Our Wey barges: Reliance and Perseverance

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Come and see our traditional Wey barges at Dapdune Wharf. Climb aboard the Reliance and get an idea of the scale on board. See Perseverance moored on the island and waiting to be restored to her former glory.

The traditional boats on the Wey were wide timber barges; not the brightly painted narrow boats you see on most inland waterways today. A Wey barge could carry up to 80 tonnes. They had no engines and rarely used sails, mostly they were towed by rope and sometimes poled or rowed.

In the 1890s the Stevens family established Dapdune Wharf as the Navigations’ main boat yard. Eleven Wey barges were built here between 1910 and 1940.  The first barge built here was called Perseverance and since then, there has always been a Perseverance at Dapdune.  The one you can see moored up by the island is Perseverance IV.  We are currently launching an appeal to raise funds to protect her for the future.

The other Wey barge you can see on the Wharf is Reliance.  She was built in 1932 and worked between Guildford and London Docks.  In June 1968, she hit Canon Street Bridge in London, was holed and sank. In 1989 she was found, abandoned and in poor repair on the mudflats at Lee-on-Sea. National Trust staff undertook the ambitious project of refloating her and towing her back to where she was built.

Reliance was refurbished in 1995, a project which took eight months. She has since undergone further restoration, which is as yet unfinished, but a firm eye is kept on her. There is one other Wey barge in existence: Speedwell is languishing in the National Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port, with little chance of being restored.

Come and meet Reliance and Perseverance and discover more about the history of the British waterways.