From the late 1860s the Horlock family of Mistley Essex, owned many of the best known wooden built barges that traded carrying cargo all over the east coast. Their barges worked the ports from Suffolk to Kent and into the docks of London. They would carry a host of different types of cargo from cement and paraffin to timber and grain. The Horlocks as well as successful business men and keen sailors, had a shrewd eye for saving money and moving the game on. In the 1920s there were already lots of steel barges trading on the rivers. Steel barges, whilst in those days were considered less traditional and ‘pretty’ could carry more cargo than wooden barges of the same size, because the way they were constructed gave them more space in the hold area than their wooden equivalents. They were also lighter, more agile and cost less to maintain. In 1924 the Horlocks commissioned seven new steel Thames barges, of which Xylonite was the third. These ‘seven sisters’ that are all still afloat, with the exception of the Blue Mermaid which was lost in WW2, were built at Mistley and are detailed below –

Name Active Built Tons Official no. Current owner  
Repertor Yes 1924 69 145404 David Pollock  
Portlight No 1925 68 145405 Landbreach Ltd  
Xylonite Yes 1926 68 145408 Tim Kent  
Reminder Yes 1929 79 161033 Topsail Charters Ltd  
Adieu Yes 1929 79 161035 Iolo Brooks  
Blue Mermaid No 1930 79 161038 N/A  
Resourceful No 1930 77 161039 I & R Stubbs