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SB Cygnet at Standard Quay

April 4, 2011

The  lovely 130 year old minature Thames Barge SB Cygnet visited Standard Quay at the end of last week and, much too everyone’s delight, set off down the Creek under sail alone. We went with her a little way on Mac’s ‘Markie’ to take a few pictures. She is I think, the last barge with a tiller (our own Lady of the Lea briefly returned to her tiller sailing days when she starred in Leon Garfield’s ‘December Rose’, a BBC Children’s drama series filmed in the 1980s). There is a useful potted history of the Thames Barge with an honorary mention of Cygnet here: . She did sail from Standard Quay, but my camera decided it would only work from the Iron Wharf on so I don’t have the shot I took of her sailing past the massive SB Lady Daphne looming over her from her perch in the Standard Quay dry dock. If anyone has any shots of the Cygnet on the Quay we’d love to have them on the site.

As we were going past Iron Wharf I took a quick snap of work in progress on SB Cambria – she won’t be stumpy rigged for long. We are looking forward to the day in a couple of weeks when she returns to the Quay in all her newly rigged glory.


The next big date in the Save Standard Quay diary is this Wednesday, 6th April, when I, as the E Petition organiser, am to meet up with our landlord Mr White at the Borough Council offices at Swale House in Sittingbourne. We are taking up the offer of Swale’s Director of Regeneration, Pete Raine, to mediate between us. This came offer was made at the LEF meeting of 15th March. It should be interesting. A newsletter will follow.

Talking of newsletters, we have made an Archive page where past issues of the newsletter can be found (including the two issues numbered Issue 3 (sorry, we lost count for a minute there). We are also working on a way of making the petition on this site accessible (together with the petition as it was at Swale when it closed), to everyone who has signed it and will let you know when we have figured that one out.


And there she wasn’t…

March 21, 2011

At about 12.30pm a cheer went up from the 50 or 60 children from Ethelbert Road Primary School who were sitting on the North Bank of Faversham Creek. They had spotted a slight movement as the Cambria lifted off the blocks. Half an hour later, after a few sticky moments as she squeezed out of her customised cocoon, and another great round of applause rang out, hooters sounded and the children’s home made flags waved frantically.

It could have been a scene from the Faversham’s ship-building heyday when half the Town flocked to the banks to watch the Sideways Launches from Pollock’s shipyard opposite Standard Quay, or crowd onto the new barges as they were launched from Goldfinches Barge Yard, which was approximately where Cambria launched today.

SB Cambria is now nearly ready for her new life in education, passing on all of the many skills she embodies.

We have put a few pictures of the event up on a new page and hope to add more later – there were a lot of people there with cameras!

Cambria has now been shepherded by the two tugs to moor on Iron Wharf behind SB Mirosa, still clad in her winter covering. Here, Cambria’s new mast, rigging and lee boards will be craned on and she will return, fully rigged out to pride of place on Standard Quay. She hopes to be out sailing soon and compete in the first match of the season on the Medway on 11th June (for a list of barge matches this year see <

March 20, 2011

The Cambria is due to float gently out of her dry dock tomorrow. It won’t be a spectacular occasion, not like the Sideways Launches Faversham was famous for in years gone by. But it will be a poignant moment for many of us.

I have sent the following to the press this morning. It continues the message we have been trying to get across for a long time. Only time is going to tell if anyone is really listening.:  

The Cambria was the last Thames Barge to sail in trade. Will she be the last barge to be rebuilt at Faversham?

At about 12.45pm, 21st March Cambria will float out of the dry dock in which she has spent the past three years undergoing complete restoration.

Cambria has become an important part of life in the Town and on the Quay during that time. She was the catalyst for the setting up of the apprenticeship scheme run by Standard Quay Shipwrights, the not for profit company set up in one of the simple wooden sheds on the Quayside for this purpose.

