R LOWER & SONS

Photo:Dick Lower with Bob and Brian.

Dick Lower with Bob and Brian.

From the private collection of Bob Lower

Photo:20 foot motor boat.

20 foot motor boat.

Bob Lower's collection

Photo:Two boats outside old workshop in the old  shipyard.

Two boats outside old workshop in the old shipyard.

Bob Lower's collection

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'R LOWER & SONS' page

A brief history.

By Bob Lower

In 1930, after several years service with the R.N.L.I., my father, Richard William (Dick) Lower was appointed as the full time motor mechanic on the Newhaven Lifeboat, "Cecil and Lillian Philpott".  Around the same time he built  his bungalow and large garage in Second Avenue.  Although he was on call for the lifeboat service he had spare time and so he used the garage as a workshop, building boats and repairing cars.  He also worked part-time for Cantell's as a shipwright and boat-builder.

In September 1945, he decided to retire from the lifeboat service and start up his own boat-building business.  In 1944, he had purchased from Mr Dann an old Slaughter House on The Riverside in Newhaven and 18 months later, after carrying out major modifications to the building, founded the business known as R Lower & Son, Shipwrights & Boatbuilders, Newhaven.   He set about building boats for the local fishermen and pleasure craft.  "New Wildflower", "Harvest Moon", "Golden Corn" are a few names that spring to mind.

In 1949, he sold this works to Walser & Turner, who were local plumbers and moved about 300 yards north to a purpose built workshop he had constructed in The Old Shipyard.  My brother, Charlie joined him and the firm continued to produce all types of craft mainly for local beaches including 12ft, 14ft and 15 ft counterstern boats for the angling clubs at Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as batches of rowing dinghies for use on Local Council pleasure pools in and around London and Eastbourne.

In 1952, I joined my father as an apprentice to learn the art of boat-building and repair, working my way though the mundane jobs which are part of the learning process.  It was during my time as apprentice that he started building the first of many Hastings fishing boats built under the White Fish Authority grant and loan scheme.  These vessels, mostly fully decked, were heavily constructed using elm planking on oak frames with a eliptic or lute stern and motly powered by Lister marine diesel engine.  The first of these was "Ocean Swell" followed by "Lorraine and Carol", "Valliant",  "Young Flying Fish", "Florence Harffey", "Little Paul" and many more.  "John's Model" , which had a transom stern was registered at and worked out of Newhaven by Bill Saunders, was also build in the 1950's.  A few still exist even after 50 years.  In 1957, I joined the armed forces to serve two years National Service.  I returned in 1959 to take up where I had left off and continued to build boats and carry out repairs.  From this time almost all of the boats were constructed by Charlie and I.  My father oversaw our work but let us get on with it.

During the 1960's three 14ft sailing dinghies were built for the New Zealand Shipping Line, these were for the officers to use whilst in New Zealand. There were also quite a number of 18ft day fishing boats constructed which had raised foredecks and were powered by Stuart Turner engines.  In 1965, the first of three 14 ft counterstern boats were built for The People newspaper as 1st Prize in their Angling competition.  The second was built in 1966.  Although, there were a few lean years, the business continued to serve the needs of local fishermen and pleasure craft owners.

Bob & Charlie Lower

In 1966, my father retired from running the business and handed it over to my brother Charlie and I, although he still continued to work for us.  Sadly, my father died in 1978.  We continued to build, mainly beach boats for all along the Sussex coast (sometimes with a waiting list of 12 months) as well as 4 steam launches, and the third boat for the "People", we also had a large number of orders from part-time fishermen who could now afford to buy one of our boats and because in those days they did not need a licence , would fish evenings and weekends.  1974 saw the construction of the longest boat build in our yard.  This vessel was built, with a raised deck foreward and a fitted wheelhouse, for Hayling Island and was 36ft in length.  In 1982, when forced with a 10 fold increase in the rent on the workshop and lack of orders we had to find other means to carry on working and both ended up at Pheon Yachts.  The partnership with my brother and I was dissolved in 1983.

I would also like to mention the following who worked full-time with and for us at the boatyard: Bob Holden, Ted Gillam, Edgar Moore, Ron(Monty) Mitchell, Alan Norman, Mike Beech, Brian Comben, Chris Young and Richard Jones.

During the period of May 1966-Nov. 1982, 317 wooden boats were built and 4 fibreglass hulls fitted out.

My brother Charlie died suddenly in 1992 whilst working  on a boat, just before his 65th birthday.

The last boat I built was for the Newhaven Marina Company in 1993. Severe injuries to my feet put paid to my boat-building career and ended a family tradition.

