The remains


Plaque at Purton


Little did I know when I wondered into the site in 1976, and stood as a boy looking skyward at the foot of the mountain like timber hulk of the Edith, that would I one day would hear the distinct sound of her beating of heart.

Built as a rare example of Chepstow trow and sister to the Spry by local shipwright William Hurd in 1901, her remains are of great significance in relation to local construction techniques and design. Further her long and chequered trading history from South West Coaster trading as far a field to Bridgwater and beyond, with pit props and latterly Lydney coal to feed the non quenchable furnishes of St. Annes Board Mills in Bristol with high grade anthracite fuel.

Further research has shown that upon Edith’s disposal in 1964 she had remained one of only a hand full of Severn trows including the Alma, Jonadab and Safety, all of which have now been consigned to British maritime history and have been slowly allowed to disintegrate into nautical myth.

Interwoven throughout her considerable time spent on Severnside, the Edith underwent several changes including sail to motor, numerous owners and varied cargo finally settling in the Lydney Coal Trade. Once again and as a direct result, Purton exhibits a vessel that through selfish dedication to duty has helped to shape and fortify the region’s extensive trade routes.

Sadly once again and despite her rare linage the Edith fell victim to a sustained campaign to destroy several hundred years of maritime history and she was totally raised to the ground in a 1986 arsonist’s attack. Or at least that was first thought, for a recent archaeological survey undertaken by the Nautical Archaeological Society(NAS) and members of The Friends of Purton has discovered a large quantity of her bottom timbers remain and appear to be in excellent condition, albeit obscured with vegetation and silt overburden.


Survey by N.A.S. 2009


Survey by Anthony Burton M.B.E>

LPB Identification
No. 34
DRM Identification
No. N/A
DJW Identification
No. 37
Source (HCJ)(CG)(LPB)(RM)(EA)(DW)(DJW)
Name P.o.R Description Dates
Edith Bridgwater 4/01
Bridgwater 1/28
Open Trow
Wood MV ex Ketch
Screw Trow - now barge

1901 – 1928
1928 – 1933
1933 – c. 1962

Official No. 111392 Code N/A
Builders William Hurd - Chepstow
Dimensions Length 74.6ft Breath 17.1ft Depths 5.7ft

Tonnage – (1901) G 58.75 N 44.06 B.D
Tonnage – (1928) G 77.83 N 59.08 B.D
Tonnage – (1931) G 79.08 N 58.13 B.D
Tonnage – (1934) G 79.50 N 45.20 B.D

Engines 1927 Berguis additional engine 1933 H.P. 30B 60B 1933
Beached date c.1962
Beached by Capt Frank Savage, Charlie Langford, Capt Jimmy Common, Eric Aldridge, Doug Munday, Bill Deacon
Miscellaneous Western Press 28.3.1916 3.15pm Weston Life boat saved 3 (service to Ark, Edith & Palace)
BS3.92 Saves owner of small cabin cruiser after collision at Horseshoe Bend
BS3.83 Springs leak in river April 1948
At Bristol Bridge 1959
Registry no longer required. MNL supp. March 1960
Beached in Pill Avon March 1960
First Owners Howell George Bryant, Bridgwater (01 06 08 13 17)

Daniel Gower (27)
Renwick Wilton & Dobson, Bristol Branch (28 30 33 51 55)
Smiths of Bristol (60)

Historic overview

Built in 1901 for H.G Bryant of Bridgwater, as one of the last wooden Chepstow Trows by William Hurd, Edith was originally 44 Net registered and just short of 75ft. She was built as a ketch rigged open decked trow which encapsulated side clothes. This configuration was further improved in 1918 with the construction of a boxed deck for greater safety and which allowed her to carry 78 Gross ton from her Bridgwater port of registry to various destinations including Newport, Cardiff, Lydney and Bristol docks.

Although as we will see, Edith was destined to have a long, albeit eventful life, she became no stranger to catastrophe. An early incident is recorded in a Harbour Trustee log of 25th April 1903. in which the engineer reported …”Went with boat, men and gear to Hills Flats to erect beacon which had been knocked down by the trow “Edith”….

Not content with that, The Edith once again found herself in peril for on the 13th July 1903, whilst under the command of Captain M. Warren from Bridgwater, she collided with the landing stage at Brean Down Quarries during a raging storm and turned completely on her side.

Subsequently and upon recovery and repair at Bridgwater she was once again in distress on the 8th July 1914 as she ran aground on the bank opposite the site of the Bridgwater Hospital, but as luck would have it she re-floated off without damage on the same evening tide. However, within two years, she was once again in the thick of it along with Ark and Palace who on the 28th March 1916 at 15pm were aided by the Weston Life boat.

