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Newsletter May 2010


Surprise, surprise!!

Hello Folks,

Yes, the Swiftstone tug and the Trust are still going. So here, at last, is an update.

As you would expect, there is some bad news and some good news and an appeal for funds.

In the past few years the Trust has lost three of it’s founder members and greatest benefactors; Mick Chesney and Ben Bond who gave immense practical support as well as being major financial contributors and our wheeler-dealer chairman and the trust’s founder, Reg Barter (my late husband), who worked tirelessly to keep the old girl supplied and insured at the lowest possible rates and in safe, secure moorings.

One of Reg’s dearest wishes was to find a deep water mooring for the tug so that she could take part in more Thames events without the tortuous manoeuvres necessary at present. He sought out a number of sites in Erith, Thamesmead, Woolwich and Greenwich and entered into discussions with numerous bodies to this end. Finally he secured a licence on an old coaling jetty on the Greenwich peninsular and plans are now in motion to turn this into a centre for historic ships, including Swiftstone.

We are, naturally, very excited about this project and look forward to keeping you in touch with its coming to fruition, hopefully before 2012.

In the meantime there is still the insurance money to find, which amounts to around 1,500 a year!

So we are putting out a plea for any contribution you can make in the hope that we will soon be inviting you to visit Swiftstone at her new mooring and maybe to get involved in the project.

Please make cheques payable to The Swiftstone Trust and send to

The Swiftstone Trust, 223, Bexley Road, Erith, Kent. DA8 3EU

Yours sincerely,

                                    Alan Boakes




Newsletter September 2004

Dear Friends

After three years it is at last time to communicate with you all and let you know that, contrary to popular belief when we started, we are still here and fighting.

We hope you may have been able to see Swiftstone at some of her 'outings'.

Swiftstone acted as a support vessel at the sponsored row in aid of the Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital. The sponsored row from Greenwich to Gravesend too place on 9th August 2003. The hottest day ever recorded in the hottest place in the UK!

The winning team was made up of six rowers, only 3 of whom had rowed a barge before - and 5 of the 6 were over 64 years old! They completed the row on one tide. This has got to be a record!

we were also part of the Mayor's River Festival 15th September 2003. Highlighting the importance of the river and its craft. Tug sirens, including ours, formed a vital part of a musical piece called Siren Space.

Swiftstone was,as usual, a support tug for the Barge Race on 5th July 2004. Barges are rowed upriver from Greenwich to Westminster then towed back by the tugs.


You may have seen us on TV news on Friday 30th July 2004 with the Vicar of Deptford and the Bishop of Southwark on board carrying out a Beating of the Bounds ceremony and giving thanks for the river and its uses. Instead of beating the river, which might have proved difficult not to say hazardous, the Vicar scattered rose petals on the surface to a musical accompaniment played by a trumpeter from the Royal College of Music.


We are also pleased to have been of some assistance to photographer Patrick Ward who has been compiling images for his forthcoming book on the Thames.


Work has been done rebuilding the compressor, which is needed to start the main engine. Spares came from the good old British firm Hamworthy now owned by Hatlapa, the German/Norwegian company.

Vandals cracked some glass in the wheelhouse windows and this has been replaced with laminated glass 12mm thick.

In January this year developers totally demolished the barge yard at Pope & Bond, Wood Wharf, Greenwich.We lost most of the old tools and bits that we found so useful in keeping our running costs down. We have access, for the time being, to the tug via the developer's land but we must 'look to the future' as they say, to secure a permanent mooring.

However we have been in the fortunate position of acquiring our own piece of prime riparian land in roughly the middle of Cutty Sark Gardens. this is part of a World Heritage Site and could form the basis for a pier or brow which would give access to the Swiftstone and Massey Shaw to enable controlled public access to both craft.

It would also give us an extended time window for our activities on the river. At present the crew has to board the tug at low tide and wait for enough water to bring it afloat before setting off (about 2 hours) and the same in reverse at the end, of course!

