February 2019 News Update

 Rowhedge Heritage Trust is Still Active (and hoping to expand)!!

The committee is meeting regularly, planning activities and events in support of its Charitable objective to bring people together to celebrate the maritime and social heritage of Rowhedge.

We were delighted to be able to welcome additional committee members last year which has enabled us to be more organised and proactive.

However we realise that we have not communicated well with our supporters and this news update is intended to start to put that right!

The Heritage Hut

You will probably know that the Heritage Hut was removed in January and has now been replaced with a new building. Some of you may be wondering about this so we have briefly set out the story below.

After successfully running the Hut for ten years from 2006 to 2016 and following the decision to stop work on the Riverside Centre project we agreed to allow the Rowhedge Coastal Rowhedge Coastal Rowing Club (RCRC) to take over the running of the Hut free of charge to support them in the running of their club in 2016. In 2018 we sold the Hut to RCRC.

We were pleased that the RCRC included in their planning application the commitment to ensure that the new facility would not only fulfil the needs of the Rowing Club but also be available for community use and take account of the original 106 agreement which gave the land to the Parish Council for a Heritage purpose.  Recently we held a meeting with the PC to discuss this issue and to ensure its availability for the 2019 Seafood Picnic and Harris Rally.

Freemason’s Painting and Alistair Taylor memorial bench

The painting saved from the Freemasons’ Arms that was painted by an Italian prisoner of war has been moved from the Hut to the Village hall. The plan is that RHT will pay for the painting to be built into the wall in the foyer. The memorial bench is being temporarily stored in a committee members’ garden prior to being restored to the Lion Quay area.

Rowhedge Archive Exhibition 23rd and 24th March 2019 Rowhedge Village Hall.

In 2017 we held a highly successful two day exhibition at the village hall. We are going to repeat this again this year. On March 23rd & 24th we will be displaying examples of the some of the vast amount of archives and artefacts amassed and donated to the Heritage Trust.   We are looking for a few additional volunteers to help with this; let us know if you would like to help in setting up the exhibition, or in future research / archiving activities.

The archive is housed in the loft in the village hall, which has now been lit and furnished to make it a comfortable working space. We have recently started the mammoth, but pleasant task of organising and cataloguing the artefacts and documents.


Firecrest One

Firecrest One is a 15-foot clinker built sailing dinghy designed and built by Rowhedge Ironworks (originally sited where the Hut is now) in the early 1950s. After linking up with the owner through one of our Heritage events we arranged a loan and then bought the historic dinghy. As she is nearly 70 years old she needs to be constantly maintained and more restoration has been needed. Last year Fabian Bush replaced the decks.   We are aiming to launch her and sail her again this year. We are aiming to have an active sub-group of people who would like to sail and help maintain her, so if anyone is interested in getting out on the water and participating in this project let us know.

Seafood Picnic

We are planning to hold the popular seafood picnic again this year so put the Sunday 28th July in your diary (and pray for good weather, or at least a dry day!)

Harris Rally  –  Sunday October 13th

We invite historic smacks, some of were which were built in Rowhedge shipyards, to sail up to Rowhedge and join us for lunch on the quayside. Come along and enjoy the spectacle of these magnificent craft in full sail as the round the last bend in the river before arriving in Rowhedge.

Continuing RHT Main Activities.

With the support of a small number of dedicated members, we are organising and establishing an archive for all the physical and documentary items we hold that record and reflect the heritage of the village. Again, we would like to expand the team working on this and would encourage anyone interested in helping and finding out more about our fascinating past to contact us and see for themselves what is on offer.


A formal AGM is required to fulfil our charitable status, but also provides an opportunity for us to feed back a report of our activities and future plans – re-establishing the popular supper talks for instance -, as well as allowing our members to say how they would like to see the future of the RHT develop.   This year we intend to combine it with a more social event at the Albion at 8pm on Tuesday April 9th. Refreshments will be provided, and members can buy drinks of their choice from the bar. Come along, meet old friends, make new ones, and see why the RHT is important within the community.

Contact us

Initial contact for the RHT can be made via the secretary, Keith Phillips on 07759606802 or

The RHT has a website ( that contains interesting background information, but is in need of updating. This is an area where support from interested members would be particularly welcomed.



New Year 2017 message from the Chairman

Last year (2016) has been a year of reduced activity for the Rowhedge Heritage Trust. In November 2015, with great sadness, we stopped actively pursuing our aim of building a Heritage Centre on the riverside site; the reasons for this are given elsewhere on this website. Furthermore, uncertainty about renewing the temporary planning permission, had reduced the numbers of RHT volunteers available for running  the Heritage Hut. This prompted the committee to approach the Rowhedge Coastal Rowing Club (RCRC) with the offer for them to use of the hut as a club base. They agreed to continue to serve refreshments to the public, and provide a space for RHT exhibits. Renewal of the temporary planning permission was obtained, and the RCRC has opened the hut for business as usual. It has been much appreciated by the public and the new relationship has been very satisfactory.

Due to the reduced number of committee members, we can no longer keep up regular communications to our 500 or so members by email and letter. We are going to concentrate our effort on the website, and we will use this, together with posters on the notice boards, and announcements in free magazines and papers, to publish events and any other news. We are very sorry that this may affect some members who do not have access to these. However we hope to introduce a system whereby if a member provides self-addressed envelopes, we will use these to send them information about events to them.

One of the regular RHT events did take place last year was the Harris Rally. A report of this to be found under Past Events. We intend to hold this again in 2017, together with the popular Seafood picnic and, hopefully more of the supper talks that have been so well attended in previous years.