As well as boat-building, I served as a retained fireman at Newhaven from 1963 - 1979.

The photos on the right of the text illustrate the type of boats built in our yard.

This page was added by Ginny Smith on 15/05/2008.
Comments about this page

Very interesting Bob to read a brief history of your family's boat building life.

By shirley harrop
On 17/05/2008

Well done Bob, nice to see all your information on the old business at Riverside & Robinson Road as it was.  As you know I have fond memories of my years with yourself Charlie and your Dad, on your various boat building projects.

By Chris Young
On 18/05/2008

Hello Bob, I went to school with you and spent some time signpainting some of your boats. Nice to know that you are keeping alive the memory of your Father with that excellent article.

By Jack Patten
On 19/06/2008

I read with interest your company history after having purchased a 17ft Lower beach boat. At the time I could not find any information apart from the brass name plate. Chris Young was recommended by David Crouch to carry out various repairs and I note both your comments and his with interest. Repairs were carried out at Lockings yard by Chris and it's nearly ready to go back in the water. It is the prettiest boat you've ever seen and a credit to the craftsmen who built it. Thank you.

By Bill Shaw
On 16/10/2008

Very interesting to read the Lower history as I have two Lower boats myself, and in our angling club at Hastings we have ten altogether.

There hasn't been a better sea boat built in my opinion.

By Nicola Cox
On 04/01/2009

It was nice to see part of my family on here as your Dad was my Dad's uncle. As they say, "the world is a small place".

By bob lower
On 09/12/2009

I have a Lower boat complete with the Lower's nameplate inside. It's a beautiful seaboat now enjoyed at Seaton in East Devon.

By Steve Mear
On 06/02/2010

I have been thinking of making a model of one of the Hastings beach fleet and was very taken by the Lower examples at the museum - especially as I live in Seaford so there's a local connection. I was looking at the Grace Georgina and Valiant. That led me to this site and the very interesting history of the firm. I was wondering if there are any further details of these boats available or any drawings, pictures etc that might help with building a model. Even better, are there any examples still in Newhaven? I've tried looking up David Crouch and Lockings Yard without success? It also made me wonder if any full-size beach boats ever come up for sale and where they would be advertised? Thanks for the beautiful boats and all the information provided here.

By Ian Cairns
On 07/05/2010

Bob Lower built me 2 boats, a 14 footer in around 1971 & a 27 ft in 1978. Both boats were great sea boats & the 27 footer I fished from Rye & the Isle of Mull for a number of years. I used to enjoy visiting the yard & had several conversations with Dick, Bobs dad, who told me about the boulder boats that would collect large flints from Beachy Head for use as glaze in the pottery industry. There were no airs & graces at the yard, what you got was a good well built boat, not brochures & salesmen. Nice to see the yard remembered, best regards to you Bob. 

By Malcolm Burge
On 14/05/2010

Ian, the yard name is Lochin Marine Ltd, and they do not deal with craft of this traditional build. I refitted an old R.Lower & Sons-built beach boat in late 2008 for a client who has posted a comment here.( Bill Shaw) I have also just recommisioned a very similarly built R. Mitchell 23, locally built 1972 craft. You can find details of last Newhaven clinker boat in this section. (See other tab here on 'Lower beach' boat building 1991.) I am still repairing craft of this type as I was apprenticed to Bob & Charlie Lower, as I operate a shipwrighting repair service locally. Dave Crouch is a sign writer also locally based.

By Chris Young
On 30/05/2010

I have photos of my grandfather's boat Waverley, built by Lowers of Newhaven, she was finished 1947. She was used summertime for pleasure trips off Eastbourne by Fred (Tinker) Novis, and in winter was used for fishing parties. My older brother and I have many happy memories of her. I have seen the model built in Newhaven Museum, my brother would, I'm sure, love to build a replica as well.

By sue cherry
On 18/08/2010

Hi, I have just purchased a boat from a retired boat builder on the Isle Of Wight, and at his house he has a Sussex beach boat 16ft long made by Lower and Sons, Reg No. SM474 No. 471.  As I will be putting my boat in at Newhaven he asked me if I could find any details or history.

Many thanks, Neil Kempson

By neil kempson
On 13/09/2010

Hi just found this site. Our family has a long history of fishing from Seaford from the 16c. Just wanted to know if you still have any plans or detailed drawings of your beach boats as I would like to perhaps build my own. I have located a possble repair 'wreck' it is 22ft and wanted the plans so I could enlighten myself as to its construction etc. Regards 

By Martin Templeman
On 24/12/2010

While there may be certain drawings of craft such as these 'Sussex Beach Boat' styles, many were built as they say by 'Rule of thumb' with the skills being passed down from father to son, or to apprentices taking up this trade ( Such as myself ) also customers usually had the sizes of the craft to be built in there minds eye, i.e. length, breath,draft, and prefered style of stern(transom, counter or eliptical ? ) particularly for beach launching and recovery.