Naturally the drawback is funding. Any structure would have to be in keeping with the architectural background of the WHS and therefore expensive! To enable this to be achieved we are considering applying for Lottery and Bridge House funding.

We are extremely grateful for donations we have received towards the cost of diesel fuel and engine lubricants. Also for paint, window glass and running spares like light bulbs etc. and of course the hours and hours of volunteer work!

On top of the standard running costs there is also the annual expense of insurance (at least £1,000) and safety life rafts (£800) so contributions from all our Friends are most welcome, not to say essential.


Reg Barter, Chairman

You can contact us

by post: 223, Bexley Road, Erith, Kent. DA8 3EU, England


Update September 2002

Siren Space Sunday 15th September

I arrived, with Reg, at Wood Wharf around 6pm and soon crew and guests were all aboard Swiftstone meeting and greeting and looking forward to the event.
The crew was: Ted Powel - Captain, Brian Garret - First mate and Ian Hale - Engineer plus Peter Brown, Mick Chesney, Robby Stewart, Julian Kingston and Ben Bond, with Reg and me and a total of nine guests that made up our full complement.
There had been times during the proceeding days when it had looked as if we might not make it, but here we were at last ready to go on a fine autumn evening. We had to wait for the tide to come in enough to float the Swiftstone before we could begin our journey up river.
Time for a brew then!
At around 7.45, with enough water and all checks completed, we set off at a good pace in order to pick up two more passengers from the old Charing Cross Pier at South Dock and be in our correct position on time. I've never been on the river at night before and what a terrific experience it was speeding along in the band of darkness between the lighted banks.
When we got to the site and could see all the crowds on the embankment and bridges I was convinced that mid-river was definitely the place to be. We managed a quick look at the new Hungerford footbridge (very elegant in my opinion) before ensuring that we were on station for the start of the performance.
When I say 'we' you must understand that my contribution to manoeuvring the vessel is mainly to keep out of the way and not ask stupid questions.

How can I describe the actual gig?
Inadequately is the only way I think. You just had to be there as they say!
Sometimes it felt like being the middle of a school of whales with hoots and squeaks going on all around. At other times there was sound and light ricocheting off buildings, bridges and craft, and tremendous bursts of heat from huge floating pyrotechnic rigs.
The best bit of course was tug horns.
Ships radios were used to co-ordinate this and it was reminiscent of days gone by when it was a quite common sound along the river (without the amplified poetry and saxophone of course).
All this was topped off by a spectacular firework display. I don't suppose it was recordable so memory will just have suffice. All too soon it was all over and we were on our way home hurrying to try to get back to Wood Warf before the tide was too far out (Oh for a deep-water mooring!).
Alas we were unlucky so back to Catherine's pier, where she had kindly said 'Swifty' might stay till availability of crew and convenient tide times would facilitate her return to Wood Warf. So heads hit pillows considerably later than usual bedtimes.
But sweet dreams were had by all, I hope.

Alan Boakes

click here for more info about Siren Space

Update May 2002

Swifstone Restoration Update
Hi Folks
Several Saturdays (and others) work have elapsed with willing hands and hearts. The work so far includes, updating of air system to operate small low pressure air tools and needle gun (rust belter).Small holes in the superstructure cleaned off with plates made and welded in. Warning air horn cleaned. The power steering developed an alarming leak of hydraulic oil, which we found was coming from the 4 way valve sterwards.
Thanks to the good advice of Tony Harkett at Corys this item is now repaired and serviceable. The propellor is to be replaced at some time in the near future. Does anyone fancy some good complany with tea and coffee thrown in, if so come along any Saturday and Join in? e-mail for details/directions etc.
Hope to see you soon
Best wishes
Ian James Hale


UPDATE January 2002

Happy New Year. We start 2002 with a splendid write up about the Recruit, a sister to Swiftstone. A special event held on the Thames a few days ago for her 50th Birthday celebration. We are indebited to Tony Harkett for both the celebration and this thorough write-up at a difficult and busy time. Thanks Tony. You can see some pictures at Alan Rose's site and we will have some more in our gallery soon.

