Lightermen Video

Dated 1985

This very interesting video was made in 1984. It follows a tugboat towing rubbish down the Thames to Canvey Island. The part of the video that is of interest to us is at the end where the tugboat and barges go up Hole Haven.

The text that goes with the video is as follows:

This visually stylised film shows the crew of a tugboat towing rubbish down the tidal Thames, telling versions of their industrial history between episodes of skilled labour, breakfast, a waterfight and plenty of cups of tea.

Starting at Gravesend, the tug ‘General VII’ visits sites along the Thames and its bywaters to collect and deposit huge open lighters of rubbish. London’s docks were largely derelict at this time;the big cargoes had all gone to Tilbury and beyond, but re-development was years away.This crew were among the last few hundred of London’s lightermen. Some of them are sentimental about the past, including apprenticeship on the sailing barges; others celebrate the passing of casualised labour and mass poverty.

The tug in the film was lost with all hands in a collision the following year; this particular crew were on transfer from their usual vessel the ‘Merit’.

Comments about this page

  • Absolutely fascinating, Janet. Keep adding these films please. They’re so interesting.

    By Maureen Buckmaster (07/08/2010)
  • I will do my best Maureen. I found this one by sheer chance. The Claxton ones I still have lots to process. Keep watching.

    By Janet Penn (07/08/2010)
  • Wonder why it was filmed in b&w. Facinating

    By David Bullock (07/08/2010)
  • Is it actually Pitsea where they unload?

    By David Bullock (07/08/2010)
  • It seems to be up by the flood barriers which are near Pitsea Tip. If you look at Google you can see a landing place there and roads up to the tip.

    By Janet Penn (07/08/2010)
  • I sent details of this page to a friend in Dominica WI who came back with this reply, quote :- . Thanks I watched the film which was made in 1985 on Corey’s Lighterage and they still are doing the rubbish today. The guy who they interviewed and he spoke about his days in sailing Barges is someone I worked with at Vokins Lighterage the company I mainly worked for but I can not remember his name

    By Ian Hawks (07/08/2010)
  • I am the ex Lighterman Ian Hawks sent the link to. For ex lightermen I started a group in Friends Reunited called River Thames Lightermen for the exlightermen and their familys to keep in touch with. I included a link to your vidieo

    By George Staden (10/08/2010)
  • They go under the Occidental Jetty don’t they at 8:33?

    By Joe Mander (14/02/2012)
  • Absolutely Joe

    By Janet Penn (14/02/2012)

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