Built by JAMES POLLOCK, SONS & C0 Ltd. Naval Architects, Shipbuilders and Engineers, 3 LLOYDS AVENUE, LONDON, E.C.3. SHIPYARD, FAVERSHAM, ENGLAND.

Life Ring



Tug Swallow Sketch 3 crop_139 Swallow 6 National Historic Registerd Ships flag 2





Local people volunteered to be trained at SPACE by Dr Toby Butler as oral historians, recording a wide range of narratives and personal perspectives that were at risk of being lost forever.


These oral histories were recorded in homes, community spaces, at SPACE and on a narrowboat along the River Lea Navigation. Funding was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund with support from The View Tube, British Waterways and The Waterways Trust. These oral histories have been archived and are publicly accessible at The Hackney Wick Museum and SPACE.


On 17th January 2011 an interview of Barry Milsom was recorded, as he had worked on the East London Waterways from 1957 dredging the River Lea Navigation and surrounding rivers, as well as hauling goods. Barry has intimate knowledge of the River Lea and worked with Tug Swallow.


What follows is a transcript of part of that interview carried out by interviewers: Liz Pillar and Nicola Wissbrook.




So would you know at the start of the day what you would be doing?


Our dredging foreman in the old days used to be at Tottenham Lock every morning, and that's when there'd be a tug going down. There'd be empty barges moored up below the lock, the Enterprise would be moored there, she would take them down and bring them back loaded. You'd have a Swift or Swallow, one of those tugs that would be above the lock and that would take the loaded up and bring them back. Now normally we'd swap crews, like if I was Limehouse I would be turning round and going back down the next day, if that makes sense to you?




I wouldn't stay with the barge right through to Brimsdown, we normally did four barges, so there'd be four hands, one on each barge, and then a couple on the tugs, so there'd be six of us.


Tug Swallow was built in 1937 by James Pollock, Sons & Co Ltd; The Shipyard, Faversham, Kent, England. She is known as a launch tug for use on rivers and was used in London on the River Thames, River Lea and the Regents Canal. James Pollock shipyard built twelve of these small tugs and they were known as the Jubilee class, on account of their first example being launched in the same year when King George V marked his Silver Jubilee in 1935. The Jubilee Class tug attracted customers in Britain and abroad for the United Africa Company at Takoradi in 1948.

Jubilee Class Tugs built by James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd.

Tug Swallow on the Regents Canal, London



Unknown Jubilee Class Launch Tug

VARLET, River Lea, Tottenham Hale

Built in 1937 by James Pollock Sons & Co. Limited of Faversham, VARLET is a Jubilee class tug of steel construction with a 60hp diesel engine by Widdop & Co. Limited of Keighley.


She was built for the London lighterage company Vokins & Co and was used in the West India and Royal Docks and on the River Lea. During World War II, she worked up to Henley on Thames and continued to work up until the early 1980s.


On the 5th August 1986 Varlet entered the collection of the Museum of London Docklands and was permanently moored as an exhibit outside the Museum in West India Quay Docks, Canary Wharf, London.



1938: Built by "James Pollock Sons & Co Ltd" at Faversham (GBR) (YN 1684)

1938: delivered to "Vokins & Co Ltd" at London (GBR)

1975: To "Thames & General Lighterage Ltd" at London (GBR)

1980: To "Cory Lighterage Ltd" at London (GBR)

1982: To "General Marine" at London (GBR), renamed VASSEL

2006: Spotted at Bow Creek entrance owned by ??

2008: Sold to Mr Kennedy at Wakefield,Yorkshire (Prop,shaft & engine sold)

2009: For sale - bare hull

2009: xx/11 - To "Wakefield Wharf Co" at Wakefield,Yorkshire

2011: Currently for sale at Wakefield Wharf on the River Calder

2014: Now in private ownership and is being restored into a cruiser

07/1939: Launched by "James Pollock Sons & Co Ltd" at Faversham (GBR) (YN 1709)

07/1940: delivered to "James Jones Canal Towage"

19xx: on permanent hire to "Samuel Williams & Sons Ltd" at London (GBR)

196x: absorbed into "Samuel Williams & Sons Ltd" ("Dagenham Lighterage Ltd") at London (GBR)

1971: sold or broken up ??? by Williams at Dagenham (GBR).

