Photo: Hydar Dewachi

Thamescraft Dry Docking Services, Greenwich Yacht Club & Cory Riverside Energy

Greenwich became a key site for shipbuilding and breaking yards from the second half of the 19th Century, as companies such as Rennie and Maudslay Son & Field established yards there, encouraged by landowners such as Morden College. Towards the turn of the 20th Century, the area also became a key place for barge building and repair, particularly around Wood Wharf, where Pope & Bond continued their barge yard until 1996. 

Today a number of boatyards still operate in the Greenwich Peninsula, including Paul Deverell’s yard at Bay Wharf. After training as a welder with Murex, Paul started his career on the Thames at Greenland Dock in the 1970s, when he was called in to convert passenger boats which he developed into a successful business, General Welding and Marine Services. 

By the 1990s, Paul had bought his own dry dock and was running his business, by then known as Thamescraft Dry Docking Services, at Piper’s Wharf in Greenwich. The company has received many prestigious commissions over the years. In 1988, they built the floating Jean Michel Jarre stage for Destination Dockland. He also built the floating steps for HMS Ark Royal, enabling the Queen Mother to disembark. Most recently, the company has refurbished Woolwich Arsenal Pier.

In 2005, a legal battle began that forced the business to move from Piper’s Wharf to a new site at Bay Wharf, due to redevelopment in the area. The business has operated at Bay Wharf since 2015, but Paul still faces a number of challenges to ensure the site is fit for purpose. Paul Deverell considers his yard the largest on the tidal Thames. He was joined by his son Jack in 2012, who was apprenticed as a waterman and lighterman, and has brought new aspects to the business with his skills as a skipper.

Further around the Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich Yacht Club runs a DIY boatyard for its members with a slipway, and facilities for craning and boat repair. The Club was founded in 1908 by a group of local businessmen, who met at the pub ‘The Yacht’ to draw up plans for a club. They formed a clubhouse on a barge at Pear Tree Wharf, where Norton’s barge yard was also operating, which continued until the 1980s, when they were offered a premises upstream together with Tideway Sailing Centre for the Disabled. In 1999 however, the club was forced to move again due to redevelopment around the Millennium Dome, and redeveloped the sand jetty at Pear Tree Wharf into a new clubhouse with landslide yard, workshops and event spaces. They continue to offer space for boat owners to repair and maintain their vessels, and have a year round calendar of races, members events and socials. 

Further around the peninsula, at Bugsby’s Reach, is a barge yard run by Cory Riverside Energy for the maintenance and repair of their tugs and barges. Dating back to 1785, Cory has been a lighterage company on the Thames for centuries. In the 1890s Cory was primarily transporting coal along the river to support the thriving industries of London, as well as for domestic use. However, the Clean Air Act of 1956 changed things considerably, and the company eventually moved to transporting oil, and now waste, on the Thames.

The company initially had a barge yard initially at Erith, and later established the current yard at Charlton, building new dry docks and warehouses which are still on the site, in the 1950s. John Daly was apprenticed at Cory in the 1970s, alongside six other apprentices. At the time the yard worked in partnership with another company, Mercantile Lighterage, and in 1979 also bought the Thames and General Lighterage Company, becoming the largest lighterage company on the Thames. When Mercantile Lighterage closed in 1983, the yard was under threat and the workforce at Cory shrunk to just five barge builders, including John Daly and his colleague Brian Young. After a few years the business recovered, and John became the yard manager in 1996, and continues to work at the site today.

Now known as Cory Riverside Energy, the business has in recent years been awarded large contracts to manage the transport and incineration of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste every year. In 2017, Cory has four apprentices working at the yard, including the first female boatyard apprentice. Through a collaboration with a college in IPS Rochester, these young men and women receive the training and skills they need to be the next generation of boatyard workers on the Thames.

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