Sharing History about Swaddle and Winship

During January and February, we have had two articles posted on HTBS about the boatbuilding company Swaddle and Winship (see 13 January and 24 February). The writing actually began when HTBS received an e-mail with some questions from a lady, Mrs. Paula, who lives in the north of England. She is the great-great-granddaughter of boatbuilder George Swaddle and great-great-great-granddaughter of boatbuilder Thomas Swaddle.

Swaddle & Co.

She wrote that she has always known that her Swaddle ancestors were boatbuilders on the River Tyne in Newcastle, but it was first recently she discovered that the boats they built were racing shells. Paula writes, ‘I was amazed to find their boats were used in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races, and also exported all over the world! I had no idea. Now I am fascinated to find out more.’

While both Tim Koch and I could fill in some holes and help Paula with information about her famous ancestors, she already had gathered some interesting information about Swaddle and Winship. With her blessing, HTBS can here give you access to some of her finds. Slightly edited, Paula writes:

‘I do now know who Mr. Swaddle and Mr. Winship were in ‘Swaddle and Winship’. It was Thomas Swaddle (approx. 1831 to 1895) and William Winship. As far as I can ascertain, Thomas Swaddle progressed from carpentry to boatbuilding in the 1860s. I don’t know exactly when he teamed up with William Winship, but by 1876 they were a team. William Winship appears to have been a younger man and I think was a sportsman himself (the Thomas Winship Mr. Koch mentions must surely be a relative of William though I don’t know the relationship).

One in the Winship family, Edward Winship was a professional oarsman who rowed in the beginning of the1860s in the Harry Clasper’s crew. (Picture from David Clasper’s book Rowing: A Way of Life – The Claspers of Tyneside; 2003.) 

‘As Mr. Koch says, the Swaddle and Winship company heyday was from approx. 1876 to 1882. In Decmber 1882 the company went bankrupt. However, boatbuilding continued on the Tyne under the Swaddle name. It appears (evidence somewhat circumstantial) that Thomas Swaddle stayed on the Tyne building boats until his death in 1895, but, due to the bankruptcy, the business would probably have been in his eldest son’s hands (?). His eldest son was George Swaddle (1851 to 1924). By the 1890s, George Swaddle and William Winship were building boats on the Thames (again I presume under the Swaddle name as William Winship was bankrupt). When Thomas Swaddle died in 1895, it appears his youngest son William Swaddle took over the Swaddle boatbuilding business on the Tyne (as his eldest son George was building boats on the Thames at that point). Unfortunately, William Swaddle died relatively young in 1903. What happened to the Swaddle boatbuilding business on the Tyne after that I don’t yet know. George Swaddle did return to Tyneside sometime after 1911. The Swaddle boatyard, with its name on, was apparently still visible at Scotswood in the 1930s, but I guess no longer as a going concern.’

Many warm thanks to Paula for sharing this information about her ancestors.

The photograph of the wooden single scull was taken by the HTBS editor in the summer of 2002 at the WoodenBoat Show in Rockland, Maine (USA). The plaque in the shell said that it was built by ‘Swaddle & Co.’, probably in the 1860s.

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