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12 Market Place, Faversham, Kent ME13 7AE

'Goldfinch' Barge

Goldfinch Barge
Goldfinch painted by the marine artist Reuben Chappell (1870-c1940)

was built in Faversham in 1894 by John Matthew Goldfinch; she was 98' 6" long, with a gross tonnage of 144 tons.

John Goldfinch took over the Standard Quay shipyard in Faversham in 1867. He was to become the town's most famous individual shipbuilder. Born at Deal in 1820, he came to Faversham in 1853 and started building sailing barges at Coal Exchange Wharf, by the present Swan & Harlequin pub, in 1854.

After three years he moved to King's Head Quay, where he stayed till he moved to Standard Quay. In 1896, at the age of 74 he retired, handing the business on to his son George, who continued to run the yard till about 1921. He served as Mayor in 1875, 1886 and 1887, when he helped organise colourful local celebrations of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. He had moved to Standard Quay House (the building till recently occupied as offices by Faversham Fencing Ltd) when he took over the shipyard on the Quay, and he died there in 1905.

By the time he moved to Standard Quay, Goldfinch had already designed and built at least 15 sailing barges. Here he now built at least another 15, some or most for local clients like the Cotton Powder Company, which had started making guncotton at Uplees in 1874.

Almost the last, and certainly the largest, launched from the Quay in 1894, was the eponymous Goldfinch, of 144 tons. Schooner-rigged and one of only two barges to carry proper topsails, she was a tour de force of design and construction.

Launching of Sailing Barge 'Goldfinch'

She made a special name for herself when in 1930 she was sold for service in Guyana, then British Guiana. Though designed only for estuarial and coastal trade in Britain, she successfully negotiated the rather rougher waters of the Atlantic, reaching her destination in 45 days. Once arrived, she served as a tender in the liner trade and then as a general river and coastal cargo vessel.

It was not until 1949 that she was condemned, after 55 years service on both sides of the ‘Pond'.