Thames Motor Tug RECRUIT

On 15th January 2002 the Cory Environmental tug "Recruit" celebrated its 50th birthday and it is still in full time service, working 15 hour days on the river Thames servicing the company's 6 wharves between Wandsworth in London and Stanford-le-Hope in Essex. It can be seen most days towing up to six container barges weighing in at around 500 tons each.

The tug was one of a series of 6, of similar Cory design, built by Richard Dunston Ltd at Thorne and was launched on 15th January 1952.
The vessel as delivered had a 600 HP Crossley 4 cylinder 2 stroke supercharged direct reversing air start main engine, being operated from the engine room by 2 engineers. The Crossley BW1 auxiliary engine, which was started by hand, (they were strong men in those days) operated various pumps, generators and air compressors. The steering was Vickers hydro/pneumatic powered from the propellor shaft, and all crew comforts were provided in 2 cabins fore and aft with cooking and heating by paraffin stoves, coal fires and radiators heated from a diesel fuelled boiler in the engine room which could also be used to pre-heat the main engine. Electrical power was derived from a 12volt DC dynamo providing power for navigation lamps, cabin lighting and VHF radio.

In the late 60's the fleet of tugs underwent a re-engineering programme and Recruit received a new, wheelhouse controlled, Mirlees Blackstone engine and gearbox of 660HP at 750rpm. This was installed at the company's own shipyard on the Thames at Charlton and at the same time some modernisation was carried out to bring the vessel up to the required standard for the day.

In the '70's it started work on the newly signed 25 year contract with the GLC transporting domestic refuse from London to the company landfill site in Essex.

With the introduction of new and much larger container barges it was decided that the tugs would benefit from more power, therefore another re-engineering programme was introduced and in 1991 Recruit received her present engine, a Mirrlees Blackstone EWSL6 of 1196HP at 900rpm, driving a Reintjes reverse/reduction gearbox and a Teignbridge Aquastar manganese bronze 4 blade propellor. This gives the tug a bollard pull in the region of 12.5 tons and a free running speed of 13 knots.
During this refit extensive modernisation was carried out including full electrification of all mechanical and domestic services via 2 45kw dieel generators, new Wagner electro/hydraulic steering, new Mampaey quick release towing hook and upgrades to fenders, radar, echo sounders, radios and crew accommodation. A new larger wheelhouse was also constructed to provide additional space for crew and modern navigational equipment.
The modifications have as far as possible been carried out without altering the distinctive appearance of the vessel.

At a recent drydocking at the company shipyard the hull of the tug was inspected and found to be in "as new" condition below the waterline, a tribute to the foresight of the designers and builders.
The company is negotiating a long extension to its present contract and we hope that Recruit will be a daily feature of the Thames scenery for many years.

A. Harkett
Chief Marine Superintendant
Cory Environmental


UPDATE December 2001

Well the Summer came and went, Autumn too... the 'boys' (and girls) were busy with all sorts of stuff - too busy to give me an update for the site I suppose - either that or their fingers are so frozen they can't write!!
Anyway, at last 'Ian to the Rescue' with this report on the restoration/engineering work that he's co-ordinating - its fascinating... I'm hoping he'll give us regular reports over the coming months.

Hi Folks

Hope you are all well and looking forward to Christmas?
Just a few words on mechanical and superstructure work. We have welded and plated a large rust hole in front of the wheelbox and primed same (yes we did remove the rust first!!) We now have a dry forward crew space, which we have cleaned and tidies.

