12 January 2016

Boats of Hove

Judy Middleton 2001 revised 2015

  copyright © J.Middleton
 Boats were once a familiar sight on Hove beach; note too the old-style bathing machines in the background.

Fishing

At one time the Bishop of Chichester owned the Manor of Preston whose land holdings stretched south to include Hove seashore. In the Custumals of Preston (c. 1270) it was recorded that if any Bishop’s man were skipper of a ship, the Bishop would take the profit but on the other hand he would also be liable for the loss. The Bishop paid for net-mending and he paid six pence to keep a net of 200 meshes and four pence to keep a mackerel net of 150 meshes.

In 1813 there were plans for a grandiose scheme to be called The Hove and Brighthelmston Fishery. There were several alterations and the final draft was prepared in 1815. The chosen site was south of Hove Street. It was even said the Prince Regent patronised the scheme. But it depended on raising capital of £25,000 by selling shares of £50. When and if this money was raised some 20 mackerel and herring fishing boats plus 30 trawlers would be built. There were to be fish-curing houses and 50 houses for fishermen arranged around a square at the centre of which there was to be a beacon for guiding the fishing boats home at night.

Unfortunately, there was not enough support and the scheme collapsed. It is not known whether or not any fishermen’s dwellings were constructed but the dees and curing houses were certainly built because they were later converted ‘into dwellings for the poorest classes’ and known as Jack Smith’s Rookery after the original promoter. In 1824 during a fierce storm, the sea washed right over these dwellings and families living there had to flee for their lives. They were given shelter in a nearby barn. By 1833 the buildings had disappeared for good. 

  copyright © J.Middleton
Mackerel boats coming in at Brighton in May 1830 (after E.W. Cooke)

In the early part of the 19thcentury Hove beach looked quite different from the one we are familiar with today. There was a long, shelving and gentle beach with no mounds of pebbles. John Constable executed some paintings of Hove Beach in the 1820s, which reveals what it was like then. Not only are they valuable from a local history point of view, but also in the words of C. Hemming in British Painters of the Coast and Sea Constable’s ‘various oils and watercolours of Hove Beach are among the finest early Impressionist pictures in European Art.’

In those days fishermen could come close to shore on a high tide and have no difficulty in pulling their boats above the high-water mark. But when sea-walls and groynes were constructed to protect valuable new properties, the topography of the sea-shore changed. The drift of the current caused shingle to accumulate on beaches and the groynes then trapped them. This has continued to the present day; for example on western esplanade where flights of steps were built from the promenade to the beach in the 1930s, today the bottom steps are covered by shingle. For fishermen it meant that a capstan was necessary to haul their boats over the shingle and up the beach. Fortunately, the traditional boat was a strongly built vessel.

 copyright © J.Middleton
A lugger leaving the Adur in 1907.
Inshore fishermen did not have to go far to net a good catch of fish. They identified their favourite fishing grounds by aligning their boats with landmarks on the shore. For example, one was nicknamed Gun after the big gun in the RNVR Battery on Hove seafront. It was known as a particularly good spot for herring with several boats vying for that one stretch of sea. A fisherman once managed to net around three hundred-weight of cod in the Gun. Another hot spot was opposite Holland Road; you had to ensure you kept to your station in case your boat drifted further east and encountered the Ship Rock. If that happened, it would be impossible to lift the trawl net.

According to old salts, there was a rock called Copperas Gap in the sea south of the Electricity Works, which was a fine place to catch large conger eels. Also in this area in the early 19thcentury, the ghost of a Dutchman sometimes troubled the fishermen. If the Dutchman were sighted, they knew it would be a hopeless task to try and catch fish on that outing.

 copyright © J.Middleton
Landing a shoal of mackerel at Brighton.

Larger fishing luggers used to sail as far as Yarmouth or Scarborough in search of fish. There was a yearly pattern to their fishing. For example, May, June and July were devoted to mackerel fishing while October and November was the time to harvest herrings. There was also some trawling in August and in September there was fishing by line for whiting.

