James Husk & Son Ltd
A Wivenhoe family firm
John Collins (Nottage Maritime Institute)
James Husk was born in 1822. He is thought to have started working as a builder but seems to have switched to boat building fairly early, He is recorded as having built a boat, the 10 ton smack Arcania, in 1848 from premises on the Quay.
He became a prominent member of the Swedenborg church, and provided some of the money for building the church in Wivenhoe. He also built an 11ton smack for himself which he named Swedenborg.
The business became limited company James Husk & Son Ltd, and carried on until its final closure, under that title, with a succession of James Husks and of sons.
From the 19th century mix of smacks and small yachts, the firm began to specialise in motor yachts after the First World War. However they produced a variety of vessels from the little paddle boats for children to hire on the lake in the Colchester Castle Park to quite big vessels like the Gondolier Queen of 1929.
In 1937 the company went into voluntary liquidation, but, still unsold, was revived two years later to build three small motor cutters for the Navy, before the government requisitioned the yard for use by Vosper & Co. Ltd of Portsmouth in 1940.
When the yard was returned to James Husk in 1946, he was 67 years old, he was ready to retire, and had no children in a position to take on the business. His son, Richard, was still only fifteen in 1947 when Husk’s business was sold. Richard Husk, who as a boy had looked forward to becoming a boatbuilder, went on to have a very successful career as an officer in the Royal Navy.
See also about Richard Husk – click here
For Barbara Husk’s memories of the Yard from the 1930s – click here