Watson's Shipyard

Boat History ...


Aerial view of Watson's Shipyard
T.B. Heathorn/Britannia

T.B. Heathorn was a steam tug built by Watson's Shipyard in 1893 and believed to be one of the oldest tugs in Britain. She was built for the South Metropolitan Gas Company as a coal fired steam powered lighterage tug, 68ft x 15ft 6in and 60HP. She was used by the Gas Company and its successors to tow coal and coke barges and to attend craft around the premises. In 1956 it was sold to Greenhithe Lighterage Co. who rebuilt and converted her to diesel over a period of 18 months, the new 7 cylinder diesel engine giving her 325HP.


T. B. Heathorn being delivered to South Metropolitan Gas Co. for use on the Thames 1898

She was renamed Britannia and was in regular use until the serious decline of the lighterage industry which drastically reduced work for tugs. She was sold in 1982, one year before Greenhithe Lighterage ceased trading in the industry. She was then sold to a Medway company for less than a year, before being sold again in 1983 to another Thames company.
1971 renamed Britannia converted to diesel for the Greenhithe Lighterage Co.
For four years she was owned by Greenhithe Salvage Services Ltd of Gravesend, (no connection to the earlier owner), and was used only infrequently though remaining in good order, always available when required. The Company Director Richard Henderson was anxious for this historic vessel to be kept in working order and not to be scrapped and eventually a buyer was found to ensure that this would be the case.
Douglas Stevens & Partners bought Britannia making her part of a collection of historic vessels moored adjacent to the Butlers Wharf complex in London's Lower Pool. She was surveyed prior to the sale and found to be in extremely good condition considering her age. It was her new owner's intention to keep her that way and to use her on special occasions.

Bustardthorpe/Miranda Mayne
Launch of Bustardthorpe from Watson's Shipyard 1914

Bustardthorpe was built by Joseph Spencer Watson in 1914 for T.F. Woods & Co of York. Her hull was constructed of riveted Swedish rolled steel, the dimensions being 28m x 5.18m (90ft x 17ft 6in) and she weighed approximately 98 tons. Named after an area of York, close to the Race Course she was originally built as a lighter (dumb barge) fitted with a tiller and open wheelhouse for weather protection.
She was drawn behind Wood's Steam towing barge "Ouse" between Hull and York, with regular trips from Goole to York. In 1931 she was registered as a motor vessel after conversion fitted with a 75kw diesel engine occasionally towing other lighters as well as carrying her own cargo. Her wheelhouse had been enclosed to a more traditional powered keel style by the mid 1950's.

At some point she was refitted with a new engine with 170hp at 1850rpm which was down rated to 120hp at 1500rpm. When owned by TF Woods of York Ltd., her cargo consisted of up to 120 tons of pulped paper rolls imported from Sweden for the Yorkshire Herald newspaper group. She also transported cargo for Rowntrees Confectionary Company of bagged cocoa beans, sugar, hazelnuts and gum, delivering to their warehouse in Wormald Cut, off the River Foss in York, occasionally returning to Hull with a backload of cocoa residue.
In 1949, Bustardthorpe was involved in an incident at Castle Mill Lock on the River Foss. She crashed into the lower gates of the lock wholst coming down the Foss, due to a failure of reverse gear. The gates sustained some damage the details of which can be found in notes of the Foss Navigation Committee in York Archives. She was sold in 1957 when for a short period The Dry Pool Engineering and Dry Dock Company became owners.
Rowntrees Warehouse, Wormald Cut 1950's

Unloading using a Myraf grain elevator at Queen's Staithe, York

In 1958, William Gilyott & Co Ltd of Hull took ownership and one year later another incident occurred at the same location. Whilst passing through Castle Mill Lock she collided with the Pump House suction pipe causing 60 worth of damage, the reason thought to be due to the engine overheating causing a loss of control of the vessel.

T. F. Wood & Co Ltd repurchased her in 1960 and as well as deliveries to Rowntrees she could be seen unloading at the Queens Staith, TF Woo''s Albion Wharf at Skeldergate York. She was one of the first Barges to be unloaded by a "Myraf" grain elevator which consists of an Archimedes screw in a long tube driven by a motor. This was used to extract wheat, corn or maize imported from Canada out of the hold and up into the warehouse.

In 1964 Furley & Co Ltd of Hull purchased her and continued with much the same shipments along the Humber and Ouse. Although not recorded in the ships register, late in 1964 Gillyott and Scott became established as major tug and lighter owners by amalgamation of the companies of William Gilyott, John A. Scott, T.F. Wood, Furleys and John Deheer.

In 1972 she was purchased by David Hornshaw (Hornshaw Water Transport) of Goole and transported aggregate from the River Trent. In 1979 she was involved in the dramatic recovery of "Ennerdale H" which had been left grounded on the banks of the River Trent after floods. A cargo of steel wire destined for tyre factories in the Midlands was transferred by crane working from a floating platform into Bustardthorpe.
The recovery of Ennerdale H 1979
Plan of Bustardthorpe as waste/oily water collection vessel

She was purchased in 1991 by Messrs Colt Industrial Services Ltd., and was converted by Mobile Marine Services to a waste/oily water collection vessel at a cost of 30,000 for the servicing of larger ships on the river Humber and the port of Hull.

The tanks were professionally fitted at a shipyard to carry the cargo with a forward hold for clean diesel dispensing to ships, the middle larger tank which was divided into four compartments was for waste water collection and the aft area was used as a processing/pump room for the main waste tank which was fitted with heating coils. These coils heated the thick oily mixture to ease the flow of oil through the pumping/processing procedure.
Whilst under the ownership of Colt's, Bustardthorpe was placed on the National Register of Historical Vessels compiled by the National Maritime Museum (London).The then owner of Colt's had served as skipper of the Bustardthorpe many years previously when he was in his 20's and had worked her for approximately 7 years whilst she was owned by TF Woods.
In 2004 Richard Moore became her next owner, with the intention of sailing her to Cornwall and converting her to a live aboard home for his family. On setting sail from Humber they encountered problems with weather and an oil leak near Lowestoft, where they took shelter. Due to a change of fortunes Bustardthorpe was again put on the market.



Bustardthorpe 2005 at Greenwich for maintainence and cleaning 2005

After many viewings she was purchased by Paul and Lindsey Wincote in August 2005 with the idea of converting her to a leisure vessel on the river Thames. She was sailed down to Gravesend and Greenwich with some work and repairs being carried out, before going on to Abingdon reaching there on 6th November 2005, having travelled 102 miles and negotiated 31 locks in 5 days.
Plan of conversion to leisure vessel Miranda Mayne
The conversion to a leisure vessel began and after much thought the new owners decided to rename the ship Miranda Mayne after a very dear friend

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