Built in 1922 by London & Rochester Trading Co., PUDGE is a Thames sailing barge with a hull construction of pitch pine on oak with a flush deck, the steering wheel on a ‘short spindle’ without the usual raised cabin top. Originally spritsail rigged with bowsprit an auxiliary oil engine made by The Bergius Co.Ltd of Glasow was installed in 1932.
Her 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 cover of 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.
She then resumed her normal trade into and from London docks, Ipswich and the Medway ports with grain, cattle cake, fertilizer, 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. Rerigged by members for summer weekend sailing and chartering and winter maintenance based at Maldon she was re-engined in 1990 after her passage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dunkirk.
The TSBC evolved into THE THAMES SAILING BARGE TRUST in 2003, and PUDGE 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 programme of renewal began in 2005 at Maylandsea with a rebuild of the bows, progressing to the deck and stern as finances permitted with a return to sail in 2007. Restoration continues at Faversham in 2011 to maintain her fitness for charitable sailing work.
PUDGE is currently sailing and is for hire for charters. The TSBT are currently seeking a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund to help replace her deck and coamings and also allow them to upgrade the facilities for charterers below deck.
Centaur: Commemoration of a Centenary (1995) pub: Thames Barge Sailing Club
Norman J Brouwer, International Register of Historic Ships (Edition 2, 1993) pub: Anthony Nelson
Dick Sullivan, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums (1978) pub: Coracle Books
Frank Carr, Sailing Barges (1971)
Richard Hugh Perks, Sprts'l: A Portrait of Sailing Barges and Sailormen (1975) pub: Conway Maritime Press
The Last Berth of the Sailorman (1987) pub: Society for Spritsail Barge Research
Christian Brann, The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 1940-1990 (1989) pub: Collectors Books Ltd
D G Wood, Barges Sailing Today: Sailing Barge Information Pamplet No: 1 (1995) pub: Society for Spritsail Barge Research
- 1922 Vessel built by London & Rochester Trading Co
- 1932 An auxiliary oil engine made by The Bergius Co. Ltd of Glasgow was installed
- 1940 Requistioned in May whilst in Tilbury, drafted to Dover and to Dunkirk to aid the evacuation
- 1968 Bought out of the trade as a twin hatched motor barge by the Thames Barge Sailing Club
- 1990 Vessel re-rigged and re-engined after her passage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dunkirk
- 2005 Staged programme of restoration begins at Maylandsea with a rebuild of the bows, progressing to the deck and stern
- 2007 Vessel returns to sail
- 2011 Restoration work continuing at Faversham to maintain vessel's fitness for charitable sailing work.
Pudge was one of two Thames sailing barges which went to Dunkirk to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation of the BEF.
23 June 2016
£355,600 awarded to the Thames Sailing Barge Trust from the Heritage Lottery Fund
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