George Joseph Hillyard - Landlord of The Shipwrights Arms for 44 years

Born 1875 in East Donyland (Rowhedge) and came to Wivenhoe in 1901. Retired as Landlord in 1955

Nick Sheen

George Hillyard, landlord of The Shipwrights for 44 years
Photo: Essex County Standard 1955
The Shipwrights Arms before it was demolished in 1973. It was situated on the corner of Bath Street and West Street.
Photo: Don Smith's Collection
The Steam Yacht Margarita painted around 1920
Source: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
The shipyard chimney was struck by lightning on 20th June 1913 causing much damage to The Shipwrights
George is the one standing with the cheese cutter hat and watch chain. The photo was taken outside The Shipwright Arms in 1922 to celebrate winning the Smack race which were fast fishing boats under sail. The wording above the door states: “George Hillyard licensed to sell beer and tobacco”. The man on the far left is Johnny Turner
Photo: Wivenhoe Memories Collection
George Hillyard's retirement in 1955 was recorded by the Essex County Standard
Essex County Standard newspaper in 1955

George Hillyard, or Old George as he became known, ran the pub called The Shipwrights Arms in West Street for 44 years. He finally had to retire at the age of 78 in 1953 when the brewery, Daniell & Sons, decided to close the pub.   

One of eight children born September 1875

George was born in East Donyland (Rowhedge) on 10 September 1875. He was one of eight children born to Henry and Mary Ann Hillyard. The Hillyard family had strong maritime links and at the age of 12 George was working in the Rowhedge shipyard.

Served on the Steam Yacht Margarita

At the age of 19, George joined the crew of the American yacht Margarita in Scotland in 1894. He travelled to America and the Mediterranean with her and she was caught in the Mediterranean when the American-Spanish war broke out in 1898, and the Margarita ran the gauntlet of the Spanish blockade to return to England.

Marries a Wivenhoe girl in 1901

George married a Wivenhoe girl, Sarah Margaret Goodwin, at St Mary the Virgin Church on 15 May 1901, and almost a year later in March 1902, he took the licence of The Shipwrights Arms in West Street, Wivenhoe. George and Sarah had a daughter called Margaret Rosina (known as Rosie) in 1904.

George rented The Shipwrights Arms from Daniell and Sons (the brewers), for £22 per annum and the tax was paid of 14/8d. George accumulated a property portfolio of his own and was renting out four houses in West Street in 1912, with a total rental valuation of £12.

The pub was badly damaged in 1913 due to lightning

Early one summer morning in 1913, lightning had struck a chimney in the nearby Rennie, Forrestt shipyard. No one was hurt, but the ceilings and furniture at The Shipwrights Arms were badly damaged by tumbling bricks. A brief report in the Essex County Standard stated that “A lady who was mangling in the attic had a miraculous escape”.

A keen sailor

George maintained his maritime interests; he owned cutters (smacks) called Daisy CK6 from 1905 and Maria from 1915. George was a regular competitor in the Wivenhoe and Rowhedge Regatta, he came second in the single-oared sculling race in 1892; his smack Daisy suffered a mishap when its top-mast was carried away in a gust of wind in 1909, although George was victorious in 1922 when The Shipwrights Arms celebrated winning the Smack race, which were fast fishing boats under sail. See picture of him celebrating outside of The Shipwrights.

He ran the pub for 44 years

George left The Shipwrights Arms when his wife Sarah died in 1927 (at the age of just 47), and he returned to work in the shipyards. He took up the licence for The Shipwright Arms again around 1935 and was married again to Marjorie Margaret Mawdsley (nee Cudmore) in 1940. George remained the landlord of The Shipwrights Arms until 1953 when the pub was closed after the brewers decided to sell the premises. George died in 1967.



  1.  About the luxury steam yacht Margarita (Official Number 109260) on which George Hillyard served aboard in 1894. The picture of the Margarita was painted by Antonio de Simone, circa. 1920.

She was built in 1900 by Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd., Greenock, Scotland for U.S. financier Anthony Drexel, Philadelphia, and measured 272 × 36.6 × 28 ft (82.9 × 11.1 × 8.5 m) and 2522 tons displacement.  She had a crew of 68 and could travel at speeds up to 17 knots.

2.  From The Northseaman by John Leather (1971) (Chapter 6, page 74)

With the big yachts tucked away safely in their mud berths on the high springs of autumn, regatta day was eagerly anticipated as the gayest in the waterside villages’ calendar. Its races for small yachts, gigs, cutters, shells, sculling, pulling, watersports and general horseplay, not to mention the fairs, were all overshadowed by the highlight of that day – the smack race – annual tussle between the champions of the various local villages, competing for the first prize of £8, and the greater honour of being crack smack of the fast and able Colne and Blackwater fleets.

3.  From the annual Land Tax Assessments for 1887- 1922 at Essex Records Office (ERO) Ref. D/Z 2/14/32

Assessments in 1909/10 have a George Hillyard renting The Shipwrights Arms in West Street from Daniell and Sons [the brewers]. This had a rental valuation of £22 per annum (pa) and tax was paid of 14/8d. The records for this property continue up to 1922 with similar figures each time.

From 1912 George Hillyard was renting out 4 houses in West Street with a total rental valuation of £12. He was assessed at 8/- but as his income was under £400 pa he was exempt from paying.

4.  Extracts from the book of the ships built on the Colne by John Collins 2009:

Built by an unknown Brightlingsea builder:

Daisy  CK6 1483grt cutter. 35.5’ x11’ x 4.6’. 33’ keel. C.1883. 14/2/1890 Fisheries number allocated. 29/11/1905 Owned by George Joseph Hillyard (mariner and innkeeper), Wivenhoe. 5/1/1920 To Charles Redhouse, Tollesbury. 10/3/1925 To Charles Samual Rice, Tollesbury. 4/1/1929 Closed, no longer fishing.

Built by Peter Thomas Harris boat builder of East Donyland:

Maria  1436grt (11net) cutter 47’ oa. 41.4’x10.5’x5.5’. 35.4’ keel. C.1866. 23/3/1886 Fisheries number allocated CK21. 11/3/1913 Owned by Albert Barr Turner, Wivenhoe. 31/12/1915 To George Joseph Hillyard, Wivenhoe. 1/11/1926 To Villiers Leavett (master), Tollesbury. 10/4/1929 Anx motor fitted. 30/12/1958 No longer fishing. 195_ Derelict. 196_ Rescued and rebuilt. 12/09/1984 Owned by Simon Tizzard (master), Tollesbury as CK21. Remeasured as 1043grt, 13.03m x 3.25m x 1.54m 26/4/1989 To MSA Part II Still existing.

Links to other pages in this website:

General sources:

  • The History of American yachts and yachtsmen, by Harry Brown 1901
  • Barton D, “Wivenhoe: its attractions, pleasures and eccentric natives”, Dick Barton Enterprises 1975
This page was added on 14/09/2020.

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