There was only one shipyard shown on the 1838 Tithe Map of Wivenhoe, the upriver shipyard where the remains of the dry dock are to be found. At the time the tithe map was drawn it was owned by Thomas Harvey. It is very unlikely that ships had ever built elsewhere in Wivenhoe because of the silting to which the Colne has always been subject before the steam dredger was available, although small boats could have been built anywhere. The old shipyard was sited opposite the point where the Roman River flows into the Colne. From there ships could be launched without the risk of grounding on the mud on the far side.
The earliest shipbuilder recorded at Wivenhoe was John Smith, in 1580, but there are records of ships built here before then. We know that a vessel, a 47 ton ketch called the Nonsuch, was built in 1650 by a man called Page. This was probably either Robert Page or John Page who were shipwrights of Wivenhoe at about that time, but we cannot be certain which one, nor even that there was not another Page who was a shipbuilder or shipwright, and who is lost in the mist of time. The Nonsuch was sold the Commonwealth Navy in 1654, and passed to the Royal Navy in 1660, she was taken by the Dutch but recaptured. In 1667 she was sold to Sir William Warren, and in 1668 to the Hudson’s Bay Co. ‘Page’, whoever he, or they, were they, (over a sixteen year period it might well have been two in succession) is known to have built at least four other ships, namely: Fagons of 262 tons for the Commonwealth Navy in 1654, (after 1660 H.M.S. Milford) and the much smaller Hind, 54 tons in 1655, Roe 57 tons in 1665 and Wivenhoe 83 tons in 1666, all for the Royal Navy.
Moses Game was born about 1735, and was a shipbuilder at Wivenhoe in the 1780s, possibly before, and he is known to have built two ships for the Royal Navy. These are the earliest Wivenhoe built ships for which we know exactly who built them. It has always been unusual for warships to be built at Wivenhoe in peacetime, but in 1780 when they were ordered, the American War of Independence was at its height.
H.M.S. Inspector was a 310 ton ship sloop, measuring 97′ length and 27′ beam. Launched on 24th April 1782, she was copper sheathed and carried sixteen 6pdr. guns. For an architectural drawing of this vessel click here.
On 24th February 1802 she was sold and with new upper-works and good repairs first registered on 28/5/1802 to Daniel Bennett, a merchant of London, as Inspector. She was classed E1 at Lloyd’s. Her first voyage began in May 1802 to the ‘Southern Fishery’, i.e. whaling. On 6th November 1818 Lloyd’s List reported that she was, “Taken and carried into Valparaiso.” She had been captured by the brigantine El Chileno which was part of the embryonic Chilean Navy during the Chilean War of Independence. Later she was condemned at Santander as unseaworthy and broken up.
H.M.S. Comet was a 42430/94 ton 14 gun fireship. 108’9″x30’1″x9’0″. Launched on 11th November 1783. She was expended in Dunkirk Roads on 7th July 1800; one of only two occasions during the French Revolutionary War when a purpose built fireship was expended in action.
Moses Game undoubtedly built many other ships, because he was in business for many years, but their records have been lost. Because the Inspector and Comet were built for the Navy, the records for them survive. In March 1791 Moses Game was bankrupt and a farm he owned in Great Oakley was sold at auction. He was married and had at least one child.