The herring arrived in great shoals. As herring swim close to the surface fishermen used their drift-nets or trawl-nets at night when the nets were not so visible to the fish. In Sussex herring nets had 32 meshes to the yard.  Mackerel too could be caught with trawl-nets but their shoals were never as large as the herring. Mackerel nets had 26 meshes to the yard. 

  copyright © J.Middleton
Modern fishing boats unload their catch at Aldrington Basin in 2009.

The fishermen needed to be as tough as their vessels. Hauling in heavy, damp nets was not kind to the hands. The men took what precautions they could by soaking bandages in paraffin before winding them around their wrists. They protected their feet and legs by wearing long, leather boots. But when they came back home their boots were saturated and discoloured by salt. The only remedy was to fill them up with fresh water to leach out the salt. When the boots were dried, they were oiled.

Even before the days of the railway, London was a good market for Sussex-caught fish.

  copyright © J.Middleton
Aldrington Basin was photographed on 28 June 2010.

Boat Building

It may come as a surprise to many people that boat building once took place at Hove. Of course they were not so important as some ships constructed in Southwick or Shoreham, where windjammers were built capable of sailing to Australia or New Zealand. But boat building was an important strand in Hove’s maritime history and deserves to be remembered.

Hove boats were mostly clench-built, a style of craft going back through the mists of time. It meant that the boat was built of planks of wood with each successive plank overlapping the one that went before. You did not need mathematical calculations to build such a boat but you certainly needed to be a craftsman. The boat also had the great advantage of being easy to repair. The nails fastening the planks together could be made of copper or iron. The ancient Brighton boats known as hoggies were built of oak and ash and it is likely the Hove boats followed suit. Hoggie hulls were constructed of oak, which was also used for stem, stern posts and the keel; ash was used for planking and timbers. 

Details of fishing boats built locally only began to be recorded in 19th century and were documented in the Shoreham Shipping Registers. These boats were given an individual number with the letters SM for Shoreham, the port of registry. The last boat identified in the registers as being built at Hove was in 1908.

  copyright © J.Middleton
A typical fishing boat with dark sails; note the letters ‘SM’ to signify the vessel was registered at the Port of Shoreham.

In 1854 the old tonnage law dating back to 1773 was altered. This meant that boats under a 15-ton burden did not have to be officially registered. Small, inshore craft slipped under the radar, as it were, as regards the recording of names and owners.

However, small pleasure craft were still being constructed at Hove, and worked off Hove beach; a licence for this activity was required at first from Hove Police and then from Hove Council.

  copyright © J.Middleton
This view of Hove beach with boats dates from 1907; note the brand-new structure later known as Sackville Hotel, which was built in 1904.

In December 1926 Mr C.H. Chowen, boat-builder of Kingsway, sent Hove Council an estimate for £40 to built two boats to replace one broken up during the gale of 26 July 1926, and the other condemned as un-seaworthy, having been in use for approximately 35 years. Mr Chowen said that if the boats were to be ready by June the following year, the work must be put in hand at once. His offer was accepted.

In 1927 there were licence applications for eleven rowing boats, newly built with a beam of 4 feet and 3 inches. Hove Council made enquiries with other coastal towns and it appeared that none of them issued a licence for a boat of less than 13 feet and 6 inches and thus the applications were turned down. 
 
 copyright © J.Middleton
Some fishing boats in use at Brighton were built at Hove.

May & Thwaites

John May and Thomas Thwaites were boat-builders at Brighton, Hove and Kingston. Their first boat built at Brighton was registered in 1828, their first one at Hove in 1833 and their first at Kingston in 1839.

By 1848 they appear in the Shipping Registers as John May of New Shoreham and Thomas Thwaites of Brighton ‘ship-builders and co-partners in trade’.

Their yard at Kingston was situated west of the site where by the lighthouse stands today and their Hove yard was on the foreshore south of Beach Cottages (near where the King Alfred is today). The Hove operation was only a modest affair and between 1833 and 1857 only eighteen vessels were built.

