This short clip provides a glimpse of the building boom of Victorian London, with millions of bricks being brought from Kent by barge. The last remaining Kent brick barge, ‘Westmoreland’ sunk whilst in her dry dock in 2018. In 2020, she made way for the restoration of another sailing barge, ‘Raybel’ of London.
As the London suburbs began to spread and sprawl towards the end of the 19th century, there was more and more demand for bricks. Most of these came from Kent, in one year alone, 450 million were taken to London! The Thames barges had a major role in this trade, bringing the distinctive yellow-coloured bricks to the city and returning laden with waste, mostly fire ash for use in the brick-making process. Watch this clip from the film, Red Sails, produced by Countrywide Productions, directed by Michael Maloney.
The last remaining brick barge, ‘Westmoreland’ is on the National Historic Ships register. Built in 1900 by A M White, in Conyer, Kent she was believed to be the only remaining Kent brick barge. She carried bricks for Eastwoods Brickmakers from Lower Halstow into London until 1955. Between 1955 and 1963, she was maintained by the company purely for racing in the Thames and Medway commercial matches. After 40 years of neglect, and following several appeals for funds, a start was made on restoration but in March 2018 the dry dock containing her sank during a storm. ‘Westmoreland’ sustained significant damage and in 2020 the dry dock was repaired in preparation to hold another barge in need of restoration, ‘Raybel’ of London, built 1920. The remains of the ‘Westmoreland’ were deconstructed, making way for the ‘Raybel’ project to start, and her history recorded.