How did we get the power for welding you may ask? Well this is where things get interesting. We are able on this tug to get the donkey engine to run on cooling water from the stern ballast tank, an original feature I'm told. Our welding plant (arc) is wired in to a point in forward crew space (240 volts a/c 30 amps plus) - clever or what!! This feature allows us to run electrical services without relying on the tide. Work is also proceeding to run air services in a similar way

Minor repairs have been carried out to doors and superstructure. Plenty more work to do though!

At this point I would say if anyone wants to come along and help or look and have a cup of tea or coffee you would be most welcome. This Saturday there will be someone on board from 09.00hrs til about 14.00hrs, hope to see you!

Big thanks to the people at Cory's - great guys.

Ian Hale

If you'd like to take up Ian's offer and go aboard e-mail me and I'll sort out the details - Lorna

UPDATE August 2001

Ooops - what happened to July ? Mostly messing about on the foreshore and 'getting our act together' to operate The Swiftstone. A few trial outings have been made and The Old Girl has generally been 'loved' a bit. Here is a write-up of Swifty's first 'proper' outing - drop us an e-mail if you'd like to get involved

Swiftstone at Gravesend Regatta - Sunday August 12th 2001

The day began with a phone call at 6:15 am from Julian - who was to be our skipper for the day - to say that he had some sort of food poisoning and was not going to be able to make it !!!
Frantic phone calls by Reg ensued to try to find a replacement skipper... then a swift drive (fortunately fairly traffic free) to Greenwich to catch the 7:30 am tide !!

When we arrived at Wood Wharf we found Mick, Alan and Mark aboard, with several guests - some would accompany us all day and others were just there to see us off.
The Red Duster was already flying, plus the gnome windsock which has becoma a sort of 'flag of residence'. We had to get 'off afloat' by about 8 am because of the tide... but couldn't pick up the new skipper - Jeff Revell - until later on. So once the necessary checks and tests on the engine etc. had been done on went the frying pan for a round of bacon butties with fried eggs & sausages !!
The forecast had been for fine weather but the sky was overcast and there was intermittent drizzle... so it remained all day, but it didn't spoil the fun !
We picked up Jeff and his wife from Greenwich Pier about 11:30 and headed for Gravesend sometimes reaching a speed of about 12 knots......
The journey took a couple of hours - notable sights were the Dome, Thames Barrier, Woolwich Ferry, Crossness Engines and Dartford Bridge.

We met up with Bill Smith who was on the tug Retainer and made arrangements to get the driving barges to the Start Line. Each tug took 2 barges. Swiftstone had Davel Whiting's team... and Roy Gould's barge, which didn't have a crew... but we took it just in case. Retainer had the 2 heavier barges.

The wind was 'freshening' and enormous jets of spray shot up between Swiftstone and the barges. Most of us on deck got pretty wet ! Usually the spray hit you just as you turned to laugh at somebody who'd just been hit from the other side !! All 'good clean fun.

Anyway, after some discissions between crews and organisers it was decided that, in view of the prevailing weather conditions, the race would be shortened. So we took them back up river a way before starting them off. The heavier barges went off first being harder to row but they were immediately in difficulty because of the strong cross wind that turned them round to face across river instead of up stream. It took enormous effort to get back in line ! Meanwhile Davey Whiting's team, having waited the alloted time, were released and went off at good speed -in the right direction ! They had the advantage of being lighter and lower in the water so avoided a lot of the side wind.

It was wonderful to be at such close quarters to witness the terrific skill as well as strength of these teams as they confronted tide and currents under the water and wind and rain on top ! Back at Gravesend the finish was celebrated (guess who won !) in the customary way with beers and congratulations all round. Then we had to think about starting for home to get back to Wood Wharf at high tide (7:30 pm).

During the race, what with all the splashing and general wetness it was discovered that we had lost some of the electrics below deck. All praise to Mark the electrician, who with great competence located the appropriate paraphenalia - circuits of different voltages, fuse boxes, switches etc and dried them out. This done there was a general mopping up and hot drink & sandwich making for the return journey.