A brig built by May & Thwaites in 1862 was the 185-ton Sarah. W. Banfield, Brighton coal merchant, commissioned the vessel, which was named after his daughter who also launched her. Captain W. Baker ran a tight ship but he must have earned the respect of his crew with his seamanship because they stayed with him year after year. Captain Baker was something of a peacock, sporting a green, velveteen waistcoat and top hat whilst puffing on an old-fashioned churchwarden pipe. The Sarah carried two royals, a topmast and some lower studding sails.

It was said that a typical Thwaites lugger had a 38-foot long keel, a 14-foot 11 inches breadth and a six-foot depth. She carried three lugsails, topsail and jib. She had a crew of eight men and a boy.

But it seems the Hove site specialised in a more modest clench-built fishing lugger suitable for a two-man crew. May & Thwaites may also have built rowing boats that were for hire from Hove beach. 

May & Thwaites also managed vessels they had built themselves. Into this category fall Four Sisters built in 1854 and Rose built in 1861, both at Kingston. Jane Thwaites, daughter of Thomas Thwaites, launched the Rose. May & Thwaites owned other vessels built at Kingston and they were:

Dart built in 1861, 127 tons
Bo-Peep built in 1863, 169 tons
Two Marys built in 1864, 220 tons
Jane built in 1865, 186-ton schooner
Gensing built in 1869, 123-ton brigantine
Bexhill built in 1869, 191-ton schooner  

Thomas Thwaites died on 19 December 1873 and his executors were Thomas Henry King (hotel-keeper of Oriental Place, Brighton) and John Sharp (Southwick ship-owner).

In 1874 Charlotte Jane Thwaites and Eliza Rosa Thwaites, spinsters of Amy Villa, Prestonville, and Emma Thwaites, spinster of Cliftonville, purchased shares in Bo-Peep. The vessel was lost off the coast of Norfolk in 1878. In 1875 it was noted that Charlotte Jane Thwaires was the managing owner of the 213-ton Four Sisters.

Boats built at Hove (in chronological order)

1835Mary Ann
1833Pearl
1839Four Brothers
            Frances and Mary
            Mary
1840Three Sisters
1841Petrel
            Robert
            Eight Sisters
1843Albion
            British Queen
1845Fanny’s
            Lord Nelson
            Caroline
            Rambler
1847Ranger
1852Non Pareil
1857Onward
1873Emily
1880Mackerel
1890Favourite
1894Ben Macree
1895Petrel
            Lily
1896Wild Flower
            Cleopatra
            Dart
            Daisy
1898Klondyke
            Little Milly
            Bonnie Charlotte
1899Florence May
1900Triumph
            May
1901Louise
            Little Martha
1902Florence
1903Irene
1904 - Minaru
1905Little Carrie
1906Lizzie
            Elizabeth
            Hilda Gladys
1907Sweetheart
1908Lady Eileen

 copyright © J.Middleton
Sailing boats off Hove in 1907.

Boats Built at Hove (in order of registration)

Pearl – registered 20 February 1833, built by John May and Thomas Thwaites; one deck, three masts, length 33 feet 5 inches, breadth 11 feet 4 inches; clench-built lugger with square stern. May & Thwaites were also joint owners. The Pearl was altered and re-registered in 1835 and 1837. A note dated 17 January 1868 states ‘it appears on enquiry that this above vessel was lost at Newhaven several years since and that the certificate of registry was lost with the vessel.’

Four Brothers – registered 15 February 1839, built by May & Thwaites in 1839; half-deck, three masts, length 35 feet and five tenths, breadth 12 feet and two tenths; clench-built lugger, square stern. John Andrews, fishermen, was the owner and master. The boat was re-registered in 1841 and John Andrews was still in charge. In 1869 Four Brothers was struck off the register because ‘it appears by the statement of the owner to have been broken up several years since and the certificate of registry delivered up to be cancelled but no notice can be found that has reference to it.’

