These are the notes made by Nicholas Butler who interviewed Mr P J Edwards in the mid 1980s in 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.
About Mr Edwards.
Lives at 5 Rectory Rd. Wivenhoe
What Mr Edwards told Nick Butler
Lived here all my life. I was brought up in Mr Barnes’ present house. Private yachts, all sorts and boats. (Built by Husk’s) Not at Husks as it closed. Guide of Dunkirk. We built that lifeboat at Rowhedge. Then at Wivenhoe during the war. Dummy submarines first. The pontoons, which went off to Arromanches, were nothing to do with the shipyard (ie built by other men). They put three or four cranes on the marshes, to do that job. Two tugs took them down the Colne. Then bigger tugs used for further down the Colne.
I got moved to Vospers. Wooden boats. Went back up-stream after the war. Aluminium structure. Non-magentic. All the anchors were bronze and the cables and chains. So many tons of lead in the keel to replace the weight of the engines, (which being aluminium were very light).
60 or 70 men in the upstream shipyard not including electricians who were on a sub-contract.
The school in the High Street didn’t move during the First World War. Two teachers only. Not the Red Cross. Or at any rate not during the day time. Troops stationed on the Park, Wivenhoe Hall on the Millfields. All under canvas. Tremendous lot of them. Three or four yachts’ stores in Cooks’ Yard were used for Army Stores. Soldiers here throughout the war.
On the Millfields they held sports. On this side of where the cemetery was there were trenches where they used to train for combat. One mass of trenches. They would go over the top and all that sort of thing. They used to have bags of straw hanging up on posts for bayonet practice. Camping on Spion Kop as well.
1919 I went to Husks.
Woodhall House: The firm that produced Gassy Edwards. He was a Kentish man. 1906 He had been before and erected one of the Gasholders. Woodhall was chairman of the Gas Company.
The Gas Company owned a bit of the Quay. Originally the coal came in by colliers. They used to unload on the Ballast Quay. An old quay found there. On the corner of Gas Road.
The Mill was taken down between the two world wars.
During WW1 they built DLs (Husks) 50-60’ long. When I was an apprentice. For the Air Force. They built a torpedo boat there during WW1. It stopped at Husks after the war. Not finished. After the war I went on the house building. I had to go away to work. Ipswich, Upper Thames, Yarmouth. All over the place. Eight firms on the River Colne at one time:
– Aldous, James, Stone, Cox & King, Wivenhoe Shipyard, Husks, Harris at Rowhedge and the Rowhedge Ironworks
All the small boats for the yachts were made by Husks as well as launches and that sort of thing.