By Chris Young
On 07/01/2011

Hi it's great to see so many people interested in clinker boats. I found this web site looking for the history of a boat that I was told was a Hastings beach boat. I have bought this to restore. The name of the boat is MY PLEASURE it has a number on the engine bearer B10043 & on the bow is the number SM206. Now having see the 4th picture on this page it tells me it is Lower built boat but I would like to have it confirmed. I would like to know if it was built with a wheel house like the boat in the picture PROGRESS. It's good to see the construction pictures of the different stages of the building of Lower boats in the workshop and I would like to make this boat as close to original as possible with help from you & your site. John

By John H Wilson
On 01/02/2011

Hello John, Its nice to hear from someone who has a desire to renovate locally built craft such as the ones shown in this article. As stated I have recently fully refitted a Mitchell 23, again another clinker locally built craft and have a range of pictures showing completed vessel. As you appreciate this is a 'historic site' which covers local items such as this.I do have leaflets at Newhaven Marina, main reception should you wish to contact me via email, landline, or mobile contact numbers. I worked for R.Lower & Sons, boatbuilders where I served a five year apprenticeship in traditional timber boat contruction before moving onto various other boat /yacht building companies, if I can assist please follow the link suggested. Chris Young .

By Chris Young
On 02/02/2011

Hi Chris, it's good of you to reply, thanks. I have removed the paint from the boat to find the real name, it's BREADWINNER. It was over the number on the bow and on the stern so I think it's genuine but I would like know how the boat was before it was messed about.

Thanks, John

By John Wilson
On 06/02/2011

This is an interesting read for me as my family seems to have a connection with steamboats in Newhaven. My great-great grandfather's occupation was listed on his marriage certificate in 1883 as "Mariner, Steam Boat". He (William Hart) married a girl called Charlotte Lower (relative of yours?). Charlotte Hart (nee Lower) remarried in 1889 to a Benjamin Foster but there is no record of what happened to William Hart that I can find. I wondered if there were any known steam boat incidents in Newhaven between 1887 and 1889 that may have claimed his life? There is no death record that I can find... If you have any information or links to the history of steam boats in Newhaven in the 19th century I would be excited to hear from you. Thanks again.

By Jon Ranger
On 28/02/2011

I am still looking for any information on "Breadwinner" her reg number being. SM260 HELP John

By John Wilson
On 22/09/2011

Bob, this confirms my realization that you are part of Sussex inheritance. It was a privelege working with you at SW. I believe that very few of your colleagues understood that they were sat near one of the real craftsmen of Sussex. I hope that you and your family are healthy and prosperous. Martin.

By Martin SW escapee
On 07/03/2012

Hi just read all of the above, a friend and I have just got a 23 ft wooden boat that looks the same as the 13 picture down, we was told it use to be a Navy Divit, ship to shore, inside the hull are 2 very heavy lifting rings one fore and one aft, she is fitted with a Volvo penta MB3D (3 pot) her number stamped on the front is P2 40190, I have been trying to do some research, on her history but can't find anything, can anyone help please, by the way her name is "Kingfisher". 

By Paul Smith
On 04/05/2012

I have really enjoyed reading about your boat building company and how it developed over the years. I have a boat built at your yard and am interested to know more about its history and when it was built. It is called Cock Robin and think it had a registry number NN104. It is now moored and used at Burnham Overt Staithe, North Norfolk.

Nice to know she is still afloat and going strong Richard. I believe the Cock Robin / NN104 was built for a local baker Ben Funnell in the very early 1960's ..

John -- Editor

By Richard Osler
On 06/06/2012

Hi, as an update for any info any one has on the above boat "Kingfisher" the Reg. No. stamped on her is, in fact, PO 40190.  Sorry for my mistake but it was a job to read until we took her out for a complete re-caulk and a refit.  All looking good now and nearly ready for the big day.

By Paul Smith
On 11/06/2012

I have a Mitchell 28ft boat weighing about 7 tonnes, probably  built in Newhaven, in the 1950's/60's. I am looking for it's origin if anyone knows.

Hi Ray, can you upload a picture of your boat to the website? it might help in your quest. 

