Jump to content

Steel wire or hemp rope on Thames sailing barge circa 1940?


Recommended Posts

I'm working on a model of the Thames sailing barge Will Everard from Billing Boats kit (see build log). I will soon start with the rigging.

 

Now I'm starting to wonder if it should be steel wire in the rigging (in particular the standing rigging?). The ship was built in 1925 and has a steel hull. I intend to model her circa 1940.

 

I have searched online and found various photos. From what I can gather it looks like she nowadays have at least shrouds and fore stay of steel wire, but that is after several rounds of renovation and having turned her into a charter boat. The old black and white photos I have found  are not detailed enough to determine the type of line. Are there any other details that could help determine the type? Is the use of deadeys and lanyards an indication that the shroud is rope rather than wire? It looks like that is what she had until at least 1960s. Is the use of a turnbuckle for the shrouds an indication of a steel wire?

 

Does anyone know?

 

Can anyone help me with some pointers to some better references than what I have found online?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Surely somebody from the UK can confirm this. My exposure to Thames barges is limited to checking out a couple of them twenty-five years ago.

 

Generally speaking, if she were built of steel in 1925, I'd say she almost certainly would have wire cable stays and shrouds. If she had turnbuckles, the shrouds and stays would definitely have been wire. By 1940, I'd be surprised if any Thames barge had cordage standing rigging. Wire was pretty much in universal use at that point. (Although today's synthetic cordage is now replacing weaker metal standing rigging, so it's all coming full circle!)

 

If she had deadeyes and lanyards, she could have had wire cable nonetheless, but I can't imagine why anybody would put deadeyes and lanyards on a working cargo vessel in 1925. Earlier barges could have had fiber shrouds and stays and deadeyes and lanyards and later have been fitted with wire shrouds and stays and they kept the deadeyes and lanyards, or the deadeyes and lanyards could even have replaced turnbuckles in recent times if the vessel was "restored" to look like an older one.

 

Keep in mind that in the pre-stainless steel rigging era, particularly on a larger vessel, odds are good that the wire cable would likely have been wormed, parcelled and served to prevent rust. From a modeling standpoint, that would make it indistinguishable from served cordage, save for the terminal details. Cordage would be bent around the deadeye in the usual manner. Wire would have likely had a Liverpool splice worked around the deadeye, or a terminal on the end which would attach to a metal shackle-like yoke around the deadeye (see photo below,) or to the turnbuckle (or bottle screw.)

 

 

 

This sort of "shackle" can be used on an upper turnbuckle and a wire terminal fastened through the eyes.

 

  • deadeye_sm.jpg
Edited by Bob Cleek
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the help Bob.

 

The more I look on different pictures, and with the input from Bob, it seem to confirm that steel wire was used. The main mast shrouds had deadeyes and lanyards, but the mizzen mast shrouds had turnbuckles. If the lines where served or not is impossible to see on the pictures I have found, but given Bobs answer its certainly likely. The apparent thickness of the lines in the pictures also seem to indicate that they where.

 

So I guess that this means that I should look at getting myself a serving machine 😃

 

Cheers

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

A caveat to Bob's post: in the early 1940's steel was in great demand for the war effort and would have been in short supply for other purposes. In London, for instance, miles of iron railings were torn up to be recycled for the war effort.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, druxey said:

A caveat to Bob's post: in the early 1940's steel was in great demand for the war effort and would have been in short supply for other purposes. In London, for instance, miles of iron railings were torn up to be recycled for the war effort.

Druxey is correct about the metal recycling programs in Britain during the War. (And, later, in the U.S.) However, if the period depicted in the model is "circa 1940," it has to be remembered that the War in Europe began in September, 1939, and British "metal drives" began in July of 1940. It seems highly unlikely that serviceable cargo vessels, equivalent to today's tractor-trailer trucks, would have been cannibalized for their metal at that point in the conflict. Moreover, Britain's famous "iron railing" scrap iron drive, and pretty much all others in Britain and the U.S., are generally recognized by historians to have been more a propaganda effort to galvanize civilian support and participation in the war effort than anything else. They focused primarily on the large amount of Victorian-era iron fence and gate work that, at that time, was deemed "expendable." It certainly was good propaganda. Nobody wanted to be the only "unpatriotic" one on their block with iron fencing and gates still standing in front of their house! In fact, it appears only a small fraction of the ornamental ironwork contributed to the war effort ever was used for wartime production and, while some made its way into the post-war recycling chain, an awful lot of it seems to have simply been dumped. (Reportedly, wartime Thames Estuary pilots complained that so much ornamental ironwork was being dumped in the Thames Estuary that it was throwing off their ships' compasses!) Curiously, after the War, the records of what was done with the more than a million tons of valuable British hand-wrought ornamental ironwork was discovered to have been mysteriously shredded.  Ever since, there's been quite a bit of resentment over the loss of what was a signature piece of British architectural heritage that was destroyed for political reasons rather than wartime necessity. 