Undeterred and upon the coming of mechanisation, Edith was duly unrigged and motorised with a 30 B.H.P paraffin engine in 1927 by Daniel Gower of Bute Street Cardiff and re-registered as a motorised trow in the 1928 Mercantile Navy list.

1928 saw Edith in the ownership of Renwick Wilton & Co. who employed her to transport Lydney coal to its Bristol factory. Indeed it had been discovered that her rigid construction suited this trade, and she thus continued to be a frequent visitor between the Severn ports of Lydney, Bristol, Chepstow and Bridgwater, carrying coal until 1950.

In 1951 we can see, via her Mercantile Navy listing, that Edith was now in the ownership of the Bristol based and newly amalgamated Renwick Wilton & Dobson Ltd, whose head offices were located at 55 Fleet St, Torquay, under the directorship of Fredrick C. Dobson. At this time, she continued in the Bridgwater register as being 74.6ft x 17.1ft, with a 5.7ft hold of 80 Gross ton as powered by her faithful 60 B.H.P engine.

Once again, disaster was to strike the little motor vessel which was reportedly struck and sank in eight minutes after a collision in Avonmouth Dock on 20th April 1953. Her crew of two however managed to get away in Edith’s jolly boat. She was subsequently recovered and stitched back together.

Undeterred in 1955 and following an extensive career spanning 28 years the Edith’s twin engines were replaced with a specially commissioned K.2. Twin Kelvin built by George Burgius Co. Ltd. of Glasgow and bearing the serial No. 754. This engine in turn continued to provide propulsion to Edith, who at this time, had continued to lead an active life within the coal trade of Ely, Cardiff, Newport and Lydney Docks to St. Anne’s Board Mills in Bristol with Capt. Reg Hopkins being her last skipper.

The 1960s were not happy times for commercial wooden craft as they were rapidly becoming a burden of spiralling maintenance costs and lost freight to the then developing road and rail industry. That being the case, 1960 saw Edith registered as unwanted and finally acquired by Smiths of Bristol, whose elderly fleet also included the wooden trows William, Alma, Spry, Superb & Emperor and put her to work in Bristol Docks as a motorised coal lighter.

1962-63 sounded the death knoll for Edith, as she failed to obtain a certificate of conformity from the Board of Trade and Industry, a legal requirement and thereafter, spent her last days afloat as a pontoon threatening to sink at her mooring at Pil. It was at this time, her pristine K.2. engine was salvaged by a Frampton Cottrell scrap dealer and stored in barn until 1992, whereupon it was bought and restored by Tony & Pauline Bolton to serve, from 1993 to 2000, in their canal boat Albion. This engine can still be seen as it now, following the purchase by Alan & Barbara Eales in 2000, providing propulsion to their canal boat Rooster.

With her engine now gone, it only remained a matter of time before Edith became a worthless hulk, which indeed she became and subsequently made her last trip up the Avon and Severn to the foreshore at Purton to conduct one last valuable service in the form of bank protection. The exact date of this journey as of yet escapes the author, however it is known that the Edith was still afloat in September 1962 on the Avon and thereafter noted to be on the foreshore by David Wheeler, who drew a stylised diagram of the Purton Hulks in 1965.

It is also known, that the scuttling of the Edith was carried out using the tried and tested method of towing her up from Bristol to Sharpness on a high spring tide and handing her over the Sharpness Dock Company, who in turn assigned the task to Captain Frank Savage and his crew of the Tug Primrose, which included Mr Eric Aldridge and Mr Doug Monday who were put on board Edith in order to steer her during the beaching process.

This was achieved by the tug and hulk leaving Sharpness twenty minutes before high water in order to arrive on site at precisely the maximum height of tide, and thus, with the use of a head of speed ram Edith up onto the foreshore. This was then followed with selection of permanent moorings from which purchase could be obtained using the hulks own winches and subsequently drive the vessel higher up the bank and free from the pull of the falling tide. The beaching was finally made permanent upon the retreat of the rivers water by the deliberate destruction of hull timbers, which in turn further prevented floatation and aided sedimentation upon the next incoming tide. This was all done by Dock Company employees who were paid a princely sum of 17 hours pay for the task of site selection, mooring and holing the vessel and all on a job and finish basis.

The Edith today, following 47 years of trophy hunters, scrap metal merchants, arsonists BBQ enthusiasts, beach combers and the ravages of south westerly’s within the Severn Estuary, has faired poorly considering she is one of the younger vessels than can be found upon the bank. This however is a direct result of mindless vandalism and acute stupidity that one would usually associate with a below average intelligence, who in turn has obtained a simpletons pleasure of watching this historic vessel burn to the swathe.

