About the Thames Barge Driving Trust


The Thames Barge Driving Trust was formally constituted in January 2016, which was formally known as Transport on Water (TOW). The original organisation was started by a group of Journeymen Lightermen and Watermen in 1974 in an attempt to reverse the decline of the traditional Lighterage industry on the River Thames.


Today the aims of the Trust are:
To prompting the use of vessels for commercial services on the River Thames, the Medway and their associated waters for the benefit of the public.

To improve and showcase the unique skills of Thames Barge Driving to the wider public and to assist in the training of apprentices and trainees to the highest standards.
To undertaking fund raising activities in furtherance of the restoration and maintenance of the Thames Barges, barge driving events and training of The Watermen’s Company’s apprentices and trainees.

  • To maintain contact with the appropriate statutory and voluntary bodies.
  • The objectives of the Trust are as follows:
  • To encourage the training and retention of traditional barge driving skills together with adaption to improved methods of technology.

In conjunction with the Watermen’s Company to liaise with regulatory bodies and various committees.

  • To obtain funding and financial support for the restoration, maintenance, training and organising events and other water borne activities.
  • To preserve and maintain TOW’s archives.
  • To use the property of TOW for the furtherance of the Trust.


When the organisation was established it was decided to organise an Annual Barge Driving Event to demonstrate the traditional skills of Watermen and Lightermen in navigating these craft under oars. The event soon became established as one of the major spectacles on the River.


Admiral Alan West, Baron West of Spithead GCB DSC PC, is a loyal supporter of this unique event and is our Honorary Vice-President.