About the Thames Sailing Barge Trust

The Thames Sailing Barge Trust (TSBT) is a registered charity that exists to preserve two Thames barges in sailing condition and was formed in 1948.

The Trust aims to improve the understanding of the public as to the historic and cultural role of Thames Sailing Barges in the heritage of Great Britain and to promote and teach the practice and the traditions and skills of seamanship involved in the handling and maintaining of these craft by taking people sailing in the waters traditionally sailed by these craft. www.bargetrust.org

TSBT is a volunteer run, non-profit company and all sailing fees and membership subscriptions are used to maintain and restore the barges and meet their operating expenses.

One of these sailing barges is Pudgebuilt in 1922 by London & Rochester Trading Co.

About Pudge

Pudge's working life as a cargo carrier was interrupted in spectacular fashion by the Second World War when she was requisitioned in May 1940 whilst in Tilbury, drafted to Dover and thence to Dunkirk to aid the evacuation.  Three barges, including Pudge, were taken in tow by a tug and crossed the Channel under darkness.  As they reached the beaches at Dunkirk an explosion lifted Pudge out of the water and, in the words of her skipper, 'she came down the right way up'.  She took onboard survivors and set off for England, picking up a tow from a tug on the way, to arrive safely back at Ramsgate. 

Pudge is one of only four of the Dunkirk Spritsail Barges that survive, a member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships and is entitled to fly the flag of St George.

She then resumed her normal trade into and from London docks, Ipswich and the Medway ports with grain, cattle cake, fertiliser etc. until her last freight of pineapple juice in 1968 when she was bought out of the trade as a twin hatched motor barge by the Thames Barge Sailing Club (TBSC), the TSBT's predecessor, and re-rigged by members for summer weekend sailing, chartering and winter maintenance based at Maldon.

Pudge was re-engined in 1990 after her passage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dunkirk.  Pudge also attended the 75th anniversary celebrations in 2015 and in June 2012 Pudge was present at the Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the Thames as part of the 'Avenue of Sail'.

Restoration work

The TSBC evolved into The Thames Sailing Barge Trust in 2003 and Pudge has continued to run charter trips with the aim of preserving and teaching the skills needed to sail and maintain the traditions of the working sailing barge.

A staged renewal began in 2005 at Marylandsea with a rebuild of the bows, progressing to the deck and stern as finances permitted with a return to sail in 2007.

Restoration work continues to maintain her fitness for charitable sailing work.  The TSBT has recently gained a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund of £328,000 towards the replacement of her decks, coamings and to upgrade her accommodation below deck. 

Work on the decks and coamings should start in Maldon in May 2020 and the project will allow the public to view the progress being made.

Pudge's future

The TSBT aims to liaise with local children about the history of the Thames sailing barge and plan to hold an exhibition on the history of the sailing barge at Southend museum. 

The future operation of these iconic vessels is important and support has also been received from from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help finance a training programme to train new mates and skippers.

Latest News

February 2022 Latest progress update on Pudge restoration Read Full Story

June 2021 Following sign off on the first stage of the project from the Trust's surveyor, volunteers begin work on Pudge's linings and carlings. Full story here.

Volunteers work on Pudge









May 2021 TSBT launches new exhibition Red Sails Over The Estuary about the history of the Thames sailing barge and its association with Southend. 

April 2021 Pudge is out of the dry dock and work continues at the boatyard.

February 2021 Conservation work continues and the team hope that in the next month or so the first phase of work will have been completed. 

Conservation work underway on Pudge (c) Thames Sailing Barge Trust

December 2020 Great progress has been made in the last two months on the work being carried out on Pudge by Kevin Finch Shipwrights at Fullbridge 

November 2020 As part of the Pudge Project, Ben Gosling, a pupil at Plume Community Academy, has created as part of his technology course work a website for the project focusing on the activities and ongoing conservation work being carried out at Fullbridge.

October 2020 Autumn update on the work that has been carried out by Kevin Finch at KJ Finch Shipwrights at Fullbridge during September and early October. 

September 2020 Pudge Project milestone achieved!  Pudge's first replacement deck planks have been laid. 
July 2020 
Viewing gallery launched by pupils of Plume Academy (c) TSBT
Pupils from Plume Academy launch viewing gallery at Chandlers Quay, Fullbridge, where the historic sailing barge Pudge is undergoing its £738,000 restoration and refit.  

June 2020 
Pudge Project update - new beams June 2020
Nine new beams have been fashioned, all of slightly different sizes and they have each been craned into Pudge and laid out on the ceiling ready for fitting and final rounding off and finishing. 

May 2020 
Pudge Project logo
Pudge has moved from Maldon and is now in Fullbridge, Essex, for the work to be started on the replacement of her decks, coamings, ceilings and upgrading of her below deck accommodation.  This work which will take around 12 months is being funded by the Heritage Lottery and a number of other charitable organisations along with donations and support from the members of the Trust. 

Find out more about the Thames Sailing Barge Trust here.