John -- Editior 

By ray
On 06/07/2012

I have fond memories as a 10 year old in 1974 of going to Lower's yard with my father, Mick, to place an order for our new boat. When you say they were built "rule of the thumb" you're not joking. Ours was sketched on the back of a Senior Service fag packet and some weeks later she was ready for us to motor her back round to Hastings. The boat(IRIS ANNE) was 20 foot long with an 8 foot beam, mahogony on oak, forward wheel house, Lister sr2 13hp twin engine. When we arrived at Hastings she was the biggest angling boat in the club. She became well liked by many members and the following were built on the back of her. Otter 4 (now in Dover) Venator(still in club) Petchic (steamed to Belgium from Hastings) Pluto(still in club) New Venture 2 (still in club) Harvester (still in club) Sula (now commercial punt).

Lower boats were a stable platform to fish from. If they were still made today you could say (it does exactly what it says on the tin).

By Dave Kite
On 24/07/2012

Hi folks- My dad Syd had a 25' elliptic sterned beach boat built at Lowers in 1967/8, I named her Sedulous and steamed her back to a mooring in Chichester Harbour where she stayed for the next 40 years. I had another 36' built in 1974 named Maybell and I started my fishing career with her aged twenty. I too have very fond memories of those early days visiting the boatyard at the weekends and watching the boats take shape then finally taking delivery and steaming west along the coast feeling very proud. Thanks Dick, Charlie, Bob and Dad[RIP] without you I might have spent my life in some boring job looking forward to the weekend only to be dragged around the shops by the missus! 

By Charlie Reading
On 06/12/2012

Fastinating short history of some of the excellent boats built by this famous boatyard. Well done!

By Gerald Driver
On 24/05/2013

I have a "Lower boat" I have just been giving her a tidy up, I'm on Denton Island Newhaven. I am trying to find out her original name, in photos she is like the photo with the man standing on bench, also next photo with 2 cuboards. Can anyone tell me how to find out her name as I would like to put it back on her.

Why not post a picture of your boat, on the website, this should greatly increase your chances of finding original name.

John - Editor

By G. Brooks
On 05/07/2013

Re the query by John Wilson above. SM206 was built for Fred Bashford of Worthing and was called Breadwinner. It was kept on the beach there for several years. He then moved it to Southwick hard. (see the book "Catching Stories "about Brighton fishermen) He then sold her and bought a larger beachboat "Lady Rosemary" which remained at Shoreham. The sailing boat pictured above was built for the man standing next to her one Ted Churcher of Worthing in 1972. she was called "Rosalie II" I bought her in 1987 and kept her on the beach at Worthing. She was an excellent sea boat especially for her size. I once sailed her to Brighton and back in one day. Sadly I got too busy to use her and sold her in 1997. If only I still owned her.

By Alastair Vickers
On 01/01/2014

For Alastair Vickers. Was Rosalie II a 12ft sailing dinghy? If so I saw her down at Worthing Sailing Club yard. I did get the then owners name and wrote to him and the commodore a few times to see if I could buy her as she was looking a bit neglected. It might be worth contacting the Club to see if she is still there.

By Ryan Kearley
On 19/01/2014

Re SM206 Breadwinner, my father bought her in the mid seventies, I think I can remember a fo.ard wheelhouse being taken off (not to sure) we moored her at Southwick. I do remember a lot of stories about her. In 1976 we built her up a plank and put bigger pistons, liners and cylinder heads on, bought from a local Lister engine agent Fred Kisack. We had to sell her in the late seventies as my mum was dying of cancer and we had to pack up fishing to look after her. Pretty sure dad sold her to someone at Bexhill on sea for £800. I would love to see her again.

By David Day
On 13/03/2014

Hello Bob! how are you?!  Great to see these photos! I am the artist girl from trinity buoy wharf who has one of your boats (deregistered 18 ft RX7)...you came and sailed her on the Thames, ages ago, remember? I took her to Amsterdam, where I moved years ago. She is much loved by the dutch who gave her a much coveted birth in a small historic marina. She has a new red engine. And I am soon to get some sails made in exchange for a painting.  You will be able to find my website with a quick internet search !  I would love to get in touch with you again. 

By Anna keen
On 19/07/2014

I have just bought my second "Lower boat" this one is called my Alison and my last one was called my Ronda. If anyone has some history of either of these boats it would be most appreciated.  

By Stuart James
On 01/12/2015

Hello Bob, I enjoyed the information about your boat building experience. I think I may be related to you as my family were called Lower, my grandmother was Mary Georgina born in 1892. Never knew her but would love to know a bit about the family.

By Gloria
On 10/06/2017

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