Edith Crew list
DD/RSS – Box 60 1 January 1906 – 30 June 1906
DD/RSS – Box 60
1 January 1906 – 30 June 1906


Owner H. G. Bryant, Bridgwater
Master James Warren, Guinea St, Bristol
Trade 17 voyages in the coal trade between Lydney, Newport, Gloucester & Bridgwater
Crew James Warren 1863 Gloucester (born)
Same ship
Year of serving in last ship 1905
Date & place of joining present ship 1st January 1906, Bridgewater
Capacity Captain
1 July – 31 Dec 1906  


Owner H. G. Bryant, Bridgwater
Master James Warren, Guinea St, Bristol
Trade 14 voyages in the coal trade between Lydney, Cardiff, Newport, Lydney Gloucester & Bridgwater
Crew James Warren 1863 Gloucester (born)
Same ship
Year of serving in last ship 1905
Date & place of joining present ship 1st January 1906, Bridgewater
Capacity Captain
DD/RSS – Box 61
1 Jan 1907 – 30 June 1907


Owner H. G. Bryant, Bridgwater
Master James Warren, Whithall Road, Bristol
Trade 11 voyages in the coal trade between Lydney, Newport, Lydney Gloucester & Bridgwater
Crew James Warren 1863 Gloucester (born)
Same ship
Year of serving in last ship 1905
Date & place of joining present ship 1st Jan 1906, Bridgwater
Capacity Captain
1 July – 31 Dec 1907  


Owner H. G. Bryant, Bridgwater
Master James Warren, Bedminster, Bristol
Trade 15 voyages in the coal trade between Lydney, Newport, Lydney Gloucester & Bridgwater
Crew James Warren 1845 Gloucester (born)
Same ship
Year of serving in last ship 1905
Date & place of joining present ship 1st Jan 1906, Bridgwater
Capacity Captain
Historic images
Edit 1902

The Trow Edith at the Chilton brick factory on the River Parrett c.1902 The Rod Fitzhugh Collection

Edit 1965

Looking north across the late arrivals, Dursley, Edith and Voltaic ex Sarah MacDonald c.1965. Robert Langford Archive

Edith 1652

MV Edith passing Mardons St. Annes Factory 27th March 1952 The Graham Farr Collection

Recent images
Edith 1975

The foredect of the intact Edith, her winch in situ 1975. The Peter Nurse collection

Edith 2002

The engine room cowling 19th August 2002. The L. P. Barnett Collection

Edith 2002

Close up of Edith’s forward deck winch 19th August 2002. The L. P. Barnett Collection

Edith’s K2 Engine by Alan Eales

The Edith originally came from Bristol and originally had a Twin Kelvin (after Kelvin River)(K. 2.) Engine no. 2754 built in 1955 by George Burgius Company Ltd. of Glasgow and supplied to Renwick Wilton and Dobson and was primarily employed at that time within the coal trade out of Ely Cardiff, Newport and Lydney to St. Anne’s Board Mills in Bristol with Reg Hopkins being her last Skipper.

Upon final hulking the engine was duly bought and removed c.1962 whist at Pil by a Frampton Cottrell dealer and stored in barn until 1992. Whereupon it was bought by Tony & Pauline Boulton who spent three years reconditioning it and fitting it into their canal Boat Albion c.1994. Used until July 2000, it was eventually replaced with a Gardiner and sold to Alan & Barbara Eales.

Following the sale the K2, was installed and re-launched into canal boat Rooster on 1st May 2003. at Croxley Green. At this time however the engine could be started using the newly installed electric starting mechanise and thus removed the necessity of using the crank handle and priming the carburettor with petrol.

Impassioned petrol head Alan now takes up the commentary by stating that the K2 is still initially started by priming the carburettor with petrol, however it is transferred over to diesel once running. Coupled he also recalls that photographs are available, which clearly show that the earliest Kelvin engines c.1930s were supplied with a header fuel tank bolted to the engine and were fuelled using the forerunner to diesel, Tractor Vaporising Oil (TVO).

Alan now in full flow, issued the following potted history of the Burgess engine
The K2 (44 SHP) engine was manufactured and supplied by the Burguss Company which was located on the bank of the River Kelvin, Scotland. The early days of the company were initially spent acting as a sub contractor providing small engines for individuals. This however changed, following the company’s recognition as a builder of effective and easily maintained boat engines.

In fact is was as a direct result of the ease at which this design of engine could be maintained, that the company became very successful within the offshore environment of the Scottish fishing industry and supplied vast numbers of the engine, including spanners, to the fishing fleets within the region. Furthermore, the K2 engine was adapted for use by Trinity House for use in lighthouses to provide power to air compressor units of fog horns or for generation of electricity to power the lights.

As a result of continued growth, the Burgess Company developed the RT, P, J, series with the largest being the K, series engines which provided varying Shaft Horse Power (SHP) via numerous arrangements of cylinders. This can be demonstrated in the J series (11 SHP per cylinder) and the versatile K series (22 SHP per cylinder), which could be further increased in power from the one cylinder K1 engine (22 SHP) though to the six cylinder K6 engine (132 SHP). Unstoppable Alan further states, it is believed that there have only ever been 800 K series units built and thus our K2 engine is considered to be a rarity. Indeed he finally states there are currently two leading companies which deal in Kelvin engines that being R.W Davis of Saul and Kevin Whittle of Whitchurch Shropshire.

