Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Royal Thamesis on a visit to Venice.  Venice is one of the few places where similar craft are still in existence but the Venetians customarily row standing
The Company is owner of Royal Thamesis, a six seat shallop sometimes described  as the 'limousine of the eighteenth centuryThames.' It is operated by City Barge which brings together enthusiasts for the very particular watermanship skills to operate this type of vessel.  The City Barge website provides fascinating background detail on the subject and describes the current activities of the club.

An eighteenth century Drapers' Company Barge, considerably larger than the Royal Thamesis. The rowers were forward and the canopied section for the Court and guests occupies midships.
The livery companies, until the early nineteenth century, had splendid barges that were used for great ceremonial occasions. They required up to thirty oarsman and a bargemaster who directed both the rowers and a marvelously named 'whiffler' in a dinghy to steer the vessel. Meanwhile members of the Company were seated in splendour under a canopy where they were serenaded by a band - the ultimate in eighteenth century on-board sound systems. Handel's Water Music was composed for such an event during the reign of George II.

The Royal Thamesis is a scale replica of these barges. It was purchased by the Company in 2003, not only to sustain the tradition of barge rowing, but also to provide a facility for children, especially from the inner city, to use. Two events this month have done just that.

Children enjoying a ride on the Royal Thamesis
Regatta for the Disabled, Phyllis Court,
Henley 4 September

My thanks to Liveryman Andrew Finlay for this report. The Drapers’ Barge, Royal Thamesis, recently took part in the first ever ‘Regatta for the Disabled’. Henley has more than its fair share of regattas, but this is the first one organised as a fun(draising) event. The charities organising the day were: Building for the Future - , Headway Thames Valley - and Rivertime Boat Trust -

Building for the Future and Headway Thames Valley both support local disabled people. Rivertime Boat Trust runs an adapted river cruiser which takes disabled people and their carers out on the Thames.

Phyllis Court Club soon heard about the idea of a boating event and wanted to lend a hand, as did the Henley Rowing Club. Liveryman Andrew Finlay is both a Henley resident and Phyllis Court Club member as well as being on the Drapers’ Company Barge Committee. He found hiimself unable to resist such an event on his doorstep.

The Royal Thamesis at Henley for the Regatta for the Disabled
photograph thanks to Andrew Finlay
On the 4th September, the Bargemaster, Andrew Thomson and his wife, Andrew Finlay and several other liverymen were on duty on the banks of the Thames. In the course of the day Royal Thamesis gave river trips to at least 50 disabled people – and some more able-bodied ones such as local MP, John Howell, and Henley Mayor, Jeni Woods - in huge hat as usual!

The regatta organising committee were effusive in their thanks to the Drapers' Company, and we and they look forward to repeating the event in 2011.

Countryside Live: Country Fair for Schoolchildren, Lee Valley Park, 22/23 September

Countryside Live organises an annual country fair for city children in the Lee Valley Park where a whole range of country activities are made available for children to have a go.  The barge is a popular part of this event and was present both days giving rides to visitors.

Bargemaster Andrew Thomson led the team supported by Liverymen Gil Dirdal, Secretary, John Borradaile, Stephen Heron, Bruce Hopking and Richard Norton who was the lead in reviving the barge idea a decade ago.  Spouses also helped and Alastair Ross, the Clerk, came along on the second day.

On the final afternoon the barge had to be repositioned on the tidal Thames, about four miles away for the Great River Race.  The Clerk admitted, who helped row this distance, admitted to finding it just a trifle tiring.

A fine view of the Royal Thamesis underway

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Andrew. A splendid outing for the disabled and the Company barge!