Frances and Mary – registered 18 October 1839, built by May & Thwaites in 1839; three masts, length 35 feet, breadth 11 feet and eight tenths; clench-built lugger with square stern. James Carter, fisherman, was the master and the owners in equal shares were Sydney Beck, attorney’s clerk, and James Carter, both of Worthing. The vessel was broken up in 1861.

Mary – registered 6 February 1840, built by May & Thwaites in 1839; three masts, length 30 feet and three tenths, breadth 11 feet and nine tenths; 12-ton clench-built lugger. Samuel Newman, fisherman, was the master and the owners were Samuel Newman (48 shares) and Thomas Burtenshaw, cabinet-maker (16 shares) both of Worthing. The vessel was burnt in 1855.

Three Sisters – registered 19 February 1840, built by May & Thwaites in 1840; three masts, length 32 feet and four tenths, breadth 11 feet and seven tenths; 12-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. James Newman, Worthing fisherman, was the master and owner.

Mary Ann – registered 1 October 1840, built by May & Thwaites in 1835; three masts, 10-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. Robert Carden, junior, was master and Robert Carden, senior, Brighton fisherman, was the owner.

Petrel – registered 29 January 1841, built by May & Thwaites in 1841; three masts, length 33 feet, breadth 11 feet and nine tenths; 14 ton clench-built lugger. Robert Newman was the master and the owners were Robert Newman and David Streeter, both Worthing fishermen. The registration was cancelled in 1855 because the vessel was under 15-tons burden.

Robert- registered 20 September 1841, built by May & Thwaites; three masts, length 36 feet and five tenths, breadth 12 feet and five tenths; 14-ton clench-built lugger.

Eight Sisters – registered 8 January 1842, built by May & Thwaites in 1841; three masts, length 35 feet and six tenths, breadth 12 feet and six tenths, 15-ton clench-built lugger. Samuel Andrews, Brighton fisherman, was master and owner. The vessel was broken up in 1858.

British Queen- registered 24 August 1843; three masts, length 38 feet and eight tenths, breadth 12 feet and two tenths. 16-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. Benjamin Bishop was the master and George Cheesman, Brighton builder, was the owner. In 1848 the vessel was sold back to May & Thwaites.

Albion – registered 27 August 1845, built by May & Thwaites in 1843; three masts, length 38 feet and nine tenths, breadth 12 feet and three tenths, 16-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. James Newman, Worthing fisherman, was the master and owner. When he died, his widow Frances Newman by letter of administration became owner in 1851. James Burtenshaw became the master. In August 1852 Frances Newman mortgaged the vessel to Joseph Grundy and Benjamin Grundy of Bridport, Devon. The vessel was broken up in 1861.

Fanny’s – registered 8 September 1845, built by May & Thwaites; three masts, length 35 feet and three tenths, breadth 11 feet and eight tenths, 13-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. Frederick George Carter, Worthing fisherman, was master and owner. The vessel was transferred to Newhaven in 1859.

Lord Nelson – registered 22 September 1845, built by May & Thwaites in 1845; three masts, length 35 feet and three tenths, breadth 11 feet and seven tenths, 13-ton clench-built lugger with square stern. John Bacon, senior, was the master and the owner was Sydney Beck, Worthing attorney’s clerk. The vessel was lost in 1861.

Caroline – registered 27 December 1845, built by May & Thwaites the same year; three masts, length 37 feet and six tenths, breadth 12 feet and five tenths, 17-ton clench-built lugger ‘fitted with a counter stern’. Benjamin Bishop was the master and the owner was George Cheesman, Brighton builder. The vessel was transferred to Yarmouth in 1857.

Rambler – registered 31 December 1845, built by May & Thwaites the same year; three masts, length 35 feet and one tenth, breadth 12 feet and three tenths, 16-ton clench-built lugger ‘fitted with a counter stern’. William Carter was the master and the owner was John Newman, Worthing fisherman. In 1851 Caroline Newman, widow, sold the vessel to Frances Newman, widow, of Worthing. In August 1852 Frances Newman mortgaged the vessel with the same two men with whom she had mortgaged the Albion. In 1874 the registration was cancelled owing to ‘the vessel having been condemned as unfit for service and broken up in Newhaven’.

