A planning application has been submitted for a proposed new Thames-side museum, which will house the Rose Toop Collection of historic boats.
If the application is successful, the new museum will be built on the site of Hobbs Boatyard, opposite the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames, which Rose Toop Collection owner Adam Toop purchased in October 2020.
Substantial investment is planned for the boatyard, which will be operated on a not-for-profit basis and in the absence of sponsorship. Facilities will be both improved and expanded for the benefit of the small community of marine businesses that operate from the site, the boat owners they serve, along with traditional boat clubs and societies. In operation since the late 19th century, Hobbs will also retain an important presence, continuing their operations on approximately one third of the site, leased back to them on extended terms to ensure continuity.
The Rose Toop Collection consists of nearly 40 boats from the 'Golden Age' of wooden boatbuilding on the Thames, providing examples of unpowered, open launch, tender and steam. It began in the late 1960s when hand-built wooden river craft were superseded by fibreglass. Old boats were broken up or abandoned, and the traditional building and maintenance skills no longer needed. The collection started with the best examples of pleasure craft that could be found. The collection period is from 1890-1940, and craft should be in original condition, unrestored, substantially unaltered from new, an exceptionally good example of its type and well-proportioned with the subtle sheer line - the common attribute of handsome boats.
As well as vessels, the Collection also contains numerous artefacts which support, explain and educate in relation to this period along with objects of beauty and rarity whose creation depended on the existence of the River Thames. The Collection's aim is to preserve some of the best craft and their related accoutrements in as near original condition as their ability will allow, and to provide cause and means to practice those artisan skills necessary to maintain such craft.
The Rose Toop Collection was built over many decades by William 'Bill' Rose, who died in February 2021. Bill's research was instrumental in saving two important WWII vessels, MGB-81 and HSL-102, for the nation. The Windermere Steamboat Museum (now Windermere Jetty Museum) also called on Bill’s authority to assess their historic collection and enable new investment.
The planning application is for a vintage boat collection of National significance, and aims include: re-finishing the current barns on the site in wood, adopting materials originally employed in the construction of the historic sheds lost to fire; the creation of suitable environment to properly store and maintain the Rose Toop Collection; a mezzanine area for safely viewing the Collection while providing access to the Collection's archives and library; erection of a workshop to provide restoration and maintenance space for boats in the Collection; support for the existing small, specialist marine businesses based at the boatyard through improved, secure facilities; and additional moorings, which would be made available for owners for the seasonal mooring of other recreational vintage boats of similar pedigree to the boats and craft in the Rose Toop Collection.
Speaking to Classic Boat Magazine, Adam Toop said: “In addition to safely storing, maintaining and showing the Collection and archives, we are equally committed to nurturing the boatyard as a vibrant, traditional boating hub on this key reach of the upper Thames.
“Our plans include new floating moorings and, as access to this part of the river can be difficult during the busiest summer months, we are committed to providing complimentary use of the new facilities in support of recognised clubs and societies that promote the use and conservation of traditional, non-powered craft.
“Against the depressing backdrop of so many boatyards being lost to development, our plans represent a rare opportunity to see substantial investment in an important historic boatyard at the very heart of sport and leisure on the upper Thames – investment that will both enhance its relevance and ensure its survival moving forward."
The Public Consultation ends on 8 November 2021.