N. J. Clarke
from the accounts of John
Wilkinson's iron boat of 1787 
, mention of the Bower Yard
and a few
isolated references 
, little appears to be known
about the boat--building yards or
the vessels built in -the
Ironbridge Gorge in the 18th
and 19th centuries. However, from
the acknowledged, importance of river
transport to the expanding, coal,
iron and clay industries of
the area, and the subsequent
large number of locally-owned vessels
we can assume: that a fair
number of boats was built
in the Ironbridge Gorge.
interesting source for such boat-building
activities in the late 18th and
early 19th centuries are the Chepstow
Ship Registers .
These registers were started in
1786, when universal ship registration
began, and ended in 1882, when the
port of Chepstow was merged
with Gloucester. The information they
contain about each registered ship
includes its name, place and
date of construction, registration number
and date, type and dimensions,
owner(s), master(s) and subsequent history.
following chart summarises the construction
details of Chepstow-registered boats which were
built in the Ironbridge Gorge :- 
at Broseley, 1790., by John
Jones. Trow: 1 mast; (10) 60 tons;
length 65’2"; breadth 14'5”;
depth 4’ 7”; a tuck stern.
at Benthall, 1794. Trow: 1
mast; 70 tons; length 66’;
breadth 15'6"; depth 5'7”; a
at Broseley, 1795. Trow: 1
trust; 63 tons; length 65'4";
breadth 14'9"; depth 4' 8";
a tuck stern.
at Benthall, 1810, by Francis
Stoat. Barge: 1 mast; 36 tons;
length 54' 8"; breadth 12'1";
depth 2'4”; tuck stern.
at Bower Yard, 1819, by F.
G. Gother. Trow: 2 masts; 33
tons; length 63.5'; breadth 13.7'-;
depth 4.21; clench built 
at Coalbrookdale, 1824. Trow: 2
masts; 103 tons; length 73’4”;
breadth 18’2”; depth 4’9";
at Ironbridge, 1839, by James Williams. Trow: 1 mast; 23 tons; length.
67.8’ breadth 12.8’;depth 2.3’; clench
built  .
doubt examination of other Bristol Channel port registers 
where they exist; would provide similar information.
accounts of the building, launching and importance of the 'Trial', see J.
Randall, 'Broseley and its surroundings' (1879), PP 107-10; R. Pee, 'The
First Iron Boat' in Shropshire Magazine (1972); B. Trinder, 'Tile Industrial
Revolution in Shropshire' (1973), p.120.
 There is a reference to Bower Yard in 'A description of Coalbrookdale in 1801'; edited by B. Trinder, in Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological -Society4 vol. 58 (1967-68), p.250: "Here is a yard for building and repairing vessels"; with editor's note - "It was at the Bower Yard that the famous Severn trove 'William' was built in 1809".
 For example, experiments with the application of steam power to propel boats, c.1300-04 (J. Randall, History of Madeley, 1880, pp 179-80; A. Raistrick, Dynasty of Ironfounders, 1953; pp 165-7; Trinder, op.cit. p.167); proposed iron boats in 1843 (Trinder, op.ci p.120).
 For a discussion of the evidence and an account of the growth of traffic in the Severn, see Trinder, op.cit. pp 104-20 and C. Hadfield The Canals of the West Midlands (1966); pp 17-18, 53-5, 115;27, 282-90.
 The Chepstow Ship Registers, in the custody of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, are. used in G. E. Farr, Chepstow Ships (1954)
 The Registers also list 13 vessels (sloops and ;;rows) which were built at Bridgnorth and one built at Dowles Load (near Bewdley)
 It is not known whether these names were given to the vessels when they were built or subsequently.
 The precise location of the boat-building yards is not given, but we may assume that they were all riverside installations.
 The writer in the Gentlemen's Magazine for 1756 who took a census of the craft on the river explained that "the lesser kind are called barges and frigates, being from 40 to 60 feet in length, have a single mast, square sail and carry from 20 to 40 tong; the troves or larger vessels are from 40 to 30 tons burthen: these have a main and top mast, about 30 feet high, with square sails, and some have mizzen masts; they are generally from 16 to .20 feet wide, and 60 feet in length, being;, when new and completely rigged, worth about £300." For a detailed description of types of vessels and their dimensions; see Farr, op. sit. pp 1--28.
 Tuck stern "a small curved fold across the stern at deck level where the bulwarks were set to flare slightly aft, giving more room for the helmsman." (Farr, op.cit. p.28).
 Clench-built: made with planks overlapping; downwards and fastened with clenched copper nails (as opposed to carvel-built, with planks flush). However, "trows often had rubbing bands and sheathing planks fitted to the outside of their hulls, and these give something of the appearance of clench building" (Farr, op.cit. p.28).
 These 8 Ironbridge Gorge-built boats appear to have been employed mostly for Lower Wye and Bristol Channel traffic.
Bristol, Cardiff and Gloucester
N. J. Clarke