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Henwood & Dean

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Thames wooden boatbuilders maintaining the traditions of the past

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‘The Flying Fox', as she was originally named, was built in 1914 by J Crichton & Co as a passenger launch for use on the River Dee at Chester. After the First World War she was used by the Duke of Westminster to entertain war wounded at Eaton Hall, his country house in Cheshire. The launch was sold in 1923 and moved to Bristol. There then followed a succession of owners, including David Higgins who bought her in 1974. He installed a steam plant and built a cabin modelled on the Windermere launch ‘Branksome’, and used her both in his home town of Stratford upon Avon and in Italy where he had a house on Lake Como.

In 2008 'The Flying Fox’ returned to the River Dee and a year later was acquired by the current owner and brought to Henwood and Dean, where the steam plant was removed and replaced with an electric motor. Her hull was painted and she was generally spruced up, enabling her new owner, Simon McMurtrie, to enjoy 3 seasons on the water in the re-named 'Lady Charlotte' before commencing a major restoration and rebuild.

In 2012 one of Henwood and Dean’s biggest projects to date began. The boat was lifted out of the water, the cabin removed and the riveted steel hull sent to Southampton where engineer Michael Williams carried out a long and punishing job restoring or replacing the plates and rivets. Work on the building of a new cabin began at the boatyard and the two components, together with a silent 10kw electric motor installed by the Thames Electric Launch Co., were reunited in the spring of 2013. This magnificent boat then began to emerge as an extraordinary example of craftsmanship and design.

Working closely with Simon and yacht designer Andrew Wolstenholme, the Henwood and Dean team produced a unique and beautiful launch whose style and construction are absolutely faithful to the Thames tradition. While the transition from her origins was a quite complex journey her essential suitability for her present role was recognised, and her rebuild was a melding of traditional style with modern requirements. Lady Charlotte returned to the water in the summer of 2014.

In 2015 she won Classic Boat Magazine's 'Powered Boat of the Year' Award, and at the TTBR Tradtional Boat Festival she won the Osland Trophy for structural restoration, and the Simmonds for electrically powered craft.