SB Lady Daphne in full sail in February 2018
United Kingdom
NameLady Daphne (1900–25)
OwnerSea Laurel Ltd
OperatorSea Laurel Ltd
OrderedDavid J Bradley, Rochester
BuilderShort Bros Ltd, Backfields, Rochester
General characteristics
Class and typeThames barge
  • 86 GRT
  • Net 116
Length90.75 feet (27.66 m)
Beam21.38 feet (6.52 m)
Draught7.31 feet (2.23 m)
PropulsionSail and diesel engine
Sail planSpritsail

SB Lady Daphne is a wooden Thames sailing barge, built in Rochester, England in 1923. She was used to carry various cargoes such as bricks and Portland stone on the River Thames and along the English Channel. She is infamous for sailing unaided from The Lizard to Tresco in the Scilly Isles, and safety beaching herself in two feet of water on shelving sand.[1][2][3]


Lady Daphne's original rigging taken from Underhill's measurements.[2]
Model in Rochester Guildhall museum
Plaque inside the cabin, commemorating her build. Reads 'Designed and built by Short Bros (Rochester Ltd.) Rochester' Is gold in color and the lettering is worn, showing its age.
Plaque inside the cabin, commemorating her build. Reads 'Designed and built by Short Bros (Rochester Ltd.) Rochester'

Lady Daphne was commissioned for building in 1921 by David J Bradley of Thomas Watson (Shipping), a prominent barge owning company in Rochester, Kent. She was built by Short Bros. She was one of the last sailing barges to be built from wood, but was built from a plan, (from lines) rather than laying off a half hull model.[4] Lady Daphne was launched in 1923, and Bradley named it after his new-born daughter, Daphne. She had two sister ships, the SB Lady Jean and the SB Lord Haig.

On Boxing Day 1927, Lady Daphne's skipper was washed overboard and the two remaining crew members abandoned her off the Cornish coast. However Lady Daphne, with only the skipper's canary on board, sailed herself through the rocks of the Scilly Isles onto a few tens of yards of safe sand.[3]

On the death of Bradley in 1928, she passed to his widow who transferred her in 1937 to R & W Paul, the maltsters from Ipswich. She had an auxiliary engine installed 1936 and assisted in the salvage of the Herzogin Cecile which was beached off Salcombe.[4]

Lady Daphne remained with R & W Paul, and had her rigging removed becoming a motor-barge. She was sold to Taylor Woodrow in 1973 and re-rigged, then took a berth at St Katharine's Yacht Haven in 1973.[1] She was sold to Elisabeth and Michael Mainelli in 1996.[5] and later sold to Samantha Howe and Andrew Taylor in 2017.[5]

Related Companies

Thomas Watson (Shipping)

Thomas Watson (Shipping) named their vessels prefaced by "Lady".[6] Thomas Watson (Shipping) ultimately owned 55 sailing barges and 39 coasters along the Medway and Thames. Brothers David J Bradley and Stanley Bradley joined the company as partners.[citation needed] The firm closed in 2000.[7]

R & W Paul

R & W Paul were maltsters based in Ipswich, Suffolk where in the 1880s, they had 4 maltings and ten barges. Maize and barley were imported from America and eastern Europe, and malt, barley and smaller quantities of wheat and oats were shipped outwards.[8] Using the tides, Thames sailing barges could reliably do the Ipswich-London run in 12 hours and 14 hours to return.[1] Of the 16 barges that sailed to the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, 6 were owned by R & W Paul.[9]


She has appeared in BBC's ‘Britain Afloat’ television show which was broadcast in September 2017. She has appeared in BBC's 'Heir Hunters' television show, Series 9, Episode 5 (of 20), “Morris/Evans” which was broadcast on 27 February 2015.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Lady Daphne- Historic Ships UK
  2. ^ a b Underhill, Harold (1938). "III". Sailing Ship Rigs and Riggng (Second, 1958 ed.). Glasgow: Brown, Son and Ferguson. p. 73.
  3. ^ a b Cooper, F S; Chancellor, John (1955). A Handbook of Sailing Barges. Adlard Coles. p. 16. ISBN 0-229-64232-2.
  4. ^ a b Carr, Frank (1951). Sailing Barges. Peter Davies. p. 219.
  5. ^ a b "Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli FCCA FCSI FBCS". World Traders. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Stepping On Board 'Lady Daphne': A Voyage in History". Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Thomas Watson shipping-any info please?". Ships Nostalgia. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Ipswich Historic Lettering: Pauls Malting". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Thames Discovery Programme - Barges at War". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  10. ^ Mainelli, Michael (27 February 2015). "Lady Daphne On Heir (Sic) |". Retrieved 18 September 2018.