Ranger – registered 29 September 1847, built by May & Thwaites the same year; three masts, length 35 feet and five tenths, breadth 12 feet and five tenths, 15-ton clench-built lugger with lute stern. James Attrell was the master and the owner was Sydney Beck, lawyer’s clerk of Worthing. The vessel was broken up in 1862.

Non-Pareil – registered 21 December 1852, built by May & Thwaites in 1847; two masts, length 49 feet and three tenths, breadth 13 feet and four tenths, 27-ton clench-built dandy with square stern. George Griggs, junior was the master and she was owned by George Griggs, New Shoreham oyster merchant. The vessel was sold to Mr Gore of Jersey in 1855 and re-registered on 28 May 1864. The vessel was now defined as a cutter and her owner was Leonard Webb of Southwick who, in 1866, sold her to David Brazier, Southwick oyster merchant. In November 1867 Brazier mortgaged the vessel for £70 plus 5% interest with Robert Brazier of Southwick, master mariner. The debt was cleared seven months later and the vessel sold and transferred to Colchester.     

Onward – registered 9 April 1869, built in 1857’ 18.39-ton lugger. Edward James, a Hove gentleman, was the owner. The vessel was sold to Lowestoft in 1869.

Emily – registered 24 October 1873, built by May & Thwaites in the same year, gross tonnage 16.67. Samuel Andrew, Brighton fisherman, was the owner. In 1893 the registration was closed when the vessel was converted into a sand barge.

Petrel – registered 25 August 1902, built by May & Thwaites in 1895; keel 16 feet and 15 inches, two-man crew. James Gilliam was the skipper and the owner was Benjamin Allen of Brighton.

Florence May – registered 10 September 1902, built in 1899; keel 16 feet, sail, lug jib, and mizzen, trawl nets. William Philpott of Brighton was the owner and skipper. The vessel was broken up in 1925.

Louise – registered 1902, built in 1901; keel 16 feet and 8 inches, lug jig and mizzen, trawl nets and lines. Registration closed in 1917.

Ben Macree – registered 20 September 1902, built in 1894; keel 15 feet and 5 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawl nets. James Howell of Brighton was owner and skipper. The vessel was broken up in 1920.

Klondyke – registered 20 September 1902, built in 1894; keel 15 feet and 9 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawl net, J.E. Gunn of Brighton was owner and skipper.

Little Milly – registered 1902, built in 1898.

Wild Flower – registered 3 February 1903, built in 1896; keel 15 feet and 3 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawl net. John Gunn, junior, of Brighton was owner and skipper.

Favourite – registered 1903, built 1890; keel 15 feet and 2 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawl net. Thomas Bishop was the skipper and Will Collingham was the owner.

Little Carrie – registered 27 November 1905, built in 1905; keel 16 feet and 2 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawling and nets. John Gunn, junior, of Brighton was owner and skipper. In 1921 the vessel’s name was changed to Pearl.

Lily – registered 1905, built in 1895.

Lizzie – registered 21 May 1906; keel 16 feet and 4 inches, sail, fore and aft lug jib and mizzen, trawl and nets. John Gunn of Brighton was owner and skipper. In 1918 the vessel was wrecked and became a total loss.

Cleopatra – registered 1906, built in 1896, lugger. Registration closed in 1907.

Triumph – registered 1906, built in 1900. Registration closed in 1927.

Dartregistered 1906, built in 1896, yawl.

Mackerel – registered 1906, built in 1880, lugger. Registration closed in 1924.

Elizabeth – registered 19 November 1906, built in 1900; lugger, sail, lug, jib, and mizzen, drift nets, keel 15 feet and 2 inches. Joe Pierce was the skipper and Joseph Harman of Brighton was the owner. The vessel was broken up in November 1919.

