The Lighter arrives

You may have noticed a boat on wheels being towed into the Waterfront Building plaza today. This is the Stour Lighter, an example of an 18th and 19th century cargo barge that is being brought back into use for heritage tourism. UCS is hosting the restored boat, dubbed the John Constable after the painter, for a press conference at 2 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Some facts about lighters:

  • Constable (1776-1837) loved to paint them, most famously in Boat-Building Near Flatford Mill.
  • They ferried mainly coal, corn and bricks up and down rivers. One large lighter could carry enough bricks for two semidetached houses. 
  • Lighters were chained into convoys of two, pulled by a horse. When the towpath gave out, the horse jumped onto the lighter and then jumped back onto the path when it reappeared on one side or the other.
  • As railways took over heavy freight, lighters were put out of business. This one has been idle since 1914 when it was sunk into river mud that preserved it.

The John Constable will run on electric motors rather than horse power when it is relaunched for the public next summer. It was raised in 2010 and restored by the River Stour Trust, the Pioneer Sailing Trust, and the Managing a Masterpiece programme.

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