We have recently seen the sailing barge DAWN reviving a trade which was a common sight around one hundred years ago, when she loaded a stack of straw at Abbotts Hall up Salcott Creek and delivered it to St Katharines Dock in London.
Mersea Museum has an excellent image from over one hundred years ago showing the barge CLIFF loading a stack of hay on the Hard. The hay will go to London to feed the horses which were a common sight in London's streets at that time. The image comes from a glass plate in Museum member David Patient's collection.
CLIFF, built at Ipswich in 1858, probably by Bailey, is unusual among spritsail barges in having a round counter stern. She was owned in her early days by Cobbold the Ipswich brewer and when the photo was taken she was probably owned by Rawlinson of East Ham. She passed to James Edwards of West Mersea on 18th November 1907. He had a new jib topsail made for her at Gowens in February 1910 and a new mainsail in August 1910. Her end came when she foundered on the 3rd April 1911.
The second image shows the fine Brightlingsea owned ketch barge BRITANNIC around 1911 on the Hard with a freight of coal for Munson Cooke who had a yard nearby. Ahead of her is the smack UNITY.
The gin wheel is rigged aloft and a rope passed through to e ble labourers to heave out the cargo in skips and shoot it into the large metal shoot rigged over the side, into waiting carts.
BRITANNIC was built at Southtown, Suffolk in 1891 by J.H. Fellows & Co and was employed mainly in bringing coal south from North Country ports, although in 1905 she was bringing 170 ton loads of broken granite into Heybridge Basin under Capt F. Angier. He was probably also her owner at that time. Her end came when a German U-boat placed a bomb on board on December 13th 1917, 12 miles NNW of Hanois, France and blew her to pieces.
3. RUSSELL, with GOLDEN FLEECE ahead of her.
4. GOLDEN FLEECE (centre).
Images 3 and 4 come from around 1926 when local builder Clifford White was building 12 council houses in Barfield Road. Most of the materials were arriving on the hard by sailing barge. Image 3 shows men lifting bricks three at a time from the hold of RUSSELL and throwing them to Tim Mole in the horse drawn cart.
RUSSELL was owned by Smeed Dean & Co who also made the yellow stock bricks at their extensive works at Murston, Kent. The load would be of about 38,000 bricks which would be enough to build a pair of houses. Image 4 taken a little later shows the incoming tide had put a stop to the unloading work for a time. A cart and two lorries are heading off to the building site but pause a while for the camera. All are loaded with timber off loaded from the Brightlingsea owned barge GOLDEN FLEECE in the centre of the picture. The cart driven by Fred Cook also has Horace Mole, 'Tiddler' Mole and Kenny Bacon on board. The Karrier lorries are of interest as they are ex. Army vehicles returned from France after World War I. The one in the centre of the picture belongs to Clifford White and is driven by Jack Heard with Tom Cudmore as mate. The other belongs to The Primrose Bus Company and is being driven by Herbert Green with Rupert Green as mate. Herbert claimed to have been driving lorries in France when only sixteen having boosted his age to join up. He was later a Primrose bus driver and then a driver and inspector at the Chelmsford depot of the Eastern National bus Co.
He was still driving (cars) until shortly before his death at around 90 years old. Rupert also became an inspector - in the Essex Police. Although both were my uncles and Mersea natives they were not related.
The third barge in the picture has brought in a cargo of cement which would have been in 2cwt hessian sacks. Nowadays 1 cwt sacks are said to be too heavy for a man to lift and cement comes in 25kilo (approx half cwt) bags.
Clifford White was still importing timber up to the outbreak of World War 2. There was none after that but some barges brought in sea walling stone to The Strood Quay in 1946.
All images are in Mersea Museum, nos. 2, 3, 4 are from my postcard collection.
Published in Museum piece in the Courier Issue 509, 6 July 2011.