We made good time on the return and all arrived safe and well - if slightly damp and exhausted. Swifty had performed extremely well throughout the day and everbody was well pleased with the event. Swifty got her first "don't know what we would have done without you"... let's hope it's the first of many !!

Alan Boakes



UPDATE June 2001

Nothing happens for ages and then suddenly it all comes at once !!

  • The Swiftstone finally transfered to us oficially on June 1st 2001 - big lumps of the money we've raised immediately disappear for insurance and other expenses - but at last we're on our way !
  • Despite everybody's best efforts we weren't able to get Swifty out on Barge Race Day due to lack of available skippers & engineers - the river's busiest day of the year is a bad day to be trying to find qualified crew at fairly short notice sadly. Planning ahead for next year already though so if you can offer assistance or would like to be involved please get in touch
  • She was close to the action though, moored on the roads off Wood Wharf at Greenwich... and we have since moved her onto the foreshore and started to really get to know 'the old girl'.
  • It was an amazing manoeuvre, repositioning the roads' anchor, getting her up on the foreshore (without crashing into the wharf!) and securing her with a web of ropes & chains. A wonderful day and thanks go to everyone involved... Ian Hale wrote this piece about it - really sums it up !

Priviledged, here I am standing on the ex-Cory motor tug Swiftstone taking in the sights and sounds of a large turbo-charged diesel engine. Heady stuff or what !

This is Swifty's first trip in private preservation and favours will be done today for the barge owners and ex-Tilbury Ferry The Edith. Swifty is slipped away from the barge roads at Greenwich and the anchor is found for the barges, lifted and the whole repositioned further out in the tideway. Anchors small like this one slide easily when presented with too much weight. The Edith's propellor was being choked with mud, so a good blast with Swifty's propwash cleared the buildup of mud and debris.

Jobs and fovours done Swifty is 'beached', the tide ebbs away and we admire the shape of the hull, enthuse over the machinery and generally run out of superlatives ! After copiuos amounts of tea and coffee are imbibed, Reg is presented with a special flag which now adorns the mast head, hmmm.

Going home in the car visions and sounds come to mind as if in a dream, Lister Blackstone smooth as silk, idles at 200 rpm, bridge control, power steering...

Well done Reg and everyone else involved in getting such a huge undertaking into gear. I look forward to spending many happy hours working and restoring Swifty !

Ian Hale

UPDATE March 2001

  • Still looking for the right moorings, still waiting for the Spring to start...
  • The GUESTBOOK is up and running though - leave us a message!
  • new photos on the gallery page - take a look


UPDATE February 2001

  • Legal documents have started to crisscross between ourselves and Cory Environmental's legal dept. at last - hoping to finally have 'hands on' the Swiftstone by the Spring. Then the real work can start... volunteers please for cleaning/painting/restoration things !!!
  • work starts in earnest now to secure appropriate moorings for Swifty - ideally we need somewhere that gives us shoreside storage/workshop and education/display space with good access - both vehicles & public transport and of course decent & accessible mooring facilities !... various possibilities are still being discussed. If the right site comes up we may need to do some serious fundraising for improvrements to infrastructure etc.
  • We will be working closely with The Massey Shaw Trust on this as both organisations have similar needs and seem to be about to lose our current moorings at Wood Wharf as the developers are no longer honouring old promises of 'moorings for life' !!
  • the Barge Race has had an 'on-off' patch... looks like it may well go ahead this year though after we helped secure additional funding for them.
  • Swiftstone still believes that this event deserves much more publicity and its future will continue to be in doubt until the profile is raised - why don't ordinary Londoners even know this incredible thing happens???
  • still warmer here in cyberspace than by the Thames but Reg & Alan have been wandering about - more photos on the gallery page soon.