The apprenticeship scheme is now in severe danger as, rather than being now firmly established with the apprentices continuing to work on other large wooden vessels in desperate need of the skills they have learned, the doubtful future of Standard Quay has led to the work being halted. Projects already booked in to the dry docks will keep them busy until the middle of June, but after that, the future looks bleak.

Funding already granted by the Headley Family Trust for the scheme’s future is on hold while alternative premises are sought. The grant from Swale, given to the Cambria Trust, has been withdrawn. No contracts or long term leases have been offered to anyone on the Quay which would enable the scheme to continue.

The reason the apprenticeships are possible for boat repair and maintenance at Standard Quay is because of the size of the projects involved. Normally, boat building courses cost about £10,000 per year but at Standard Quay the apprentices are paid as they learn, because they can help with the massive size of the projects. No piece of timber on a deck, sides or bottom of a Thames Barge is exactly the same. It is not like building a house with identical rooms. But it is repetitive enough that, once the basic skills have been learned, an apprentice can be a productive member of a ship-building team on a large project.

Such large scale projects will not be possible if other activities such as restaurants and shops and ‘public amenity areas’ are added. Large vessels need large timber. Large timber needs craning, it needs storage space on land and you don’t always want to keep it in exactly the same place. You can’t go around with massive baulks of timber dangling from a crane in front of a restaurant full of people swigging gin and tonic or try to avoid the BMWs parked on the free car park.

Once these kinds of activities are on the Quay; once the last bits of land that surround it have housing built on it, there will be no more Cambrias launched here. She will be the last big vessel launched on Faversham Creek.

Does this really have to happen? Please ask Swale Borough Council’s Pete Raine (Director of Regeneration) or James Freeman (Head of Development Services) what they are doing to safeguard these jobs and apprenticeships in Faversham’s centuries old ship-building tradition. There are elections coming up. Please write to your local Councillors or anyone standing for election and let them know that the future of Standard Quay, the skills and employment here and the real regeneration of the rest of Faversham Creek should be in the hands of the Town and not the hands of the Developers or of the Borough Council.

Faversham people regenerated Standard Quay, but we are about to lose it. When we do, there will be no more Cambrias.

Thank you

March 16, 2011

Thank you to everyone for all your support at, and leading up to, the meeting last night.

I am not sure, but I think they ran out of chairs. It was certainly a fuller hall than normal!

I think that our message came across and if it did, it’s down to all the support we have had from everyone close to home and around the world.

While I was panicking before leaving the house for the meeting my daughter told me not to read the speech I had sketched out.

“For Goodness sake, I’ve heard you rant endlessly about it. What do you need notes for?”. (she’s a teenager so that’s edited for publication).

A friend reminded me that the real issue here is all the Faversham people who make the Creek what it is. And to crown it all we had a lovely message of support from Brasil just ten minutes before we set off.

All of this, and all of your support over the past few months helped enormously. I am not normally a confident public speaker.

Perhaps the Council will now begin to look for ways in which they CAN help, rather than giving reasons why they can’t.

Public Meeting 7pm Tonight

March 15, 2011

The LEF (Local Engagement Forum) is on tonight at the Alexander Centre (the Council offices) in Preston Street, Faversham at 7pm. Anyone can speak at these meetings so please come and have your say. The E-Petition is on the agenda. The Council’s response to it can be seen here: .

I will raising a few questions about Council policy about Standard Quay (I will try to put these in a newsletter later today) and will be pointing out that, much as we think a Compulsory Purchase Order would sort the problem once and for all, we got the message they don’t want to do that some time ago, and that the E-Petition is about far more than this.

Elections are coming up, so we are expecting that more than the normal three or four Councillors will be in attendance and probably a few more Swale Planners than normal too, so its a good opportunity to get a few messages across.

Dickens, Barges, Litter and Cows…

March 7, 2011

Estuaries are fascinating places. A little light relief from our intensive campaign is always welcome and this programme on Countryfile is available to view for another six days. It is a general programme about the Thames and Medway, and has some lovely shots of Sailing Barges scattered through it and footage of a ‘mini’ barge match in an excellent, wide ranging report. See the link here:  Countryfile 6/3/11

E Petition – You can still sign!

