Bulletin 391

April, 2015

The Wye Trow Project

By Commander A. G. Wynn. LVO MA

The Georgian Kings loved waterborne Pageants – the sort for which Handel wrote his “Water Music”, and in 1747, the year after the victory at Culloden, another took place on the Thames, depicted by Canaletto, like much else of London at that time, with a numerous flotilla, and so, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen, a similar event was proposed for 2012, with 1000 boats taking part, and representation from each County requested.

Herefordshire is an inland County, with no particular nautical history (except possibly of the Danes coming up the River Wye), so a trading vessel associated with the River was suggested, as Chepstow had quite extensive overseas connections – with Bristol and beyond, and bulky or expensive merchandise was often consigned by river, for Hereford, but higher up than that was unusual due to the fluctuating depths of water. In addition, there were problems with weirs and mills on the river, and also the interests of fishermen, but few or no bridges below Hereford.

There was a history of trading vessels on the Severn and Wye – barges really – flat bottomed, but although with rigging and sails, had to be able to be towed from the river bank, which limited their size. So the choice had to be between quite a variety of suitable vessels – barges, brigs, hoys, trows, sloops, snows, or even a ‘frigate’, but there was a good history of the use of Trows and so one had to be recreated – first using a museum model for arrangements, and a ship wreck for measurements of structural timbers. Historic ship restorers in Gloucester Docks prepared drawings, cut outs and then templates, and timber from local estates was given, including a nice Douglas fir for the mast.

In addition to this, a crew had to be found – oarsmen, capable of handling 15 foot (carbon Fibre) oars – but help here was at hand, with a small ‘outboard’ secreted for relief of weary limbs. If that was an historic anomaly – then there was even another – a small ‘convenience’ – subsequently much appreciated by many more than its own crew.

The real skill in the recreation, was in uniting a planked flat bottom with a ‘clinker’ framed hull, (as in lifeboats), and of course this boat will have to be in water a lot, and hopefully in use, to prevent the timbers drying out.

As there are lots of bridges to contend with on the route down the Thames, the mast has to be unshipped easily, but its height was always an advantage, otherwise when under tow, the hawsers passed from the towing team to the masthead would foul riverside obstructions.

So, after launching in Gloucester Docks, the Trow was named the “Hereford Bull”, with liberal dispensation of cider in the High Town, and was off to Kew, to prepare for their journey down the Thames, as part of the enormous flotilla headed by the Queen, and watched by THOUSANDS from the river banks, (and of course it rained).

For the Royal Visit to Hereford, the boat was on display in the Riverside playing fields, but has subsequently been available often, at a mooring near the Cathedral, and its use by School parties and Sea Scouts, hopefully will revive interest in the Counties waterborne trade (which includes the Hereford Gloucester Canal – the Leominster Canal, and for us here, the Monmouth Brecon Canal. Which contributed so much to Kington’s story in the 1800s.

Dates for your Diary

Friday 24th April  Nigel Jones on The Radnor Valley (Please note date).

Summer Recess – See Visits.

Sunday May 2015  Train Ride at Titley Junction.

Sunday June 2015  Tour of Old Impton Farmhouse, Presteigne.

Thursday 19th July 2015  David Bennet Hay on Wye Tour, including the Armstrong Walk.

(Further details of these visits in the next Bulletin.)

Editor:  Vera Harrison