‘Baden Powell’: Kings Lynn cockler

‘Baden Powell’, double-ended cockler built 1900

The ‘Baden Powell’, believed to be the last of the wooden double-ended Kings Lynn cockle boats, is being restored with support from the National Lottery. She has been moved to Brian Kennell’s St. Osyths yard in Colchester, Essex for work on the hull. She will return to the quay at Kings Lynn in late summer, 2016, where volunteers will complete her restoration prior to her sailing again on the Rivers Great Ouse and Wash.

The 33 ft. ’Baden Powell’, was built in 1900 by Walter Worfolk’s company, based on the River Nar. She cost her owners, Harry and William Cook, £50 plus an extra £5 and cruet set for Norfolk’s wife Lily as a gesture of gratitude. Succeeded by sons Gerald and William, the company continued boatbuilding until 1981. William died in 1994.

In her heyday, ‘Baden Powell’ beached on the sandbanks of the Wash with her crew raking up and bagging the cockles.

There is a second Kings Lynn boat in need of restoration and a sympathetic home, the ‘Gladys’ a Kings Lynn Prawner with a counter stern.

Kings Lynn is an old mediaeval town and port, a place that time forgot with the largest connected waterway hinterland of any port in the UK. Its mediaeval heyday of Baltic timber and furs and North Sea trade was overtaken by the discovery of America when the whole ‘caravan’ moved west to Bristol, Belfast and Liverpool. Kings Lynn was forgotten.

The town still has wonderful great ancient, albeit run down, warehouses lining the riverfront together with the last surviving Hanseatic warehouse in the UK. It has cobbled lanes running into ancient market places with flint patterned churches and reed choked dykes. The atmosphere is quite magical with a sense of having stepped into one of the old Dutch waterside towns. The 1659 Old Custom House holds a very helpful Tourist Information Office offering a variety of different tours and there is a Fisher Folk Museum – not open on Mondays.

'Baden Powell', LN138
‘Baden Powell’, LN138