The 75ft stumpie barge Nellie can be sailed single-handed by her owner Prof Diana Montgomery, because she doesn’t have a topmast.
Based at Maldon, the Nellie seldom leaves the Rivers Blackwater and Colne, though she did return to Kent for Tony Lapthorn’s birthday celebrations at Hoo Marina. Nellie had been the first vessel he had owned, having been bought in 1952 and operated as a motor barge. She still flies the R Lapthorn & Co flag though the company stopped trading in 2008. The barge’s rebuild started at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, in 1985 and she was then towed round to Cook’s at Maldon in 1995, and put back to sail in 2005.
The Nellie had been built in 1901 by the brick maker Charles Cremer at Hollow Shore in Oare Creek near Faversham. Cremer had built a number of barges in the open, but during the time the Nellie was built, the Big Shed roof was put over her. In 1896, Cremer had built his barge Atlas that was used in trade until being sold to the Westwood family for a sailing home. The barge later became a houseboat on the Thames until she was broken up after sinking in 1981.