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Thames Sailing Barges


The details of Thames sailing barges have been transcribed from a number of Mercantile Navy List (MNL volumes.
The Source column will indicate the source volume for a particular set of details - enter this string (such as MNL1916 for the 1916 list) in the Search field if you want to restrict the entries to a particular year.
O.N. column gives the Official Number - which would have stayed with a particular vessel despite sales and renamings.
Registered is the port of registry.
Tons is the vessel's Registered Tonnage.
Owner is the owner or part owner. X signifies Managing Owner. Italics signifiy Manager.

The History column contains notes from the MNL, and it also (in square brackets) has data added from other sources.

With such a large volume of data, there are inevitably some errors. The MNL itself has errors - unless there is an obvious typographical error, the data in the book has been copied as written.

Source

Notes

MNL1883

Mercantile Navy List for 1883.
Only a few entries (one) have been transcribed, where they clarify the history of a particular barge.
This MNL is online on the Australian National Maritime Museum website. Google Mercantile Navy List to find this and other online copies.

MNL1893

Mercantile Navy List for 1893.
Only a few entries for this have been transcribed, where they clarify the history of a particular barge.
Mersea Museum has a copy of this book - but only the Sail section exists. This is probably an historic book that has travelled via Hervey Benham and John Leather.

MNL1907

Mercantile Navy List for 1907.
Only a few entries for this have been transcribed, where they clarify the history of a particular barge.
Mersea Museum has a copy of this book.

MNL1916

Mercantile Navy List for 1916.
All entries have been transcribed if they are thought to be for a Thames sailing barge. Thank you to Don Wright for the loan of this book.

MNL1919

Mercantile Navy List for 1919.
Only a few entries for this have been transcribed, where they clarify the history of a particular barge.
Mersea Museum has a copy of this book.

MNL1923

Mercantile Navy List for 1923.
Entries transcribed by Hugh Perks, SSBR. Hugh comments:

The 1923 MNL contains just under 1,500 sailing barge entries, however, not all of these would have then still been sailing. As trade diminished immediately after the end of the Great War several barges were dismantled to become dumb or residential lighters, roads or powder barges, while others were simply laid-up. As only 15 of the entries are over 65 years old it suggests that more ancient craft were disposed of immediately after the war. This is evidenced by the fact that only 16% of the barge entries are under 40 registered tons, indicating that many of the smaller brick and cement barges had already been disposed of. At the other end of the scale there are several omissions from the 1923 list, notably Thalatta and Phśnician. Never-the-less, allowing for those barges which ought to have been deleted as having long gone out of trade it is likely that not much more than a thousand barges remained under sail in that year – if that! Thirteen vessels are shown as having engines, two of which were by then yachts, and one, Arctic, was a full-powered motor barge.

The 1923 MNL contains just under 1,500 sailing barge entries, however, not all of these would have then still been sailing. As trade diminished immediately after the end of the Great War several barges were dismantled to become dumb or residential lighters, roads or powder barges, while others were simply laid-up. As only 15 of the entries are over 65 years old it suggests that more ancient craft were disposed of immediately after the war. This is evidenced by the fact that only 16% of the barge entries are under 40 registered tons, indicating that many of the smaller brick and cement barges had already been disposed of. At the other end of the scale there are several omissions from the 1923 list, notably Thalatta and Phśnician. Never-the-less, allowing for those barges which ought to have been deleted as having long gone out of trade it is likely that not much more than a thousand barges remained under sail in that year – if that! Thirteen vessels are shown as having engines, two of which were by then yachts, and one, Arctic, was a full-powered motor barge.

Against some vessels there is simply a dash ‘-‘ indicating rig unknown, as with 84226 Sapphire.

There still remain some whose authenticity is in doubt, including105815 Northfleet, 105792 Shannon and 105816 Sheerness which may or may not have been under sail as Unity, the fourth barge owned by the Thames Tug & Lighterage Co is shown as spl.

Registered tonnage is a measure not of capacity but of volume, arrived at by measurement. Over the years changes to tonnage legislation, and the way in which vessels are measured, means that a barge such as Why Not? built in 1866 and then of 44 registered tons had been reduced by 1923 to 38 registered tons, but able to load the same quantity. An example of how registered tonnage is no guide whatsoever to carrying capacity is illustrated by the Faversham-built Alice of 1859. A narrow-sized barge originally measuring 73x14.6x5.3 feet she was rebuilt rose-upon to 74.7x18.4x5.9 feet and reduced to 44 registered tons. Minor alterations to registered tonnage might be made if the hatch coamings were raised to increase volume.

Mersea Museum does not have a copy of the 1923 MNL.

MNL1933

Mercantile Navy List for 1933.
13 Nov 2009 this list has now been removed and 'replaced' with the 1934 list. The 1934 list has been directly transcribed from the book and is more accurate.

MNL1934

Mercantile Navy List for 1934.
All entries have been transcribed if they are thought to be for a Thames sailing barge. Thank you to David Patient for the loan of this book. Mersea Museum has a scanned copy of this book [ in Images/Books ].

MNL1938

Mercantile Navy List for 1938.
All entries have been transcribed if they are thought to be for a Thames sailing barge. However, the records have been copied several times and errors have crept in. Mersea Museum does not have a copy of the 1938 MNL and is not in a position to correct it. The loan of a copy would be very welcome.

MNL1953

Mercantile Navy List for 1953.
Entries transcribed by Hugh Perks, SSBR. Hugh comments:
For barges with engines tonnages given are net tonnage; those for sailormen are registered tonnage.
A considerable number of those barges which continued to be registered in 1953 were no longer in trade: some were lighters, roads barges, housebarges, barge yachts, or had already been broken-up (some before the war).
Mersea Museum does not have a copy of the 1953 MNL.


There is much more information on many of these barges in The Sailing Barge Compendium, published by the Society for Sailing Barge Research.
They have also extracted barges listed in the 1899 Mercantile Navy List and published it as a booklet. See the SSBR website for details.