An exhibition entitled “From Ware to the Sea – The History of Sailing Barges”
opens at Ware Museum (SG12 9AL) on 6th May for 9 weeks. I have pulled this together with the help of SSBR colleagues and others, in my spare time, when not organising this year’s Mark Boyle Memorial Thames Sailing Barge Match on 13th July, finishing at Erith for the first time in 117 years!
The exhibition conveys a brief history of the genre; details spritsail barges built in Ware; looks illustratively at ownership, crews, destinations and cargoes; the Henry Dodd Barge Match history; the anatomy of a barge; a 1:24 scale model of SB Kathleen with her history time-line in words and pictures; barge construction and sail making with the tools of both these skills on display; and the model of SB Lady of the Lea from the London Canal Museum.
Ware Museum is an independent museum run by volunteers and supported by Ware Town Council, East Herts District Council and the Ware Society. Entry is free but a donation of £2.00 is suggested.
Ware Museum, The Priory Lodge, 89 High Street, Ware, Hertfordshire, SG12 9AL.
Opening times:- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday from 11.00am to 4.00pm.
Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.
Tel: 01920 487848 www.waremuseum.org.uk Registered Charity No. 295169
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.
The summer barge matches are under way and Ed Gransden tells me a bit about the Passage Match, as viewed from Edith May.
Edith May was officially first over the start line as Lady of the Lea and Ardwina went over seconds before the gun. Edith May took the lead down the Thames and held it, going well throughout the day to be first barge into Harwich Harbour. Even though she had to do a dog leg as she passed a buoy the wrong side, she still managed to win by a comfortable margin. Repertor and Ardwina followed with Lady of the Lea bringing up the rear.
(Words and picture by Dave Brooks)
Ed Gransden has kindly pointed out that your Editor is totally confused about the days, (put it down to the bank holiday last week which made everything different), and that the “Our Food” programme is actually on Wednesday at 8.00pm on BBC2.
I’ve checked the schedules myself now, and confirm that it will be Wednesday that we will see Lady of the Lea and Edith May. Apparently it will be Giles Coren presenting from on board Lady of the Lea on the Medway.
So NOT Tuesday, but Wednesday.
Edith May Trading Company has let us know that she will be starring in a television programme next week, together with Lady of the Lea.
The programme is on BBC2 on Tuesday 17 April, at 8.00pm, and is called “Our Food”. It’s a series, and this particular edition features Kent, and will tell how Thames sailing barges used to take fruit to London. It was filmed aboard Lady of the Lea, with what is described as “a special guest appearance from Edith May”. Can’t wait to see them both.
Here’s Edith May about to go under the Orwell Bridge to the Ipswich Parade of Sail 2011, and proudly flying all her winner’s pennants. (photo – Dave Brooks)
And this is Lady of the Lea finishing, (last we are afraid, but she is little), in the 2010 Thames Match. (photo – Tricia Gurnett)