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A hopper barge that was abandoned in the ballast pond at Torpoint, possibly FHC No. 4.


Unpowered timber hopper barge


It has been suggested by John Cotton that this is the unpowered hopper barge Tap (ONO 114625). Tap was built in 1888 at Portsmouth by Frank Bevis, she was 26.4m / 86.5ft long with a 6.8m / 22.3ft beam and a depth of 1.8m / 6ft, 81.09 GRT. Tap was bought by W.J. Reynolds and Samuel Duff in 1909, still in service in 1960 and not deregistered until May 1976. Tap was purchased along with the iron hopper barge Jumbo for waste dumping jobs.

A hopper barge is an unpowered vessel typically used for taking away mud dredged from a harbour, removing and dumping rubbish or to bring in and dump rocks or sand. The bottom of a hopper barge is fitted with hinged doors that can be opened at sea by chains to dump the contents in the hold. The doors on the bottom of the barge are not watertight and when not loaded with cargo the hold or hopper is full of water, so the forepeak, stern and sides of the vessel are sealed spaces that provide all the buoyancy required to keep the ship afloat. This barge was probably used for disposing of dockyard and City rubbish; it would be left alongside a wharf, filled with horse manure, street sweepings, household rubbish or any unwanted dockyard material then taken out to the dumping ground in Whitsand Bay. Once on site the bottom doors would be opened downwards and the contents dumped on the seabed, and any floating material in the hold would have to be pushed out with long poles. Once empty, the chains would be wound up by hand to shut the doors and the barge could then be taken back and refilled the next day. The normal practice was to dump one Dockyard barge each day, or more than one when the Fleet was in port and more ships were being repaired. The practice of dumping dockyard waste was stopped around 1965, with the refuse then being sent to landfill..

The remains of this hulk were identified by John Cotton from a discussion with the owner of a tug lying in the Torpoint ballast pond alongside the barge. However, further research suggested that Tap was built of iron and the barge in the pond is made of timber and the timber-built barge also appears to be 23.8m / 78ft long when Tap was larger at 26.4m / 86.5ft. Reynolds owned the ballast pond at the time the barge was abandoned so it is likely that this is one of the company's fleet. Timber-built hopper barges owned by Reynolds include FHC No. 2, FHC No. 4, Claretta, possibly Brook and there may be others whose records have not survived. The hulk is too small to be Claretta and looks similar to other FHC-type barges so may be FHC No. 4 as FHC No. 2 is thought to be hulked at Carbeile Wharf.

Read about this hulk on John Cotton's Historic Shipping website SHIPS Link.


A timber built hopper barge.

Nothing remains of the hopper barge, it was presumably removed when the Torpoint Yacht Harbour was built.

Location and Access

The hopper barge was beached inside the Ballast Pond, Torpoint, but nothing now remains of the vessel.

The ballast pond at Torpoint is now a marina called Torpoint Yacht Harbour SHIPS Link, operated by Huggins Bros Marina Group.

Nearby hulks include 1920s trawler Master Hand SHIPS Link, steam tug Cruden Bay SHIPS Link, fishing boat Reine des Flots SHIPS Link and the ex-pilot vessel Anna II SHIPS Link

Last updated 08 May 2021

Position OS: SX 44078 54719
Position GPS: 50.371663, -4.193971
Show the site on Google Maps SHIPS Link


Date Built:




Official Number:



23.8m / 78ft approx.














Abandoned 1972 approx., broken up



John Cotton:

"I found the ‘Tap’ while I was looking for the ‘Master Hand’, she lies in the mud inside the Ballast Pond at Torpoint. You could see her from the road, but the best view of this hopper barge was to go along the top of the wall of the Ballast Pond. It is best to ask permission from the Sailing Club first. I meet the owner of the barge working on an old London tug that was lying inside the Pond as well. I met him on the tug and he said that he had been left the old barge and he was trying to get rid of it. He said that he had trying to saw bits off and burning them but that would be a long job. Did I want the barge? I said no thanks, and asked him if he knew the name of it. He said that it might be the ‘Tap’. When I got back home I wrote to the Plymouth Ship’s Registrar and Mrs Prowse wrote back to say that the name ‘Tap’ was a hopper barge and was built in 1888. The registry was closed on the 27th May 1976 on the advice from the beneficial owner. I meet the owner of the ‘Tap’ later on his tug and I showed him the letter from the Registrar and he was quite interested that I had found the date she had been built."

Torpoint Ballast Pond:

Torpoint ballast pond was built by the Admiralty in 1783, presumably as a harbour for ballast lighters that took ballast from Royal Navy ships. Most of the ballast for Royal Navy ships was brought in from Warmley above Saltash and some was brought from the Laira in the River Plym. The use of stones for ballast in the Navy was replaced around 1810 by iron blocks called kentlidge, this could be packed closer to the keel making the ships stiffer and better handled. The iron kentlidge blocks were also much easier to remove when repairs were needed around the ship's keel. The ballast pond was purchased by W.J. Reynolds Ltd. around 1925 and used for ship repairs and shipbreaking, but is now a small yacht marina.

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