Everyone knows about the great modern highways of England - the A1, the M1, the M25, but not many know about the oldest and longest highway, the River Trent.    Rising in north Staffordshire, the Trent flows for 274 km (171 miles) before finally joining the Humber at Trent Falls.

The Trent has been used for thousands to give access from the North Sea and Europe to the centre of England for invading armies, traders and travellers as far inland as the present day towns and cities of Lincoln, Newark, Nottingham, Leicester, Stoke and Derby.

From the middle of the 18th century onwards as the Industrial Revolution transformed these towns and trade prospered, the river was improved so as to enable larger ships to carry goods to and from the rapidly growing centres of population.

Locks and weirs were built, stretches of the river were deepened, and a towing path was constructed so that ships could be pulled upstream. The great engineer William Jessop (1745-1814 ) was responsible for much of the work which had a lasting effect on Newark and Nottingham

By standardising the size if the locks he encouraged ship owners to build larger ships so as to take advantage of the possibility of increasing tonnages. So the standard Trent size of cargo carrying barge was developed, at 82ft.6ins long and 14ft.8ins beam ( 25.15mtrs x 4.48mtrs) . These vessels were rigged with a small square sail similar to those used by the Humber Keel and could be towed by horses where necessary. Some had boilers, a steam engine and paddles fitted for use as tugs.  By the time Frank Rayner became engineer to the Trent Navigation Company in 1887 this standard hull was being built of iron, and very soon after that, of steel.

This meant that there could be a variety of different uses for one standard hull shape. Steel lighters (barges without engines) were the simplest form and this represented by LEICESTER TRADER. Several of these could be towed by one powered ship.  Another version was the development of a tanker barge with oil-tight bulkheads for delivering oil to the new petroleum depots on the river, and heavy oil to industrial sites.

Photograph of all these types can be seen on board LEICESTER TRADER.

LT at newark castle.jpg (63002 bytes)



Photograph by Rodney Clapson

LEICESTER TRADER is now the last surviving example of the Trent lighter. She marks the latest and final development of the design as her hull is partly rivetted and partly welded.  Examples of both these techniques can be seen in her cargo hold.

She is now being restored and refitted by the Friends of the Newark Heritage Barge Group and she will be used as a permanent floating display, research and education centre in Newark to keep alive the History of the River Trent, its trade, and its boatmen.  

Open Days are arranged regularly. Her fitting-out berth is alongside at 24 The Weavers, Newark NG24 4RY but she is at present  undergoing hull maintenance ashore at a wharf in Newark, and will be returning to The Weavers shortly.

LEICESTER TRADER can be open at any time for you by prior appointment.

Exhibits include copies of the original builders drawings for the vessel, historic joiners and shipwrights tools from long-gone Newark shipyards and a large exhibition of archive photographs of life on the River Trent.

You are welcome to all events and to meet the Trent enthusiasts and enjoy a good day out in different surroundings.


To become a Friend of Newark Heritage Barge or for more information

visit the website at www.newarkheritagebarge.com


contact the Project Leader at les.nhbarge@googlemail.com



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