March 3, 2011


As of 4.30pm on 3rd March 2011, the e-petition will no longer be hosted on the Swale Borough Council system but will be here on the Standard Quay website.

The speed with which the numbers of signatures rose during its mere four weeks on the SBC website has not gone unnoticed – it has made a real impact. However, under the rules of these government run e-petitions, there would be no further value to be gained leaving it open there. For more explanation of this, please follow the link in an earlier posting to the e-petitions scheme at Swale.

However, we believe there are more people who want to show their support and we would like to continue the petition to so that our Councillors have a proper look at how Faversham Creek can realistically be used for the benefit of the Town using the practical skills already here and without unwanted ‘enabling development’.

Thank you for all your support so far. If you have not received our latest newsletter, please click on the link opposite.

Urgent News re the E Petition

March 1, 2011

Because of the rules of these things, we will have to close the petition by or on 3rd March. A petition cannot, apparently, be discussed until it is closed. We have also been told that it will only ever be treated as a “local issue” and thus, no matter how many signatures it gets, will never qualify to go on the agenda at Swale. The best way to move this forward, we are told, is to have it raised at the next Local Engagement Forum on 15th March at the Alexander Centre. However, if we don’t close it, although this is an open, public meeting, it could be excluded as a topic for discussion. Clearly, someone would have to stand up and actually say it couldn’t be discussed, but I am not sure if that would be a Councillor, or if a poor old Council employee would have the task dumped on them… But I don’t think we can take that risk.

This is all new stuff, the epetition is the first one Swale have run. For all I know it may be the first Government e petition in the country. The rules are not clear.

But what I do know is, the more names we have, the more notice our elected representatives have to take, no matter what. So, if you know of anyone who hasn’t yet signed, but would like to, please ask them to hurry and sign before Thursday this week.

Thank you for all your tremendous support.

One more big push…

February 21, 2011

The epetition is doing well. Over 1000 names now and I hear rumbles and rumours that we are making waves and stirring up action. If we can have one more big push to get the names on the petition over 1500 we can get Standard Quay onto the agenda for a proper discussion. We can let Swale know that Standard Quay as it has developed over the past 18 years HAS been regenerating. It HAS created jobs and skilled training opportunities; it HAS attracted visitors to come and to return again and again; it HAS helped the Town of Favesham to once again become known for its ship-building skills that have not died out here, but now have the chance to flourish again.

We need to let them know loud and clear that it does not need any change of status in the Local Plan – it is well protected in the wording of the 2008 Local Plan which states that the Creek is “an irreplaceable historic asset of great significance”. To read the full text and to see how well Standard Quay is protected under the wording in this plan and how adamant the Council then was that more housing would be absolutely out of the question see here: Faversham Creek Area Action Plan 2008

PLEASE write to the local press to let them know how you feel about the Creek in general and the Quay in particular. That water-based activity needs strong protection and that weakening the wording in the Local Plan, especially changing the flooding designation, encourages developers.

Encourage any interested friends to sign the e petition. Lets have a proper debate about this at Swale. Don’t let compromise kill the Creek.

Nearly 1000!

February 17, 2011

Close to 1000 people have signed the Save Standard Quay e-petition in under two weeks. This is sending a very strong message to our Councillors, especially with elections coming up soon. If we get to 1500, the issue can become a Debate at Swale. We will get more information about this process up soon. In the meantime, if you know anyone interested in the future of the Quay, who may not yet have signed, please give them a nudge. Let’s see if we can reach 1500!

I have been assured, by the way, that there should be no problem signing from overseas, so please do sign up and show how well known the Creek is around the world. Not least as its name as a Port has been carried around the world for many years by the lovely Eye of the Wind.

An article will be appearing in Classic Boat, out today, in Yard News. Thanks to Peter Willis for his continuing interest in the Quay.