Friday 19 April 2013

Greenwich built barges

Greenwich Peninsula was a big centre for barge building - many different vessels were built here until very recently and includeds some boats which are still very much in use on the River.  Lighters and other commercial craft were also built here. 

Of most interest were the Thames Sailing Barges - operational in the late 19th century until the mid-20th.  Some of these were very, very famous vessels and there is a huge amount of interest out there and many enthusiasts.   Just this last weekend I was in Maldon at the quayside looking at the barges moored there, and saw just how many of them were very smart and we were told how new barges are now being built.

It is important to recognise just how sophisticated and versatile these vessels were - and are.   They were built for the Thames and for all the little creeks as well as the Channel.   They could go up river - under all the bridges - and went to places like Isleworth and beyond.  They could go up tiny creeks in very shallow water.  They could, and did, cross the Channel and go into Continental rivers. They could be worked with a man and a boy.

The barge matches - which many of these vessels competed in, and won - still take place. Happy to find dates of this year's  events

I am putting below a list of those vessels built in Greenwich which I know about - and I am sure (and I hope) that all of those 100s of enthusiasts were not only read this but send in many many corrections to what I am sure are lots and lots and lots of mistakes. This is a subject people really KNOW about.

Barge builder Shrubsall -  they were based at the Northern end of the Peninsula on part of the area of what is now Peninsula quays. They were an Ipswich based company who came to Greenwich in 1901.  There are some good articles about them by proper barge enthusiast writers - I could get references.

Alderman Built 1905 for Groom of Harwich. Lost in the Second World War.
Bankside. Originally built by Wakeley Bros. and rebuilt in 1926 by Shrubsall. She ended up owners by Francis & Gilders. Mined and sunk in the Second World War,
Duchess. 55 ton barge built 1901 for for Clement Parker of Bradwell. She was lost at Dunkirk, - abandoned off St.Abb's Head and drifted.
Genesta. (this is a confused jumble of bits - not sure which bits of this - if any if it - are correct) Sjhe was nuilt in the 1900s by Shrubsall and named after a yacht which won the America's Cup.  At one time she was missing for four days off Blythe. She once sailed to Guernsey.  She was owned by APCM and won sailing matches. After being wrecked for the second time in 1939 she sold and then converted into a motor barge in the Second World War for Hammond.  In the 1950s she was in an accident at Gas House Dock, Gillingham and then wrecked off Folly Point, Hoo Fort full of beer barrels from Meux at Pimlico. She was raised and taken to Churchfields to be burnt. But she ended up as a hulked at Pipers in Greenwich and her huge main mast  was displayed there as a relic.  (I would love to know what happened to that!!) 
Imperial. Built 1902 and won races that year but worked hauling flour and cement. She eventually became a motor barge and was hulked at Temple Marsh and used as a jetty in 1957.
King. Built in 1901 as Shrubsall's first boat at Greenwich. Built for Jarvis and Daniels Bros. of Whitstable. Her rigging was removed in the Second World War and in 1957 was still at work.Verona. Built in 1905 in a slack period. She won the 1905 Medway races and was 2nd in the Thames rces in 1906.  Shrubsall kept her as the part owner with the rest belonging to Clement Parker.  Then owned by Anderson of Maidstone she was bought by by Shrubsall in the 1930s. She was converted into a yacht by Nortons and then went to the Baltic and was used as a house boat.
Pall Mall. Rebuilt in 1905 and owned by Shrubsall in the 1930s. She had an accident off London Bridge on way to Honduras Wharf and Shrubsall bought the wreck.

