The remains


Plaque at Purton


The Rockby is one of the six examples of canoe stern barges known to exist at the site which as a result is therefore considered to be one of the largest collections of this type of rare design.

Due to rapid silt deposition and heavy overburden to depths of c. 1.25m, it is believed that the Rockby is virtually intact with the majority of her interred timbers being in situ and preserved to a good level.

Exposed bow timbers are continually at risk from anthropogenic activity including the 2007 destruction of 1m3 (30% of exposed timbers) of foredeck oak planting for use as BBQ fuel.

LPB Identification
No. 22
DRM Identification
No. 10
DJW Identification
No. 23 & 24
Source (DMc)(LPB)(CG?)(AJP?)(JP)(GF)(DJW)(RS)
Name P.o.R Description Dates
Rockby Not in Gloucester register Wood lighter/barge (Canoe Stern barge) c.1890s
Official No. None Code None
Builders Gloucester, Joseph Barnard
Dimensions Length 68.4 ft Breath 12.6 ft Depths 3.11 ft

Tonnage –Gross c.40 – 60 ton Net Not known B.D Not known

Engines None By N/A H.P. N/A
Beached date 17th January 1946
Beached by Capt Frank Savage, Ken Price
Miscellaneous Seen in 26th March 1946 SMR photo
First Owners G.T. Beard - Gloucester


Historic overview

Following her construction using Forest of Dean sourced oak by Joseph Barnard at his Hempsted yard (Conway Jones 2008 per comms), the Rockby is understood to be have been primarily employed by the Gloucester based lighterage company, George Thomas Beard, for the transport of timber deals from Sharpness timber merchants to supply Gloucester’s inexhaustible hunger for construction timber and to Morelands Match Factory located on the towns Bristol Road. These duties are clearly illustrated in a recently discovered Graham Farr photograph which clearly shows the Rockby laden with timber deals, tied up along side timber warehouses at Canada Wharf in August 1934.
Very little is actually known about this vessel as it rarely appears in archives and was not required to be registered formally in the Gloucester Port Registers, possibly due to its use for inland waterways only (Barnett 2008). Its abandonment is one of only two such events which are officially recorded within documents held in the Gloucestershire Records Office. The Port Book includes the following entry:
Rocky (derelict)(lt) 17.01.1946 Avonmouth MT To Severn
Once located the Rockby very quickly filled with riverine silt, which appears to have been laid down evenly thus providing adequate support whilst affording effective protection and preservation of the timber. Furthermore the later location of the Severn Collier astride and on top of the Rockby may have in part damaged timbers but will have in the main, provided further protection from the elements.
And there she lies, slowly being reclaimed by estuary muds and sands. Today only her bow timbers break the surface of the swath, at peace. At least she would at be at peace if we overlooked recent anthropogenic destructive activity and the 2007 determined harvesting of her foredeck planks by a family of three generations to prepare a BBQ lunch, using a rare piece of Gloucestershire maritime culture as fuel.
Is this any way to treat a nations history?

Historic images
Rockby 1933

The Rockby hauling wood at Canada Wharf 1933 L.P. Barnett Collection

Rockby c1957

Purton looking south showing left to right:- The King (ex Sally of London), Katherine Ellen, Britannia, The Rockby and the remains of the schooner Island Maid c. 1957 and thus the Severn railway bridge takes centre stage. The David R MacGregor Collection

Rockby 1956

The Rockby showing signs of age c.1956 The Fred Rowbothom Collection

Recent images
Rockby 2002

Rocky port quarter showing the now destroyed fore deck timbers as part of the 2007 BBQ. L.P. Barnett Collection March 2002

Rockby 2002

Still at risk - the exposed bow timbers of the Rockby. L.P. Barnett Collection March 2002

Rockby 2002

View south showing the Rockby bows and her interred stern timbers holding aloft the Severn Collier in its jaunty slumber. L.P. Barnett Collection March 2002

Rockby survey - Janet Presley July 2010
Lloyds register

Not registered

Mercantile register

Not registered

Rockby ancillary information

Not located in 24th May 1945 photo F/6//544 SQDN (7038)
Seen in 26th March 1946 SMR photo
Seen in 1947 SMR photo
Not registered extant 1953
Mr Norman Andrews photo of 26th February 1967 (LC 67 – 9) shows Severn Collier, Rockby and Britannia located at the site.
Located in 13th May 1967 Norman Andrews photo
Bristol maritime enthusiast Jim Crissup identified the Rockby by name as being located during his 1986 survey
No reference in any Mercantile Navy List
Note reverse 23 with 24 in Dr A. J. Parkers Schematic Drawing
Canal lock size 72 x 17.6 x 4.6 in feet
Thames & Severn Canal lock size 72 x 12.3 x 4 in feet


Bob Green – Beaching helmsman
Bunny Hunt – Beaching crew
Capt. Frank Savage – Tug Primrose Skipper

Analogue transcripts
Charlie Langford

Crew member of the Tugs Addie, Resolute and Primrose. Date of interview 19.06.03
Mr Langford identified the Rockby as a barged on the bank at Purton and recalls that she was had painted bows and stern.

David R. MacGregor

Marine Historian and Author
Visual identification by name an marked 23 on 23rd October 1952 survey
Wind SSE 4.
Master A Jenkins, owner a Johns, Gloucester. Crew 4.

Dr Anthony J Parker

PURTON: KEY TO PLAN OF BOAT REMAINS Reference A. J. Parker (1998)
?? Rockby (Macgregor 23)

Ray Savage

Skipper of the tug Speedwell and canal employee. Date of interview 29.06.03
Mr Ray Savage did not identify the Rockby being to the best of his Purtonteam engine, however he further states that he always recalls her as a towed barge. Furthermore Charlie stated that the photograph of the Shamrock was taken by Jobert Miles the former Sharpness garage owner and whose son now runs the business.

Robert Schopland

Maritime Journalist listed the vessels at Purton as of 22nd April 1957 and identified the barge Rockby as being present. Furthermore earlier photographs taken by Mr Schopland during a visit of 21st September 1951 shows the Rockby in situ.

David Wheeler

Physical description and named by Mr Wheeler in 1957. Furthermore he listed the vessel in his later visit of June 1965 as Wooden vessel (Rockby).

Phase one report