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Gravel Sloops

This is the story behind the 1907 Humber sloop that was to help fight two wars and join the search for the Loch Ness monster.

Phyllis 1907. Loa 68ft, Beam16ft.4, Draft 7ft.4, Official Number 124785. Yard Number 60. Sail Number 26148.

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Updated: April 2016

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Gravel Sloops

GravelsloopsatSpurn - Copy

Site created May 2009

By Kath Jones & Alan Gardiner.

If anyone has any memories of working for James Barraclough or have a story about working on Phyllis or any of the Barraclough barges we would like to hear from you.
If you have any comments or questions on the content of the site or would like to add something to it regarding any of the sloops we would also like to hear from you.


This picture of Humber sloops waiting to go aground at Spurn Point on a stretch of gravel bearing beach known as the Binks was sent to us by Phil Mathison, author of "The Spurn Gravel Trade" (ISBN 978 0 9546937 6 3). Phil's book explains the complexities of the gravel trade and looks at the conflict between trade and coastal erosion.
 The sloops look to be 68ft Loa and are carvel built so we are looking at a period after 1850, they have all round bulwarks with aft and forward holds so are generally sea going vessels with topmasts rigged and ratlin's on the shrouds that indicate that the crew would be required to work aloft at some stage, although neither sloop seems to have the topsail rigged here. Notice the starboard leeboards are partially lowered, . One reason for this could be that the captain is feeling for the bottom with the board, although not wanting to damage it he is using it to check the depth of water under the ship and also to indicate how flat the bottom is as the sloop slowly runs over the gravel bed.  These sloops have no motor so are using the northerly flowing ebb tide and the wind to maintain position over the gravel bed.
 Sloops that were usually employed in the coasting trade were not well suited to hauling gravel or cobble stone from places like Spurn point, the high bulwarks made it difficult to load the ship but if nothing else was available it was paid work to do. Of course a sloop heading down to the Wash or further afield to collect cargo would load a few tons of cobbles for ballast to help stabilise the empty vessel while sailing. It's possible to be the case here.

Interesting Links

Humber Keel & Sloop Preservation Society.

National Historic Ships Reg.

Thames Barges

Goole Waterways Museum.
Dutch Barge Association.
In The Boat Shed.
Humber Packet Boats.
Leicester Trader.
Humber Yawl Club.
Brilliant Star

Rodney Clapson

Richlow Books

Sailing Barge Research

West Country Keels

Waterways of the Humber
By Christine Richardson.

Barges and Docks

Sheffield Ships.

 Sloop "Amy Howson"

 Sloop "Spider T.

 Keel "Comrade".

 Keel "Daybreak".

 Keel "Southcliffe".

 Keel "Hope".

 Keel "Eden".


The Barton Regatta

Leeboards Explained

Telling The Differance


Contact Us Here

NG-319 Sloop
Picture from HKSPS collection.
Left. A sloop being loaded with sand on Spurn Point.
 It was fairly labour intensive work with only a few hours to load the ship, here the two crew on the sloop don't seem too stressed as the ship is being loaded through "sand holes" cut in the deck to allow sand to be tipped in using the baskets without going onto the ship to tip it in the hold. The holes would then be covered and sealed, the water would be pumped out using the hand bilge pumps at each end of the sloop before the tide re-floated her and she made her way up to Hull or across to Grimsby to discharge.
 The sloop pictured here is Billy Fosters sloop "Paradise" and has no bulwarks and a single hold area with no "sparring" deck and is therefore equipped with "crab" rollers.
 This picture appears in a publication by George A Jarrett called "Memories of Spurn" and is commented on by Jim Thomson in the HKSPS journal 67 from 2008.
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