Fringe Box



Photo Feature: Steamboat Saturday at NT’s Dapdune Wharf

Published on: 25 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2015

A busy, steamy Dapdune Wharf as the Dapdune Belle (white on the left) sets out.

Photographs by Harry Eve

Click on any image to enlarge

The Puffing-a-Wey event, held at the National Trust’s Dapdune Wharf last Saturday (July 18), attracted 11 steamboats from across the South of England, to be admired by all those close to the river.

Most were towed to Guildford and launched from the Dapdune slip, but the 42 foot ‘Surta’ came from Henley. It had recently accompanied the Royal Barge ‘Gloriana’ at the Thames Magna Carta commemoration.

Wey Steam Boats 3 2015

It was steamboats whichever way you looked.

The Steamboat Association (SBA) organiser for the Dapdune event is the Revd Mark Rudall, a retired CofE priest, said: “The National Trust, who own and maintain the Wey Navigation, have several steamboat owners who regard the waterway as their ‘home waters’, so a friendship has built up.

“Steamboats are some of the most colourful and interesting boats on UK inland waterways so a gathering of steamboats at the picturesque Dapdune Wharf in the middle of Guildford makes for an interesting visitor attraction and draws a lot of people.”


Two head off line astern towards the town.

Most steamboats on the water today have been built fairly recently, older ones have succumbed to the ravages of time or are museum pieces. But the modern boats are built just like the early ones and reflect their design and often their construction techniques.

Revd Rudall continued: “Some of the engines used are very old and really interesting to look at, but boilers, of course, cannot last all that long so ours are all modern and built to exacting modern quality standards.

“The boilers have to be tested each year so safety is carefully monitored. The boats burn coal on the whole, but some burn oil – in use as a fuel on steamers of all sizes since the 1880s – while one or two very recent boats burn propane, which is expensive, but clean.

Wey Steam Boats 5 2015

Is a sombrero the best headdress for a steamboat captain?

“All the steamboaters had a great time at Dapdune Wharf and were grateful for the National Trust’s hospitality and welcome. Their organiser, Wey lengthsman, Richard Cant, [known to Dragon readers as the author of Richard’s Wey articles] knows some of us well and he encourages the event by bringing in other attractions alongside the steamboats, among them a selection of exquisite model steamboats by Guildford Model Engineers.

“We were able to take some visitors for a short ‘try out’ puff down the river on the day, but not everyone’s insurance encourages that because steamboats are complex beasts with lots of hot fittings and moving parts – but they’re always full of interest.”

Wey Steam Boats 11 2015

The Dapdune Belle can be seen here in all its glory.

It is expected that there will be another event next year. If you fancy joining in you could always buy your own steamboat. The SBA website sometimes advertises boats  for sale. A 30ft, classic beauty might sell for £50,000 plus, but a straightforward open boat 14-20 ft long will sell for anything upwards of £6,000 to £8,000.


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