Bonnie Charlie – registered 22 November 1906, built in 1898, keel 14 feet and 2 inches, sailing lugger, foresail and mizzen, lines. Charles Garbutt of Brighton was owner and skipper.

Hilda Gladys – registered 19 March 1907, built in 1906. Sailing lugger, lug jib and mizzen, trawling, keel 16 feet. W. Philpott of Brighton was owner and skipper. Registration was closed in December 1933 because the vessel was no longer used for fishing.

Daisy – registered 25 June 1907, built in 1896, keel 14 feet and 6 inches, sail, fore and aft, jig lug and mizzen, drift nets and lines. Robert Brown was the skipper and H.H.P. Jellicoe of Brighton was the owner. In 1908 the registration was cancelled because the vessel was no longer used for fishing.  

Irene – registered in 1908, built in 1903.

Florence – registered 1908, built in 1902.

Lady Eileen – Registered in 1908, built the same year.

Minaru – registered 1 October 1909, built in 1904, sailing lugger, keel 15 feet 6 inches. A.C. Henderson of Brighton was owner and skipper.

May – registered 9 October 1909, built in 1900. Sailing lugger, trawl and drift, keel 22 feet 4 inches. Thomas Mayers of Brighton was owner and skipper. The vessel was destroyed by fire in 1913.

Little Martha – registered 21 December 1909, built 1901; sailing lugger, keel 13 feet and 3 inches. John Harman of Brighton was owner and skipper. The vessel was broken up in 1919.

Sweetheart – registered in 1910, built in 1907.

Pleasure Boats

Hove Police Commissioners were formed in 1858 and the following year began to issue licences for pleasure boats, starting off with fifteen in 1859. In the Hove Council Minute Books for 1874 and 1876 names and owners of pleasure boats were recorded but unfortunately after that time only the numbers were noted. The high points for boats working off Hove beach were 1908 (9 sailing boats, 44 rowing boats and 2 motor boats) and 1923 (3 sailing boats, 49 rowing boats and 7 motor boats). In 1925 there was an unusual addition, 12 aquaplane bathing yachts. In 1928 when Timothy Pressley was issued with a motorboat licence it was noted he had a 4-horsepower Elto outboard engine.

 copyright © J.Middleton
Old-timers would be amazed at this array of colourful craft at Hove photographed on 17 March 2014.

1874

Mabel – Owner Henry Pool, 13 Market Street; 18-foot sailing boat; registered boatmen Henry Poole and James Brooke.

Brunswick – Owner George Comlidge, 5 Norfolk Street, Brighton; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Richard Jeffrey.

Pride of the Ocean– Owner John Humphrey, 26 Western Street, Brighton; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman John Humphrey.

Golden Grove – Owner Edgar Voysey, 2 Albert Terrace; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Thomas Woolgar.

Old Friend – Owner Charles Minall, 7 Lower Market Street; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Charles Minall.

Queen Bess – Owner Edgar Voysey; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Edgar Voysey.

Florence  - Owner Henry Pool ; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman James Crocker.

William and Henry – Owner Henry Pool; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman James Brooks.

Wonder – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner, 11 Sussex Road; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman John Jenner.

Sea Spray – Owner Edgar Voysey; 21-foot sailing boat, registered boatmen Edgar Voysey and Thomas Woolgar.

Foam – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 19-foot sailing boat; registered boatmen George Jenner and Joseph Hook.

Florence – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman William Jenner.

Civility – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Frank Jenner.

Flying Scud – Owner Timothy Minall, 26 Osborne Street; 18-foot sailing boat; registered boatmen Timothy Minall and Charles Minall.

Kittiwake – Owner Timothy Minall; 18-foot sailing boat; registered boatman Timothy Minall.

Friends Goodwill – Owner Timothy Minall; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman William Minall.

Jane – Owner George Comlidge; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Edward Jeffrey.

1876

Mabel, Old Friend, Queen Bess, Wonder, Flying Scud– same details as in 1874

Sweetheart – Owner Edgar Voysey, 2 Albert Terrace; 21-foot sailing boat.

