River Colne Shipbuilders

A Portrait of Shipbuilding, 1786-1988
John Collins and James Dodds

John Collins’ research of the shipping registers has brought to light this fascinating and almost forgotten history and shown how the shipyards of this small river have played such an important part in the affairs of the nautical world.


The Colne shipbuilders pioneered new designs to produce some of the fastest sailing cutters and schooners ever built. The ingenious shipwrights constructed specialist vessels, destined for every corner of the globe, including boats which could be transported overland as kits for reassembly in inaccessible places.

The book charts the history of the shipyards and boat builders from 1786 to 1988 and follows the river, flowing downstream from Colchester Hythe, through Rowhedge and Wivenhoe, and on to Brightlingsea. Each yard is covered, from Stuttle’s at the Hythe to Aldous at Brightlingsea, from the speedy racing cutters and schooners of Sainty and Harvey to the innovations of iron and steel from Forrestt’s and Rowhedge Ironworks, and finally to the last yards which closed in the late 1980s.

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The generous co-operation of local people, the Colneside museums, Essex University and the Colne Maritime Oral History Project (with Lottery funding) have enabled the story to be brought to life through a rich array of illustrations and personal accounts. Produced in full colour with over 350 images of shipyards, workers and vessels, the book is replete with maps, photographs, lines drawings and half-models and includes ten linocuts by James Dodds.


“The plates are just gorgeous and our authors haven’t stinted on reproduction, creating dozens of bold double-page spreads (with several of Dodds’ own fine lino cuts) of evocative moments in both yacht racing and yacht building history… this is also a social history text – of a long-gone way of life. It’s an inspirational book to dip into.”
Classic Boat Magazine (March 2010)

“This book looks at the five towns, 42 builders and thousands of vessels, and provides an excellent portrait of shipbuilding in a small corner of north east Essex. The authors are to be congratulated on producing a superb work, illustrated with a wonderful selection of photographs and drawings, telling the story of the Colne’s yards, craftsmen and products. Very highly recommended.”
Ships Monthly (March 2010)

“This book can thus be taken to represent a far larger story. It is also, however, a buoyant and even charming work, an eclectic amalgamation of interesting stuff, assembled in the spirit of a crapb ok kept by an eccentric-eccentric as in ‘of unconventional interest’ – but favorite great uncle. Or, a in the case of this book two great uncles.”
Wooden Boat magazine (USA) (January/February 2010)


Jardine Press 2009


320 x 240mm, 328pp,
over 450 illustrations printed in full colour.

Paperback sold out!

limited edition of 250,
signed & numbered with slipcase & CD
£75 [buy]