 

See: https://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/railings3.htm 

 

       https://mashable.com/2016/02/03/wwii-scrap-metal/

 

 

Edited by Bob Cleek
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am pretty sure the 'Any Old Iron' metal collection in the UK which started in 1940 would not have had any impact on a Thames barge in 1940. The government-run process was very comprehensive and started with actual scrap before moving on to harvesting good metal from buildings, signs etc. The benefits of the stages were monitored and observed and one of the most useful aspects of the drive was the way the public perceived it: people grumbled but most were fully committed. Removal of railings and some train station signs had little impact on the real war effort but it kept the public involved and was continued long after it was strictly worthwhile.

So, short answer: if the barge had metal rigging at the start of the war then it would not have lost it to a scrap metal drive. It would have retained the metal rigging till it was unservicable. Then it would have been snapped up (and at a good rate).

This was in part because the replacement rope rigging was also in great demand. A large part of the Royal Navy rope was traditionally made from Balkan hemp so that wasn't working out well either in 1940.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Balkan hemp ? I gather it should be Baltic hemp, as much of it came from the western parts of Russia, I think.

 

Not only in the UK the beautiful cast and wrough iron fences fell victim to war-time efforts, in Germany too, much of it disappeared sadly.

 

I don't think there would be any doubt that as much of the standing rigging as possible and some of the running would be wire on a Thames barge at any time of the 20th century. It last much longer and therefore is cheaper then vegetal fibres.

Edited by wefalck
Link to post
Share on other sites
45 minutes ago, wefalck said:

Balkan hemp ? I gather it should be Baltic hemp, as much of it came from the western parts of Russia, I think.

I refer to northern Greece and Bulgaria. During WW1 there was a bidding war between the Central and Allied powers for this product. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 months later...

Will (originally Will Everard) was built with steel standing rigging the 3" circumference shrouds being made in pairs which simply looped over the mainmast and rested on trestle trees, one pair each side forming the forward two shrouds and the other pair forming the after shroud and the main runner, The shrouds were secured to the rigging chocks with 3 inch circ. tarred hemp lanyards served through dead eyes, the runners had there own tackles securing them to the rail so that the lee runner could be eased when well off the wind. The forestay was a 4 inch circ. wire rope with an eye splice at the top looped over the mainmast head and resting on a hook on the aft side of the mast. It was secured to the stem head by the stayfall, a 6 to 1 purchase with 25 fathoms of  2.25 inch circ. wire rope to allow the mast to be lowered aft for passing under bridges (this didn't happen often in a barge of Will's size).


The heel of the sprit is supported by the 3 inch circ, stanliff with an eye splice in each end - the top one looped over the main mast head (this goes on first, before the shrouds) and the lower end shackled to a short length of chain on the iron band around the foot of the sprit. Also shackled to this iron band is the collar which goes around the mast to hold the sprit heel in position. The head of the sprit is controlled by two vangs of 2.5 inch circ. wire running down to the ends of the main sheet horse where they are each controlled by a tackle.

 

The wooden topmast was rigged with 5 stays of 2.5 inch circ. 2 shrouds (confusingly called backstays in a barge) running down through cross trees to the rigging chocks, 2 running backstays secured with tackles to the rail aft of the main runners and a forestay (called the topmast stay) which would run to the bowsprit head when the bowsprit was rigged or the stemhead when the bowsprit was stowed. There was also a 2 inch circ jibstay from the main cap to the bowsprit head on which the jib would be set, this stay was also used to haul up the bowsprit to stow it.

 

All the standing rigging on the mizzen was also steel.

 

If you really want to understand the rigging of a thames Sailing Barge, the definitive work is A Handbook of Sailing Barges by F S Cooper, first published by Adlard Coles in 1955, second impression 1967. Fred Cooper was a Thanes Barge master conscious of the fact that the barges he had known all his life were disappearing fast, so he set down for posterity an accurate record of how they were built and rigged. He's now long gone, but he would be amazed to see the number of barges he knew still sailing, including the Will. The way they are rigged today is exactly as he knew, apart from the introduction of synthetic sail cloth and cordage. Oh, and the EU banning the use of  Stockholm tar, except on Swedish churches.

 

Hope this helps you with your modelling,

 

Peter.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

As in the US, it's an environmental ban. In 2006, the EU banned "all biocides" including those extracted from plants. Somehow, Stockholm tar fell into this category. An outcry from historical preservationists managed to win an exception for use in historic preservation applications, such as historic Swedish churches and maritime preservation applications. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...