Built in 1953 by RJ Prior of Burnham on Crouch, Susan is the only surviving timber built lighter from the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation.  She was built for Brown & Son timber merchants in Chelmsford to carry timber from Heybridge Basin to Chelmsford.  Based on the design of the earlier horse drawn lighters which from 1797 carried a variety of cargo between Chelmsford and the Blackwater Estuary, she was the only Chelmer & Blackwater lighter to be fitted with an inboard engine. 

Commercial traffic on the Navigation ceased in 1972.  In 1976 the Chelmsford Branch of The Inland Waterways Association stepped in to save Susan from being broken up, as an important reminder of the Navigations industrial heritage and operation.  In the years that followed Susan was owned by the Chelmer Lighter Preservation Society, Passmore Edwards Museum and Chelmsford Borough Council Museums Service. 

In 2002 it was discovered that major repairs were required and in 2005 The Susan Trust was formed as a partnership of interested and experienced organisations, many of which had previously owned Susan.  The aim of the trust was to acquire Susan and restore it to working condition for use as a trip boat on the Navigation. 

The restoration commenced in 2010 at St Osyth Boatyard with a series of stages carried out as grant funding became available from many sources both locally and nationally together with help from volunteers.  With the specialist boat building work now complete, Susan has been towed back to Heybridge Basin and the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation where the original Thornycroft engine will be refitted.   

A final stage for the project will provide a cover for Susan once funding has been secured. Susan will be then operated for public trips by volunteers on the Navigation for which she was built.   

Photo by Chelmer Canal Trust

Source: The Susan Trust 

Image Susan arrives at Heybridge Basin
Zone East