Timber - unloading in Heybridge Basin. [DW]
Discharging timber from a sailing barge at Heybridge Basin, on the river Blackwater, 1937. Until the early 1950s the east coast sailing barge trade maintained the methods and traditions of over two centuries of cargo carrying. Hand loading and discharge were common, as here where a gang are emptying the hold through the main hatchway in the late sun of a summer afternoon. The clew of the stowed foresail has been spread to shade the fore hatch. A cloth capped ganger keeps tally at the right. Hatch boards are stacked by the mast - right way up, it being the gravest error ever to turn one on its back on board; considered as an omen of disaster. The orderley clutter and robust feel of wood, hemp and canvas are well expressed in this photograph of working craft in full commercial use as an integral part of a coastal transport system.
Another unloaded barge lies further up the busy basin, where yacht hulls and willow trees are mirrored in the calm freshwater surface. Much timber was brought to Heybridge Basin by barges for the Maldon firm of John Sadd and Son and for Brown and Company of Chelmsford. After 1945 it arrived increasingly in unrigged sailing barges used as lighters and towed by a motor launch, lightering cargo from merchant ships lying to buoys in the river Blackwater below Osea Island. Many once notable sailing barges were added to this 'fleet' and when this trade also died away, several of these were bought by enthusiasts and have been re-rigged and refitted to sail again for pleasure; an aspect of sailing barge use which would have puzzled their workaday crews. [JL]
Plate.13 in SWW.
Used in The Sailor's Coast, page 87.
This image is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection.