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East Anglia Future 50

The last sailing barge built in Ipswich returns home

PUBLISHED: 05:30 18 April 2019

Skipper Gordon `Willie Williams on board the Ardwina, the last sailing barge to be built in Ipswich, in 1909, and which is on a return visit to Ipswich. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

Skipper Gordon `Willie Williams on board the Ardwina, the last sailing barge to be built in Ipswich, in 1909, and which is on a return visit to Ipswich. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

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The last sailing barge built in Ipswich is back in her home port more than a century after first taking to the water.

The sailing barges Victor and Ardwina tied up in Ipswich Waterfront
Picture: DAVID VINCENTThe sailing barges Victor and Ardwina tied up in Ipswich Waterfront Picture: DAVID VINCENT

The Ardwina, which is now moored in Ipswich Waterfront, was built by WH Orvis in 1909 for EJ Goldsmith of Grays and was working around the country carrying a variety of cargo up until 1956.

She is reputed to have been the last barge built in Ipswich, though boat building has continued to the present day in the wet dock area.

The Ardwina was laid-up after a collision in 1956 and was restored as a pleasure craft or yacht.

Now she is owned by a Rolfe Judd, a London firm of architects and designers, and is usually berthed at St Katherine's Dock, in London where she is often seen sailing on the Thames and passing under Tower Bridge.

Skipper Gordon `Willie' Williams, who is also from Ipswich, said: “She used to carry a variety of cargoes, including china clay, and she did a lot of work out of Whitstable in Kent.

“She has been restored, but like a lot of old boats, always need something done - she is 110 years old.

“We hope to be here for maintenance work, for a couple of weeks, and when we get the painting done, and the sails up again, we will be on our way.”

Willie Williams has been sailing barges since 1959 and been on the Ardwina since 1982.

The Ardwina also takes part in the annual Thames Sailing Barge race at Pin Mill on the River Orwell.

The Ardwina is tied up alongside sister sailing barge, the Victor, Her skipper, Wes Wesley, trained on the Ardwina with Willie.

The Barge Victor is a tourist cruise boat on the Orwell and kicks off the season this weekend, with a private charter on Easter Saturday and a public cruise on Easter Monday.

The Barge Victor was also built in Ipswich, in 1895, and had a long commercial career, and was restored to her original rig in 2006.

During the 1939-45 War she loaded munitions on to crusiers and warships at Chatham dockyard, and had narrow escapes from bombing during that time.

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