Adam Lusher has a turn at the winch with mate Chris Martin, Telegraph piece on Centaur in 2013 Pinmill Match

We would just point out to Adam, though, that tremendous as TSBT’s work with Centaur and Pudge is, there are other Trusts working hard to preserve individual barges, several of them now proudly sailing as members of the active fleet.  

Here’s the link to the full story.   Well worth a read.

New bottom for Centaur

Thames Sailing Barge Trust has been succCentaur (TSBT photoessful in obtaining funding of £100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for sb Centaur to have a new outer bottom.   The work will be done at Oare led by Tim Goldsack, and we are pleased to learn that it is intended to involve apprentice shipwrights once again.

Here’s the link to a video from Shipping TV telling the story.

(Photo courtesy of Thames Sailing Barge Trust)

UPDATE  –  There’s a nice report about this in the Chelmsford Weekly News, including a photograph of the Trust’s President, Chairman and Vice Chairman with local dignitaries. 

Here’s the link to the report.

Open Days on Centaur and Pudge

The Thames Sailing Barge Trust will be holding two Open Days on Sunday 5th May Pudge 12th March 2012 (27)and Monday 6th May.

Why not visit them at Maldon Quay and have a guided tour of their two Thames Barges, Pudge and Centaur.

Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully received to help keep the barges sailing.

Sunday 5th May  –  The world Centaur (TSBT photofamous Maldon Mud Race takes place so there will be lots to see and do.   Barges open from 11 am.

Monday 6th May  –  There will be shanty singers performing on board throughout the day.   Barges open from 10.30am.

There will be displays showing the work of the Thames Sailing Barge Trust on board and refreshments will be available.

The Trust looks forward to welcoming you aboard.

Another loss – Mike Stammers

Via Peter Ferguson we have learnt of yet another loss to the barging community.   Peter has passed on the sad news that long-time member of SSBR, Mike Stammers, has died from cancer. 

Mike had a great love of and interest in Thames barges.   He and Peter had been close friends since their twenties, and shared many a week’s sailing together on Pudge and Centaur.    His maritime interests were both professional, as Keeper of Merseyside Maritime Museum, and, in retirement, bringing his vast knowledge of vessels to publishing a number of works.  

Martin Phillips calls for positive recognition that barge building skills are still thriving

Martin Phillips has today posted a comment to our piece about the film of “The Quay”.   It appears of course on that post, but it is necessary to click on “Comment” in order to see it.    It deserves more prominence, so we repeat it in full here:-

“It is very sad that the landowner’s wish to develop the site has destroyed what had been developed at Standard Quay; however I feel that the coverage of this to date rather ignores reality of what has been achieved by the Thames barge and trad boat community in East Anglia.

It is depressing to read such statements as:  ‘A centre for ancient maritime crafts, the quay is a haven for the few dozen surviving Thames sailing barges.   But Standard Quay’s latest owner, a property developer, plans to turn it into a tourist trap with shops, restaurants and luxury houses….’

This publicity would give the impression that this was the last home of sailing barges and that the preservation skills of barge shipwrights and the home of barges has been destroyed for good by a property developer’s greed.

However this is simply a false picture. What had been achieved at Faversham in the comparatively recent past particularly around the rebuild of Cambria was great, and of course Tim Goldsack is still operating his business (albeit not at Standard Quay). The Iron Wharf is still thriving as are the regular Faversham barges Mirosa and Repertor and Lady of the Lea.

Why can’t someone make an optimistic film publicising the achievements of the TSBT (formerly the barge club) in keeping its barges sailing over the last 64 years, rebuilding two (Pudge and Centaur) WITHOUT Lottery support and taking thousands of people sailing? The Trust’s third hand/mate  training  has produced  about 8 of the current Sailing Barge masters (including myself). It has done so much good to preserve barges and helped to bring people into the  barge scene who go on to work on barges. Let’s celebrate this success please!

Maldon and the Blackwater are  home to a very active fleet of barges and two barge yard (Cooks and Blackwater Marina) with blocks and  2 drydocks operating. Then there is Andy Harman’s yard at St Osyth not to forget the Pioneer rebuild and all the smacks. TS rigging has a thriving trad boat business (rerigging the Cutty Sark for example) and there is a host of evidence that the area is a hot bed of traditional skills and specialist shipwrights, riggers, metal workers, a blacksmith and much much more all based around the rich maritime heritage of the area. Topsail Charters have built a successful business over a quarter of a century preserving a fleet of active barges carrying thousands of passengers a year and employing a group of skippers and mates.

Then there are the barges themselves and the unseen efforts and huge financial commitments of private owners that has produced the wonderful sight of beautifully restored and maintained barges like Marjorie, Adieu, Edith May, Lady Daphne, Repertor, Wyvenhoe,  Lady of the Lea and Phoenician and many others . Private owners are rebuilding barges like Melissa and Niagara, Ethel Maud etc, with more on the way and two new builds completed and more on the way.

I deplore the problems that have ruined all Brian Pain’s efforts to achieve a laudable goal but the picture is far from gloomy! Traditional skills are actually thriving in East Anglia and the fleet of barges and smacks is an often unpublicised gem. Where else in the UK  has a fleet of traditional craft in their home waters been preserved and transformed from cargo carriers and fishing boats to working and pleasure vessels?

Yes what happened at Standard Quay was bad for one person’s dream and destroyed his hopes for the future. I dare say it was undoubtedly bad for Faversham – but that is quite a big issue and no doubt many will debate what is best for the town and the use of its creek for many years to come. 

Let’s celebrate what we are really  achieving guys! Please can someone make a film to show what has been achieved and what a wonderful tradition we have kept going. Tell the public and above all encourage them to join in and come sailing on our wonderful craft.”

Martin has set out a view with which I certainly agree.   It does often seem that Maldon and the other places on the Essex and Suffolk coast are somewhat ignored by some leaders of the barge world.   As he says, there is a thriving barge community in East Anglia, with barge yards, wonderful craftsmen, and a fleet of magnificent vessels who call it their home. 

Ipswich and Halstow – the barges are there and open this weekend

It’s Ipswich Maritime Festival this weekend, so on Saturday and Sunday, 18 and 19 August, there will be a huge programme of activities at Ipswich Waterfront, from 10.00am to 6.00pm each day.

Here’s the link to the programme for the day.

There’s lots for children to do, and to interest adults.   The programme lists some of the vessels which will be present, and mentions Lady of Avenel, MT Kent, Thalatta, Centaur, and “Thames Barges”.   Er, what are Thalatta and Centaur then?

There will be Cream Tea Cruises on Victor at 2.00pm on Saturday and Sunday.   We also happen to know that Kitty will be there, at Custom House Quay, and will be offering three hour barge trips.

Meanwhile, further south, Edith May is having Open Days this weekend, and will be open in Halstow Dock on Saturday and Sunday, from 11.00am to 4.00pm.  Cream teas and cake are promised in the Edith May Tearoom.

Sunshine and high temperatures are forecast so it should be a good weekend on the water.

Pudge and Centaur get ready for the season

Roger Newlyn sends us news that Pudge left Faversham last weekend, Sunday the 1st of April, following  completion of the shipwright’s work, and she arrived back in Maldon on  the evening flood tide.    Work has now commenced on fitting out the restored  stern section down below.    Her gear was being lowered this weekend for routine  maintenance, ready for the forthcoming season.

Meanwhile Good Friday saw Centaur  rigging out alongside Pudge, preparing for her shakedown  sail.

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