Pride of the Ocean – Owners Edgar Voysey and Thomas Woolgar; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Timothy Minall, 26 Osborne Street.

Golden Grove – Owner Edgar Voysey; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman George Goatcher.

Florence Owner Henry Pool; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman James Brooks.

William and Mary – Owner Henry Pool; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Henry Pool.

Sea Spray – Owner Edgar Voysey; 19-foot sailing boat; registered boatman Thomas Woolgar and George Goatcher.

Florence – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman John Jenner.

Civility – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman William Jenner.

Kittiwake – Owner Timothy Minall; 18-foot sailing boat; registered boatman William Minall.

Two Brothers – Owner George Comlidge, Brighton; 15-foot rowing boat, registered boatman Edward Jeffery.

Jane – Owner George Comlidge; 15-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Walter Collier.

May – Owner William Wyatt, 35 Osborne Street; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman William Wyatt.

Rose – Owner William Wyatt; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Joseph Hook.

June – Owner William Wyatt; 14-foot rowing boat; registered boatman Joseph Hook.

Grace Darling – Owner Mrs Elizabeth Jenner; 19-foot sailing boat; registered boatmen George Jenner and Joseph Hook.

copyright © J.Middleton 
In this postcard a pleasure boat is the centre of attention. In the background St Aubyn’s Mansions and Medina Baths can be seen.

Regulations

copyright © J.Middleton 
Capstan
The boats were required to carry ‘a sufficient quantity of sand at all times … together with two canisters of Fire Extinguishing Chemicals, 12 Life Saving Jackets and two Life Buoys.’

Each registered boatman had to wear a badge supplied by Hove Council annually; it cost one shilling.

In 1902 there was a uniform charge of five shillings for each capstan and it had to be paid once a year. But there must have been some grumbling about the high cost because in 1903 the charge was reduced to one shilling.

Other Sources of Income

In 1895 Hove Council agreed to allow some boatmen to place seats for hire on the beach and foreshore during the summer. Frank Jenner, John Malthouse, Charles Mitchell and Henry Moulson were the boatmen in question.

The Woolgars

In 1874 Thomas Woolgar was recorded as the registered boatman of Golden Grove and Sea Spray, which were owned by Edgar Voysey. By 1876 Edgar Voysey and Thomas Woolgar owned Pride of the Ocean, while Woolgar was still a registered boatman with Sea Spray. Another string to the Woolgar’s bow was to hire out bathing machines and later on bathing tents.

In 1903 Messrs Woolgar & Minall protested to Hove Council that their old huts had been removed on Council orders but their new boating station opposite First Avenue was not large enough. Hove Council agreed to provide a hut not exceeding 20 feet by 8 feet for £5 a year.

Harry Woolgar was born in the 1880s. He joined the Merchant Navy and once worked aboard the famous Cutty Sark. At Bristol he met a young lady called Amelia whom he promised to marry on his return from his voyage. But it was seven years before he came back and she was still waiting. He had jumped ship in Australia, which caused the long delay. They married and had two children and by 1905 lived at 5 Beach Cottages, built right on the foreshore at Hove. Harry was something of a character and cultivated his ‘Old Salt’ image. He was rarely seen without his nautical headgear and he sported a beard; he also liked to smoke his pipe. He was popular with visiting youngsters and sometimes he had an octopus to show them, allowing it to climb up his arm with its tentacles to the horror of any ladies present. Local fishermen would give him an octopus in the summer months, which they sometimes found on top of their lobster pots, having sucked all the goodness out of the lobster. 

Also part of the household was Jacko, a pet monkey brought back by Harry’s son William Charles Woolgar from West Africa whilst serving in the Merchant Navy aboard the cable ship Collona.  One day when the family were out, Jacko pulled the tablecloth off the table, thereby upsetting the paraffin lamp and setting the cottage on fire. Jacko escaped, somewhat singed, and the family moved to 2 Beach Cottages.