So now to 2017. RHT plan to concentrate on its main activities of researching, recording and preserving the heritage of Rowhedge. I am pleased to announce a very positive step is being taken to provide a permanent archive for the documents and artefacts collected by the RHT over the past decade. This will be located in the loft of the Village Hall. The RHT is providing a loft ladder, to allow limited access, as well as secure storage cabinets, and lighting. As part of the work in setting up the new facility, all items will be catalogued, and this will eventually be accessible via the website to members, and by arrangement, to the public. Physical access to the artefacts for research purposes will also be possible by arrangement. And from time to time the archive will be drawn upon for exhibitions held either in the hut or elsewhere. We are very grateful to the East Donyland Community Association for making this possible.

Which brings me to an important announcement. To celebrate the birth of the official RHT Archive, we shall be holding The Rowhedge Archive Exhibition to coincide with the AGM, in the Small Hall over the weekend of March 18 – 19. It will be an exhibition of everything, or nearly everything that we have in our archive. It won’t be in a very organised or curated form, but more like an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, and hopefully many of the visitors will help us to make sense of them.

The other important news is that RHT has purchased Firecrest, the first of a class of one-design dinghies that was built by the Rowhedge Ironworks.  Firecrest 1 has been on loan to RHT for several years, but the purchase of her will enable us to carry out much needed maintenance and to increase the use of her at events, and by members interested in sailing this historic craft.

It only remains for me to wish you a rather belated but very Happy New Year and to look forward to seeing you again at the AGM and Exhibition – don’t forget March 18 – 19.

Nick Baker





After 15 years of work to create a Riverside Heritage Centre the Rowhedge Heritage Trust has informed the East Donyland Parish Council and its members that they are finally stopping work on the work to create the Rowhedge Riverside Centre which had planning permission awarded in 2013.

The main reason for the decision is that prolonged negotiations with East Donyland Parish Council to get agreement for the building to go on the land given to the Parish for that purpose as a part of a 106 agreement means that the existing planning permission will expire in March 2016

The Rowhedge Heritage Trust aims to continue its work of celebrating the social and maritime heritage of the area and hopes to create exhibitions and run events such as the successful seafood picnic and Harris Smack rally to keep the traditions and heritage of the village alive for generations to come.

The many volunteers and committee members who have worked tirelessly over the years towards creating the Riverside Centre are obviously hugely disappointed but realise that the odds are now stacked against them and there is no longer a realistic prospect of getting the Centre built in the foreseeable future.

All the planning documents and business plans relating to the project will now be preserved in the anticipation that a future generation will want to pick up all the good work done over the last 15 years and when there is a greater willingness for the village to work together to provide a much needed community asset, on a wonderful site, next to the River, in the middle of this special village.

The following background note summarise the reasons for this, and a more detailed explanation is available under the heading Riverside Centre on this website.



Since planning permission for the proposed Riverside Centre was granted in March 2013 the RHT have been in negotiations with the East Donyland Parish Council in an attempt to obtain a lease so that funding and realisation work could commence. An advisory group was established by the council which recommended a four stage approach that the council could adopt to reach the necessary decisions. The first two stages were successfully completed in August of this year, these being the production of a revised Business Plan, and the validation of it by a firm of independent Chartered Accountants.  This meant that the project could move to the next two stages, the commissioning of an independent referendum that would establish if the village supported the project and, if they did, the granting of a lease. The referendum was planned to be run by specialists from Essex University conforming to full electoral standards so that it eliminated the ambiguities of previous surveys and reflected true village opinion.

Regrettably, and without any consultation with RHT, at the same meeting that the council confirmed acceptance of the Business Plan, they put forward a proposal to reverse the order of the last two stages of the agreed plan.  This meant that the council would work to establish the conditions of the lease before endorsing the commissioning of the referendum. The RHT felt strongly that this was the wrong approach as it was necessary establish village opinion before committing more time and money to the project. However the council subsequently called an Extraordinary General Meeting to identify what the lease should comprise. The outcome of this meeting revealed that a considerable amount of additional work would be required before the council would be able to even consider whether they could offer a lease on the land, let alone be in position to negotiate the actual terms they would propose it should contain; and all before village opinion was irrefutably settled. It therefore became apparent that this could not be accomplished before the expiry date of Planning Permission for the building.

This meant that the RHT was presented with the situation that they would have to start the whole process of applying for planning permission again, which would involve considerable repeat work and additional expense. Importantly, because the present hut from which fund raising and heritage activities are currently carried out only has temporary planning permission tied to planning approval for the main Riverside Centre, the hut would have to be removed when planning permission expired. Without the base from which to carry out its activities, the difficulties faced by RHT in progressing the project would be considerable.

There is still no forum where RHT and the council can work together to discuss and resolve problems that would enable the project to progress in a timely manner. As a consequence, the RHT committee felt there was no realistic prospect that the underlying difficulties that have beset this project since obtaining planning permission would be resolved. Therefore the RHT committee have regrettably decided to withdraw from further negotiations with EDPC and have informed the council of this decision and the reasons behind it.

It should be emphasised that withdrawal from the project does not mean the end of the RHT. The Rowhedge Heritage Trust was established as a charity with the aim of “providing the means where everyone in Rowhedge can participate in learning about and in celebrating the rich cultural, social and maritime heritage of the area so that community life is richer as a result”. Although we will no longer have a building acting as a centre for these activities, heritage activities and events both social and informative that have been the much appreciated hallmark of its work within the village over the years will continue.

A much more detailed and informative document covering the background to this decision and the full reasons underpinning it is available under the heading Riverside Centre on this website