Authors footnote its so nice to discover an impassioned individual.

The new heart of Rooster by Barbara Eales

Having purchased our K2 engine, we then started the hard job of finding a good quality boat builder able to take on the task of building a shell for it. We must have visited between 15 –20 boat builders in all. The points that we were looking for were:
1) The ease at which some builders would show you around their yard without a prior appointment; 2) How many boats they turned out in a year;
3) What else they manufactured at the same time as boats. (Some companies were fabricators for anything steel).

We felt very confident with Canal Transport Services in Cannock who had had many years’ experience in building boats and were willing to spend time with us giving valuable advice. We have had several holidays on narrow boats but this is the first time we have owned one. We had some ideas of our own such as, we wanted the stern and fore decks longer than normal so that we could spend as much time as possible outside. We had no idea how long each room should be inside the boat and a decision had to be made early on as the holes for the windows had to be cut.

It was a marriage of ideas with us using ‘CTS’s’ experience to guild and help us. We decided at first that we couldn’t afford the double curved bows that ‘CTS’ specialise in. With further thought that this bow would cut through the water with hardly a wave, and the boat would have a nice line we decided it would be worth it in the long run. We made numerous visits to the boat yard whilst the boat was being built and took several photographs, so many that Matthew thought that we were spies from a rival company. We now have a great photographic history of how the boat was built from the sole plate up. All the people at the boat yard were friendly, helpful and didn’t mind answering our endless questions.

The shell took approximately seven months to complete and on 7th June 2001, the boat was transported from Cannock to George Green near Slough. We had arranged with a local farmer friend that we could fit the boat out in one of his paddocks. We were able to obtain electricity from a neighbouring house, which saved us a lot of problems. After the boat arrived we stood looking at the daunting job ahead of us. First came the miles of batons to be fixed to the internal ribs which in turn you fix your cladding to.

Then the Kelvin had to have its bed made and this had to be done to precise measurements. A local farmer was kind enough to lend his cherry picker plus driver so that the Kelvin could be lowered into its place through the roof. Alan then set about the task of installing the electrics, central heating, tanks etc. etc. which all took about two years to complete working weekends and evenings.

The boat has both 240 and 24-volt systems via an inverter with a separate engine management system. The total domestic battery capacity is 450 amps and two alternators charge them. The engine is mounted on solid oak engine bearers and drives a two-inch shaft with a 23” propeller blade. The hob and oven are both diesel so we have no gas on board. The painting was more difficult than it looked but with expert advice and a site visit from Jason at Denham Yatch Station the arduous task of painting 60-foot times two was completed. A local artist and friend of ours was commissioned to do the artwork, which we were very pleased with.

Then came the day 1st May 2003 when the 80 ton crane came to lift the 19 ton boat onto the transporter to be moved to Croxley Green on the Grand Union Canal for her bottom to be wetted. The first voyage will be to the ‘Kelvin Rally’ which had taken us about two and a half hours by car last year but we are reliably informed will take us 12-14 days by boat (which was a shock). It was very reassuring to know that Kevin was just at the end of a phone if we needed advice.

Many thanks to all who helped us.

Lloyds register

MNL 1930 Official No.111392, Built Chepstow 1901(wooden) reregistered as motor 1928
L 74.6ft B17.1, Depth of hold 5.7ft, Gross ton 80, 60 B.H.P. Renwick Wilton & Dobson Ltd, 55 Fleet St, Torquay. Manager Fredrick C.Dobson, same address.

MNL 1951 Official No.111392, Built Chepstow 1901(wooden) reregistered as motor 1928
L 74.6ft B17.1, Depth of hold 5.7ft, net 45t Gross ton 80, 60 B.H.P. Renwick Wilton & Dobson Ltd, 55 Fleet St, Torquay. Manager Fredrick C. Dobson, same address

Mercantile register

To be researched

Mercantile Navy List loss
Edith ancillary information

Graham Farr via Robin Craig not registered extant 1953

Gloucestershire’s Sites and Monument Record

N.A buried boat with a metal upper structure which presumably belongs to it.

Records at National Archives Kew

2405 for 1904
2656 for 1909
3686 for 1923
6909 1947

0016 for 1939
0569 for 1940
1243 for 1941
1751 for 1942
2227 for 1943
2712 for 1944
3212 for 1945
3762 for 1946
1914 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1924 1926
1927 1928 1930 1931 1932 1933 1936 1937 1938
1915 1925 1935

1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913
1929 1934

Phase one report