Monday, 12 December 2011

I Wouldn’t Touch It With A Barge Pole!

[definition: informal used to express a refusal to have anything to do with someone or something]

They have released more details about the Queen’s Jubilee next summer. There is to be a floating pageant on the Thames, with a great flotilla of boats.

pageant route

oposter man for all seasonsThey announced over the weekend that the design has been approved for the Royal Barge. I listened intently – I’ve always been fascinated by these vessels, ever since I saw “A Man For All Seasons” in the 1960’s. The King’s Barge arrived at Chelsea, and the oarsmen, perfectly synchronised,  put up their oars.

[That moment even got onto the film’s poster – click on the picture to see it]

When we moved to Bexleyheath, we frequently went over to the Greenwich Maritime Museum, and looked at Henry’s Barge. The real one [above] not the one used in the film [below]

henry 8 bargeman for all seasons

On Sunday morning, I heard them say on Radio 4 that the Queen will be travelling on a new Royal Barge “The Spirit Of Chartwell”. This confused me a little.

HUD1965005W00262-08Winston Churchill’s home was Chartwell. I remember Churchill's Funeral in 1965. We had a day off school it was cold, and we had fish and chips for lunch.

And they put the coffin on a barge and took it up the Thames [and all the riverside cranes dipped in salute]

Surely they aren’t going to make the Queen ride on Churchill's Funeral Barge? I thought

But I needn’t have worried! That barge [the Havengore] is relatively small – and can carry a dead PM in a coffin but not a live monarch!



Over the years it has been extensively restored and is still in use now – and it will be part of the Queen’s Flotilla.

But the barge Her Majesty will be using is already called The Spirit Of Chartwell, and is in current use providing de luxe voyages along the Thames [website]

Here it is now

current barge

And here is the artist’s impression of how it will look next year

royal barge

The stern has a Perspex canopy, so even if it rains, HM will be warm and dry! The event is planned for Sunday 3rd June, at High Water, and a thousand boats will muster for the event . The website [see here] says…

“The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant celebrates Her Majesty's sixty years of service by magnificently bringing the Thames to life; making it joyously full with boats, resounding with clanging bells, tooting horns and sounding whistles; recalling both its royal heritage and its heyday as a working, bustling river”

2012 jubileeSo listen out for the resounding brass and clanging cymbals then [see also 1 Corinthians 13]

I am unlikely to be on the river that day – more likely to be involved in The Big Lunch [here]



  1. I'm guessing that the barge will not be people you will not see "tossing the oars"....and no one will 'catch a crab' in front of HRH!
    Jane x

  2. Angela, you have no idea how useful your blog has been to me. Your childhood memories have been very useful to research I am carrying out at the min. A delightful blog, and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments, I would not touch it with a barge pole either! the 8 new especially commissioned bells (BAL)are not the only new Bells coming to london this year, the Olympics kicks off with another new bell (BAL), 27 tons and costing near as many millions. I would put money on it that it will be rang when the light bearers torch enters the stadium. I will be writing a blog about the flotilla myself, the quote from Corinthians invaluable. I posted this vid last night, I think you might enjoy it, its about the Titanic, but oddly the jubilee ties in. The link to the blog with it is in the notes. thanks again for a very enjoyable read.
    Sandra Barr


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