These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr Guy Harding in the mid 1980s as part of his research 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.
What Mr Harding told Nicholas Butler
I think I have always known that road as Gas Road. I have discovered recently it is called St Johns Road.
The Custom Tower was taken down by Sparrow in about 1946-7. Sited at the top of the yard. It was fairly high and wooden. The end shed was used at one time by the Harbour Master for doing up the wooden buoys which had to be got out and painted. Worsp and the North Sea Canners were there at one time Penny’s Stores which I own now and probably had longer than anyone else. In the early thirties they were sold and after the war had three or four owners. At one time they were owned by a chemist and a schoolmaster.
The next door store was called the Rosabelle (the one to the west of the unmade road outside Colne Marine) Prior to that it was a coal and corn and coke merchants, they had rights to the river to the lower water mark.
I started here in 1952. It was a different life, there was no fibreglass, the whole thing was unbelievable. It was such a change. 70-1. (when fibreglass came in) Wooden boatbuilding finished overnight. Now of course they are finding problems with it. We had 3 or 4 launches in one year. We used to appear in Yachting Monthly. If you were building anything you were quite noticeable. An order for a biggish boat would take a year to do. It doesn’t have the same feel to be on board a fibreglass boat. You weren’t going to have to anti-foul them (but in fact you do) All you got charged was the labour, for me and my team building a wooden boat). You were very lucky if you cleared yourself and your overheads. With fibreglass you are paying way above the odds; there were hours and hours of work in them. With wooden boats there was a certain amount of satisfaction in having done it all from nothing. A lot of problems, fibreglass boats are not as strong as people thought they were.
Photographs: Herald 1963
Built about 27 yachts over the years.
Herald and her extras, was most expensive, about £14,000. Made of Teak. About 5 men built her. Captain Henry Deakin. (His daughter is launching her in the photograph) He is still alive. The Russells knew him. He was 60 odd when we built that for him. The smallest thing was John Leather’s design and she was about 23 feet.
When I came here and bought this, there were 2 men here. One was Alfie Kerridge. I said to Alf ‘do you reckon you can lay boats off?’ We thought just for fun we would try to lay a little dinghy off, which we did. So we thought we were capable of doing more. I went down to Southampton and got involved with this thing out here, a 51’ job. “Tugrador” The first one was the largest, then came the “Yiva” It followed on from there. The last vessel was in 1970. The wooden boatbuilding died – just like that. 26:i:55. We started laying off “Tugrador” which was built for Colonel Benwell and was launched in June 1956.
Since 1970 there are only repairs and laying up. We did finish some fibreglass boats then that tailed off. At the yacht and boatbuilding world we thought we were going to take this lot down and build modern buildings.
It might come back but I think it is unlikely because the skills are going. We made all our own masts and made a lot of spars for other people.
The “Herald” came back, she was hit by a ship in Yugoslavia, she came back by ship from Greece. I went up to London and towed her back here.
“A taste for sailing” John Lewis. Photographs as the boat being built.
Alf Kerridge, Denis Kerridge his brother and Bert Kerridge their father. After that Fred Tye. Bobby ?? Lee and Harry Webb from Brightlingsea and George Tavner (known as Taff)