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31 May 2003. A phone call from Stephanie Fearn says her uncle, who has just died, has been living on what might  be a sailing smack, called the Volante, at Ipswich. She believes the vessel was built in Wivenhoe approximately 150 years ago. 

Stephanie lives in Cumbria and thought to do a web search on Wivenhoe, and found the Wivenhoe Encyclopedia.  I put her in touch with Bill Ellis who, the following day, advises she was probably built around 1870 by John Harvey in Wivenhoe’s upstream yard. 

The vessel needs a new owner; someone interested in restoring her. Whilst she floats, and still has her spars, she is in need of considerable renovation. She is available for viewing at the Orwell Yacht Club

Stephanie may be contacted on 01768 898742 if you are interested in talking to her about the Volante.

Peter Hill 

8 Jun03: Bill Ellis has been to see the vessel and completed some research as follows:  The Volante is a cutter built by Harvey & Coy of Wivenhoe in 1870 (Official number 87289) with sails by Madder. Her dimensions are length: 37′ x breadth 10.5′ and draught 5.3′. 16 Tons (Thames Measure).

In 1886 the yacht was owned by Mr W.F. Cook of St Pauls Churchyard, London. Possibly the vessel was built for him.  Note: Stephanie Fearn believes her uncle bought ‘Volante’ from a Mr Cook in 1953 – perhaps the same family as the 1886 owner. 

Request for more info by Stephanie Fearn: It has been suggested that Volante might have been built with a double-planked hull, rather than having a second skin added later as we thought. Does anyone have any information on this – apparently it was an experimental design in 1870.  Please call Stephanie with any info on tel 01768 898742.


August 2003 – Stephanie and her sister are doing more research on the Volante. Can you help? They have found the names of some of her previous (and apparently fairly illustrious) owners (see below), but little else of her history. She sailed from Royal Harwich YC, London SC, Royal Norfolk and Suffolk YC, Yare YC, Burnham YC, Erith YC, and Royal Corinthian SC, so it is possible that some record of her sailing past exists amongst those clubs. Is there anyway of finding out more? Stephanie is contemplating establishing a trust to raise money to pay for the restoration. Some greater knowledge about the Volante’s history might help. Stephanie Fearn can be contacted on 01768 898742 or by writing to her at Amberley House, Lazonby, PENRITH, Cumbria CA10 1BA 


1870 – Built in the Wivenhoe upstream shipyard by John Harvey and Co, two years before the disastrous fire which led to the eventual bankruptcy of the company. Registered number in Lloyd’s Register – 87289

1886 – in the ownership of W.F.Cook of St.Paul’s Churchyard, London

1887/88 First recorded on Lloyds Register under the ownership of Ebenezer Gould, 24, Aldermanbury, Lexton, London EC

1891-95 Registered as owned by Mrs Annie M Sanders, of The Cedars, Buckhurst Hill, Essex, with Racing Flag number 53. Home port- Colchester.

1897/98 Registered as owned by Henry Blake of The Conservative Club, Quay House, Great Yarmouth. Belonged to Royal Harwich YC, London SC, Royal Norfolk & Suffolk YC, Yare SC. Racing Flag number 1235. Home port – Colchester. (NB, The 1901 Census records a Henry Blake as being a Physician/ Surgeon born in Canada as residing in Great Yarmouth).

1902/ 3 Registered as owned by George Hall of 1, New Rd, Woolwich, Kent (also owned the Lady Harvey) Belonged to Burnham YC, Erith YC, Royal Norfolk & Suffolk YC. Home port – Colchester

1907/8 Registered as owned by E.Southgate of The Nook, Brightlingsea, Essex. Belonged to Erith YC. Home port – Colchester

1908/9 Registered as owned by Charles Lamb of Sydney St, Brightlingsea, Essex.

1910 No register entry 

1913/14 Registered as owned by Roland H. Nelson of Shenleybury House, Shenley, Herts (also owned the Mavis and the Vega)

1919 Still registered as owned (after the Great War) by R.H. Nelson. Listed as auxillary cutter with a petrol motor (1 cylinder, 4.5" -4.5") built by Fairbanks, Morse & Co in 1913.

1921/3 No registered owner listed.

1924/5 Registered as owned by Albert Edward Oakley of Warescot House, Warley Rd., Brentwood, Essex, belonging to Blackwater SC. A new engine, built by White of Norwich, 4 cylinders, is listed. Home port – Maldon

1926/7 Registered as owned by E.W.Robey of Aldwych House, Aldwych, London, and HRH Ward of Warfield, Radlet, Herts, who registered her in London Belonged to Royal Corinthian YC and Cruising Association. New engine listed, built by Ailsa Craig Motor Co. Ltd of Chiswick in 1925.

Volante disappears from Lloyds Register after 1927.

She was owned by a doctor in Pin Mill, Ipswich sometime up to the mid 1930’s, when she passed into the ownership of a Mr.Thurston . She was then sold to two brothers from the Ipswich area. She was owned at some point up to 1954 by Mr.T.E. Cook of Ipswich, who sold her on 19th April 1953 for £225. She was described as a houseboat in the documentation for her sale to Mr.Peter Tunstall of Ipswich, who owned her and kept her at the Orwell Yacht Club until his death in May 2003.

The Volante as she used to look.

The Volante as she is now.

Inside the Volante

About Peter Tunstall

He lived all his life in Ipswich (born 1922, died 22nd May 2003). He was an electrical engineer, working first for British Sugar, then British Fermentation Products. He spent the Second World War in the Army, serving in Egypt, then in Italy. 

He took up sailing in 1939, and belonged to the Orwell Yacht Club from then until his death. 

He bought Volante from T.E.Cook in 1953, and lived on her for several years with my grandfather, Claude Tunstall. My grandfather then lived on her by himself until the late 1970’s when he went into residential care aged about 90. At that point, my uncle moved back to Volante, where he was still living when he died. Volante has been moored at the Orwell Yacht Club since 1953.

Stephanie Fearn

18th July, 2003

Historical note:  There is another Volante which was built at the Harvey yard in Ipswich in 1851. This yacht (opposite) sailed against ‘America’ in the original Americas Cup challenge race. It is believed this larger, racing yacht was lost on Ryde Sands in the nineteenth century. (Picture supplied by Chris Goddard).

For more information about John Harvey, click here