Length: 88 ft
Beam: 21 ft 5 ins
Draft: 4 ft 5 ins
Displacement: 65 tons approx.
Beatrice Maud was built in 1910 by Whites at Sittingbourne in Kent as a speculation and it was some time before she was bought by Kent Coasters Ltd. for 4,000 guineas (£4,200). Kent Coasters was a consortium of traders from the Sittingbourne area who traded quite successfully for some time, but as trade fell away after the First World War she was laid up for lack of freights. Then Kent Coasters ceased trading and Beatrice Maud was put up for sale. Alfred Sully bought her in the early 1930’s for £400.
Her first master was Capt. Nobby Finch from Mistley, (at the head of the River Stour in Essex) known as ‘fat Nobby’ to distinguish him from his brother Nobby Finch who was master of one of Everards barges. She traded out of London in Great Yarmouth and Dover range. When Capt. Finch retired, Capt. Lionel Horlock took his position. He was also from Mistley and a member of the well-known Horlock family of bargemen. It was Lionel Horlock who took her to Dunkirk and had to leave her there on the beach.
Her involvement in Dunkirk is well recorded. She crossed the channel on 31st May and like many other barges, was left stranded on the beach. Perhaps her skipper relied on her shallow draft to enable her to re-float on the incoming tide. Or her crew may have been ordered to beach her to enable slightly larger vessels to use her as a boarding platform.
In the event it proved providential. Some two hundred and sixty soldiers, reported to be French, led by a Lieut. Heron, a yachtsman, boarded her on 4th June and a British Naval ship towed her in to Dover the following day.
She must have ended her war service then because she was seen carrying rectangular bales of compacted straw from Colchester and Hythe to London and seems to have been one of the earlier victims of the decline in trade with the old London Docks. Old barge masters were retiring with few apprentices to take their place. Craftsmen who could work oak, pine, brass and wrought iron were in short supply and the work was expensive. The old wooden barges simply couldn't economically go to Antwerp, Rotter-dam, Hamburg and the French ports where the ocean-going transporter vessels preferred to dock and discharge their cargoes. So, their owners then sold off the wooden barges.
In the words of one barge fleet owner: "No-one back in the '60's was as conservation-minded as we are nowadays, nor were we ourselves particularly interested in the old barges. It seems we were only too glad to get rid of them and didn't bother to retain any documentary record".
Beatrice Maud then became a houseboat.
Updated April 2018.
Tue, 28/12/2010 - 22:02
Update on previous. Beatrice Maud was on display at the Morwhellam Quay open-air museum in Devon until around 2002. After which, she was moved to the River Lynher in Saltash, the Cornwall side of the River Tamar. She was sold to the new owners of a local boatyard, and she remains in a severely neglected state on the bank of the river, with the ironwork, deck and port side missing. Apparently, a great-grand daughter of the original Beatrice Maud tracked her down and the present owners gave her the transom of the skiff, which was still with her. Last contact with the owners was in May 2010 where they indicated that they would probably break her up in 2011. A sad end to a great old lady.
Kentish Sail Association.
Mon, 10/05/2010 - 21:21
Information from Mersea Island Museum is that sadly, Beatrice Maud was broken up in Cornwall in 2000.
Kentish Sail Association