The organisers of the charter barges working from Ipswich are worried by plans to build a road bridge across the River Orwell just below the Ipswich lock gates.
One of these barges is the Melissa built by Fay at Southampton in 1899 for EJ&W Goldsmith, of Grays, who then had the largest fleet of sailing barges on the Thames. She sailed until 1944, then became a motor barge for the London & Rochester Trading Co. She had been sold for scrap when Captains Osborne and Duke bought her, deploying her in the Orwell ballast trade between Landguard Point and Ipswich Dock in 1970-75.
The Melissa was sold to Fred Webb, who ran a barge repair yard at Pin Mill, Suffolk. Before he died, Fred started to rebuild her, replacing her rounded chimes (where the sides meet the bottom) with square ones.
Fred’s two sons Jonathan and Richard then decided as a memorial to their father to rebuild the barge. The reconstruction took ten years and the hull was replaced apart from some of the plates under the engine room. They lifted the deck up amidships, to give more head room for passengers, and increased the draft aft to make her steer better under power. They also built a two-tier cockpit in the main hold for passengers and installed a bar, which had been a Lloyds Bank counter.
Jonathan Webb is her skipper on a very active summer season undertaking charter work from Ipswich.