I’m very sorry there have been no posts on The Barge Blog since August. September, October and most of November are my busiest months in “real life” and I just don’t have the time to deal with it, although I do manage the occasional post to the Society’s Facebook page.
Members of the Society should now have received the autumn edition of our excellent magazine Mainsheet – and if you aren’t a member and don’t have Mainsheet then you’re really missing something. Mainsheet contained the news that Hugh Perks has stood down from the Committee of SSBR. We are all very sad that he has come to this decision, although we understand his reasons. Hugh is a founder member of the Society, has held office and has brought his vast knowledge of maritime subjects to our deliberations and indeed to our publications.
Thankfully, Hugh has said that he intends to continue to bombard us with letters, notes, corrections, etc, to keep the Committee on its toes. And as good as his word, he has sent us this splendid photograph of sb Tollesbury. He says:- “Tollesbury is now based at Standard Quay, Faversham, as her former berth at Barking is no longer available. She is looking very smart and well painted up. Her mast and topmast need attention, but the sprit is newly painted. The foliage in pots on the decks and hatches surely qualifies her for the “Valdora Trophy”. Old timers may remember Valdora the ‘flowerpot’ barge at Great Yarmouth in the early 1950s.
“Also at Standard Quay is sb Decima, sporting somewhat virulent green paint in places, and sb Repertor is berthed opposite. “
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.
This film is well worth watching. It’s the story of Standard Quay at Faversham, and tells how the Quay was home to some of the last of the shipwrights and other craftsmen, whose services are still in demand. A developer has applied for planning permission for housing on the quay, and this film is about the traditional working shipyard’s final year
“The Quay”, is a film by Richard Fleury: “A windswept stretch of English creekside echoing to marsh birds’ calls and the thud of shipwrights’ hammers, Standard Quay is straight from Dickens. Wooden ships have been built and rebuilt here for a thousand years and, to some, this scruffy wharf is a magical vision of living history.
“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. “The Quay” is the story of a traditional working shipyard’s final year.”
Here’s the link to the film on YouTube.
The Barge Blog has been so busy that there was no time to publish Dave Brooks’s winter report from Cambria earlier, but here it is.
“It has been a busy close season for the Cambria. Many of our objectives have been achieved, though some will have to carried forward to next year.
“The main focus of this close season was to have the Rotary Club Logo painted into the tops’l, (Rotary International is a sponsor of Cambria), which has been completed, and to replace our old ‘whippy’ bowsprit, which has been fitted.
“Sailing plans started with Cambria leaving Faversham on Friday 20th April, under Richard Titchener, and arriving in Gravesend on the 22nd to sit on the new pontoon at Gravesend Town Pier as part of its opening event. We had the barge open to the public as much as possible, although the weather didn’t do much to encourage visitors. She left Gravesend on the 4th May to return to Faversham where her re-dedication ceremony took place on Standard Quay on the 9th May.
“We expect to be racing in the Medway Match on the 26th May, the Thames Match on the 28th July and the Colne Match on the 8th September.
“The sailing season is back.”
Photo by Dave Brooks shows Cambria lying at the Gravesend Town Pier Pontoon, and yes, Matt C and Jeremy T, that is the power station!