An interview with Mr C J M Dunn

Notes from an interview with Mr Dunn made by Nicholas Butler In July 1981

These are the notes made by Nick Butler who interviewed Mr Dunn in July 1981 for his book The Story of Wivenhoe. These notes have been re-typed by Ann Jones from Nicholas Butler’s original notes and posted here by Frances Belsham.

This interview as given at The Nottage on 7th July 1981.

Mr Dunn showed me the numerous pictures, photographs and models owned by The Nottage and then gave me a potted history of the Town.

First Record: The Domesday Book

Only one manor.  Only ever been.   A manor was a territorial unit in which there was a court.   A manor court of justice but really local government.   Manors all had their own customs which were written down.   About work and conditions of work, inheritance, etc.   Might have two or three manors in a single village.   But usually a dominant one, a manor with a court of leet jurisdiction.   Court dealt with all sorts of minor offences.   Ale-tasting, quality of bread, mending of fences.   These courts performed the function of local government.   Court originally must have been held at Wivenhoe Hall.   Later it met at a pub.

Records of Quarter Sessions: Essex Records Office

Manorial documents: Everywhere

Parish Ratebooks: Parish Church

1837 Tithe Map: Essex Records Office

Late 19th century map: Essex Records Office

Corsellis Estate: University of Essex Library

Tapes: University of Essex Library.

Wivenhoe Manor

Manor included whole of modern Wivenhoe.   Cockaynes might have been absorbed into it at one point.

In Wivenhoe Manor the younger son was the heir, not the eldest.  “Borough English”   Not terribly widespread.   Obtained down till1925.  If the owner died intestate, till then the younger son inherited.

The Medieval Scene:  agricultural predominantly, no doubt with a little fishing.  Possibly small trading.   Boats were the most economical way of shifting things.   Perhaps there was minor boat building.

Difficult not to believe uninhabited from earliest times because a good place for a daub and wattle settlement.

No evidence of cloth-making

At time of siege 

At time of siege, battery on river wall.   A gun emplacement with turf walls round it.   Sea wall probably built about 1790 -1830 because it is so uniform.   Landowners probably got together.   Might have been POW labour in Napoleon’s time.

Colchester Outpost

Wivenhoe noted as an outpost for Colchester.  Cargoes transferred to lighters.   Corn probably sent from Wivenhoe to London.   Coal probably imported before the railways.

Colchester Port Records: Town Hall Cellars.

From 1800 to 1900 the population of the country quadrupled.

Harvey’s not large and couldn’t compete with Harwich.

Colneside State Papers: Domestic series.   Essex Record Office.

Probate Records: Essex Record Office.  Several hundred Wivenhoe Wills there.


Yards owned by Dr Flack in 1750s.  Coastal vessels.  Sloops (which were used before Thames barges came along), Brigs, Brigantines, Schooners.  Commercial vessels.

Moses Game built The Inspector.   Then went bankrupt.   All this time building fishing vessels.  Yard out of business by 1790.

Started up again by a Colchester timber merchant called Hawkins C1801-02.   A number of vessels built in his name.  Then Philip Sainty.  We don’t know where he came from.   Built at Brightlingsea for 10 years.   Probably leased yards, not owned them.  Sainty may have been Hawkins’ manager.  Then perhaps Sainty leased the yard.   Pearl built at Colchester.  The Nottage has a copy of the original plans.   Hawkins left Wivenhoe in 1809.


Coles were operating in Wivenhoe at the same time as Sainty.   Dont know where.   One Cole died in about 1815.   Manorial records could help.

In about 1830 Sainty relinquished the yard.   In 1831 Thomas Harvey started operations.   Thomas Harvey had already done work in Wivenhoe.   Thomas Harvey built a number of yachts, schooners principally, fast boats.   He was a very good businessman, which few shipbuilders were.   Worked a shipyard at Ipswich for some years.   Had several sons.   John was one of them.   Apprentice shipbuilder.   Fairly well educated.   John Harvey was not a rule-of-thumb designer.   Philip Sainty came back to Wivenhoe in 1826 and pretty well soon went bankrupt.   Thomas Harvey retired to Brightlingsea and went in to speculative building.   He built several of the small narrow streets.

John was a technologist rather than a businessman.   A noted Victorian designer.   A founder member oif the Institute of Naval Architects C1860.

There was a fire in about1872.   He had a partner called Prior.   Harvey and Prior at that time.   Prior was also a member of the Institute of Naval Architects.   Died about 1880.   Perhaps Prior’s relations wasted the money that was his tied up in the shipyard when he died.   Yard at any rate closed.

Then Wilkin took one part of it and operated there.

The Harveys built yachts up to 150 tons.   In 60s and 70s the large racing schooners were about that tonnage.

Seabelle: racing vessel 142 tons.

Chloris: for W S Gilbert 110 tons

Dauntless: Ketch 162 tons

150 tons would be maximum size.

In 1870s Barr built quite a few yachts in Wivenhoe (where?) In about 1850 Husk started.

In about 1887 Forrests came.   Bought the machinery.   Built the graving dock ie the dry dock which was the only one between Lowestoft and London.   It was not a very big one (235 feet?)

Forrestts:   Small Admiralty craft.   Harbour craft.  An enormous number.   Commercial vessels for erection abroad.   Rivetted abroad.   A lot of the Nile and Congo stuff.   Small tugs.   C1910 Rennies moved in and bought Forrestts out.  The firm became Rennie-Forrestts.   Big in 1914-18.   Mainly steam trawlers for mine-sweeping.   About 20 of them.   A lot of repair and maintenance work.   At the end of 1914-18 they were amalgamated with two or three other firms.   Rationalisation process.   Shipyard reorganised.   Offered a standard cargo vessel of c1400 tons carrying capacity.   Built about four here.   Maindy boats, built for the Maindy Steamship Company,   In 1922 the yard went bust.

Brown the American Millionaire, bought the Valfreyia in 1889.  Built in 1887.   Moored between Brightlingsea and Mersea.   Never shifted for 27 years.   Gave a lot of money away.   It became a thing to row out to him and beg for money off him.   A lot of lady friends.   Used to commit fornication for money.   Five guineas a lot then.   During 1914-18 War Valfreyia lay in the middle of theriver, shifted up to Wivenhoe, put her “on the wall”.   Ship was getting in a bad state.   In 1921 or so shifted her into the dry dock and brought her up to scratch.   With Brown still aboard.   Always assumed to have infinite money.   Income probably provided by family.   He died in 1925-6.


Note:  See also details of a booklet published by CJM Dunn in association with The Wivenhoe Society in 1979 – click here

This page was added on 30/10/2016.

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