James Pollock shipyard in Faversham began shipbuilding in 1916 and was one of the best known and respected shipbuilding yards, building over 2,000 ships varying in size from barges up to coasters of 1,100 tons. The early 1950's saw a general boom in shipbuilding in the wake of the Second World War, but gradually there was more competition from Japanese welded ships, which at first Pollocks did not worry too much about. By the end of the decade, the carriage of freight was beginning a period of major change. Lorries were beginning to replace lighters in the transport of cement and grain and the demand for both lighters and tugs fell. This would hit Pollocks very hard, for these craft formed the backbone of their work. By the late 60's the firm was on the threshold of some big orders, but a volatile and unpredictable market saw increases in both materials and labour costs. This meant build contracts had become impractable as it was difficult to build vessels at the prices quoted and still return a profit. At this time fewer cargo ships were arriving at London's docks and this signalled the decline of the Thames Lighterage Industry. James Pollock of Faversham Shipyard became a victim of these times by failing to diversify sufficiently to escape the effects of decline from bulk haulage at the London Docks, to containerisation at Tilbury.


On Friday 27th February 1970, one of the best known shipbuilding yards, James Pollock, Sons & Co Ltd shipyard was to go out of business and closed for the last time after falling into receivership. This long-established family firm had been in existence for ninety-six years and still had a first class team of skilled craftsmen. James Pollock shipyard built some remarkable vessels of unquestionable quality, who could still perform technically as well as any, but had simply run out of money.

James Pollock Shipbuilders Plaque

SAMADEN, James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd_021 Varlet_(1)[1]_(2)_029 VARLET_033 SWALLOW On The Regents Canal, London. James Polloc VARLET, James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd._126


VARLET, James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd. (3)_129


VARLET, James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd. (2)_127


Moored as an exhibit outside the Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London, now restored and permanently moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Moored as an exhibit outside the Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London. Now restored and moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf

Next Page Vassal, James Pollock and Sons, Brimsdown Rolling

VASSAL at Bow Creek

VASSAL, River Lea, Enfield Rolling Mills, Brimsdown

Vassal Update

Tug Vassal 3

Tug VASSAL restoraion is well underway - July 2014

Interview of Lighterman Barry Milsom

Bolinder Engines

James Pollock's began to use Swedish Bolinder engines from 1910, the firm then became the London representatives and agents for Bolinders, part of a network which spread to all corners of the globe. Pollocks also held the UK agency for over twenty years. Bolinder engines were soon proving useful on the English canal network. A dozen canal barges were supplied, each with a 15 BHP engine to the Grand Canal Carrying Company in 1912, and many more to the largest of the canal carriers, Fellows, Morton & Clayton, including the Lupin, one of a set of of twenty narrow boats designed by Walter Pollock. To tow the pre-existing unpowered canal boats, double-ended tugs named George and Dudley were bought by the Birmingham Canal Company. Still, it was the use of Bolinder engines in canal barges which would revolutionise the canal trade in both Britain and Ireland, making it faster, and more competitive with railways in the carriage of bulk cargoes.  


The Jubilee Class tugs were one of the first on the River Thames to be powered by Diesel. Swallow was originally powered by a 2 cylinder 60 bhp Widdop diesel engine. This meant she was well-suited to towing up to four lighters (barges) short distances at a lower cost of crew and fuel than larger tugs.

Widdop 60 BHP Diesel Engine

James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd. Shipbuilders Plaque

In 1978 Anthony Mayes of Wargrave discovered Tug Swallow lying in a creek at Sunbury in a derelict condition without an engine. He then purchased Swallow from 'British Waterways' and set about restoring her into a wonderful cruiser, but also took great care to preserve her original character as a river tug, by retaining her towing hook.


Length: 40', Beam: 9'6", Draft: 4'. Her hull is of round bilge, riveted iron construction and is powered by a single 150bhp 6 cylinder Ford Dorset 2704ET turbo charged diesel engine, which turns a large 34" propeller. She is powerful for her size, but still very economical and cruises at only 1100 revs. Tug Swallow is a very capable cruiser able to cruise the European canal network.

Jaymar 5

Moored as an exhibit outside the Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, Canary Wharf, London, now restored and permanently moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Widdop Diesel Engine VASSAL, James Pollock, Sons & Co. Ltd (2) Unknown Jubilee Class Tug, James Pollock, Sons & C