Spritsail Barge built 1891 by Stone, Brightlingsea
National Historic Fleet
To be confirmed
18.69 feet (5.70 metres)
79.93 feet (24.38 metres)
5.61 feet (1.71 metres)
GRETA was completed in 1892 by Stone Brothers, Brightlingsea, for Edward Hibbs, a barge sail maker at Brightlingsea, and four co-owners. Hibbs had perfected a process which gave the sails of working boats a life of fifteen years. The dressing he used contained horse fat which gave them their shine, resistance to wear and a darker red colour than the later oil and red ochre dressing now familiar on the surviving barges.
Her next owner was Owen Parry who bought her in 1916 and owned a fine fleet of barges, noted for their smart turnout and racing success. Each barge received a biennial refit on the hard at Brightlingsea and left looking like new. Felix Mallett was the first skipper of GRETA appointed by Parry to sail under his yellow and black house flag and he recalled some of the notable incidents in John Leather’s ‘Barges’. GRETA's usual cargoes were grain, malt and building products but she once carried spars for the German Kaiser’s racing schooner METEOR IV. They were shipped from the yard in Brightlingsea which made them to St Katharine Docks in London, as deck cargo lashed in cradles which were then griped down, and were then loaded aboard a German ship and taken to Kiel. Greta was once caught in a squall off Cliff Creek on the Kentish side of the lower Thames when laden with wheat for Cranfield’s mill in Ipswich. Her top mast broke in three places and gave the crew a hard time securing the mess and getting the barge in a seaworthy condition to continue the voyage. In a severe gale on the night of 28/29 December 1914 Greta was anchored with a group of other barges inside the entrance to the Colne whilst carrying a deck cargo of pipes and linseed in her hold. She dragged her anchor and grounded in the mouth of Blackstone Hole, on the St Osyth side. Many other barges were stranded, lost gear and suffered damage in the hurricane force winds.
In 1918 trade for coastal sailing barges was slack and Parry sold GRETA to the London and Rochester Trading Co for £900. Felix Mallett stayed on as skipper until 1926 when he returned to Parry’s. Early in World War II GRETA was chartered by the Ministry of Supply to carry ammunition from the ordnance depot at Upnor (on the Medway) to naval vessels anchored in the Thames estuary. She also took part in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 and is thought now to be the oldest active Dunkirk Little Ship. Her war service ended in 1946 and after a refit and having an engine fitted she returned to trade, mostly carrying grain, timber and animal feed. Greta mostly served the Medway wharves but also sailed to Colchester. Towards the end of 1947 she started carrying beer from Chatham to Nine Elms, Battersea. Both her master and mate were teetotallers and the brewery requested that Greta be kept permanently on this run as they could be sure that none of the cargo would go missing. In 1952 she was converted into a motor barge.
Following the decline of work in the London docks in the early 1960s GRETA was sold and laid up at Whitewall Creek pending restoration. She was re-rigged at Allington in the late 1980s by Tony Ryan as a barge yacht conversion, based at Faversham, and was a regular competitor in barge matches during the 1990s. She is now a live-aboard barge in full sailing condition, based at Standard Quay, Faversham, and since 2000 has been owned by Steve Norris. GRETA is used for charters and open day sails, often out of Whitstable, typically visiting the Thames estuary forts, Margate, or the Swale. Her season normally lasts from April to October and she can carry up to 12 passengers. In 1989 she was re-skinned inside and out on the starboard side; the stem has been replaced and the bow rebuilt.
Though not the fastest of barges she also sometimes participates in barge matches. In May 2010 she was amongst the Little Ships crossing the Channel to Dunkirk to mark the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.
Source: Paul Brown, Historic Sail, The History Press.
January 2008 A Sustainability Grant of £,625 for replacement of fore and main hatch tops was made by Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships. Source: National Historic Ships.
- 1971 Sailing Barges - Carr, Frank
- 1975 Sprts'l: A Portrait of Sailing Barges and Sailormen - Perks, Richard Hugh
- 1987 The Last Berth of the Sailorman
- 1989 The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 1940-1990 - Brann, Christian
- 1995 Barges Sailing Today: Sailing Barge Information Pamplet No: 1 - Wood, D G
- 1998 Classic Boat Thames barging
- 2005 Classic Boat Thames Barge Match
tubular metal fitting in the bows of a vessel through which the anchor cable passes