Princess. Built in 1908 she won the 1909 Medway races and then, owned by Everard, the 1936 & 1937 Thames matches and the 1937 Medway match
Southwark. She was hauling 'London Mixture' (rubbish and - er - other detritus) to farms. She a became 'roads barge' - disused in 1942
Valdora, Built for J M Walker of Dover in 1904. The name is that of a potted geranium and she was called 'flower pot ship'. She was burnt out on the Norfolk Broads
Valonia. Built 1912 was eventually has an engine. She was built for Middleton of  Harwich but then came back to Greenwich where she was owned Horace Shrubsall in the 1930s but then used by Battershall to trade to Portland.  In 1937 she was damaged off Emsworth, and  later at Dartmouth and then she hit Wandsworth Bridge and in 1938 hit the coaster Bain off the Yantlet, and then hit Gertrude. She was lost at Dunkirk in 1940. She was in Dunkirk Harbour with a load of pitch from Aylesford when the evacuation began, but, as the Skipper said, 'Jerry got there first'.  While leaving she hit the tanker Limousin and sank and was thus a  total loss.  It has been said she was the 'best earner' - she was a big barge which was economical with fuel. The name is a sort of algae used in cellulose.
Varuna. Built 'on spec' in 1907. There was no buyer so Shrubsall used her himself before eventually selling her on. She sank down channel when in use as a yacht but in 1957 was still hauling , timber to the Surrey Docks.
Venta. Previously called Jachin; she had been smashed on Newhaven beach and Shrubsall bought the wreck and rebuilt her. She became barge yacht in in 1948 for Judge Blagden and sailed to Sweden in 1964
Veravia. Had been called Alarm previously and was rebuilt. She had been built in 1898 in Sittingbourne for Lloyds paper mills. She had caught fire with a load of paper and had to be helped into Dungeness. Shrubsall altered her drastically and she was changed again in 1938 in Greenwich by Humphery and Grey. In 1960, owned by Hayling Coal and Transportation Co. she sank when loaded with 140 tons of spent oxide from Portsmouth Gas Works going to the glassworks at Rouen. Gales has kept her windbound in the Camber - she sailed but turned back because of a heavy swell and freshening wind off the Nab Tower. She anchored off Chichester where she remained 5 days and then left but after 8 hours the wind shifted and she sank in a huge sea.  In 1961 she was converted to diesel at Prior's Yard Burnham on Crouch. As a working barge she went to the Continent with Belgian roofing tiles, and up the Rhine with Appolinaris water packed in straw. She carried Portland stone used for the Cenotaph. Before 1930 she took coal from Goole to Mill Rythe, and cullet to Antwerp and back with bricks from Boom. In the 1960s she took meal to Ipswich from Tilbury; scrap iron from Deptford to Goole, coal from Keadby to Wapping, and meal from Hull to Faversham; Wheat from Hull to Peterborough. She took flour from Guernsey amd returend with granite road chippings to London. . 'Vera via' is the 'true path'.
Veronica. Built 1906. she eventually became a house barge and her remains are at Bedlam's Bottom. Her name boards and some other items were at the Dolphin Barge Museum in Sittingbourne. But that too has now closed.
Victa. Rebuilt in 1913 she became a house barge at Strood,
Vicunia. Built 1912 for , for Middleton of Harwich and was still at work in 1957. The name is a place in Chile.
Vidora. Name is a place in Canada.
Vimosa. Built in 1908
Virona.  built in 1903


