Heard the one about Standard Quay only being used for ship building for the last decade or so?
This is the myth being currently being promoted by the developer behind the Standard Quay restaurant scheme and Graham Thomas, the Swale council planning officer enthusiastically backing it.
It’s a dangerous untruth, because few of the councillors voting on the Quay’s future will be fully aware of the site’s history and may believe what they read in Mr Thomas highly questionable report.
Another developer tactic has been to define Standard Quay as a small stretch of the quayside once used for grain storage and deny boat building took place on that particular spot.
In fact, the developer’s own ‘regeneration’ proposals describe everything between the SECOS oil depot and Oyster Bay House as Standard Quay. It’s true. Take a look here.
Councillors have been urged to attend a site visit at Standard Quay at 10.30am on April 29th. It’s not known how many will actually turn up but let’s make sure they all know the real, centuries-old history of shipbuilding at Standard Quay.
We strongly advise emailing or writing to individual councillors despite Swale’s request that correspondence be sent to…Mr Thomas.
Standard Quay has a long and proud shipbuilding tradition that should be celebrated, not airbrushed away.
But don’t take our word for it. As part of The Quay film, we interviewed respected maritime historian and author of several books about Thames barges Richard Hugh Perks. This is what he said:
“We know that ships have been built at Standard Quay for at least 300 years. Since about 1700, somewhere in the region of 120 sailing vessels have been built here at Standard Quay. The vessels that were built here in the early days were basically the oyster smacks. The fishing and oyster industries were the major industries. The type of craft that carried cargo up to London tended to be small coasting hoys. These were vessels of around 55-60 feet in length.
“At least one packet boat was built here, the Prince Oscar, in about 1818. We know the names of the various builders who built here in the mid 18th Century back to about 1818. The builders were the Bennett family and after that the Redmans came and built large fishing smacks, sailing barges and various other craft. The most famous shipbuilder here was John Matthew Goldfinch who came to Faversham and built his first barge in 1853 and Faversham is probably best known for the Goldfinch barges including his famous schooner, The Goldfinch, which in 1930 was sailed out to British Guiana.
“So the history of Standard Quay has always, as far as recorded history is concerned, has always been concerned with the loading and unloading of goods, the storage of goods, the building of boats and in particular, the repairing of boats. That was the most important part. A ship, built out of wood, basically had a life of about 30 years. But of course they were always in collision, they were always in trouble or strandings. So maintaining and repairing these vessels was almost the most important work of the shipyard. If you look at the accounts of shipbuilders, most of them lost money building ships. Somebody like Goldfinch was an artist, his barges were beautifully built, they were soundly built. Out of something like 70 sailing barges that he built, their average life was just over 60 years. Now if a wooden vessel was designed to last for only 30 years, it meant there was a lot of repair work going on, a lot of refurbishment.
“We’ve got records out of the newspapers of colliery brigs and timber ships coming alongside Standard Quay to be worked on and repaired. Local ships got into the papers when they were built or when there was some form of accident or tragedy. In fact while a brigantine was being repaired here in the 1870s, the staging around it collapsed and one of the shipwrights was killed.”
With thanks to Richard Hugh Perks.