Summary of facts known about 'Victoria' and sources
Sue Lewis, May 2017
Built 1897 at Aldous
Colchester Borough Watch Committee Minutes, which I haven’t seen but which are held at Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, include details of how she came about. I met Reg Shelley who researched the River Police and he had found the minutes at ERO and recorded all that was said about the River Police, transcribed word for word. My detailed handwritten notes from meeting Reg on 6th July 2011 include direct quotes from his notes.
Jan 1897 Inspector Thomas Poole requests a new boat, funding discussed.
Feb 1897 Put out to tender. Aldous gets job at £65.
April 1897 New boat tested and named 'Victoria'. 1897 was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Designed by? Mr Polly?
Peter Fisher who wrote “The Waterguard” wrote (to then owner Ben Powell) to say that he had located records of Aldous’ yard but that no record was included of Police boats. He says, “It was said that all of them were built there and designed by a Mr Polly, a draughtsman working there at that time.”
At Brightlingsea Museum we went through Parish Magazines which had “Boatyard News” including Aldous but no mention in 1896 to 1900 of any boats for the police. (Too small?) I have been told that the Aldous records are at the Nottage Institute in Wivenhoe but not sure if this is true. I have not seen them.
Early years from Watch Committee Minutes (via Reg Shelley, more info in my handwritten notes).
1902 recommended to improve her by altering deckplan and providing a cabin top approx £10
1908 “Needful work” approved, Aldous £19 17s 6d. Given the cost this must surely be the “carvelling over” of the hull which was a major job undertaken at around that time.
These dates show that for 5 years Victoria was a clinker half-decker with no cabin, for a further 6 years she was clinker with a cabin and then for 109 years (2017) she has been carvel with cabin.
At no time has she ever been a carvel half-decker.
Earliest photo – Victoria second from left?
The early photo (early 1900s) showing 4 police sailing boats appears in several books. Victoria is named as one of them.
Peter Fisher in WaterGuard captions the picture as “Prince of Wales leads the race for home waters in the River Colne followed by Victoria, Colne and Alexandra in hot pursuit”.
Harvey Benham in “Last Stronghold of Sail” also has Prince of Wales on the left. Prince of Wales was built in 1903 so Victoria would have her cabin by then. If the photo was taken before 1908 she was still clinker.
The second from left looks to be clinker (and possibly with Victoria’s distinctive cabin) which would put the photo at before 1908. If an original print of the picture could be obtained it could be blown up to shed further light. A report on the Police Regatta in 1896 mentions Colne at about 8.5 tons. Victoria (2017) is about 3 tons. She can’t be the one on the far right as that is a carvel boat with no cabin and Victoria was still clinker when she acquired her cabin.
I have not managed to trace the date or source of the photo – it might have been for a newspaper. We met Tom Moulton in Brightlingsea whose grandfather was in the River Police and he had a good, perhaps original, copy of this image framed on his wall. Tom has since died and I wrote to the family to ask if they still have it and whether we might scan and enlarge it – response awaited as at May 2017.
Photo of Poole in the cockpit of Victoria
I was allowed to make a copy of this picture by his great granddaughter Sue Haywood and there are extensive notes about his life and family which also came from her. I followed him with interest as he was clearly a charismatic figure, meriting a whole chapter to himself in Hervey Benham’s book “Last stronghold of sail”. Is it Victoria he’s standing in? The curved cabin top is right, the doors appear in later photos, though gone now (there’s a sliding hatch, added in the 1950s or 60s, perhaps when an engine was put in). The mainsheet horse and tiller match later photos. The cockpit looks just right and the size is right. In the police she was “his boat”. I say it’s her!
Sold to Tom Poole – 1920? (He still owned her in 1931 but not sure when he sold her)
Poole retired in 1920. An undated note from Tom Poole, of which we have a copy, says “I was Inspector of River Police and used Victoria especially for my own use. When she was sold out of the service I bought her”. Reg Shelley going through the Watch Committee Minutes found nothing about the sale of the boat. He thinks that perhaps Poole acquired her when he retired in 1920 after 30 years service, but there is no official record of this.
Photo of Victoria racing 1929 – and old gossip
We found 2 old postcards with this photo at Brightlingsea Museum with different captions. Also got some photos and clippings and notes in Poole’s own hand, from his great granddaughter (SH) which refer to Miss Fieldgate sailing Victoria in the Ladies race. I met Sheila Mortlock, (Sue’s Mum and married to Poole’s grandson) in 2011 or 2012 when she was already well into her 90s. She remembered Gracie Fieldgate and said they always thought there was something going on between her and Poole. She used to collect his rents. I have been unable to find out what happened to Gracie – might not have been her real first name. No evidence to suggest that she acquired Victoria from Poole (or any other boat).
1931-193? The missing years
Colne Yacht Club Members' Handbooks have Poole listed there 1921 to 1937 and Victoria listed under his name from 1929 to 1931. I asked Lyn Mathams (Brightlingsea), who has copies of these handbooks, whether Victoria appeared in the years following and she reported not. I would like to look at the records for the Brightlingsea Sailing Club as we know from newspaper cuttings that Poole was sailing her in their races too at this time. As at 15th May 2017 am awaiting a response from the President of Brightlingsea Sailing Club.
Who did Poole sell Victoria to and when?
This is a gap in our knowledge. Sid Hunt owned Victoria from the early 30s but we think there may have been an owner in between. Someone mentioned the possibility that Victoria was given to someone as a 21st birthday present – can’t remember if it was Ben or Marian who suggested this possibility. Ben says it doesn’t ring any bells so it must have been Marion or her brother. Not a very long-lived present if that was the case. It would also be interesting to see when she first appears in any records at Orwell Yacht Club under Sid’s name – so far the first proof we have in newspaper cuttings of race results from 1936.
Sid Hunt’s long ownership – 193? - 1981
So the date he acquired her is not known. Somewhere between 1931 when Poole still had her at Brightlingsea and 1935 when Poole writes about Victoria in reply to another owner. He owned her jointly with his friend Ralph Blowers at first and Marian told me they owned it jointly “for a while”. We have a copy of the bill of sale when Sid bought Ralph’s share dated 1937.
Letter from Poole 1935
We only have a copy of this letter not the original. It is a reply to an enquiry about the boat’s history. I met Marian Rosling, Sid’s daughter and neither she nor her brother John Hunt, who I also met, remembered seeing the letter and she said it was not among his papers. Perhaps Ben had a photocopy and his co-owner Roddy Munroe had the original? I have transcribed it – some bits are quite difficult to make out and there may be errors. Significantly I feel that from the tone of the letter he is not addressing the person he sold Victoria to but rather to a later owner. Hence the search for a missing owner. But this may not be the case. Perhaps the boat was sold directly to Sid Hunt through a third party, and then Sid wrote to Poole.
Accuracy of Poole’s letter
He is inaccurate about the exact dates as the above research shows.
Pictures of Victoria during Sid Hunt’s ownership
Marian Rosling is the daughter of Sid Hunt – she and her brother John sailed on Victoria as children with their parents and remember her well. Marian kindly lent me the photos to scan – individual scans are on the USB stick. Sid raced Victoria with Orwell Yacht Club before the war – a newspaper cutting with results of their sea races dated 1936 has him winning the most points in the sea races that season.
They told us that the keel-stepped mast was snapped off at the deck during a race to Roughs Towers and was put back in a steel sleeve, so approx 3ft shorter. Mast we think is original – it is hollow and was made from a spinnaker pole from a J Class. We believe she was laid up during the war. Marian and her brother told us that after the war (in 1948) the plate and lead keel was removed and Sid sold the lead for a good price. He did not replace the plate but had a small saloon which young family fitted in for holidays – see photos.
1981 time for new owner
Sid refused offers for Victoria from other members of the Orwell Yacht Club even though he was no longer sailing her. She was getting neglected. In 1981 (Sid was aged 69) he replied to advert in paper placed by Ben Powell and Roddy Monroe.
“Old traditional yacht required, 20ft plus, and condition, seen”.
Ben and Roddy met him and he must have liked them as he sold her for £625.
Ben Powell’s ownership 1981 to 2009
Ben and Roddy sailed her for a while and then undertook an extensive rebuild 1989/90/91. Detailed documentation of this work, carried out with the help of Mick Newman (who went on to co-found Spirit Yachts) is in the paper record. Roddy become much less involved over time and Ben had Victoria pretty much to himself until he decided in 2008 that he might sell her.
Engine Sid Hunt had fitted a Stuart Turner 4 which was not very reliable and was taken out for the restoration (late 80s) and initially not replaced. Ben and Roddy installed a 7hp Vire a year or two after the restoration. The propeller is offset on the starboard quarter.
Howard Wheelton and Sue Lewis: owners 2009 – 2017
Visit the blog for a more detailed account of our adventures, including 2 trips to France on her own lorry and 2 trips to the Netherlands by sea.
2010/2011: Between seasons Howard converted Victoria’s keel-stepped mast to deck-stepped, adapting a tabernacle from a Dauntless. This enable us to raise and lower her mast ourselves and was useful when preparing her for transport on her lorry and rigging her afterwards.
2011: Victoria’s boom was broken in a collision. The new one retains fittings from the original (if original it was).
Sue Lewis 15th May 2017