Sad end for oldest Thames tug – Britannia

Ihave been informed today that the oldest surviving Thames tug BRITANNIA ex T.B. HEATHORN (built 1893) is currently taking on water and sinking in Barking creek and has been sold by her owners for scrap and will be towed from Barking Creek at high water on Tuesday 3rd October to E.R.M at Erith by Plashy/ General VIII. A very sad end to one of the finest looking tugs to operate on the Thames. A great pity that people buythese historic vessels and simply have no intention of looking after them - writes

I willdocument and photograph her journey on Tuesday


T.B. Heathorn was a steam tug built by Watsons Shipyardin 1893 and believed to be one of the oldest tugs in Britain. She was built of riveted iron construction for the South Metropolitan Gas Light& CokeCompany as a coal fired steam powered lighterage tug, 68ft x 15ft 6in with 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 365HP.

She was renamed BRITANNIA by Greenhithe lighterage in 1956 and continued to operate commercially until 1986 with her final operaters being Greenhithe Salvage Services. In 1987 she was sold to Douglas Steven & Partners (for preservation at Butlers Wharf) and found to be inexcellent condition considering her age. She waslater sold on to Mr. Tears at Rainham (GBR) for fishing trips.

During the late 1990s she was sold as a houseboat in Barking Creek and in 2001 sank on her moorings. She was raised in 2002and forced to move due to developers building in the area and up until 2010 stayed in her original layout unchanged since 1956. Although the hull needing work, being in such original condition and layout, she would of been an ideal vessel to preserve around this time.

In 2010 she was sold to a new owner who rather criminally removed the wheelhouse and bulwarks and stuck two ugly wooden living areas on the deck and that is how she remained until now.

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