Another family pet was Ponto the dog, usually seen in family photographs. He was a great character and used to carry Harry’s dinner from Beach Cottages to the Bathing Station.

 copyright © Bill Woolgar
In this marvellous photograph Harry Woolgar holds Ponto the dog while Charlie Woolgar is seated on the right.

In  1913 a note in Council Minutes stated that bathing machines owned by Woolgar & Son and other owners were stored on the foreshore at the Wish during winter months. By 1921 J. Woolgar & Son of 2 Beach Cottages held licences for 21 bathing machines while T. & H. Woolgar of 3 Beach Cottages held a licence for a rowing boat 

By 1926 H. Woolger & Son kept 20 bathing machines opposite First Avenue. Officials from Hove Council were not impressed when they came to inspect them, commenting on the ‘dilapidated appearance’. There was also the problem because some of them still had large old-fashioned wheels but Woolgar promised to change them to smaller wheels, a few each year.

copyright © Bill Woolgar
A storm caused the wreckage shown here; note the new modern wheels on the Woolgar bathing machine.

Harry Woolgar’s son was always known as Jerry; he did not mind his Christian names but he did mind the fact the initials were WC; he was born in Beach Cottages in 1905. Jerry married Daisy Reed in 1928 and her sisters were also blessed with ‘flower’ names – thus Violet and Lily. The young couple moved to Osborne Villas while Harry moved to Sussex Road. He died in 1952. At some stage the family moved to 22 Hove Street, an old flint cottage on the corner of Vallance Gardens.

 copyright © Bill Woolgar
The Leader was photographed in around 1921 with Harry Woolgar and Charlie Woolgar standing in front.

 copyright © Bill Woolgar
The Princess was based at Hove beach 
and she was a motorboat.
Jerry Woolgar owned two boats in the 1920s; they were Leader, a sailing boat, and Princess, a motorboat, both based on Hove beach. The next boat he owned was Four Winds, which was 24 feet in length and had an engine. She was built in 1930 and sold in 1948. Her replacement was Phoebe Hessel built at Lady Bee Yard, Southwick. Unhappily, it was a short ownership because it became impossible to keep up mortgage repayments from the small amount of money she earned.

There was a newspaper report in 1949 concerning a William Woolgar (perhaps Jerry or his son) of Medina Place, Hove. It stated Woolgar had the monopoly of catching sand fleas or sand hoppers, which he caught all the year round along the coast stretching from Rye to Littlehampton. When caught, the tiny shrimp-like crustaceans were packed into tins and sold for £1 a pint. It took thousands of them to make a pint and they only lived for around three or four days. His customers were London Zoo and Brighton Aquarium where they were popular with sea anemones.    


John Hawkins

John Hawkins moved from London to the coast in 1917 and never left. He lived in Church Street, Portslade. He used to be a licensed boatman at Hove and even in his eighties he was to be seen most days on Hove beach where he kept a rowing boat and sold fresh fish he had caught himself. Twice a week he used to visit Royal British Legion Hall in Trafalgar Road where he enjoyed dancing the waltz and the foxtrot. He died at the age of 84 in August 1991.

 copyright © J.Middleton 
You can still buy fresh fish from Hove beach; the photograph was taken on 16 June 2009.

Sources

Bouquet, Michael South Eastern Sail (1972)
Brighton & Hove Gazette (12 March 1949)
Butcher, David The Driftermen (1979)
Cheal, Henry The Ships and Mariners of Shoreham (1909 reprinted 1981)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Finch, Roger Sailing Craft of the British Isles (1976)
Gilbert, Edmund M. Brighton, Old Ocean’s Bauble (1954 reprinted 1975)
March, Edgar J. Inshore Craft of Britain. Volume 2 (1970)
Middleton, Judy Portslade and Hove Memories (2004)
Porter, Henry A History of Hove (1897)

Hove Reference Library – Hove Council Minute Books

West Sussex Record Office – Shoreham Shipping Registers

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
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