Richard Freebody is the current owner along with his sisters Melanie, Katie and Helen of this well-known traditional boat-building family and team at Hurley, who have been crafting traditional wooden boats on the Thames for over 300 years. He kindly opened his Workshops for a private viewing to Beaulieu 100 members on 10th May.
Now the only firm in the UK specializing in the manufacture and maintenance of traditional wooden Thames craft, the opportunity to see the workshops and look at a whole range of boats in various stages of build, repair restoration and storage was utterly fascinating.
The parallels between our motor interests at Beaulieu and the traditional, specialist boat world were obvious. With a staff of approximately 18 craftsmen and women Freebody’s build roughly one significant boat per year with the rest of their time taken up repairing, restoring, servicing and mooring a wide range of wooden river-craft.
Responding to a number of questions throughout visit, Peter identified: the principal wood for construction was normally sourced from Africa (mahogany) and he tries to buy a tree (good for several boats) every year. A 30 foot slipper launch takes about 18 months to build. The river boats are finished with traditional paints and varnishes (many coats) whilst those destined for salt water tend to be finished with epoxy coatings. It would take many pages to record just a fraction of what we learned on this amazing visit. Do check on the Freebody website to find out more.
Our visit finished with a very jolly luncheon at the Olde Bell in Hurley and we dispersed in good order as Midsomer Murders teams were filming a new episode next door…
…cue eerie theremin music.
Grateful thanks to Peter and Linda Campbell for this lovely write up, and to Wai man Cheung for the lovely photographs!