Consuta

Umpire's Launch built 1898 by Saunders, Sam, Goring-on-Thames

Ensign House flag

87

National Historic Fleet


Leisure Craft

Launch


Umpire's Launch

River Thames


Private use

Operating


Yes

No


31/07/1996

28/04/2017


Web site

www.consuta.org.uk

Gallery


Propulsion

Steam

Steam compound


Locomotive

H A McEwen (Boiler Repairs) Ltd, Keighley


1995


Dimensions

To be confirmed

7.51 feet (2.29 metres)


49.97 feet (15.24 metres)

2.00 feet (0.61 metres)


9.00


History

CONSUTA is a fast steam launch with a lightweight hull made by a revolutionary construction technique of four veneers of mahogany planking stitched together with copper wire. This technique was patented by Sam Saunders and called 'Consuta Plywood'. Saunders used this strong waterproof plywood for boat and airplane construction in the early 1900s and it remained in use until the 1950s by which time waterproof glues had become widely available.

The name CONSUTA was derived from the Latin 'consutilis' meaning stitched. The steam engine used in CONSUTA was built by G.F.G. DesVignes and can produce 100 horsepower. CONSUTA achieved 27½ mph and was one of the fastest launches on the Thames at the time. She was successfully used for coaching duties as an umpire launch at various Thames regattas and also for several years was the Umpire Launch for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. There are several photos also showing royalty of the 1900s carried as passengers.

In 1923 the steam plant was removed by Taylor Bates at Chertsey and replaced with a Wolesley petrol engine. Subsequently she was sold to Phelps at Putney and then Sims at Richmond who had the contract for umpiring the boat race.

In 1949, the BBC used CONSUTA as a TV camera platform providing live television coverage of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. This was the very first outside broadcast to use radio link for the TV pictures. She continued this duty until the late 1960s. By 1971 she was owned by F&B boats at Surbiton and was used for tripping.

In 1973, G.E. Lindsay purchased CONSUTA and decided to restore her using the original steam engine found at Tom Taylor's yard, Staines in 1975. The Consuta Trust was formed in 1998 to complete the restoration work. Since Trust ownership, funds have been raised in various ways including a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The final restoration work was carried out by Henwood and Dean, Kew Bridges Engines and with the help of a great deal of volunteer work hours. CONSUTA was re-commissioned in October 2001 as originally built.

Since her restoration, CONSUTA is publicly displayed at various Thames regattas throughout the summer each year. She has also worked as an umpire launch at rowing regattas, fulfilling the task she was designed for over 100 years ago.

Raymond Wheeler, From River to Sea, the maritime heritage of Sam Saunders (1993)
Kevin Desmond, Guinness Book of Motorboating Facts & Feats (1979)
Sam Saunders, Motorboat & Yachting (July, 1984)
Saunders Patent Launch Buildings Syndicate Catalogue, Testimonials (1904)
Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles (May Edition 6, 1994) pub: Steam Boat Association of Great Britain
Watercraft no 20 Stitches in Time (2000)
The Consuta System in Aviation (1919)
Kathy Mansfield, Classic Boat (September, 2015, pp16-17) Thames Traditional Boat Festival Back in Style
Classic Boat Tailor Made Boats (1991)
Classic Boat (August, 2002) Umpires Launch
Classic Boat (February, 2000) A stitch in time

Significance

What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

CONSUTA’s physical significance can be found in her name which means ‘stitched together’ and derives from the revolutionary technique used in constructing her lightweight hull. In the absence of waterproof glues, four veneers of mahogany planking were hand sewn together with copper wire stitches, laid in approximately 40,000 inch long grooves in the outer lamination. This became known as the ‘Consuta Method’ and was patented by the builder, remaining in wide use until the 1950s and becoming the forerunner of later cold moulded plywood hulls. CONSUTA has no ribs and her small frames are only used to spread the load of the steam machinery, giving her an extremely light, but strong hull. CONSUTA’s original steam engine was built by G.F.G Des Vignes and was capable of producing 100 hp. This was replaced by a petrol engine in 1923, but the original steam plant was reinstated during conservation work in the late 1990s.

What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

Contemporary reports compiled from club minutes and letters indicate that the vessel was hired as the Henley Royal Regatta umpire launch for a number of years and seen as very ‘satisfactory’ with ‘far less roll caused by her than any other boat hitherto used’. She carried the Prince of Wales in 1912 and later acted as umpire launch for the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race on the Thames, being used for the first ever live TV broadcast of this iconic event in 1949. Today, CONSUTA continues to be presented at Thames regattas and festivals where she has been used once more as an umpire’s launch.

How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

CONSUTA was commissioned to be driven at high speeds of up to 23 knots whilst producing minimal wash. Her lines were drawn to achieve this and she was the first vessel to be built with a tunnel stern, which is still adopted by GRP-constructed umpire launches today. CONSUTA’s ability to travel at speed is integral to her significance. The decision to return her to operational use through conservation has meant some loss of original material, but allows her to demonstrate her original purpose as she is seen steaming along her home river, the Thames. This heritage setting adds to her significance as a surviving representative of the growth in sporting and leisure boating on the Thames at the end of the 19th Century.

Source: Hannah Cunliffe, Policy & Project Manager, National Historic Ships, May 2011.

Key dates

  1. 1898 Built in Goring-on-Thames for Mrs H S Clutton
  2. 1898 Fitted with a steam engine producing 100hp and capable of 23 knots
  3. 1898-1911 Used as an umpiring launch
  4. 1907 Sold to Henry Hewitt
  5. 1913 Played host to the Prince of Wales at Oxford
  6. 1923 Steam plant removed by Taylor Bates at Chertsey and replaced with a Wolesley petrol engine Subsequently sold to Phelps at Putney and then Sims at Richmond
  7. 1949 Used by the BBC as a TV camera platform providing live television coverage of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race
  8. 1949-1969 Continued to provide coverage of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race
  9. 1971 Sold to F&B Boats of Surbiton and used for tripping
  10. 1975 Sold to Graham Lindsay and restoration work started
  11. 1990's Brian Smith and family stepped in to help with the restoration  Vessel moved to Kintbury then Henley
  12. 1997 Consuta Trust established by the Steam Boat Association of Great Britain

Bibliography

  1. 1904 Saunders Patent Launch Buildings Syndicate Catalogue, Testimonials
  2. 1919 The Consuta System in Aviation
  3. 1979 Guinness Book of Motorboating Facts & Feats - Kevin Desmond
  4. 1984 Motorboat & Yachting - Sam Saunders
  5. 1991 Classic Boat Tailor Made Boats
  6. 1993 From River to Sea, the maritime heritage of Sam Saunders - Raymond Wheeler
  7. 1994 Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles
  8. 2000 Watercraft no 20 Stitches in Time
  9. 2000 Classic Boat A stitch in time
  10. 2002 Classic Boat Umpires Launch
  11. 2015 Classic Boat Thames Traditional Boat Festival Back in Style

Grants

  1. 2000-1 The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £38,200 for restoration of the vessel and display to the public at water based events
  2. April 2017 £99,500 from HLF to install steam boilder and new superstructure
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

parrel:

a rope, chain or iron collar which attaches the yard to the mast but which allows vertical movement