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What does it mean?

according to Nuttalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language 1956,
Collins Concise Dictionary of 1988 and the
Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder of 1993

it is

a) a one masted coasting ketch; a barge

b) noun.Naut. 1) a freight barge 2) a coastal fishing and trading vessel used during the 17th and 18th Centuries. C15:<M.Du.'hoei' (i.e. Century 15th, from middle Dutch)

c) a noun with historial reference
a small vessel, usually rigged as a sloop, carrying passengers and goods, especially for short distances [M.Du. hoei, hoede, of unknown origin]

were the backbone of the Essex maritime economy and it was the sailing barges that dominated the East Coast of England for over a hundred years (from the late 1780's to 1920's). Farmers used them to get their produce to market, especially the hay "stacks" for the London horse-drawn buses and other vehicles, (giving rise to the name of "stakies" to those barges who concentrated on this trade.) Village Pubs depended on them for the transportation of their ales, beers and spirits (including some contraband as well). The quarries and brickworks of Essex needed the barge for the movement of their stone, bricks, flints, sand, timber etc. Many of these brickfield owners were also barge owners - John Eastwood being one of them - his company went on to become a national concern and a private limited company in 1872. By the turn of the century 80 barges had passed through that Company's ownership and had transported nearly 70 million bricks a year. The Vandervords also had their own granary and as well as carrying trading goods they transported people from one village or town to the next or to the city of London. They had weekly passenger sailings advertised in the 1850's (every Friday and Saturday) from Southend to Pickled Herring Wharf in the Pool of London.

Go to the 34 Vessels owned and sailed by the Vandervord's of Southend
by clicking on this link

Click here to see large map

This hugh volume of traffic was despite the fact that the Sea Reach of the Thames River had no permanent places to land. According to The Essex Chronicle - March 1829 "along this coastline from Tilbury Fort to Harwich, an extent of nearly 100 miles, there does not exist a single harbour or landing place at which it is practicable to land passengers or goods with safety and convenience at low water". The Bargees carried on their trade from the beaches, running their barges in to the shore, unloading and refloating on high tide. The Vandervords built the first chain pier at Southend for the unloading of their barges and were at the forefont of supporting the Southend Pier project (1829) to build the large pier which still stands today and is the longest in the world.
The above is a map of the ports used by the Thames Sailing barges. Click on map to see large edition

T'Dutch Yachting on the Zuider Zee' 1848 by Edward Cookehames Barges were basically made of wood until the middle of the 19th Century, when a few were made of iron, and after the 1880's quite a number were made of steel. All were flat bottomed, with a flat, or flush deck and a shallow hull. A chine (the angle between the side and the bottom) ran for much of the length amidships merging into a shaped bow and a transom stern. The barges usually had one hold with two hatches, the smaller one towards the bow and the larger towards the stern, behind the mast. These hatches were closed with wooded covers and battened tarpaulins to keep out the wind, the rain and the sea.

To aid in the sailing (particularly to windward) of these shallow draft barges, leeboards were added to each side of the hull. These were like large wooden paddles which were pivoted at deck level and hauled up or lowered by pendants operated by hand winches on deck.

Many skippers had no paper qualifications, but were excellent practical seamen having learnt their trade as boys. Their skill in handling the barges in all conditions was often remarked upon by other members of the sailing or seafaring community. Most of them had the uncanny knack of recognising the ownership of a barge at sea and deciding what port she hailed from and who had built her.

Different builders from different areas gave their barges recognisable traits - to name just a few

Click to see large diagramPeck & Orvis from Ispwich made their barges as pretty as a picture with a fine bow and a very elegant stern.making them deep and sea-kindly with sheering coaster bows.
Cann and McLearon of Harwich, favoured a fuller bow (which a barge needs for dryness at sea) Both these builders developed a stern which combines a fine underwater run with a wide, shallow transom.
Howard of Maldon,
whose flat, beamy beauties sit in the water to perfection, recognised the virtue of this shaped shallow tansom and in the moulding of underwater lines
Shrubsall of Greenwich
widened his tansoms, but left them rather deep and oval.
Cook of Maldon, went for the stackie's low side and good beam

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