Previous names

  • 2009 Flying Fox
Certificate no 27
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Leisure Craft
Subfunction Launch
Location Henley-on-Thames
Vessel type Saloon Launch
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Crichton & Co, J, Saltney
Built in 1914
Hull material Steel
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Steam
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Steam
Boiler type Locomotive
Boilermaker David Curwin and Peter Lewis Engineering, Devizes
Boiler year 1980
Boiler fuel coal


Breadth: Beam
8.00 feet (2.44 m)
2.59 feet (0.79 m)
Length: Overall
43.48 feet (13.26 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



1.      What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

Evidence for designs, functions, techniques, processes, styles, customs and habits or uses and associations in relation to events and people.  How early, intact or rare these features are may impact on significance.

LADY CHARLOTTE is a saloon launch of steel clinker construction, with plating on wrought iron frames, held together with steel rivets. She underwent reconstruction work in 1994 when her hull was rebuilt, a saloon house was fitted aft, and a canopy was installed over the forward sitting area. She was originally powered by steam, and following conservation, she was fitted with an inboard steam reciprocating 2-cylinder 30 horsepower engine (built by A.G. Mumford of Colchester), and a locomotive side-firing coal boiler (built by David Curwen and Peter Lewis Engineering, Devizes in 1980). Further conservation work was undertaken in 2009 with new frames welded in and three-quarters of the original plates being re-used. Concrete in her bilges was replaced with epoxy concrete. She was later converted from steam to electric and now has an 8 kw electric motor.

2.      What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

Associations with people or places.  Off-ship research.

LADY CHARLOTTE has strong associations to the North-West, being built by James Crichton & Co. of Saltney, Cheshire for use as a passenger launch on the River Dee.  She was operated by the Dee Steamboat Co. (later Bithells Ltd of Chester) who had exclusive rights to one of her destinations, Eaton Hall, the Duke of Westminster’s country house on the River Dee. She was named after one of the Duke’s most successful racehorses, FLYING FOX.  During the First World War, she was one of the vessels used to provide trips for wounded soldiers who were recuperating at the Hall.   After passing through a number of owners in the Bristol and Bath area, she returned to the River Dee in 2008, once again operating as a saloon launch for passenger excursions, before being sold into private ownership where her name was changed.  LADY CHARLOTTE has been recorded on the National Register of Historic Vessels since 1996 and is part of the National Historic Fleet.

3.      How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

Overall aesthetic impact of the vessel, her lines, material she was built from and her setting.  Does she remain in her working environment?

LADY CHARLOTTE is an elegant craft with a clipper bow, a counter stern and single deck.  She was able to carry 48 passengers under a canvas awning, making her fit for river excursions.  She still presents a graceful appearance and is a much admired sight when gliding through the water, with her rounded transom raked aft, raked bow, varnished wood cabin and navy blue hull. The cabin sides are finished with a gentle curve, and the roof is linked to the coamings. She is now based at a mooring on Wargrave Road at Henley on Thames, where she is engaged in commercial trade as a river day boat. Although no longer located in her region of origin, she continues to operate as per her intended use, carrying passengers on the river.

Source: NHS-UK team, 04 April 2017. 

This statement was developed as part of the Heritage Lottery funded First World War project.

THE FLYING FOX was built as a passenger launch for the River Dee, and was a riveting exercise for the builders, who went on to construct the ferries for Sydney Harbour. She was subsequently moved to Bath and, after the First World War, she was used by the Duke of Westminster to entertain war wounded at Eaton Hall.

In 1929 she was sold to T W Hitchins of Bristol; then in 1945 to George Head of Keysham and in 1958 to S J Groves of Evesham. Acquired by a new owner in 1974, her restoration was completed in 1994.

In the summer of 2008 it was reported that FLYING FOX was operating as a passenger vessel again where she was built, on the River Dee at Chester and in 2009, she was under new ownership, based at Henley on Thames and re-named LADY CHARLOTTE.

LADY CHARLOTTE is now in private ownership and is based on the River Thames after a restoration by Henwood & Dean of Henley on Thames.


Steamboat Register: An illustrated Register of surviving steam vessels in the British Isles, Steam Boat Association of Great Britain, Edition 6, May 1994 
Classic Boat: True to Edwardian Tradition, June 2015 
Classic Boat: Powerboat of the year, May 2015   
Classic Boat: Re-riveted and rebuilt, September 2018


Key dates

  • 1914

    Vessel built as FLYING FOX in Saltney, Cheshire, as a passenger launch for River Dee

  • 1929

    Sold to private owner in Bristol

  • 1945

    Sold to private owner in Keynsham

  • 1958

    Sold to private owner in Evesham

  • 1974

    Acquired by a new owner and underwent restoration project, completed in 1994

  • 2008

    Reported to be operating as a passenger vessel on River Dee

  • 2009

    Under new ownership, located at Henley-on-Thames

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