The war's end

THALATTA is a spritsail barge which was built by W B McLearon at the naval yard in Harwich. She was launched in a ceremony on 6 February 1906 by Coralie Clare Horlock, daughter of the owner, Frederick W Horlock of Mistley.  THALATTA left Harwich for Mistley to load her first cargo, wheat for London. In 1906, as well as the east coast ports of Lowestoft, Harwich, Mistley, Hull and London, her passages took her to the near continent including Antwerp, Dunkirk, Nieuwpoort and Rotterdam. THALATTA’s first skipper was Jim Alliston, of Mistley.

Although THALATTA was originally spritsail rigged as a coasting barge, at some early stage she was converted to a boomie (a gaff ketch). In the later years of Horlock’s ownership the barge made frequent passages to Newcastle and Sunderland, and down Channel to Appledore in North Devon. She also took malt from Mistley and Ipswich to Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford in Ireland. In November 1908 she was caught in a heavy storm when on passage from Sunderland to the Thames, and was towed into Lowestoft with a broken main gaff and a torn sail. Seven other barges were either lost or driven ashore in this storm.

During the early part of the First World War THALATTA spent her time working around the Thames estuary. This was followed by a year of lightering in the Thames. She then joined the fleet of vessels engaged in transporting goods to the armies across the English Channel. In 1916 she ran between Shoreham and Dieppe deep loaded with pig iron (the intermediate product of smelting iron ore, to be worked into wrought iron in finishing forges).

On 25 May 1917 THALATTA was sold to the Wynfield Shipping Co of Grimsby. A 70 hp two-cycle vertical oil engine was fitted in the former skipper’s cabin aft, and she was used as a supply vessel to the Humber boom defences, with Percy Richmond as her skipper. Her fore-hold was converted to accommodate her crew which now included an engineer. Her rig was cut down and she worked from Grimsby as a motor barge.

At the end of the war Herbert Body, of Southend, took over as skipper, and she was employed taking materials to Flanders for post-war rebuilding.  Between 1919 and 1921 her passages took her to Paris, Antwerp, Brussels and Rotterdam.

In May 1923 THALATTA was sold to her skipper, who traded her to ports on the north-east for coal and the south coast with wheat, as well as the near continent. In August 1933 she was sold again, this time to R & W Paul (Maltsters) of Ipswich, and she was employed carrying imported grain from Royal Docks in London to Ipswich, returning with malt or flour.

In January 1967 she was sold to John Kemp of Maldon, for use by the East Coast Sail Trust, who became her owners in 1971. THALATTA began her new career in educational study and adventure cruises, with a contract from the London Borough of Redbridge. Thousands of children have since worked as crew on the voyages, alongside the permanent crew of three.


Following major restoration work THALATTA was re-launched at St Osyth on 1 August 2011 for fitting out in the winter months, and left there for Maldon on 10 April 2012 to start her first season after the rebuild. THALATTA is currently fully operational as a sail training spritsail Barge and is located at St Osyth, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.