The 'Spry' was built at Chepstow in 1894 by William Hurd. She was registered at Gloucester as a sloop, Official Number 99538, 36 tons net, 46 tons gross, her managing owner being Mr.Davis, Stone Merchant of Chepstow. A letter is preserved from this gentleman showing that he also owned the Trows 'Eliza' and 'Nelly'.
Information about the Spry's early career can be gleaned from her official logs of 1896 to 1912 in the Gloucestershire Record Office. In the two months between her commissioning on October 25th, 1894, and the year's end she made twelve voyages in the River stone trade between Cardiff and Chepstow. Her master was William Halling (or Stalling) of Frampton, with a mate, 'O.S', and the ship's boy, Henry Halling, aged 13, presumably a relative of the Master, under whom he had previously served in the 'Nelly'. In 1902 another relative appears, perhaps a son, when Lewis Halling, 19 years old, sailed as Mate, the crew being three as it was in all subsequent logs examined, and the trow was 'trading up the River Severn'. In 1902 the Gloucestershire Dock ledger recorded her arriving with 100 tons of stone from Chepstow, and returning thither light four days later. In 1904, she visited Chepstow, Newport, Bristol, Avonmouth, Gloucester and Sharpeness, carrying ever more stone.
In 1908, her Master was at first William Wayman of Chepstow, making ten trips between Cardiff, Chepstow, Newport, Gloucester and Bristol in the first half of the year, but from the 1st July to the 30th August she was laid up at Chepstow, and thereafter she had a new crew, commanded by Thomas Aldridge of Framilode. Under him she had made 20 voyages in the second half year, including Lydney in the ports of call. Aldridge had been Master of the 'Nelly' also in 1907-9. Crews generally seem to have been interchangeable between Davis's trows, three of her first crew having been in the 'Nelly' immediately before. She was repairing at Chepstow from October 29 to December 10.
In 1910, William Davis died and his little fleet was sold. The 'Spry' passed to George Nurse of Water Lane, Temple Parish, Bristol. In 1912, the last log in the Gloucester Record Office shows she still had a crew of three, and unusually, it lists all her voyages and whether loaded or empty, though not the cargo; the draughts indicating the loading state. Between July 1, 1912 and September 4, 1912 she made twelve voyages, visiting Charston, Bristol, Wick River, Gloucester and Lydney.
In 1914, the Mercantile Navy List described her as a Ketch for the first time, probably having been converted in 1913, and in 1916 she was down as 'of Bristol. In 1923 she was back in Gloucester, the owners being Jacob Rice and Son Limited, though still registered at Bristol, and remained so until the 1937 Mercantile Navy List, when she was described as 'no rig', having been rigged down in the previous year, her present ship's papers dating from then and describing her as a 'Dump Barge'.
She came up to Worcester in the early 1950's and was berthed in Diglis Basin. During the next 30 years she became a floating workshop, though for most of that time she did not float, but rested on the bottom, her hull submerged. She became a problem to the British Water Board, for she paid no dues. 'She changed hands so often', said an officla, 'that the Board were never able to pin down the owner'.
Mr. S.A.Morris, who kept the boat station at the top of Pitchcroft, remebered the Spry being sold for £40 about 1950, with three other boats of her class, one of which was the Sunbeam. They had worked the Severn in later days from Avonmouth to Tewkesbury Mills, but then they were 'dumb barges' towed by tugs.
An e.mail was received 15th July from a relative of William Halling, which read as follows:
Dear Mrs Hinks,
I have just read your article on the Severn Trow Spry and would like to confirm her Masters name as William Halling. He was my Great great grandfather and he died 21 January 1927. The Spry being his last command before he retired. Your article also mentions the Nelly or Nell as its known to my family, I believe she was captained at some stage by my Great great great Grandfather.
Thank-you Ian for confirming the connection of William and the Spry.