Crossfields were the leading builders of Morecambe Bay Prawners. They also built yachts, rowing boats and dinghies, including Arthur Ransome's 'Swallow' and 'Coch-y-bonddhu'. There were two boatyards operated by Crossfields in Arnside: Beach Walk on the shore run by William where 'Severn' was built and Top Shop on Church Hill which was run by his younger brothers and then his nephews as Crossfield Brothers.
'Severn' is one of ten Rivers Class Yachts built by William Crossfield & Sons for the River Mersey Yacht Club. Six were built in 1912 with a further four in 1914. If it was not for World War One it is probable that more would have been built. Four other Rivers Class yachts are thought to be still in existence: 'Deva', 'Dart', 'Esk' and 'Styx'.
The boats were raced by the Royal Mersey Yacht Club from 1914 to 1937. They were part of a trend towards one design boats. The River Class were used largely for evening racing with a season running from May to July, with a regatta race in July. The boats were also raced in August at the Straits Regatta on Anglesey. They were raced for prize money. In 1914 prize money was £44. (The average wage was £67). The Royal Mersey Yacht Club was based in Rock Ferry, a then prosperous area of Birkenhead with large houses overlooking the river. The design was based upon the Blackpool and Fleetwood Jewel Class. The boats were originally opened decked. They had a crew of three. The boats cost £50 each delivered afloat with a further £14. 18s for the sails.
Original owners of Rivers Class boats included members of the Liverpool merchant elite, three silver medallists in the 1908 Olympics, one of whom was also a Rugby Union International and a British Lions manager. In 1925 the 17th Earl of Derby, who was Commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club and Secretary of State for War 1916-18 and a leading racehorse breeder bought 'Ogwen', followed by 'Deva' in 1926. The Derby in the title refers to the West Derby area of Lancashire, which includes Liverpool, rather than the city of Derby.
'Severn' is thought to have sunk in a Royal Mersey Race on 23 July 1914, just 11 days before the outbreak of World War One. She was probably the 'Elwy', joint winner of 1913 Rivers Class Series. In 1914 'Elwy' was sold to Commander Harvey Broadbent of HMS Conway, a merchant navy officer training ship anchored off Rock Ferry and a stern disciplinarian.
In 1927 she was discovered on the bed of the River Mersey and raised to the surface by the Mersey Docks Board salvage boat 'Salvor'. She was found to be in good condition and sold for £25 by the Receiver of Wrecks to Joe Wallace, aged 25 of New Brighton, a member of the West Cheshire Yacht Club. Joe Wallace named the boat 'Severn'. It is thought that Joe Wallace did not keep her for very long, moving on to bigger yachts.
'Severn' is next recorded in 1939 winning a race at the West Cheshire Regatta.
In the 1970s 'Severn' is recorded as being in Essex. It is not known how she got there. Around 1980 she was featured in an article in the Longshoreman Magazine. In 1986 Jon Wainwright, owner of 'Deva' another Rivers Class yacht, mentions competing against 'Severn' in a race on the River Blackwater [“Only so Many Tides”]. 'Deva' beat 'Severn'.
Around 1999 'Severn' was moved to the River Medway in Kent. In 2013, after several years of neglect, 'Severn' was taken back to Roach Estuary, Essex just north of Southend where she was restored over a two year period.
In 2018 she was bought by Arnside Sailing Club for £5500 funded by a Heritage Lottery grant and returned to the village where she was built. She is moored in the Kent Estuary at Arnside, which lies at the top of Morecambe Bay in summer just 300 yards away from where she was built.
A Friends Group has been set up to maintain, fund and sail her.
crossfieldyachtsevern [at] gmail [dot] com (subject: Message%20from%20the%20OGA%20website%20about%20'Severn') (Contact us by email) if you wish to join or support the group.