Who paid the wherrymen? Not I, said Cock Robin...

VICTORIA The first floating bridge
VICTORIA The first floating bridge

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Abook detailing the history of the ferries of Portsmouth Harbour has just been published and is hoped to be of interest to residents on both side of the water.

Going Over the Water, compiled by David Gary, is a fascinating look at the ferries that crossed between Portsmouth and Gosport, although it should be the other way round – it has always been called the Gosport Ferry never the Portsmouth Ferry.

Tough-looking wherrymen pictured in 1843.  Businesses were passed down from father to son (Picture courtesy of Hampshire Cultural Trust)

Tough-looking wherrymen pictured in 1843. Businesses were passed down from father to son (Picture courtesy of Hampshire Cultural Trust)

The book contains dozens of stories handed downthrough the generations including a dog that travelled alone on the first ferry every morning.

Published by local publishers, Chaplin Books, the book can be obtained via their website or from the Tourist Information Centre at Gosport and The Book Shop at Lee-on-The-Solent, for £9.99.

Before the start of the Gosport Ferry, and even before the old floating bridge, the only way to cross the harbour was to use the services of a wherryman and his rowing boat.

A wherry is a form of doubled-ended rowing boat, capable of carrying up to eight passengers.

COMPETITION The floating bridge soon had to compete with steam launches

COMPETITION The floating bridge soon had to compete with steam launches

By the 1840s there were 1,100 wherrymen and competition was fierce.

In 1838, parliament approved a new form of transport across the harbour – a ‘floating bridge’.

This was a real threat to the exclusivity the wherrymen had enjoyed for more than 200 years.

They wrote to the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, but their letter was ignored and the bridge, called Victoria, started operating in May 1840.

MEMORIES The cover of the book about the ferries which crossed between Gosport and Portsmouth

MEMORIES The cover of the book about the ferries which crossed between Gosport and Portsmouth

The Portsmouth Harbour Floating Bridge Company had been the idea of Robert Cruickshank,the developer of The Crescent, Alverstoke, Anglesey Gardens and the Angleseyville race course.

A floating bridge appealed to him because it would enable visitors from Portsmouth to take advantage of all the attractions of Angleseyville.

The last known wherryman was Joe Lloyd, known to be an apprentice to his father in 1858. Joe’s nickname was Cock Robin, which was also the name of his boat. Joe died in 1938 at Cheriton Road in Gosport.