Barge with Straw (a Stackie). D Went Wellers (from back of photograph --- DW). "A very valuable photo" (from John Leather).
This faded print is one of Douglas Went's early photographs and shows a "stack" barge loaded with hay or straw, in the River Thames, bound for the wharves in London which specialised in the trade in horse fodder and bedding until the late 1920s. The apparent unseaworthiness of such a load on a craft drawing about six feet was belied by the performance of barges in trade, which were seldom lost at sea, but sometimes by fire.
The bowsprit is topped up and the usual foresail is replaced by a small "stack foresail" which worked on a temporary rope horse across the stack top. A jib topsail, often called a "staysail" on a barge, was set on the topmast forestay and the mainsail, which had a special reef for stack work was set, with the usual topsail above it, the latter doing most of the propulsion in this condition. The barge was often steered by the mate, who could not see forward because of the stack and followed the orders of the skipper perched on its top.
The stack trade was almost totally carried on by barges from Essex and south Suffolk, loading at small wharves in out of the way places, usually where farms had access to the sea walls. The return freight was often horse manure, politely called by the crews "London mixture". [JL]
Plate.15 in SWW.
This image is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection.