LONDON LIGHTERAGE TUGS
The London lighterage industry came about in the very early 19th century because of the need to tranship goods from ships berthed in the overcrowded river and to convey them to the riverside wharves. There was no enclosed dock system at this time. A dumb barge or lighter following an almost standard design evolved and varied very little over the years except in size and the fact that construction changed from wood to iron and later steel. In the early years these lighters were propelled about the river by lightermen using sweeps, long oars, and using their knowledge of the tides and currents to make progress. When steam power came into being it was soon realised that small tugs could be used to tow these craft. It soon became a common sight to see several of these barges under tow, up to the maximum of six barges allowed in tow of any one tug. During the 1950's there were 8000 lighters in use on the Thames and over 250 lighterage tugs.
The tugs had several design features that enabled them to carry out these tows effectively. To enable them to reach wharves above London Bridge the steam tugs were fitted with funnels which folded down as did masts, a feature which continued into the days of the later motor tugs and enabled them to pass under the bridges. With the coming of the internal combustion engine a smaller type of launch tug or "tosher" evolved, with a shallow draught and low air draught enabling it to venture far up the creeks and canals of the Thames and also to pass under unopened swing or bascule bridges in the dock system. Bulwarks had a pronounced 'tumble-home', especially at the stern, to minimize damage from the swim headed lighters.
This site attempts to list fullest details of many of the tugs employed in the London lighterage industry. Owning companies are listed in alphabetical order on the top buttons. Please take note that this site is a work in progress and will be added to over a long period. If you wish to contact me with information, photographs or corrections please feel free to do so using the contact button.
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Please make contact via the Contact button in the top menu for further instructions.
ADVICE ON USING THIS SITE
Tugs owners are listed alphabetically. Within each owner tugs are also listed alphabetically. Please be aware that some of these tugs changed hands frequently and may not be listed under the owner you are searching. It is strongly recommended that you use the search option below by inserting the vessels name.
CAN'T FIND WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR?
If it is a larger Thames tug it may appear on our sister site. Click on button below to visit.
A few visitors are reporting difficulty in finding the THAMES TUGS site. This has been checked out thoroughly and no fault has been found this end. In fact over 4100 visitors accessed the site during May 2013. If you are only having occasional difficulty accessing the site and are reading this suggest you save this link, as it appears to solve the problem. If you know somebody with the problem perhaps you could pass the link on.
IF YOU ARE AN EX THAMES LIGHTERMAN WHY NOT HAVE A LOOK AT AND POSSIBLY JOIN THE RECENTLY SET-UP FRIENDS REUNITED GROUP? ITS EASY TO JOIN, JUST GO TO
IN THE DROP DOWN LISTS SELECT GROUP AND IN THE NEXT BOX ENTER
RIVER THAMES LIGHTERMEN.
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