SHE'S stirred up memories - just as she stirred up sand from the Ouse which was then sold to builders across York.

York dredger Reklaw was a common sight in the city - going up and down the river on behalf of its owners, coal and building supplies merchant J H Walker.

When we ran a story about her in our Press nostalgia supplement and online, readers wondered what happened to her.

York Press: 1972 - The dredger Reklaw sails up the river Ouse past boats moored at Queen's Staith.1972 - The dredger Reklaw sails up the river Ouse past boats moored at Queen's Staith.

By chance, our article was seen by current owner Jess Fussey who got in touch to bring us up to date and share his story - ahead of the Reklaw's centenary next year.

The barge was commissioned by Walker's - (Reklaw is Walker spelled backwards) in 1925. It was built by Scarr's shipyard in Howden Dyke, Goole, at a cost of £1,575.

Walker's was one of the city's oldest and most respected businesses. It was established in 1906 both as a supplier of building materials and as a coal merchant. It moved from its original site in Layerthorpe to Foss Islands Road, switching up from trading coal to concentrate on supplying building materials.

Loaded up with sand, Reklaw would sit so low in the water that the decks would be awash with water. The only parts visible were the wheelhouse and crane jib in the centre of the hull. Passersby could be forgiven for thinking she was about to sink!

York Press: The dredging barge Reklaw up to its gunwales as it takes a load of river sand to a York builder's merchant, April 12, 1978

For more than 50 years, she was a familiar site on both the Ouse and the Foss, sometimes working as a sand and gravel barge, and sometimes as a dredger.

After a more than half-century of service, her fortunes took a tumble.


Read more:

* The barge that didn't sink: remembering the York dredging barge the Reklaw


By the late 1990s her dredging days were over. The Reklaw became surplus to requirements. She was sold to Steetley's of Boroughbridge, where she remained, unused, for six years, until she was taken over by the Reklaw Boat Project which renovated the vessel for its new purpose - as a pleasure craft for disabled people.

At one point, the Reklaw was moored on the Foss behind the former Yorkshire Evening Press offices in Walmgate.

And for many followers of York's best-loved barge, that is where its story trails off.

Until now.

Following our nostalgia article in The Press, current Reklaw owner Jess Fussey got in touch to bring her story full circle.

York Press: Whatever happened to the Reklaw - York's most famous barge. Photo by Jess FusseyWhatever happened to the Reklaw - York's most famous barge. Photo by Jess Fussey

Today, we are able to fill in the gaps and bring you the full tale of what happened to the Reklaw.

Let's take you back to the late 1990s, when she was turned into a pleasure craft to offer river trips to disabled people.

The idea for a vessel suitable for taking both disabled and able-bodied people on a cruise was conceived in 1989 and a group was formed to look for a suitable boat.

The Reklaw fitted the bill. It had been lying idle at Boroughbridge for five years and had trees growing in the hull. It was taken to Goole and volunteers and skilled workers began the task of preparing her for a new life.

We have a certain Patrick Spink to thank for saving the barge at this time. It was the foresight of this lifelong boatman that revived her fortunes.

When the search began to find a suitable vessel for the project to offer river trips to disabled people, Patrick thought of the Reklaw. He later became her skipper.

At first, the group considered a Dutch barge but that plan was abandoned when fears were raised that the boat would be too wide to navigate UK rivers.

Patrick, a former tug boat skipper, then suggested the Reklaw, which he knew had been abandoned on the Ouse. A solution had been found. But they had their work cut out to get her ship shape.

Peter Pink, former publicity officer for the Reklaw Boat Project, recalled the state of this once-proud boat when she was claimed by the group. "It was on its side when it was found.

"There were trees growing out of it. It was full of sand and water."

Some £75,000 was spent on the renovations

A raised deck became the lounge and dining area on the upper deck. The hold became a sleeping quarters, four double bunks as well as toilets and showers, all specially designed for the disabled, were fitted there.

Besides catering for the disadvantaged and people with disabilities, the Reklaw was open to bookings for educational trips for a school party or businesses to entertain clients on board.

After some vandalism at its York moorings, it moved, in 1997, to a new site on the Foss outside the former York Press building in Walmgate (now Student Castle accommodation).

York Press: 1997: Evening Press managing director, Anne Blood welcomes Reklaw to its new berth behind the Walmgate Offices, York. With (l-r) Peter Pink and Patrick Spink.1997: Evening Press managing director, Anne Blood welcomes Reklaw to its new berth behind the Walmgate Offices, York. With (l-r) Peter Pink and Patrick Spink.

The newspaper company altered the back of its Walmgate site to allow wheelchair access.

However, all changed again in 2001, when the Reklaw was sold to a private individual - Jess Fussey.

York Press: Reklaw with its current owner Jess Fussey. Image suppliedReklaw with its current owner Jess Fussey. Image supplied

The Reklaw charity was closed and the money raised from the sale of the barge distributed to the supporting charities.

In our follow-up article, Jess tells us about his two decades on the Reklaw - and what it's really like living on York's most famous barge. Click here to read Jess's story and see photos of what the Reklaw looks like today, inside and out!

Share your memories

Do you remember the Reklaw? Send us your stories and photos. Email - And join the conversation in our Facebook group, Why We Love York - Memories. Join us at

For more old photos of York, do visit the city council's Explore York archive (

If you love looking at old photos of York, make sure to buy The Press every Wednesday for our weekly nostalgia supplement - especially this week when it is dedicated to telling the full story of the Reklaw.