• banner-01
  • banner-02
  • banner-03

Heritage Barge Days at ExCel

Tuesday, 25 May 2021
to Wednesday, 26 May 2021

As part of Newham Heritage Month, the Thames sailing barge Blue Mermaid - will be visiting the ExCel centre in the Royal Docks and will be welcoming visitors aboard from 1pm-7pm on 25th and 26th May. Schools and local residents will have the opportunity to get on board and talk to the crew to see how barges were sailed, learn about their history, and their place in Newham’s story.

They will be moored in front of the ExCel centre directly opposite the historic Millennium Mills. The closest tube station is Customs House for ExCel on the DLR line, and free parking is available in the ExCel centre. The boat will be at the Westerly end of the ExCel centre by the Royal Docks footbridge, there will be toilet facilities in the ExCel and there is a small café at Custom House Station. Visitors should register for free here: https://www.newhamheritagemonth.org/events/heritage-boats-open-days-at-excel/

Blue Mermaid is special because she is a newly built barge that has no engine and relies on sail alone – as did most barges until the 1950s. She has been built to carry out trade as the barges traditionally would have done, and to make a powerful statement about sustainable cargo transport.

A pioneering aspect of the visit is the carrying of a small cargo of brick clay and sand from Essex up the Thames to London by sea.  The materials will be handed over to brickmakers from Newham Brickfield, a participatory art project arranged by University of East London and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Brickfield Newham aims to explores the connections between Newham’s residents and the place they live through the history of Newham’s brickfields. This relates to the important historic role of the barges, in which they carried London’s waste to Essex and Kent to brickworks where it was burnt in kilns to produce the familiar yellow London stock brick, which the barges brought to London in such quantities that up to 1 million bricks could arrive in London in a single day.

Newham Heritage Month’s 2021 theme is “Shops, Docks, and Factories”, organised by the Council and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and supported by Royal Docks Team.  The month offers free activities taking place across the borough to showcase the rich and diverse heritage of Newham.  The Royal Docks played an integral role in the trading and distribution of cargoes arriving in London from all over the world, but also included the sailing barges, of which there were over 3,000 estimated to have been in use early in the 20th century carrying every day, but crucial cargoes.

In order to make this happen, many people are volunteering their time for free, and The Maritime Heritage Trust are currently raising funds for the remainder of the costs.  If successful, MHT will produce a short film to document Blue Mermaid’s journey to London with her token cargo to raise awareness of the event and for maritime heritage more generally, please donate to help make this happen:



  • ExCel Centre in Royal Docks, London


  • Creating community and individual benefits using historic boats and ships

    Creating community and individual benefits using historic boats and ships

    Hear from projects across the UK on how to deliver life changing benefits for individuals and communities through historic vessel activities

    Online Zoom Event 19:30 - 21:00

    This webinar will examine the positive impact that maritime heritage can have for the wider community and the life-changing experiences that engagement with historic vessels can bring to individuals through volunteering, skills training, educational initiatives or well-being opportunities. It will share details of projects and outreach work aimed at integrating people with heritage.
    This will inform a panel question and answer session to stimulate group discussion, offering the audience useful examples and case studies to draw on.

Recent Events

  • Passengers on historic ships

    Passengers on historic ships

    John Megoran looks at the post pandemic challenges facing historic passenger vessel operators around the UK and  at possible solutions.

  • A historic ship or boat as a home

    A historic ship or boat as a home

    Scott and Hilary Pereira  (Swedish motor yacht Lilian) talk about the potential for residential use to help sustain historic craft. 

  • What EMH does for us

    What EMH does for us

    Get the inside story on how we get on with our seafaring neighbours and help in our time of need - with David Morgan and Thomas Hoppe.

  • Heritage Barge Days at ExCel

    Heritage Barge Days at ExCel

    As part of Newham Heritage Month the Thames sailing barge Blue Mermaid - will be visiting the ExCel centre in the Royal Docks and will be welcoming visitors aboard.

  • Cowes and Isle of Wight

    Cowes and Isle of Wight

    A flexible programme, joint visit with Association of Yachting Historians on 24/25 September (join on either day) led by Brian Corbett (MHT Trustee, OGA , MHT and OGA Rep. European Maritime Heritage (EMH) and Association of Yachting Historians)

  • Time for a new approach on saving historic vessels?

    Time for a new approach on saving historic vessels?

    What future for our historic ships?

    Preserving ships and boats has always been in the “too difficult” box; despite some real successes, over the last 20 years we have seen continuing losses of historic warships, small steamers and sailing vessels. While some operating vessels have benefitted from “staycation” in the last 2 years, others have struggled to run at all. 

    How sustainable are some of our current approaches to preserving and operating historic vessels?

  • Getting On Board?

    Getting On Board?

    Online Zoom Event 19:30 - 21:00

    How can historic vessels draw in new people and stay relevant, reaching out beyond existing supporters, using social media, online promotion and community “offer”, and convert that into supporters, visitors, volunteers or contributors?

    It’s still an experimental area and no one has all the answers. This discussion will share views on different techniques through presentations, a speaker panel with time for questions from attendees.