orridge and Taw, like all England's great rivers, evolved their own distinctively local craft. Rowing lighters possibly date back 700 years. But the real Torridge barge probably developed in the nineteenth century from the West Country's local sea-going smacks and ketches. They were single masted fore and aft riggers used for lightering and general cargo handling on Taw and Torridge.
Later, following the dock building boom that began in the 1870s, specialised barges were built for digging gravel on the ridges in the estuaries. (Avon- mouth, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport all expanded rapidly at this time). When the barges had grounded on the ridges, the two-man crew had perhaps a couple of hours to shovel 30 tons of gravel aboard. Before getting their 5 or 6 shillings, they then had to off-load it at Barnstaple or Bideford. Today most of the gravel has been dug away although five working barges still survive.
Sullivan, Dick. Old Ships, Boats & Maritime Museums. London: Coracle Books, 1978. P. 31.
Last modified 11 April 2006