Registration number 188
Status Registered


Function Cargo Vessel
Subfunction Barge
Location Maldon
Vessel type Spritsail Barge
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes


Builder Hamilton, William & Co, Port Glasgow
Built in 1895
Hull material Iron
Rig Spritsail
Number of decks 2
Number of masts 2
Propulsion Sail
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
22.00 feet (6.71m)
4.26 feet (1.30m)
Length: Overall
85.93 feet (26.21m)
Tonnage: Gross


THISTLE was the only Thames sailing barge built in Scotland, and her name recognises her origin. She was built by William Hamilton & Co, of Port Glasgow, with a riveted iron hull, and is the oldest iron-hulled barge still sailing. She was completed in 1895 for H A Covington, a coal merchant of Battersea, London, and traded regularly from the Humber to the Thames. THISTLE could carry 150 tons on coastal voyages, or 170 tons on the rivers.

Her skipper was Captain Anmer, from Shotley, who took his sons Stanley and Jimmy as mate and third hand respectively. Later Stanley left whilst Jimmy stayed on as mate. In 1940 THISTLE was sold to the London and Rochester Trading Company. In 1948 her metal sprit bent whilst on passage and, having no engine, she was towed back to Rochester where her sailing gear was taken out and she was converted to a motor barge with a 66 bhp Kelvin engine. She continued to trade until 1972 when she was sold to Barry Bowes, before being sold on to Angela Olson in 1978 and to H C McLaren in 1979. During the 1970s she was a houseboat on the Medway. A restoration was started at Woodbridge in 1980, but she was then laid up for five years near Battersea Bridge as a houseboat, before further restoration to sailing condition followed at Greenwich in 1987. Her first charter was in 1988. THISTLE is now owned by Topsail Charters of Maldon, Essex. She is run as a Class V and VI passenger vessel for 50 people.

Source: Paul Brown, Historic Sail, The History Press.

Key dates

  • 1895

    Thames sailing barge built by William Hamilton & Co. of Port Glasgow

  • 1900s

    Owned by H.A. Covington, coal merchant of Battersea, trading between Humber and Thames 

  • 1940

    Sold to London and Rochester Trading Company with same crew

  • 1948

    Metal sprit damaged, first engine installed and converted to motor barge

  • 1972

    Sold out of trade into private ownership

  • 1980

    Restoration commenced at Woodbridge

  • 1987

    Complete restoration undertaken following five year lay up near Battersea Bridge as houseboat 

  • 2012

    Vessel selected to take part in the Avenue of Sail, Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012

  • 2015

    Selected as Regional Flagship Winner by National Historic Ships UK


  • May 2015

    A Project grant of £250 for being our Regional Flagship Winner 2015 was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ship UK


Hamer, Geoffrey, Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles, G P Hamer, 1995
Wood, D G, Barges Sailing Today: Sailing Barge Information Pamplet No: 1, Society for Spritsail Barge Research, 1995

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