UPDATE 20 December 2000

  • No news yet from Cory's legal Dept. about the formal donation of The Swiftstone, they've had some personnel changes so we can't expect anything too soon.
  • All is extremely chilly down on the river - nothing much happening there...
  • Here in cyberspace though you'll have noticed some additions to the site. Two fascinating new sections...
  • firstly Alan Boakes' wonderful pix of the '99 Barge Race (remember the sunshine?) - click here for the new Gallery page - loads of snaps of tugs, barges and people enjoying what past generations did for a living!
  • and a great addition to our Thames resource courtesy of Bob Jeffries of the Met Police Thames Divison's Museum - the complete 'A River Thames Guide - Woolwich to Battersea'. An incredible document full of fascinating information you'll find nowhere else. Click here to see.
  • The shap eyed among you will have noticed that there was (briefly) a message board on the site... there were a few problems with it but it'll be up and running in the New Year - so we'll be able to post messages/ask questions/find people & things/or whatever soon.
  • Meanwhile "Compliments of the Season" from everyone at Swiftstone!

UPDATE 1 December 2000

  • Just a quick not to say that we finally have the full Charity Registration - confirmed in a letter from the Charity Commissioners on the 27th Nov
  • This means we are now able to make funding applications to certain bodies and are eligible for the various tax breaks available. This is where the work REALLY begins for those of us who are not down on the foreshore!!!
  • It also means that the formal donation of The Swiftstone can go ahead... now we are waiting for Cory's legal department! Looks like we'll really have our hands on her by the Springtime - then you can start getting your hands dirty!
  • If you'd like to be involved in the work on the tug and have a chance to go afloat get in touch with Reg by clicking here. If you'd like to help with fundraising contact Lorna.

    UPDATE November 2000

    • Recent news includes further contact with the Charity Commission, meetings, letter and changes to the proposed Charitable Objects of the Trust... at least it's warmer than being down on the foreshore!
    • We were pleased to note that Swifty had a part to play during the fuel crisis earlier in the year - the boys at Cory's continue to take good care of her prior to the donation to the Trust. Thanks guys.
    • A new project is planned during the winter months. We will be setting up a new Internet Portal site which will bring together all the organisations involved in life on the Tidal Thames - commercial companies & services, Authorities Agencies and Government bodies as well as leisure culture & heritage organisations. We intend to go LIVE in February with a new suffix domain so there's plenty of time to develop the site - if you have suggestions for sites/resources to be linked from the portal contact Lorna. Thanks

    UPDATE October 2000

    • The Company was incorporated in March 2000...
    • Application for regristration as a Charity proceeds...
      30/09/00 meeting with Charity Commissioners yesterday has taken us closer to registration - the wording of the Objects will be sorted out to their satisfaction in the next week or 2. The gentlemen visited us at Wood Wharf and seemed to have a great time. It must have made a change from most of the meetings they go to!
    • Donation of The Swiftstone will go ahead from Cory's asap...
    • Fundraising is well underway with new Friends joining all the time...
      30/9/00 support continues to come in the form of donations from Founding Friends... this week we have been joined by our youngest supporter. At less than a year old I think he'll be hard to beat! No one has yet been identified as our oldest supporter... any contenders mail the web mistress please!!
    • Various possibilities for permanent moorings are being researched/negotiated.
      Moorings need to have good access for Friends and the public, facilities for working on and maintaining the vessel, ideally there will be both public transport & parking facilities shore side and possibly storage/display for the educational resource we will develop plus a space for meetings, talks etc. Tall order??? we're working on it!!!

      (we are hoping to be able to make an exciting announcement soon - we'll let you know as soon as news can go public!)

    for further information or to join our e-mail news list contact us at


    The Swiftstone Trust is growing and developing all the time, we'd like to be able to keep you informed with e-mail updates from time to time. Drop us a line and we'll be happy to add you to add you to our 'need to know' list!

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The Swiftstone Trust is a Registered Charity no.1083837

Swiftstone works closely with the Massey Shaw Marine Vessels Preservation Trust

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