Barge Builder Pipers - one of the leading barge builders. Based adjacent to the existing boat builder on what is now Lovells - the works there is essentially Pipers under different ownership.
Arthur Relf  - built 1908 as a 68 ton wooden barge. Her remains lie in Whitewall Creek,
Brian Boru - built 1906 in  wood. Broken up 1988 in Brentford
Edgar Scholey. Built 1904. She was broken up 1950s having been a house boat at Cheyne Walk,
Ernest Piper. Built 1898 in wood. Rerigged for Goldsmiths in 1928. Her remains lie in Shepherds Creek
Gerty. Built 1897.  Broken up in 1933 at Millwall
Giralda. Built 1897 - the fastest barge ever built. counter springy floor. A half model was made pf her and preserved. (and where is that?) She was designed by Piper's Foreman, Jack Gurrell commssioned by Goldsmiths of Grays and designed in order to win the Diamond Jubilee gold cup. She was flat and ugly and too light to keep her shape and so had to be strengthend. She cost £1,350 to build; was 80ft long and had 3,000 ft of canvas.   She was Champion of the Thames in 1898, 1900, 1904, and 1909. She was Champion of the Medway 1898, 1900, 1903, and 1904. She became a mooring barge in 1928 and then was damaged in Ramsgate Harbour. Piper bought her back in 1943 and hulked her - left her unused and unusable off their wharf.  Some remains of her were kept by the Piper family - and her picture turns up all over the place, I have seen it on table mats!!
Gwynronald - previously called Charles Allison. Built in 1908 and owned by Samuel West of Gravesend and used for Ballast. Her remains have been in Oare Creek since 1957
Haughty Belle. Built 1895 to the specifications of E.J.Goldsmith. She was a wooden racing barge with iron leeboards. She was eventually broken up in Cubitt's yacht basin, Royal Docks.
James Piper. Built 1894 and was a successful racing bargef. She was broken up 1950s having been a house boat at Cheyne Walk.
Leonard Piper. Built in 1910. She is a house boat at Chiswick Mall.
Maid of Connaught. Built 1899 in wood and at one time called The Monarch. She was owned by the Leigh Building Supply Co. She was hulked on Pin Mill hard in 1957
Miranda. Built 1909
Pip. Built in 1921 as a steel motor barge. Later called Pinup and in the 1950s called Pine. She was run down off Purfleet by a steamer and her crew were drowned. She was dismantled and then hulked at Greenwich.
Sportsman. Built Pipers 1901, ger remains lie in Milton Creek.
Squeak,  Had been previously called Dorcas Also called 'Hokey Pokey' because she had a painted hull. She had been based at Sandwich trader and off Woolwich petrol drums on board caught fire and the skipper was killed and she was sold to Pipers for £60 who rebuilt her as a larger vessel. She was the subject of a lawsuit because of damage in 1943 off Sheerness Gas works jetty. She was eventually dismantled in 1948 after nearly sinking in Sea Reach. Her remains lie at Funton.
Surf. Built in 1899 as a racing barge.  She was fouled by Minnehaha at Tilbury in 1900
Surge. Built in 1905 the name means Sure you are Giralda's Equal
Surrey. Built 1901.  Her remains lie at Whitewall Creek
M Piper. Built 1914. She was broken up for scrap at Bloor's Wharf in 1954

W Mary. Built 1914. Broken up Greenwich in 1937,
Wilfred. Built 1926 and called Stargate as the 'last word in modern staysail barges'. As a working barge she took Ballast and sand from Brightlingsea and became a motor barge in the 1930sl She is now a wine bar/restaurant on the Victoria Embankment and has had a variety of names.
Hughes - Hughes were a family firm based on what is now part of the Lovells site. They became Tilbury Lighterage and Dredging.
Orinoco. Built in 1895 She sank in the Thames in 1952 but was refloated and remained at work into the 1950s. She is the only Greenwich built barge still in sail - she was at Hoo Marina, don't know if she is still there.
Norton - there were a number of Norton brothers with barge yards adjacent to each other in the area of foreshore near the Ecology Centre
Serb. Repaired by Shrubsall. She was at Dunkirk having been sent there while loaded coal for drifters at Tilbury. Sge was  then towed to Ramsgate and set out for Dunkirk, but was told to go back so she was towed back to Ramsgate and laid up at Ipswich. She became a yacht owned by R.Green and was sunk off North Foreland in 1954



David Leal said...

Many years ago, I saw a half model of the Giralda (only about a foot long) in a glass case at the NMM, but without any indication that they knew what they were showing. David

Alan Park said...

I lived on the Brian Boru for a couple of years whilst it was being used as a houseboat. Around about 1950, it was at Greenwich, where it was made something like habitable and it was moved up river to Isleworth, where it was moored against the Ait. A little later, it moved down river to Brentford, where it was moored against the Hollows footpath reached via Victoria Steps off Kew Bridge Road. I have often wondered what became of the barge.

Unknown said...

Been reading about Piper's barge Giralda. I believe the designer, Piper's foreman, was Jack Curel (ie not spelt Gurrell), who was my great grandfather. Born John Frederick Curel in 1853, he was apprenticed in 1867 to his grandfather James Curel and his uncle George Henry Curel as a barge builder. I have his original indenture certificate. The Curels built over 100 barges at Frindsbury and Stood. The only one still sailing today is SB Cygnet.